Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Umali on Cauzo murder links: ‘I’m innocent’

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, November 14, 2012-Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali has maintained his innocence amid the supposed attempts by the camp of his estranged former political ally, Mayor Julius Caezar Vergara to link the former in the November 7 murder of the hard-hitting radio anchor.
Speaking over TV 48, Umali swore to high heavens that he had nothing to do with Cauzo’s killing and said his history as a politician is not etched in violence.

“History will bear me out that I have no history of violence, past or present. There is no tinge of blood in my hands. And may the wrath of God fall on the perpetrators of the dastardly killing of Cauzo,” he told newsmen.

Umali issued the statement amid the perceived attempts of the Vergara camp to link him to the killing of Cauzo, a radio anchor of DWJJ, the teleradyo outfit owned by the family of Vergara.

Umali and Vergara are locked up in a bitter, protracted word war over the Highly Urbanized City bid of the city government under Vergara. Umali is strongly opposing the conversion, contained in Presidential Proclamation 418 issued last July 4 by President Aquino.

A plebiscite to ratify or reject the conversion has been set by the Commission on Elections on December 1.

The police said it is looking into politics as one of the angles in the killing of Cauzo who – before his death – has been engaged in an animated, mostly heated exchange with Umali’s allies from TV 48 over the HUC issue.

Umali has offered a P1-million reward to anyone who could provide information on the killers of Cauzo, matching the amount put up by Vergara. He asked mediamen to join Task Force Cauzo and the Philippine National Police in the conduct of a full-blown investigation into the killing of the radio anchor.

The governor led a peace rally at the Capitol Monday simultaneous with a separate rally made by the camp of Vergara. 

Umali admitted that he has past run-ins with the media in the province, including a former radio commentator of DWNE when the Josons were still in power and two other correspondents of Manila-based dailies but nothing untoward happened to them.
\“This former radio commentator had been maligning and lambasting me. You should have heard him curse me in the airwaves. But did anything untoward happened to him? None,” he said.

“I will be the last person to resort to violence. But I never back down from a fight,” he said. He accused Vergara of allegedly fomenting anarchy and lawlessness by trying to provoke him so that if he did, they would capitalize on it.
He cited an incident last Thursday when some persons who were employed at city hall held an indignation rally demanding justice for Cauzo and barged inside the Capitol compound and destroyed the glass entrance door while shouting expletives at personnel. (Manny Galvez)

‘Farmer’ in NE slain by motorcycle-riding gunmen is leader of gun-for-hire gang, PNP says

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, November 14, 2012-A 28-year-old farmer from Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija who was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding gunmen in Talavera town has been tagged by the Philippine National Police as the leader of a dreaded gun-for-hire gang involved in a string of criminal activities in the tri-boundaries of Tarlac, Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija.

          Senior Superintendent Walter Castillejos, provincial police director, said the victim, Rodel Acosta, was the leader of Acosta Group which has victimized several people in its criminal activities in the three provinces.

          Acosta was gunned down by two suspects aboard an unlicensed Kawasaki Rouser motorcycle at around 5:30 pm last November 9 along the  Maharlika Highway in Barangay San Pascual, Talavera.

           Acosta, who was identified in initial police reports as a farmer, was with his mother Santa Diaz-Acosta at  a spare parts store in San Pascual while having his motorcycle repaired after encountering engine trouble when the two suspects shot him several times, hitting him in the different parts of his body which caused his death.

         Castillejos said upon verification, it was found out that Acosta, alias Del,  was the leader of the Acosta Group which carried out robbery-holdup and carnapping activities in Paniqui, Tarlac, Umingan and Rosales in Pangasinan and in northern Nueva Ecija.

          He said among the members of his gang were Jerry Derije, Pinky de Gracia and Michael Rovero, all former members of the paramilitary group Civlian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Masi Derije and Ariel Umipig, all of Barangay Sta Cruz and Dominador Andres alias Boyet/Teddy of Barangay Sta Clara, all of Cuyapo.

         Based on the case operational plan of the Cuyapo PNP, the group has been using a Kawasaki Bajaj and Honda Wave motorcycles as their getaway vehicles, armed with caliber 45, 9mm, and caliber 38 revolvers and an Uzi machine pistol.

          The group was tagged for the robbery hold-up at Barangay San Antonio, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija victimizing Quirino Bagalay for which a robbery case was filed against them before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor.

        It was also behind the carnapping of a motorcycle of one Emely Carillo  on August 24, 2012 at Barangay Cabatuan, Umingan, Pangasinan. The vehicle was later used by the group to in a robbery with homicide incident in Guimba last week. 

         Acosta’s group also held up a Shell Gasoline Station in Barangay District V, Cuyapo owned by businesswoman Ramona Ramos where they shot cashier Consuel Ocampo before carting away cash worth P70,000.00.

         Acosta, based on court records, has at least five criminal cases lodged in various courts in the province. (Manny Galvez)


MANILA, November 14, 2012-Five of the 20 traders/ cooperative representatives that have been issued warrants of arrest for their failure to appear before the Senate investigating committee on smuggling have surrendered themselves before the Senate on Tuesday.

"We will confer with the Senate President and other members of the committee to discuss whether or not a release order is to be issued," says Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Senate Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Food. "In the meantime they will remain under the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms as our rules provide."

Pangilinan, in the meantime, issued a stern warning to all resource persons invited by the Senate investigating committee on future hearings.

"The Senate is committed to putting an end to smuggling in the country. At the very least we would improve the system of importation ad address the gaps that contribute to rampant smuggling. WE are taking the matter seriously. Should the invited resource persons deem to interpret their appearance as inconsequential or take the matter lightly as to ignore the Senate's summons, they will face the consequences."

Toll rates bearable if VAT was not imposed

MANILA, November 14, 2012-If only you had listened.

This was the reaction of Sen. Ralph G. Recto to the reported plan of government to subsidize the operations of privately-run toll roads, including toll fees, to ensure the profitability of the investing firms and soften the impact on motorists.

Recto on Monday said with a 12-percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on toll fees and the expected new wave of increases in toll rates next year, the motorists should brace for an unprecedented higher toll rate regime.

“As early as 2010, I have been saying not to VAT toll rates because it was not the intention of the law, that it would drive up the rates and burden the motorists,” Recto, chair of the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, said.

He said the government would never have to think of subsidy for toll companies had it not stubbornly insisted on slapping toll fees with a 12 percent VAT contrary to the stand of lawmakers who shepherded the law.

The senator, with the backing of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile  and his colleagues, had maintained during hearings last year that toll fee was not in the list of “VATable” items when Congress legislated the law.

“Now they’re beginning to realize the folly of slapping toll rates with VAT and are now considering subsidy to lure in more investors and appease motoring public,” Recto said.

Recto said the supposed billions in revenues to be collected from VAT on toll fee would be washed away by the billions in subsidy to be extended to toll road operators.

He said the proposed subsidy to toll roads is also on top of proposal to extend toll operators income tax holidays (ITH) as a come-on for other groups to invest in the country.
Transportation Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya was quoted in news reports that government considers extending subsidy to private toll road companies to guarantee their investments and lure more players in infrastructure projects.

Currently, however, toll firms are already assured of a 15 percent guaranteed return of their investments.

Five toll road operators, handling North Luzon Expressway, Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway, Metro Manila Skyway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, and Manila-Cavite Expressway are poised to increase their toll by the start of 2013.

The toll operators have applied with the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) for an increase in their rates from 10 percent to 33 percent, which could go up to a high of 50 percent if the income tax holiday (ITH) incentive is not approved.

P-Noy calls on all Filipinos to do their share in the attainment of rice self-sufficiency

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija, November 13, 2012-President Benigno Aquino III called on all Filipinos to do their share in the attainment of rice self-sufficiency by 2013.

In a message during Tuesday’s launch of National Year of Rice (NYR) and awarding of Gawad Saka winners that was read by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Aquino said “idineklara po nating NYR ang 2013 upang paghandaan at lalong mapabilis ang pagiging rice self-sufficient ng Pilipinas. Subalit ano man pong proklamasyon ang gawin ng pamahalaan, kung hindi makikilahok ang taumbayan, para na rin pong nagsayang lang tayo ng ilang pirasong papel (We declared 2013 as NYR to speed up efforts on rice self-sufficiency in the country. However, any proclamation will never materialize and will be wasted if the people do not take part).

The President added that any program of the government stems out from the plea and needs of “Juan dela Cruz” and will only be successfully carried out if everyone will have his/her own contribution. 

“Whatever profession- be it a farmer from Cagayan, or a fisherfolk in Davao; a researcher from Nueva Ecija, or a businessman in Zamboanga- you can help; you can do something. We just have to imbibe and practice the spirit of bayanihan and we will not only achieve rice self-sufficiency but also attain our other aspirations: education, health, and justice; national pride; and development and peace,” the Chief Executive stressed.

Aquino also lauded this year’s 25 National Gawad Saka honorees for inspiring their fellow countrymen and other sectors of Philippine agriculture.

2013 was declared as NYR via Presidential Proclamation No.494 to enlist the support of farmers, consumers, and policy-makers in the country’s endeavor to become rice self-sufficient.

The observance, which is anchored on the theme “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya sa Pinas” is meant to encourage farmers to adopt modern farm technologies while consumers are urged to reduce rice wastage. 

Moreover, Gawad Saka is given to farmers, fisherfolks, livestock raisers and farmers’ and fisherfolk groups and organizations in recognition of their achievements as well as contributions to nation-building. Last year’s performance served as the basis in determining the winners.

The contest started at the municipal level where model farmers, fisherfolks, livestock raisers and farmers’ and fisherfolk groups and organizations were endorsed by their respective mayors to the provincial level competition.

Profiles of the provincial winners were then submitted to the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Units (DA-RFUs) for review and validation.

Regional honorees, who are automatically bets to the national Gawad Saka, were picked by a selection committee composed of various program coordinators and division chiefs of DA-RFUs along with representatives from the Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council.

The event coincided with the 27th anniversary of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

Aquino was not able to grace the occasion due to inclement weather.

According to Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte, the Chief Executive was supposed to ride a chopper en route to PhilRice but made a last minute decision to cancel his trip as strongly advised by his security personnel. 

Legarda to Conduct Senate Hearing on Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Bill

MANILA, November 13, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda will conduct tomorrow, November 14, a Senate Hearing on Senate Bill 2831, also known as the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples Bill, which seeks to safeguard the intellectual property of Philippine ethno-linguistic groups.

“Our indigenous peoples have suffered historical injustices in the form of discrimination, deprivation of their ancestral domains and lands, among many other human rights violations. To put salt in their many wounds, there have been reported incidences wherein their indigenous knowledge, dances, and designs are being stolen by local and foreign entities,” she explained.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, further stated that the existing Indigenous Peoples Rights’ Act (IPRA) or RA 8371 does not provide for specific provisions for the protection of their cultural properties, both intangible and tangible.

“Besides the lack of protection in the IPRA, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines does not have the legal mandate to undertake the protection of our indigenous cultural treasures. Certainly, this is a void that has to be filled. This bill seeks to address this concern through an inventory of all cultural properties of the various indigenous communities in the country,” she said.

“As a nation, we must end the marginalization of our indigenous communities. Their cultural property, which is a vital part of their identity, must be duly protected. Their intangible and tangible cultural heritage has been passed on from their ancestors, and we must ensure that they will still be passed on to future generations,” Legarda concluded.

Senator Legarda at the ASEAN SMEs Workshop

Senator Loren Legarda gives her “Redefining Development” book, “Message of Our Times” book and the Disaster Preparedness and First Aid Handbook to (L-R) Mr. Dennis Wright, CEO of Peregrine, Mr. Tim Gohoc, Managing Director of UPS, and Mr. Alexander Feldman, President of the US-ASEAN Business Council, after her opening remarks at the ASEAN SMEs Training Workshop. Legarda, author of both the Magna Carta for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises and the Barangay Kabuhayan Act, emphasized that MSMEs are the lifeblood of ASEAN economies. The workshop, organized by the US-ASEAN Business Council, was held at the Asian Institute of Management on November 12.

Legarda: Expanded Anti-Trafficking Bill Approved in Bicam

MANILA, November 13, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda issued a fair warning to human traffickers as the Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee approved the reconciled version of Senate Bill 2625 and House Bill 6339 -- a measure expanding the Anti-Trafficking Act of 2003.

“This time, there is no reason for human trafficking to triumph against our collective crusade against this modern day slavery,” Legarda said.

“We acknowledge that the problem of human trafficking continues to hound our society, and this is the reason why we need to strengthen the existing law. In the proposed amended version of the law, even acts that shall constitute attempted trafficking in persons will be punishable.  Accomplices and accessories to the crime will also be meted their due penalties,” said Legarda, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Anti-Trafficking and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2625.

“The Expanded Anti-Trafficking Bill aims to fill voids in the existing law by expanding the enumeration of acts that promote trafficking, to include an act to destroy or tamper with evidence, to influence witnesses in an investigation, or to utilize one’s public office to impede an investigation or to obstruct the execution of lawful orders.  The capacities of government agencies will be strengthened and funding will be extended to ensure that the mandate entrusted to them will be carried out on a sustainable basis,” she explained.

Legarda also said that trafficked victims shall be given protection, while prosecution efforts will be heightened by shielding, to a reasonable extent, law enforcement officers and social workers from harassment suits for lawful acts done in good faith during authorized rescue operations, investigation or prosecution of a case.

Furthermore, a permanent secretariat within the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) will be established to ensure continuity of programs and to take the battle against trafficking to a higher plane of strategic action and public awareness. This secretariat will collect comprehensive criminal justice data on trafficking in persons and will train prosecutors and law enforcers.


MANILA, November 13, 2012-Business tourism in the country will get another big boost after Senator Franklin M. Drilon vowed to allot a bulk of his annual priority development assistance fund and sealed the commitment of the Megaworld Corporation and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to construct a state-of-the-art convention center in Iloilo.

With the signing of the deed of donation held today between the multinational corporation and the DOT for the much-awaited multi-million peso Iloilo Convention Center, Drilon, the one who envisioned the construction of said new edifice, said Iloilo is a step closer to becoming a conference hub of Western Visayas and nearby regions.    

“This is a realization of a lifelong dream of the residents of Panay Island to have their own highly impressive and sophisticated convention center at par with those of Cebu and Davao’s that will be capable to hold the best and the most glamorous of the conferences, exhibitions, among others,” said Drilon.

Aside from Drilon, also present in the signing held at the Marriott Hotel were Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Megaworld Corporation President Mr. Andrew L. Tan, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority Chief Operating Officer Mark Lapid, Iloilo City Representative Jerry Treñas, and Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

The construction is expected to begin early next year and be finished by the end of 2014. The convention center is designed by Architect Willy Coscoluella.

He said the Megaworld Corp. will donate 1.7 hectares of lot located in Barangay Mandurriao in Iloilo City to house the two-storey convention center.

“We express gratitude to the Megaworld Corporation for helping us make this endeavour possible and for making our work easier by way of donating a very valuable piece of land where this new edifice will be built,” said Drilon.
He said the establishment of a convention center in the Western Visayas will extend support to the country’s rapidly growing tourism industry especially that the present government has been continuously embarking on various efforts and campaign strategies to advance tourism in the country.

“There is a need to ramp up the infrastructure in various parts of the country in order to realize our goal to become a top tourist destination in the world,” he added.

Drilon also said this undertaking will also boost the province’s capability to host the Asia Pacific Economic Council meeting in the first quarter of 2015, for the convention center is designed to attract and accommodate large sized conferences, summits, congresses, fairs, and trade shows and exhibits.

He also noted the proximity of the site for the convention to the Iloilo Airport that offers local and international flights.

“The convention will have an iconic design that truly speaks of the colorful culture not only of the Iloilo Province but of the entire island of Western Visayas. The design will be only one of its kind to the region. The Parao boats and the features of a native tribe in Iloilo called ‘Ati’ intricately carved on the walls as designs will surely entice any audience of its unique beauty,” ended Drilon.   

Legarda: ILO 189 will be More Effective with Passage of Kasambahay Bill

MANILA, November 13, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the importance of the immediate passage of the Kasambahay Bill in protecting Filipino domestic workers, stressing that the measure will complement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189, the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

Legarda, sponsor of ILO Convention 189, said that the treaty will be more effective with the passage of the Kasambahay Bill.

“With the Philippines’ ratification of ILO 189, the treaty will come into force in 2013. This will improve the employment conditions of domestic workers worldwide. Meanwhile, the proposed Kasambahay Act, when approved, will guarantee that our kasambahays in the country will gain more benefits and be better protected as all household working arrangements between employers and helpers shall be duly documented,” she stressed.

“The ILO 189 and the proposed Kasambahay Act are two important measures that will pave the way for treatment of our kasambahays as workers, not servants. These are major steps in according decent working conditions, just compensation, and sufficient benefits to our domestic workers. Thus, I am hopeful that the enactment into law of the Kasambahay Bill will happen very soon,” Legarda said.

The Philippine ratification of the ILO Convention 189 was formally registered last September 5. The Philippines is the second country to ratify the Convention, which is significant as the treaty will enter into force a year after it has been ratified by two countries.

The ILO Convention 189 will benefit the 3.4 million Filipino domestic workers in the Philippines and abroad by ensuring that, first and foremost, domestic workers, like other workers, enjoy the same mantle of basic rights, such as reasonable hours of work, weekly rest, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and freedom of association.

Meanwhile, the Kasambahay Bill was already approved on third reading by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The two versions of the bill shall be reconciled in a bicameral conference committee meeting.


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