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Catbalogan celebrates International Women’s Day

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



8ID celebrates Philippine Army Day

Headquarters, 8th Infantry Division

March 25, 2014

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – The 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army celebrated the 117th Founding Anniversary of the Philippine Army on March 22, 2014.

8ID and its line units conducted simultaneous service-oriented activities in celebration of the founding of the Philippine Army. In Catbalogan City alone, 8ID headquarters rendered medical services to 110 beneficiaries and dental services to 37 beneficiaries and provided the people of the chance to learn about 8ID’s activities through a photo exhibit of its various activities and accomplishments.

The 8ID combo and Marching Band have rendered a free concert for the Catbaloganons at the Catbalogan City Plaza. Other activities conducted were: tree planting and photo exhibit at Catarman, Northern Samar by 803rd Brigade; and photo exhibit at Ormoc City Plaza by 802nd Brigade.

In the occasion of the 117th Anniversary of the Philippine Army, Maj Gen Jet B. Velarmino AFP, the Commander of the 8th Infantry Division said: “The services that 8ID has rendered in commemoration of the 117th founding of the Philippine Army symbolize the Army’s transformation from its traditional role as an organization that merely conducts combat operations against rebels to an organization that focuses on winning the peace without violence.

“History tells us that more than a century ago, the Philippine Army declared independence from our colonizers, and that action paved the birth of the First Philippine Republic on June 12, 1898. The 8ID under my Command will in its own little way, keep on the glorious tradition of the Philippine Army as a catalyze of positive change by rendering selfless services for the people in Eastern Visayas region.”





AIDS Law no longer responds to current sit – PLCPD

March 25, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The 16-year old AIDS Law (Republic Act 8504 or the National AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998) which contains provisions that no longer respond to the current challenges of the concentrated HIV epidemic in the Philippines must be amended, the legislators group, PLCPD (Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development), said in a press conference today in Quezon City.

When the first civil society-initiated bill on comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support was filed in Congress in September 2011, the accumulated HIV cases in the Philippines since 1984 were 7,684. After only two years, the cumulative documented cases of HIV rose to 16,516 as shown in the December 2013 AIDS Registry. It took the country almost ten (10) years before it reached its ten thousandth mark - from 1990-2000; now it took only two (2) years to achieve the same figure, 2011-2013.

“The Filipino people could not wait any longer for a responsive and comprehensive law. The urgency of the business at hand is palpable cause for the government to enact a comprehensive law that will respond to the rapidly evolving epidemic in the country,” said PLCPD Executive Director Rom Dongeto.

Aside from the rapid increase in figures, Dongeto said the epidemic profile has also dramatically changed over the years. The Philippine AIDS Registry shows that from 1984 to 1990, 60% of HIV infections were among females while seafarers were the most with HIV infections during the 1990s. In the January 2014 AIDS Registry, however, 97% of the 448 cases were among males, 85% of whom are Males having Sex with Males (MSMs) belonging to the 20-24 age group.

This prompted some PLCPD member-legislators to file amendments to the law seeking to provide comprehensive prevention, treatment care and support. More specifically, the amendments include the removal of barriers to minors 15 years old and above access to basic HIV prevention and treatment services. This amendment is consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognizes the evolving capacities of children.

PLCPD members who have filed similar amendments to the AIDS Law are Representatives Lani Mercado-Revilla, Rodel Batocabe, Teddy Baguilat, Kaka Bag-ao, Gus Tambunting and Senator Pia Cayetano.

Dongeto added that the government must be able to scale-up and sustain a comprehensive and responsive effort to address the fast and furious HIV incidence among populations most at-risk to HIV infections.

While pursuing advocacy for the bill's approval in Congress, PLCPD has also been organizing community-based activities with the involvement of key affected populations to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS. These activities include a series of theater-forum issue orientations held in Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan in partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino and a series of competency building workshop on HIV and AIDS among young key affected populations from high burden areas namely Quezon City, Cebu City, Davao City and Pasay City. These activities are supported by UNICEF under the project titled “Improving Awareness and Action among Young Key Affected Populations.”





Green groups to DA Secretary Alcala: Don’t be blinded by GMOs. Don’t approve ‘Golden’ Rice!

March 24, 2014

QUEZON CITY – Greenpeace, together with members of the Kasarian-Kalayaan Inc.(Sarilaya), Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) and Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) rallied in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA), urging Secretary Proceso Alcala not to approve the genetically modified ‘Golden’ Rice (GR) for commercialization.

Carrying baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in beta carotene, the groups argued that viable, working solutions to eradicate Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD) already exist, proving that genetically modified Golden Rice is unnecessary given its inherent risks to human health and the environment.

The green groups say Golden Rice is an illusion, marketed to developing countries like the Philippines as a quick-fix solution to eradicate blindness among children and solve world hunger. Despite the hype and decades of research and development, GMO proponents still do not have scientific proof that Golden Rice will indeed solve VAD.

“Secretary Alcala needs to see the truth that Golden Rice is the wrong approach and a risky distraction to the real solutions to combat VAD and malnutrition,” said Daniel Ocampo, Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “Why resort to genetic engineering when we have local crops like sweet potato that contains 5 times more beta carotene than Golden Rice? In fact, we have plenty of fruits and vegetables that are affordable, easily available and undoubtedly rich sources of beta carotene and other nutrients. It just doesn’t make sense for the Philippines to grow Golden Rice, or any GMO for that matter.”

Greenpeace believes that a balanced Filipino diet should be sourced from a variety of food groups. Citing the 2008 National Nutrition Survey in the Philippines that revealed how VAD incidence in the country has significantly decreased, thanks to successful government program interventions based on Vitamin A supplementation, food fortification and the promotion of diverse diets. Ocampo called on the DA to look into long-term solutions to encourage people to diversify their diets with food grown in a system of ecological farming, instead of advocating false solutions like Golden Rice.

“We want to remind Secretary Alcala that Golden Rice will ultimately kill all initiatives leading to integrated and diversified organic farming systems, which are the sources of natural Vitamin A and other nutrients,” said Rene Cerilla, PAKISAMA President. “By promoting GMOs, the DA undermines all efforts to implement the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, which Secretary Alcala championed while he was in Congress,” Cerilla stressed.

“The groups present here want Secretary Alcala to stop approving GMOs for field trials and commercialization and to cease misleading the public into believing there is a need to accept Golden Rice,” added Ocampo. “The DA should not allow itself to become conduits for GMOs. Should the DA Secretary fail to protect the Filipinos from further GMO invasion, President Aquino should see to it that our agricultural practices and financial resources support ecological practices as envisioned by the National Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 instead of an industry-driven system of GMOs and pesticides.”





Arrest of Tiamzon and Austria, a blow to peace negotiations – Karapatan

March 23, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “A kick in the bucket of peace,” said Karapatan on the illegal arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to the peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines.

“This is another case of the government’s deceit in dealing with the counterparts in the peace negotiations. The GPH completely ignored previously signed agreements with the NDFP, especially the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG. This is not the first time. In fact, there are 12 NDF peace consultants who are in jail because of trumped up criminal charges. Also, there are 10 NDF consultants who are victims of enforced disappearance,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay added, “The GPH resorts to criminalization of political acts to cover up arrests conducted illegally, especially of those people who have clear ideological and political beliefs.”

Meanwhile, Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said the illegal arrest of Tiamzon and Austria “would not solve the root causes of rebellion in the country”. “Brandishing the illegal arrest of Tiamson and Austria like a trophy is insubstantial. Pursuing the peace negotiations would be more acceptable to the people who are clamouring for genuine reforms, especially on social-economic spheres. That would be justice.” Hilao-Enriquez is an independent observer in the peace negotiation between the GPH and the NDFP.

In a press statement, the NDFP said Wilma Austria is a holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name; while Benito Tiamzon is the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978227 under the assumed name "Crising Banaag." The JASIG provides peace consultants ‘safe conduct and free passage for the duration of the peace negotiations’.





Communication staff of NPA region 8 spokesperson surrenders to 34IB

March 21, 2014

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – A member of the Communication staff of Santiago Salas, Spokesperson of NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee surrendered to the 34th Infantry Battalion on March 19, 2014.

A certain aka “Marivic”, a member of the communication staff of Salas surrendered to Lt Col Rodrigo Ilustrisimo, Commanding officer of the 34th Infantry Battalion.

Based on the account narrated by aka “Marivic”, her reason for leaving the rebel movement was due to hardship of living a life that is always on the run. In addition, she said that she was not taken cared of by the rebel organization when she suffered a serious illness. Further, adding to her decision to join the mainstream of the society were the programs of the government that benefit rebels like her who wish to surrender.

Former rebels are entitled to avail of the AFP Guns for Peace Program, from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP and the Local Social Integration Program of Local Government Units. The benefits from these programs are enough for a former rebel to start a new life.

Based on the record of this headquarters, 24 NPA rebels already surrendered to 8ID from January 2014 to date. Six already received firearm’s remuneration under the AFP Guns for Peace Program, while the rest who have not yet received their benefits under the government programs enumerated are still processing their claims.

MGen. Jet B. Velarmino AFP, the Commander of the 8th Infantry Division said: “For more than 44 years since the founding of New People’s Army on March 29, 1969, the armed struggle the NPA waged has not solved any of our problems, rather it caused more.”

“It is heartening that aka ‘Marivic’ acknowledged the futility of staying inside the rebel movement and took advantage of the government's integration programs for former rebels. Her decision provides her an opportunity to return to her family and live a peaceful, normal and productive life,” he added.





People have the right to know

Cayetano: Let's determine extent of Napoles’ influence in gov't

By Office of the Senate Majority Leader
March 21, 2014

PASAY CITY – In pushing for the probe of the P900-million Malampaya scam, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter “Companero” S. Cayetano said the Filipino people have the right to know the extent of the influence wielded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in government and the amount of money her bogus NGOs siphoned from the public coffers.

Cayetano said Napoles’ involvement as a principal in the plunder of the P10-billion pork barrel scam may just be the “tip of the iceberg,” and a full investigation into the Malampaya funds scam may reveal a more complete picture of her operations in other government funds.

“P900 million ang pinaguusapan dito. Sinabi ni Ms. Tuason na may P240 million na inihatid sa bahay niya. Meron na rin daw hawak ang COA na report dito. So why not expose this to the public para gumana na rin ang gulong ng hustisya? Ayon sa COA report, napakarami pang NGOs,” the senator said.

Cayetano also reiterated his call to the Aquino administration to weed out the contacts of Napoles who are still in government like Manuel Jarmin, who is currently the acting director of the Livestock Development Council of the Department of Agriculture.

Pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy had earlier testified that he and Napoles were introduced to former National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) president Allan Javellana by Jarmin, who is listed as a nominee of an admitted Napoles partylist group Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Ikauunlad ng Ekonomiya (SMILE) in 2007.

He is also an incorporator of Jimmy's Bar and Grill and Reserval 08, both corporations of Napoles’s husband, Jimmy.

Cayetano earlier asked the Blue Ribbon panel to commence its investigation into the Malampaya funds scam based on his Resolution No. 271. Reports indicate that P900 million drawn from the Malampaya fund which is intended to aid farmers heavily affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 had been diverted into private pockets.

“Dapat ipakita natin sa tao na wala tayong sasantuhin dito. Administrasyon man o oposisyon. Para yung mga reporma natin sa Ombudsman at sa DOJ ay magawa,” he said.

The senator explained that the way things are going, it would take as much as 15 years to resolve the cases relating to the pork barrel scam unless reforms are made in the country’s criminal justice system, like the designation of special criminal courts that will conduct daily trials for high-profile cases and heinous crimes.

“Kung inosente, dapat 2-3 years pa lang napalaya na. Kung guilty, dapat makulong na kaagad,” Cayetano said.

“This is the reality. Number one, we have to expose, expose, and expose. Number two, dapat may mangyari sa kaso after ma-expose. Dapat ibigay ng gobyerno ang mabilis na hustisyang idinadaing ng mga tao.”





People Surge boycotts forum on Aquino 'Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda'

By People Surge
March 20, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The People Surge alliance of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors boycott the “Yolanda Transparency Forum” in Tacloban City today, March 20, by the Aquino government and The Asia Foundation. “We have already studied the subject of the forum – the Aquino government's Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) – and we reject it as anti-people, pro-big business, debt-driven and prone to corruption,” said Sr. Editha Eslopor, People Surge spokesperson.

“We caution fellow survivors and friends that we should not legitimize a flawed reconstruction plan and we should guard against those who will attempt to use us to do so. If the Aquino government cannot even do the basics of providing relief operations and other short-term needs of the survivors, how much more for the long-term recovery?”

Eslopor said the forum will be “useless chatter” because the contents of the Aquino government's RAY were clearly against the interests of the people. “For example, the RAY proposes about P18 billion for the recovery of agriculture in all regions affected by Yolanda, when the agricultural damage in Eastern Visayas alone was P65 billion. How would the majority of the people, who depend on agriculture, be able to recover with the scant attention paid to their main means of livelihood?

“The Aquino government also diminishes its efforts and gives undue importance to the private sector involved in the post-Yolanda reconstruction. But it is the national government's responsibility to lead the reconstruction, and in the final analysis, many private companies involved are not in there for humanitarian reasons but for profit. While the government abandons its responsibility, it is thus also giving opportunity for massive corruption to arise among the high officials and the big business friends of the government.”

Eslopor said her group would rather rely on the movement of the people to demand accountability rather than on any pretenses at transparency by the Aquino government. “The accusations of corruption and the complaints by the people who are not receiving aid continue to hound the Aquino government despite its attempts to feign transparency. There is thus no better way for the people except to unite and mobilize to assert their basic interests for food, cash assistance, livelihood and social services. The people must continue to struggle as well for the long-term recovery that genuinely serves their interests in the face of the betrayal by the Aquino government.”





Sec. Soliman is dishonest, covers up her incompetence as head of DSWD – People Surge

Press Release
March 17, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – The People Surge alliance for Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors today assailed Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman as a sneaky manipulator of public opinion who is covering up her incompetence as head of DSWD. “Sec. Soliman should be axed from her post for failing to serve the Yolanda survivors as the government's chief social worker,” said Sr. Edita Eslopor, spokesperson of People Surge.

“We in People Surge and supporters from Gabriela walked out of a pointless dialogue with Sec. Soliman last March 12; she wasn't listening to our complaints and gave no assurances that the DSWD would work to serve the survivors better. Worse, she even wanted us to do their job like monitoring the relief distribution. To our astonishment afterward, Soliman put on a show of denying the walkout and slyly said even she saw us out – of course, shutting the door on us was the best she could do.”

Eslopor said Soliman at the dialogue seemed slippery rather than a figure of sympathy when called to account for the DSWD's failures. “Sec. Soliman is out of touch with the reality relief operations may not be reaching the survivors, but worse than that, she does not care at all. When pressed at the dialogue what she could do about the problem, she blithely answered like a parcel delivery service, why not text DSWD and see how the packages are going along? She also shrugged that the DSWD only brings the relief goods to the local government units and it was no longer the department's problem whatever happens to these. Is this the kind of work the DSWD should be doing when it is a life and death matter for the survivors? And so we thought she is 'hands on' as she claims.”

With that context, the People Surge spokesperson noted that Sec. Soliman's promise that relief operations will not end this March rings hollow. "She however said that relief distribution will only stop for those who are 'back on their feet?' In the first place, there are no employment opportunities and comprehensive agricultural plan in place nor in the offing that will address the lack of livelihood and joblessness of the typhoon survivors, instead of brandishing the cash for work program, which aside from being implemented sporadically, is only a band aid solution to the problem," stressed Sr. Eslopor.

The People Surge convenor also criticized the conditional cash transfer program, saying that aside from being a shallow solution to the lingering poverty and hunger in the region, does not benefit all the poor, is selective, and have so many requisites before one family becomes a beneficiary of the program.

“Without oversight by the national government through the DSWD ensuring the survivors will indeed receive help, the relief operations will still take a tortuous route, and there is no assurance the goods will not be rotten. Despite the obvious difficulties this means for the survivors, Sec. Soliman at the dialogue also dismissed outright the demand for P40,000 cash assistance to the survivors. She also refused to reconsider the Aquino government's order of a “No Build Zone” that worsens the plight of the survivors in displacing them from their homes and livelihood.”

But Eslopor also said that firing Soliman would not instantly solve the struggle for recovery of the Yolanda survivors. “It is one thing to ensure that Yolanda survivors will be helped back to their feet, and another thing that they will fully resume their lives. If the short term solution of relief operations is being done haphazardly, it is even more dangerous to turn a blind eye to the P65 billion damage to agriculture on which the majority of the people depend. We urge the Aquino government to immediately address the need of the peasantry for food and cash crops, as well as continuing support for farm inputs, irrigation, and other needs that will solve the devastation wrought by Yolanda on agriculture in the region. This government must also seriously address the unemployment problem," ended Sr. Eslopor.





MERALCO violated magna carta for residential electricity consumers with prepaid electricity scheme

March 17, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) wants the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) punished for violating the provisions of the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers after launching the Prepaid Retail Electricity Service (PRES) scheme or prepaid electricity last week.

“Meralco openly violated the magna carta with the implementation of the scheme. We believe the Meralco should be punished for abusing and skirting the law. Access to electricity, just like water, is a basic human right. These are our political rights as a Filipino that cannot be waive by saying this is voluntary on the part of consumers. Meralco cannot do this,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP.

TUCP executive director Louie Corral explained that the magna carta protects residential electricity consumers by disallowing electricity supply disconnection beyond 3p.m. at any day during the week, any time during weekends, official holidays, when a permanent occupant in the house is sick and dependent on a life-support system, when the owner is not in the house and when there is a funeral wake in the house.

With the prepaid scheme, electricity automatically shuts off when customers ran out of load.

Introduced as voluntary and innovative last week, Corral also pointed out the prepaid scheme was implemented without public consultation and does away workers for it no longer require bill collectors, meter readers, linesmen, and branch office staffs.

“There are also no guarantees that the customers of the kuryente prepaid load scheme system are protected from the same ‘dagdag-bawas’ problems many experience with prepaid mobile phone service providers. The real issue here is that the price of electricity is high and Meralco is shifting the issue,” he stressed.

The scheme was formally launched last week by Meralco after several years of pilot-testing in Angono and Taytay towns in Rizal province.





Cayetano urges political parties to sign pledge vs. corrupt members

By Office of the Senate Majority Leader
March 14, 2014

PASAY CITY – Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter “Companero” S. Cayetano is urging all political parties to assure the Filipino people that they will prioritize justice over patronage politics by publicly pledging to expel members involved in corruption scandals.

Cayetano said his call is similar to what election watchdogs demand from candidates during elections, which is to refrain from engaging in fraud and violence. In this case, he is asking political parties to sign an anti-corruption covenant against corrupt partymates.

“Bakit hindi tayo pwedeng magkaroon ng pirmahan na kahit kapartido, hahabulin niyo kapag may anomalya. Kapag hindi katanggap-tanggap ang sagot nila, aalisin natin sa partido,” the senator said.

Cayetano said in the US, those involved in scandals either resign or are removed from the political party even before any declaration of guilt from the courts.

“Pero sa atin, huling-huli na, pagtatakpan pa ng kasama. Kaya ang justice system natin, pag guilty ka, pagtatakpan ka. Kaya sa atin, ang last layer ng protection ay eleksyon. Pag nanalo kakampi mo, abswelto ka. Yun ang gusto kong alisin,” he explained.

Cayetano again challenged Vice President Jejomar Binay to issue a strong statement against his allies implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam or at least ask them to explain their innocence to the Filipino people.

“Kung private citizen ka, pwede mo sabihin na sa korte na lang magpapaliwanag. Pero kung ikaw ay public official, kailangan mong harapin ang sambayanan. Utang mo sa tao na sumagot ka sa tao. Kapag hindi ka sumagot, dapat kang parusahan ng partido mo,” Cayetano said.

Binay’s previous statements on the pork barrel probe of the Department of Justice (DOJ) have raised fears among state witnesses that if he wins in the 2016 elections, the case will not be pursued.



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