Thursday, August 7, 2014


MANILA-Since the assumption of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), the housing sector has injected some P200 million into the economy and generated more than 3.5 million jobs.

In its 2014 Mid-Year Report, the Office of the Vice President said the consolidated housing production of the key shelter agencies (KSAs) under HUDCC from July 2010 to June 2014, totaling 581,959 housing units, has generated 3,534,281 jobs.

The figure is computed based on the assumption that a complete house construction will require 8.3 persons working for three weeks, while the development of sites for resettlement or improvement of sites will require five persons working per lot.

With Binay as the chairman of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund) Board of Trustees, the agency earned P50.75 billion from 2010 to 2013, surpassing the P50.3 billion earned over five years in the past administration (2004-2009).

Despite retaining the minimum contribution, Pag-IBIG Fund also posted a record net income of P14.44 billion in 2013.

Staying true to the promise of increasing membership, Pag-IBIG, under Binay’s leadership, increased its membership to 14 million in May 2014 from 8.19 million in 2010, or a 5.82 million increase.

The housing sector under Binay’s helm also scored a major victory when Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee was finally apprehended by Task Force Tugis in March 2014.

The President earlier placed a P2-million bounty on Lee’s head.

Lee is currently detained at the Pampanga provincial jail on charges of syndicated estafa, with the Department of Justice also conducting preliminary investigations on two more batches of similar complaints against the developer.

“Members of Pag-IBIG, especially those defrauded in the Globe Asiatique scam, can rest assured that we will fight any and all efforts to release Lee. We will make sure that Lee and his cohorts will be punished for their crime, and the victims will be given the justice they deserve,” Binay said following Lee’s arrest.

The Vice President had previously ordered the filing of syndicated estafa charges against Lee and several others after an investigation, which Binay ordered, revealed that Lee had used fake documents and ghost borrowers to secure some P7 billion in loans from Pag-IBIG.

Pag-IBIG cancelled its contract with the Globe Asiatique following the housing agency’s discovery of the alleged ghost buyers.

As chairman of HUDCC, the coordinative body consisting of the government’s KSAs, Binay is responsible for the overall implementation of the government housing program, as distributed among the areas of responsibility under its KSAs in housing finance, production, and regulation.

Drilon: Sin Tax, Graphic Health Laws to help gov't win war vs. smoking

MANILA-The initial successes of the Sin Tax Reform Law in reducing the number of Filipino smokers could be greatly boosted by the implementation of the Graphic Health Warning Act, according to Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

The Senate leader made the statement as the 
Graphic Health Warning Act formally takes effect today. 

“Once the two landmark laws – the Sin Tax Reform Law and the Graphic Health Warning Act – go into full implementation, I am very confident that we will see a significant number of Filipinos quitting smoking especially among the youth and poorer sector,” stressed Drilon.

“A year and a half after the Sin Tax Law was passed, we can see that it is a very potent law towards reducing the number of Filipinos smokers,” he said.

The Department of Health and the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported that as an effect of the Sin Tax Reform Law, smokers of lower socio-economic standing (class E) are beginning to stop smoking. From December 2012 to March 2014, the number of smokers from class E dropped down by 13 percent, from 38 percent to 25 percent.

“By 2017 when a uniform tax rate on all types of cigarettes would have already been imposed making the price of cigarettes much higher and relatively unaffordable to the youth and the poor, more and more Filipinos will be encouraged to finally stop smoking,” he said.

“The numbers reflect the fact that slowly, the state’s aggressive anti-smoking policies can help convince people to stop their smoking habit for good and the implementation of the Graphic Health Warning Act will boost up our campaign against smoking,” Drilon said.

Moreover, additional revenues generated from the Sin Tax Reform Law will continue to benefit the health sector.

“For instance, in the proposed P2.606 trillion 2015 national budget, 15.4 indigent families will be enrolled in Philhealth, which will mostly be funded from sin tax collections,” he said.

Under the Sin Tax Reform Act, 80 percent of the remaining incremental revenues will be allocated for the universal health care under the NHIP and 20 percent will be allocated nationwide for medical assistance and health facilities enhancement program.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) also reported that the sin tax collections for the first half of the year are nearly twice that of collections made within the same time period in 2013.

“The government’s domestic cigarette tax collection has gone up by 44 percent, as the government was able to build up collections up to P28.1 billion from January to June of 2014, as compared to the P19.5 billion cigarette excise tax collections made from January to June of 2013,” said Drilon.

“In 2013, if we did not pass that Sin Tax Law, excise tax collection on tobacco products, would have amounted only to P28.5 billion. With the passage of the Sin Tax Law the excise tax on tobacco amounted to P70.392 billion, an increase of P41.8 billion,” pointed out Drilon.

Drilon said the additional revenue would help finance more programs and subsidize more medicine and medical services to many Filipinos including construction of health facilities. 

Stronger Links with Int’l Organizations, Vital to Combat Cybersex Trafficking—Legarda

MANILA-Alarmed with the proliferation of cyber sex trafficking, Senator Loren Legarda today stressed the importance of forging stronger partnerships with international police organizations to combat this form of human trafficking.

Legarda made the statement as she lamented that the crime has degraded family values as parents themselves sell their own children online.

“We need to find more ways to immediately combat cybersex because evidently, it is affecting the very core of our society, which is the family. Parents are supposed to teach their children good values, but why are there mothers and fathers who willingly sell their children online and make them perform lewd acts in exchange for money? Nothing, not even poverty, can justify such acts,” said Legarda.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), with assistance from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the International Justice Mission, recently raided a house in Taguig City and rescued two children from their own mother while caught in the act of prodding her children to perform lewd acts online.
Legarda has stood up in the Senate several times to speak about the issue saying that, “If children can no longer feel secure and protected in their own homes, then something is terribly wrong in our society. We need to put an end to these kinds of abuses.”

The Senator said that due to the complexity of the crime, it is important that links with international police organizations are strengthened. 

“Strengthened cooperation and improved coordination of the NBI with international police groups have led to previous successful operations against cyber pornography. We must sustain these gains and ensure the proper implementation of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act to combat this crime,” she said.

Legarda, principal sponsor of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, explained that under the law, harboring a child for purposes of prostitution or production of pornographic materials is considered trafficking. Furthermore, the crime is not plain trafficking but qualified trafficking when the offender is the parent, guardian or someone who exercises authority over the child. Any person found guilty of qualified trafficking shall serve life imprisonment.

In line with this, Legarda also pushed for the immediate passage of two proposed measures that will boost efforts against cyber pornography—the Anti-Computer Pornography Act (Senate Bill No. 532) and the NBI Reorganization and Modernization Act (Senate Bill No. 1902).

The Anti-Computer Pornography Act seeks to protect minors from indecent and immoral material transmitted through electronic mail and other electronic media. Acts such as transmitting or offering to transmit information that contains indecent materials to a minor and providing access to transmission of said materials to a minor shall be deemed punishable.

Meanwhile, the NBI Reorganization and Modernization Act aims to strengthen the powers and functions of the NBI through a reorganization of its offices to streamline activities. It likewise seeks to modernize the investigative program through acquisition of state-of-the-art intelligence and forensic equipment.

The measure also seeks to ensure the maintenance of elite and competent personnel through the provision of competitive compensation packages, including training, insurance benefits and scholarship grants for the bureau’s agents and employees.

Drilon: 2015 budget boosts social services

MANILA-The proposed 2015 national budget will pour nearly P1 trillion into social protection and services, said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today as he hailed the government’s continuing focus on the need to make basic needs accessible to all.

For 2015, Drilon said the social service sector will corner 37 percent of the proposed P2.606 trillion budget, equivalent to P967.9 billion, in order to fund programs that will address the immediate needs of the poor. The figure is 15 percent higher than the present allocation of P841.8 billion. 

“The next year’s spending program reflects the priorities in the remaining years of the Aquino administration which are to alleviate poverty, provide efficient healthcare and improve the quality of education in the country,” said Drilon, vowing that the Senate will persistently support programs that will directly benefit the Filipinos.

Drilon said the increased spending for social service sector will go for programs and projects which aimed at improving the delivery of educational services in the country.

He said the Department of Education (DepEd) will get P365.1 billion, cornering the biggest chunk of the budget. The figure is 17.9 percent higher than its 2014 level of P309.5 billion.

The increase, explained Drilon, is being proposed to capacitate the government’s school building program which is budgeted with P52.9 billion in 2015, an increase of P8.248 billion from its 2014 budget.

“As part of the effort to address classrooms shortage, the government will construct 31,728 new classrooms in 2015 and repair 9,500 dilapidated ones, including those damaged by past calamities including super typhoon ‘Yolanda’,” the Senate leader said. Also, 13,586 water and sanitation facilities will be constructed next year.

On top of this, the Senate chief said the government plans to procure 1.3 million new desks and armchairs and 70.5 million textbooks and instructional materials. It will also boost its teaching force with the hiring of 39,066 teachers next year. 

“We should keep on investing in the education of our youth, because a quality education will lead the country to a better future. The people, most especially the youth, is the most important

asset our country has to nurture, and part of it is by giving education the highest priority in the budget,” stressed Drilon.

The Senate chief also lauded the continued increase in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) which is proposed to get P102 billion in 2015 from its current level of P90.8 billion.

“For 2015, more money will go to public hospitals and clinics around the country. For instance, the government will allot P13.1 billion for the upgrading of 1,242 barangay health stations, 587 health centers from remote barangays, 128 hospitals in different provinces, 19 DOH-managed hospitals, and 11 treatment and rehabilitation centers,” said Drilon.

He said that it is only right that the government invest in health infrastructure as the condition of health facilities in the country leaves much to be desired: “The government should continue to improve its hospital facilities especially in secluded provinces so that our citizens will receive proper and efficient healthcare.” 

He emphasized that as part of its health program, the government will increase the premium subsidy for the National Health Insurance Program to P37.2 billion in 2015 from its present level of P35.3 billion, which will cover 15.4 million households, an increase of 700 beneficiaries from 2014.

Likewise, the Senate chief said the government will increase its budget for the hiring of health personnel by 43 percent, equivalent to P4.3 billion from P3.0 billion.

“For 2015, the government plans to hire additional 398 doctors, 12,540 midwives and 480 dentists to be deployed in different municipalities, cities and health facilities around the country to provide primary healthcare,” he said.  

Finally, the social protection package for the poor will continue to receive the priority in the budget. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will get P109 billion in 2015 from its current budget of P83.4 billion.

Drilon said that the increase will go to the continued expansion of the Conditional Cash Transfer program which will be allotted P64.7 billion next year – from P62.6 billion this year - to benefit 4,309,769 indigent families throughout the country, which include around 4,000 families with no permanent address, 7,000 homeless street families and 116,000 indigenous people.

9 pro-Joson mayors joining Umali?

CABANATUAN CITY – A city mayor and at least eight municipal mayors from the Josons’ Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija are reportedly shifting allegiance and planning to join the camp of Gov. Aurelio Umali at the Unang Sigaw Partido ng Pagbabago.

          Informed sources who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the issue, said the local chief executives have already sent feelers to the governor’s camp and their official transfer will just be a matter of time.

          The sources said those who are considering to transfer to Umali’s camp are mayors Francis Steven Dizon of Guimba, Amado Corpuz of Cuyapo, Froilan Nagaño Jr. of San Leonardo, Rafaelito Andres of Rizal, Lucio Uera of Pantabangan, Nerivi Santos-Martinez of Talavera, Areli Santos of Gen. Natividad and Allan Xystus Gamilla of Bongabon and Nestor Alvarez of the Science City of Muñoz.

          When sought for comment, Umali said a “vast majority” of the Balane mayors have signified interest to join his camp and that of his wife, third district Rep. Czarina, who is running for governor in 2016.

When asked to identify them, the governor cited the names of Alvarez, Dizon, Corpuz and Nagaño.

          Dizon and Corpuz are both on their third and last terms while the rest are on just their first terms.

          They were all known Joson die-hards who stuck with the clan at the height of their 48-year-old reign at the Capitol.

          Nagaño is the son and namesake of former two-term mayor Froilan Sr. who ran for congressman in last year’s polls but lost to incumbent fourth district Rep. Magnolia Antonino-Nadres.

          Uera, who previously served as mayor for two terms, has reportedly formed his local party, the Pantabangan People’s Party (PPP) in preparation for his breakaway from the Josons. He defeated old rival, former two-term mayor Romeo Borja Sr., a known Umali ally, in last year’s polls.

          Santos-Martinez is the daughter of former three-term mayor Nerito, also a known Joson loyalist. The neophyte mayor is at odds with first district Rep. Estrellita Suansing, an Umali ally.

          Santos is the wife of former mayor Levi Santos who is reportedly eyeing a comeback against incumbent Board Member Ruben Ilagan.

          Gamilla is the son of former three-term mayor Amelia Gamilla and the late ex-mayor Jimmy Gamilla who served for more than 20 years.
         Alvarez, a former three-term mayor is the younger brother of Efren Alvarez, also a former three-term mayor who served as provincial administrator during the Joson’s capitol reign. Efren is the father of incumbent Vice Mayor Tekila Grace Alvarez.

At present, Umali has 12 mayors as allies in the 27-man Nueva Ecija chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, led by its president, Peñaranda Mayor Ferdinand Abesamis.

The others were Elizabeth Vargas of Aliaga, Mary Abad of Carranglan, Rolando Bue of Gabaldon, Santiago Austria of Jaen, Lorna Mae Vero of Llanera, Richard Ramos of Lupao, Cora Lacurom of Nampicuan, Antonino Lustre of San Antonio, Cesario Lopez of San Isidro, Quintino Caspillo of Talugtug and Louella Belmonte of Zaragoza.

Abesamis said that many of the mayors from Balane who he has talked to have voiced their support for the “continuance of the good programs of Governor Umali.”

“Anyway, the programs of Governor Umali are already institutionalized such as those pertaining to peace and order, infrastructure, investments, disaster management and agriculture modernization,” he said.

He added that the greatest legacy of the Umali administration is effective administration of service to the people of Nueva Ecija. “It’s an administration with a heart for the people,” he said. (Manny Galvez)

Bomb threat causes panic among Cabanatuan court employees

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija–A prank call warning of a forthcoming bomb explosion inside the Regional Trial Court (RTC) building here has left terrorized court employees storming out of their offices here Tuesday.

          Police Superintendent Pedro Soliba, Cabanatuan police chief, said the supposed bomb was reported to them by Cabanatuan RTC Branch 28 legal researcher Wilson Mangabat.

          Mangabat said the bomb threat was relayed to him by a certain Aneth Gonzales, an employee of a bonding company.

Gonzales claimed she received a text message from an unnamed person at around 9:50 pm Monday that the bomb will explode at around 9:15 am Tuesday at an unspecified place in the compound in Barangay Accfa.

          Aside from two RTC buildings, the compound also houses the Hall of Justice building.

Operatives of the Cabanatuan police immediately cordoned off the area which was examined by agents of the explosives and ordnance team from the Army’s 7th Infantry Division of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation.

The bomb disposal team cleared the area of any explosive devices shortly before noon. (Manny Galvez)


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