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LBP farming program seen to fully benefit former rebels in Leyte

People Surge: President Aquino must go if he cannot help Yolanda survivors

“Dinky Soliman rides on UN aid to cover up government's criminal negligence” – People Surge

12,000-strong storm survivors march for justice, rights versus Aquino’s criminal neglect

Tacloban urban poor communities resist ‘no-build zone’ policy, build back sans govt support

No major crimes in Yolanda-affected areas

Pacquiao arrives in Eastern Visayas, lifts spirits soldier and typhoon Yolanda victims

NHA to double housing assistance for Yolanda victims – VP Binay

PNP reaction team nabs four armed men in Leyte on barangay election eve

Father-and-son nabbed for “marijuana” cultivation in Leyte



Catbalogan celebrates International Women’s Day

women's month

March 14, 2014

CATBALOGAN CITY – As the month reserved specially for women, March is always replete with serious messages - about gender equality, ending domestic violence and exploitation of women in media.

Despite these challenges, make no mistake that the International Women’s Day – which falls on the 8th of March – is always about celebrating the gains that have been achieved thus far with regards to these goals.

And that is exactly what happened in Catbalogan on this date.

Joining in the celebration spearheaded by the city’s Gender and Development Council were over 1,000 participants from various agencies and schools starting with the Zumba Exercise at the City Plaza and Fun Walk followed by the Female Symbol Formation.

Afterwards, everybody joined in reading the Empowered Women Creed, which partly said, “May we be strong and gently leaders/ May we never hesitate to let passion push us, conviction compel us, and righteous anger energize us”.

This moment of solemnity did not last long as the upbeat notes of the chosen community song – Whitney Houston’s hit “I’m Every Woman” - started playing. This was followed with a flash mob dancing to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)”.

The catchy lyrics about confidence, positivism and assertiveness contained in the two dance tunes were supposed to underscore the message of women empowerment that this occasion aims to convey.

This year’s concept of a lively, dynamic and energetic celebration was chosen by organizers as the best way of capturing the spirit of this year’s theme: “Juana, ang Tatag mo ay Tatag Natin sa Pagbangon at Pagsulong”.

The statement aims to honour the strength and resiliency of the country’s Juanas. Clearly in response to the various upheavals that have plagued the country such as the Super Typhoon Yolanda, which resonates particularly with those living in the Eastern Visayan Region, this year’s celebration stressed the important role women play in dealing with crisis as well as in the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts.





Pass FOI bill!

Cayetano to House: Restore Filipino people’s faith government

By Office of the Senate Majority Leader
March 10, 2014

PASAY CITY – "Let us pass the FOI bill now! Para matakot ang mga kurakot!”

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter “Companero” S. Cayetano strongly and respectfully urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and respond to the Filipino public’s clamor for the immediate enactment into law of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

“The House, the Senate, and Malacanang should be partners in promoting transparency in the country. Enacting the FOI measure into law is a good first step in regaining the people’s trust in the three branches of the government,” Cayetano noted.

Cayetano said now that the Senate has passed FOI measure for the third time, the last two instances in less than a year, it is now up to the lower house to do its part and pass the landmark bill that will empower the Filipino people in being active participants in the fight against graft and corruption.

“Aminin na natin na mahalaga na maibalik ang pagtitiwala ng mga tao sa gobyerno. Magagawa natin ito kung maipapasa natin ang mahahalagang batas katulad ng FOI bill. Sana naman, maisabatas na ito para medaling makita kahit na ng ordinaryong mamamayan kung may anomalya sa gobyerno,” the senator said.

The FOI bill was approved by the Senate in the 15th and 14th Congress, but it failed to hurdle deliberations in the House.

Cayetano said that at the time, he was optimistic that the Aquino administration has regained the trust of the people in government through its advocacy of a “tuwid na daan”

“But now reality has changed this optimism into exigency as numerous scandals already threaten to destroy the people’s trust in government that the administration has been trying to rebuild,” he said.

“In a time when our citizenry is already so sick of corruption, abuse of power, and deception, we need to pass a measure that would ensure our people of a government that is truly for the people,” Cayetano stressed.

With an FOI law in place, Cayetano assured that every Filipino would have the capacity to be “a graft-buster, a reformist, and a crucial building block of an empowered citizenry united in aiming for national development.”





Yolanda survivors outraged over government’s dirty moves, puts them on trial by ordeal – People Surge

Press Release
March 8, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The People Surge alliance from Eastern Visayas today scored the Aquino government for putting the Yolanda survivors through a trial by ordeal as evinced by Department of Social Welfare and Development Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Soliman trying to sow discord among the Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors.

“It seems the Aquino government wants to make the Yolanda survivors prove themselves by forcing them to go through a trial by ordeal,” said Sr. Edita Eslopor, People Surge spokesperson. “The Yolanda survivors have already launched a mass demonstration of 12,000 last January 25 as well as presented a petition signed by 17,000 survivors. What more does the government want, that people will start dying in the thousands as they bound to do if the government does not intervene?

“Dinky Soliman stoops so low as to inveigle some Yolanda survivors into saying that they are happy with the government's handling of the Yolanda humanitarian crisis. How can the survivors be happy when even the government data from DSWD show otherwise? The DSWD has not been able to feed the survivors for the past more than 100 days, who have been forced to make ends meet just so they could survive on a subsistence level. The DSWD's “cash-for-work” program benefitted only some 16,000 survivors out of hundreds of thousands looking for livelihood, and for ten days only at that.”

Eslopor added that Soliman took the trouble to fly to Leyte and make some survivors sign papers in haste praising the government and the DSWD, when representatives of the survivors were already in Manila to bring their plight to President Aquino. In another case, some victims are being bribed for as much as P1,200 in exchange for their signatures signifying satisfaction over services of the DSWD.

“We think Soliman is trying to save her career to the detriment of the Yolanda survivors. We remind the public that this is not the first time that Soliman and the DSWD, the entire Aquino government, have been called to account for their miserable performance. Do we remember typhoons Pablo and Ondoy, not to mention the Bohol earthquake? How people languished under the heat of the sun and under the rain, while the DSWD and the Aquino took their perversely procrastinating time to deliver emergency services to the people? People are suffering and dying out there, and here is Dinky Soliman, waving papers to say everybody is happy. What exactly does she want except to save her own skin and not the lives of the people?”

The People Surge alliance called on Soliman to stop using the Yolanda survivors to save her political career. “If Dinky Soliman cannot do it, she must resign. That is the honorable thing to do and it will give somebody else the chance to make up for the lost opportunities the DSWD had to attend to the people. But if Soliman must resign, the pressure is much greater on President Aquino and his government. Soliman is only one functionary of the Aquino government, but is her negligence the sum of its parts? President Aquino must do something quickly to salvage the government's credibility or he will face the wrath of the people.”





Chiz: Keeping Napoles in special jail sends wrong signal

By Office of Senator Chiz Escudero
March 6, 2014

PASAY CITY – Senator Chiz Escudero said Janet Lim-Napoles should be moved to a regular jail because her continued detention in a special facility would only encourage those who are contemplating to commit crimes in the future.

In today’s continuation of the pork barrel scam investigation in the Senate, Escudero pointed out that keeping Napoles in a special jail sets a bad precedent and sends the wrong signal to the public, and therefore should be transferred to a regular prison cell.

“My problem here is quite simple. Those who have plundered the national coffers in billions get to stay in Sta. Rosa or any hospital much to their comfort. Those whose crimes pale so much in comparison with Napoles – the cell phone snatchers and the street snatchers – languish in cramped and dingy jails. It’s like teaching our children that if they must steal, steal big so at least you get to be jailed in the comfort of those special cells,” Escudero said.

Since Napoles’ appearance last year before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Escudero has been pushing for her transfer to a regular jail.

And in today’s hearing, the senator again questioned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima why Napoles, dubbed as the pork barrel scam queen by media, still enjoys the comfort of a special cell facility despite being uncooperative with the government in ferreting out the truth.

“I just find it difficult to swallow the situation right now that she keeps her ground and not talk, we spend so much for her and yet we are not getting anything from her. As soon as she opens her mouth, perhaps that’s when we should secure and protect her,” Escudero said.

He further asked De Lima: “Did it not cross your mind that placing her in a regular jail, along with all other accused of crimes, will persuade her to talk and spill on what she knows about this scam? Maybe if she gets a taste of how decrepit it is to live in a regular jail, she will crack?”

According Escudero, the security threats being peddled to keep Napoles in Sta. Rosa are a lame excuse and cannot justify the special treatment she gets.

“It’s just too much to bear that she gets to be treated so special with all the works of a special convoy whenever she goes out of Sta. Rosa. Not even the President parades on the street with those decoy vehicles, decoy convoy on regular days,” Escudero pointed out.





Dinky Soliman dodges Yolanda survivors upset over DSWD's inutility

By People Surge
March 5, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The alliance of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors in Eastern Visayas today criticized Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Soliman over giving them the runaround over various issues, including the recent scandal of the rotting away of P580 million worth of rice meant for typhoon victims.

“Sec. Soliman should stop mocking the Yolanda survivors by accusing them of violence when flimsy glass doors were accidentally broken during a protest last March 3 at the DSWD office,” said Sr. Edita Eslopor, People Surge spokesperson. “The protesters were in fact apologetic, calm and reasonable to the DSWD staff even though Soliman was nowhere to be found. That Soliman is inflating a minor matter to overshadow the far more serious issue of the suffering of millions the DSWD is failing to serve shows the slyness of a bureaucrat willing to slander the people to cover up her faults.

“Soliman is also using divide and rule tactics by claiming to talk with People Surge local members in Tacloban City. She knows very well that the People Surge leaders are already in Manila to bring the issue of the Yolanda survivors to President Aquino himself. We remind the DSWD Secretary that she is only further inflaming the Yolanda survivors in trying to sow discord.”

Eslopor added the Yolanda survivors are angry because the DSWD suspended relief operations at the end of December 2013, when it was actually wasting aid worth millions. The P580 million rice supplies that rotted in the Subic Free Port was actually meant for Typhoon Pablo survivors, but out of sheer inutility DSWD did not facilitate the rice and was overtaken by Typhoon Yolanda. By then it was found out the rice was already unfit for human consumption.”

The People Surge spokesperson said they wanted to meet with Soliman to find out why the Aquino government had let down both the Pablo and Yolanda survivors. “There are millions of people out there who are suffering right now because the social welfare secretary is not living up to the job description. We also think Sec. Soliman is doing her best to evade meeting Yolanda survivors who will question the dismal performance of her duties.

Contrary to DSWD's claims, it has been sorely wanting in providing for the needs of the Yolanda survivors. Its claim of having given away more than five million food packs for a maximum of 10 rounds is still highly inadequate when spread over more than 100 days after Yolanda.

Moreover, according to investigation by People Surge, most survivors in fact received food packs only once. Even the more than 16,000 individuals alleged to have been accommodated by the “cash-for-work” program is an insignificant minority out of more than one million Yolanda survivors, and these beneficiaries in fact worked for only 10 days for P250/day instead of the promised P500. The 2,052 families who also transferred to bunkhouses in fact only represent 0.17% of homeless survivors.”

Eslopor challenged Soliman to stop skirting the issue and face the Yolanda survivors. “We are very critical of the way DSWD is doing its job because it is a life and matter for millions. It is important that Sec. Soliman and her department be held accountable. The DSWD is not doing anything at all to alleviate the plight of the Yolanda survivors. It mainly acts as the facilitator for international aid agencies who are doing a better job than it. The Aquino government is even bragging that the DSWD will be helping Yolanda survivors through micro-lending. This is how low the government can get, telling people who have no livelihood that they can get buried in debt with official help.”

Eslopor said that People Surge would continue to pursue Soliman and the Aquino government in behalf of the survivors of Yolanda and other calamities.

“We believe Sec. Soliman should be held to account; there are far too many calamity survivors already under her watch who are turning into victims of criminal neglect by the government. But the problem is not with Soliman and the DSWD alone. The problem is with President Aquino himself and how his government is letting the people down. This is a matter about the capability to govern, as well as of showing concern for the well-being of the people. If the Yolanda survivors will still languish, then the Aquino government in the long run will be headed for a confrontation with the people.”





Greenpeace and MASIPAG ask the SC to uphold the Writ of Kalikasan on BtTalong field trials

March 5, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Today, Greenpeace and members of the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pagunlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) trooped to the Supreme Court to ask that the courts uphold the Writ of Kalikasan on the field trials of the genetically-modified organism (GMO) BtTalong. The green groups filed their consolidated legal arguments to counter the maneuver by pro-GMO groups who are seeking to overturn the Writ of Kalikasan granted in May 2012 to protect the rights of Filipinos to a balanced and healthy ecology.

The Court of Appeals, in ruling with finality last September 20, 2013, recognized that BtTalong field trials violate the rights of Filipinos to a balanced and healthy ecology. As such, the CA ordered the GMO proponents to cease and desist from conducting any field trial of BtTalong and also to protect and rehabilitate the environment. Instead of implementing the order of the court, the proponents petitioned the highest court to review the CA decision.

“Six months after CA upheld the Writ of Kalikasan, the respondents have yet to prove that they have indeed carried out the orders set forth by the court. Instead, after several follow ups, the only information made available to the public was that the field trials have been stopped. However, they did not disclose any concrete plans to check and remedy GMO contamination caused by the field trials,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

The CA’s decision prevented the proponents of BtTalong from applying for commercial propagation or from seeking support and acceptance of the project from local governments in the Philippines. It will be recalled that in early 2010, proponents announced that the Philippines would be the first country where Bt eggplant will be made commercially available after it was rejected in India. Filipino regulators even expressed that they would not be conducting risk assessments and accepted the same submissions submitted to Indian authorities.

“If we are not vigilant, Filipinos will again end up as victims, subjected to the inherent risks associated with GMOs due to the lack of regard of those tasked to regulate and protect our rights,” said Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. “GMOs should not be the sole jurisdiction of scientists because their long-term environmental, health and socio-economic impacts will affect all Filipinos once they are released outside the laboratories. Why risk our nation’s health in the long run?”

Greenpeace maintains that genetically modified crops like BtTalong are unnecessary and take away resources that can better be used to further ecological farming. Money and resources spent on GMO research limits capacity for research and development of real, scientific ecological farming solutions. The group continues to call on the Philippine government to focus on developing and supporting ecological farming as a way to boost the country’s agriculture and food production, instead of promoting GMOs or the use of agrochemicals.





Ecumenical group to report killings, gov’t neglect of typhoon victims in PH to UN

March 5, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice), a network of human rights and faith-based organizations, will be participating in the 25th sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland from March 9-20, 2014 to raise the pressing human rights concerns in the Philippines, including the unabated extrajudicial killing of political activists and the Aquino administration’s incompetence in addressing the needs of typhoon Yolanda victims.

Pastor Jerome Baris, national coordinator of the justice, peace and human rights program of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and Atty. Ephraim Cortez, deputy secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, will represent the network in the said UN sessions.

Baris and Cortez are also set to report on the increasing attacks against activists and rights defenders via fabricated charges filed against them by state security forces; killings of children and attacks against schools: on the violent and forced eviction of urban poor dwellers in San Roque, Quezon City and in San Juan City; and the harassment and threats against typhoon victims in the Panay region by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The human rights situation under the Aquino administration is as worrisome as the situation during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. Perpetrators from state security forces are not made accountable for their crimes, and much worse, they get juicy promotions, thereby keeping and perpetuating themselves in power. Instead of addressing the people’s urgent concerns and needs such as housing, relief and rehabilitation for typhoon victims, education, and livelihood, the Aquino administration suppresses the people’s voices through various schemes,” Baris and Cortez said.

Under the Aquino administration, human rights group Karapatan recorded 169 victims of extrajudicial killing, 825 victims of illegal arrest, 13,528 victims of demolition and 63, 077 victims of threats and harassment. (Please check Karapatan’s latest report on the human rights situation

The delegation is a follow-up engagement to the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines in 2012 and the review of the Philippine government’s compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.





Proposed new AIDS law encourages victims to reveal health to partners

March 4, 2014

QUEZON CITY – In revising the new provisions of the 1998 AIDS law, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is in favor of encouraging People Living with HIV (PLHIV) to reveal health condition, with the aid of a counselor, to their partners before having sexual contact to thwart the spread of the disease.

“The new law on AIDS should center on the victims. It should create a non-punitive environment for them if we are to mitigate the spread of the disease. By creating this type of an enabling environment, we are encouraging the victims to reveal their health condition to their partners at the first instance they discover they have infection. With the help of a counselor, HIV/AIDS victims can reveal their health condition without encumbering themselves too much,” said Gerard R. Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

In the discussions at the House of Representatives in amending the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, some groups suggest criminal liability on victims for not divulging their health predicament to partners.

Section 34 of the Act is saying “any person with HIV is obliged to discuss his/her HIV status and health condition to his/her sexual partner at the earliest opportune time.”

The TUCP and non-government organizations including advocacy groups led by PLHIV are for amending this provision to: “any person who, after having been tested, is found to be infected with HIV, is strongly encouraged to disclose this health condition to the spouse or sexual partner prior to engaging in penetrative sex or any potential exposure to HIV and that a PLHIV may opt to seek help from qualified professionals including medical professionals, health workers, peer educators, or social workers when disclosing this health condition to one’s partner or spouse.”

TUCP considers as “too harsh” some groups’ argument that PLHIV must be punished for not revealing to their spouse or sexual partner that they have the infection.

“We thoroughly understand the difficulty and the dilemma of victims in revealing their health condition to their partner and to their family. With this new law, we want the victims to open up and not shut themselves out so that the right help can be applied,” Seno added.

Recent records of the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health showed the government is recording one case of HIV/AIDS every one hour and forty minutes with more men having sex with men.

In a January 2014 Philippine HIV/AIDS Registry Report, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 448 new cases for the month or 18% higher compared to the 380 cases reported in the same period last year. Of the 448 new cases, 57 have progressed into full-blown AIDS cases.

Half of the new cases came from Metro Manila, 16% from Calabarzon, 9% from Central Luzon, and 7% from Davao region. Of the new cases, 444 of them acquired the infection through sexual transmission with 376 cases through men-having-sex-with-men, 224 through homosexual contact, 152 through bisexual contact, and 68 through heterosexual contact while 4 of them acquired through injecting drugs.





DSWD and Aquino government must be held accountable for rotting rice fiasco

By People Surge
March 3, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The organization of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors in Eastern Visayas, People Surge, today said the issue over the waste of rice meant for typhoon victims must be not allowed to rest because the social welfare department and the Aquino government itself have yet to be held accountable.

“The fact that P580 million worth of rice meant for Typhoon Pablo victims in December 2012 rotted in the Subic Freeport cries out a case of criminal negligence,” said Dr. Bautista, People Surge spokesperson. “This was only found out when the rice was supposed to be given to Typhoon Yolanda survivors but was rejected as unfit for human consumption. So two groups of typhoon survivors were victimized over this wasted rice, donated by the customs bureau from confiscated illegal shipments in 2012, because of the irresponsibility of the DSWD to which it was entrusted.”

Dr. Bautista questioned why the DSWD had not been thoroughly investigated, especially Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Soliman. “The DSWD has been assuring the public that it is doing all it can to help the typhoon Pablo and Yolanda survivors. Now we realize that the DSWD has been utterly remiss in wasting millions of pesos worth of aid, when rice was rotting while typhoon survivors were crying out for relief. Sec. Dinky Soliman should resign or be removed from office after being shown to be unfit by this incident as well as the dismal performance of her department in general in the two major calamities of Pablo and Yolanda.”

The People Surge spokesperson said, however, that firing Soliman would be too easy for the Aquino government without addressing the lack of relief and rehabilitation efforts. “The DSWD is getting away with gambling with people's lives because the Aquino government itself has been neglectful in delivering timely and continuing aid to the people. The DSWD has not been doing its mandate but acting more as a propaganda mouthpiece to cover up the Aquino government's failures in providing for the Yolanda survivors. The reality is that the department officially ended its relief operations in December 2013, when many would be still needing food packs for several months.”

Dr. Bautista called on the Aquino government to not only clean up the DSWD but to speedily ensure the typhoon survivors are provided with the basic needs to recover. “People Surge continues to call for emergency cash assistance, livelihood, housing and social services. That the people still have to make these demands for very basic needs four months after Yolanda is a condemnation already of the Aquino government's failures.”





Ilonggo solon among RP’s rep in world’s biggest tourism summit

By Florence F. Hibionada / PNS
March 3, 2014

ILOILO CITY – Iloilo First District Representative Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. represents the Philippines in a 7-day tourism summit in Berlin, Germany. A neophyte in Congress, the Ilonggo solon was chosen along with Bohol Representative Rene Relampagos, chair of the House Committee on Tourism. Garin for his part was selected in recognition for his efforts to further Iloilo’s tourism potential particularly in Southern Iloilo.

The world’s biggest travel and tourism gab, a total of 180 countries participate with the Philippine government sending two Philippine senators, Relampagos and Garin. Leading the four officials is Philippine Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.

Dubbed the “Internationale Tourism Borse” (ITB), Secretary Jimenez highlighted the country’s participation saying it is here where the Philippines can get “important impulses for a continuous growing market.”

“With ITB, trade and consumer visitors get the chance to explore the international travel industry’s entire product spectrum,” the Tourism Secretary said in an official communication sent to the solon.

Such as he added how the ITB has since been recognized as “the driving force” in the world’s travel and tourism industry.

“The whole variety of travelling is present at ITB Berlin: Destinations, tour operators, booking systems, carriers, hotels and all other suppliers who want to embellish their customers' most beautiful weeks of the year. ITB Berlin brightens your business,” official word from the ITB went while adding how the event has become the platform for trade visitors.

Sentiments shared by Garin who said this international gathering is yet another excellent opportunity to discover the rest of the tourism world.

“This trip will enable us to bring back to the Philippines in general and Iloilo in particular, what the tourism world has to offer and what we in turn can offer to them. We have as much potential as the rest of the world,” Garin said.



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