Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: October 2017
ILOILO CITY — More than PHP1-million worth of confiscated goods from violations of the Product Standards Law will be destroyed, marking this month’s Consumer Awareness Month celebration.


The confiscated items include hardware and general merchandize items from the provinces of Capiz and Iloilo in December 2016 that amounted to some PHP1.236 million.


The confiscated items from seven firms in Capiz included uPVC pipes, electrical pipes, sanitary wares and household electrical appliances that amounted to PHP910, 135.00. The firms paid a total of PHP70,000 in penalties.


Moreover, some PHP326, 691 worth of items were confiscated from seven firms in Iloilo in December last year. These included uPVC pipes, electrical products, sanitary wares, household electrical appliances and Christmas lights. From these firms, a total of PHP122, 500 fines were generated.


These items will be destroyed October 30, according to DTI-6 information officer David Sinay on Thursday.


Meantime, hardware items confiscated in six firms from Iloilo and four firms in Antique last July and June this year, respectively are still under adjudication.


DTI has monitored a total of 6,492 firms in Western Visayas for their compliance to various consumer laws. Of these, 2,161 were on Product Standards Law.


Earlier, Regional Director Rebecca Rascon said that DTI has prepared various activities to highlight consumer awareness. One of the highlights is also the awarding of Bagwis Award to 35 firms in the region.


The Bagwis Award is given to establishments that uphold consumer rights. The 35 awardees include four gold, 18 silver and 13 bronze awards.


Gold awardees are those that achieved the silver requirements plus some elements aligned with the ISO 9001; Silver for those that achieved bronze requirement with additional social responsibility and bronze for establishments that comply with the Fair Trade Laws and have established a consumer welfare desk or its equivalent inside the mall. (PNA)
Published in News
DUMAGUETE CITY – Bishop Edwin dela Peña of the Marawi Prelature said the conflict in Marawi City had brought together Muslims and Christians, fostering brotherhood and providing a venue for compassion, help and understanding.


Working continuously to this day to provide relief and rehabilitation for the countless refugees who have fled Marawi City, Bishop dela Peña thanked the inestimable aid from various local and foreign donors for the displaced Muslims and Christians who have practically lost all that they owned.


The conflict in Marawi that is expected to soon come to an end has opened doors for Muslims and Christians to transcend religious barriers and work hand in hand to survive the consequences of the war, the prelate pointed out in an interview Monday evening.


Emphasizing cultural sensitivity where Maranaws and Christians were giving mutual aid to one another, he said that there were “beautiful stories about Muslim-Christian engagement, their mutual help for each other that we would like to highlight.”


“Mubati ta ug kalooy sa usag usa (we feel compassion for each other”), he added.


The Marawi bishop is hopeful that the experiences of the war will change the way “we look at them (Muslims) and that it will break the cycle of prejudices and biases.”


The Marawi prelate presided the Holy Mass during the 58th Alumni Homecoming of the St. Joseph Seminary of the Diocese of Dumaguete on Monday evening.


In his homily, he spoke of the pain and agony of the people of Marawi since Day 1 of the conflict until now.


The bishop, who hails from nearby Siquijor Island and an alumnus of the St. Joseph Seminary here, recounted the painful experiences the Catholic Church in Marawi had gone through, to include the kidnapping of one of the priests, Fr. Teresito “Chito” Suganob and some staff.


He expressed gratitude that Fr. Chito and another hostage of the Maute terror group were rescued last month but it was unfortunate that two of their working students who were taken along with the priest as hostages did not make it.


He disclosed that prior to the siege in Marawi by the extremist Maute terror group, the Church had already known that they were to be targeted, that priests and people living there would be killed.


“That was the original plan of the terrorists — to cleanse Marawi of Christians whose presence in an Islamic City is an anachronism and Muslims who do not live up to the true spirit of Islam,” dela Peña told alumni-priests and former seminarians in his homily.


Fr. Chito is still undergoing debriefing after having gone through a traumatic experience and it is going to be a long process, Bishop dela Peña said.


The priest thinks he is still with the ISIS and is going through very rough times, the bishop added.


Three of their women-hostages had also been freed recently, along with others, as the leadership of the Maute group has crumbled, Bishop dela Peña added.
Expressing thanks amid the tragedies of the war in Marawi, Bishop dela Peña highlighted humanity as a means to fight terrorism.


“There is much violence, lots of senseless killings. Violent extremism can only be countered by our common experience of our humanity, that we are all humans, that we feel the same for one another,” he stressed.


“Really, we should thank the Lord for such an experience that has brought us to a realization that we really should not take our faith for granted. We have to promote what is best for humanity”, he added.


“Now that the leaders of the Maute Group, Isnilon Hapilon (the supposed emir), and Omar Maute have been killed in a clash with government troops, I believe the war is already over,” said de la Peña.


The biggest challenge now for the government and for the different sectors is the relief and rehabilitation efforts of what is left of Marawi City, the prelate noted.  (Mary Judaline Partlow/PNA)
Published in News
Thursday, 19 October 2017 11:11

Federalism as a grand bargain

First of 2 parts
THE ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) recently submitted to the House of Representatives its proposal for constitutional amendments. There has been a lot of apprehensions regarding our shift to a federal form of government. For example, Winnie Monsod fears that federalism will lead to the strengthening of political dynasties and more corruption in the regions. Sen. Ralph Recto is concerned that there will be more layers of bureaucracy and red tape and hence more taxes. Former senator Edgardo Angara Sr. has expressed some concern over the potential break-up of the country if, for example, one region discovers huge oil and gas reserves and no longer needs transfers from the national government.
Professors at the University of the Philippines rhetorically ask: “If federalism is the answer, then what is the question?” What would happen to the party list? What about the administrative capacity of the regions? Businessmen and investors are rightly worried how federalism, especially taxes, would impact their businesses. Would the shift to federalism slow down our growth momentum? Would a presidential, parliamentary or a hybrid form of government be suitable for Philippine-style federalism? Why do we need to change the Constitution and why not just amend the Local Government Code to give more powers to the regions?


The PDP Laban draft constitution—drafted by experts under the guidance of Senate President Koko Pimentel, the PDP-Laban president—recognizes these concerns as valid. The draft constitution in fact proposes the shift to federalism as a grand bargain, a package of reforms. These reforms include: 1) constitutional restrictions on political dynasties; 2) shift to a dual executive or semi-presidential form of government; 3) banning of political butterflies; 4) strengthening of political parties; 5) shift to proportional representation; 6) strengthening of constitutional bodies in the regions, particularly the commissions on civil service and audit; 7) reducing the duplication of work between the Senate and the House of Representatives; and 8) judicial reforms, including strengthening of the Sandigan Bayan, appellate courts and Ombudsman at the regional levels.


Tinkering with the Local Government Code alone would not be sufficient.


From political dynasties to political parties
One of the main apprehensions about federalism is that the transfer of significant powers to the regions will only perpetuate political dynasties. Not all political dynasties are the same, however. Some contribute more to the public good than others. Some political dynasties are fat-tailed—with many members of clans simultaneously occupying positions of power—while others are thin-tailed. Political dynasties themselves are not to blame. The proliferation and durability of political dynasties came about, in large part, because of the failure of the 1987 Constitution to pass a self-enforcing provision regulating these dynasties. This mistake has to be corrected. We need a self-enforcing constitutional provision regulating political dynasties, without which the transfer of more powers to the regions would be at risk of political capture.


But why do we need to regulate political dynasties? Why not just let the voters decide? There is a problem with this argument. First, voters decide based on what choices are available to them. If the only options are familiar names of political dynasties, then naturally voters choose the candidates they like most. Candidates do not have incentives to differentiate themselves on the basis of policies and programs. The solution to this is to give voters choices in terms of policies and programs and not just familiar names. This way they can hold political parties accountable. At present, politicians cannot be held accountable for failed promises because their policy positions are unclear. For this, we need to shift from elections based on personalities to one based on political parties with distinctive policies and programs. For this reason, we need to strengthen our political party system.


Most successful federal systems of the world depend on strong political parties and not families or personalities. To have strong political parties, we need to 1) shift to a semi-presidential form of government; 2) ban party switching or balimbing; 3) provide state subsidy for political parties as they do in Europe; and 4) ensure party discipline as they do in all parliamentary systems. What happened to the confirmation hearings of the appointees of President Duterte – Gina Lopez, Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo – is an instructive example. Members of the ruling coalition voted against them while members of the opposition supported them.


Semi-presidential form of government
Why would a semi-presidential form of government be better than a purely presidential or parliamentary system if we are to shift to a federal structure?
A presidential system of government is most familiar to Filipinos. It reduces uncertainties in the transition to federalism. Its main disadvantage is the over-centralization of powers, such as what we have now, the difficulty of removing the president if he becomes corrupt or abusive and the potential for gridlock with the parliament. The problem with gridlock has been partly solved via the pork barrel mechanism and a system of patronage with local governments.


A parliamentary system of government is more efficient in terms of lawmaking and policy implementation. There is no problem of gridlock and unfunded mandates because members of the cabinet come from the parliament. It also has strong mechanisms of accountability via vote of no confidence and question time. Indeed, most federal systems in the world have parliamentary governments—except, for example, the US, Russia and Mexico where they have popularly elected presidents. Its main disadvantages include the following: 1) strong parliaments rely on strong political parties which we currently do not have now; 2) most likely in the initial years of transition to federalism there will be a proliferation of political parties along regional, ethnic and ideological lines; therefore, parliaments can be unstable, especially if the ruling party comprise a coalition of parties. As a result, we could have a weak and unstable ruling government.


A semi-presidential form of government brings together the pros and cons of both presidential and parliamentary systems. In my view, this is the best system if we are to shift to a federal form of government. Let me explain why. First and foremost, the transition to federalism will be challenging and therefore, ironically, we would need a strong national leadership. There will be inherent resistance from national government agencies which will lose their powers and budgets. There is a need to strengthen the capacities of the regions—the middle government—to assume these powers. There will be many implementation issues to be sorted out. A decisive president is needed to ensure a successful transition to federalism.


Second, it is better to have a collective leadership with more horses pulling the wagon together—the president, prime minister, the cabinet, regional governors and local governments—compared to the current highly centralized presidential system. Collective and cohesive leadership has proven to be an effective arrangement for the rapid growth of highly decentralized developing countries such as Vietnam and China. Both countries have a president as the head of state and who looks after national security and foreign affairs, a prime minister and cabinet which looks after economic and social policy, and governors who execute policy on the ground.
Published in Commentaries
Thursday, 19 October 2017 11:05

Disappointment and reset

WHAT a huge disappointment the Duterte administration has evolved into after so much hope and hype were generated from the election. Instead of bold moves to restructure the country towards more manageable governance units, not much actual progress towards a unified vision with gameplan and timeline of transforming into a federal government has been achieved. The drug war has been discredited with outlandish claims of police “fighting back” and investigating vigilante killings that some count as high as 7,000 dead in total.
The Duterte administration seems to be expending much energy in fighting the previous administration’s leaders and current critics. Incredulous statements defending the administration’s performance to date weaken the credibility of the government. You cannot govern effectively for long when credibility is diminished.
The political meltdown gripping the nation clearly shows that the Philippines is losing ground and time, and showing again that it is not governable as a unitary state and while federalism will take time, President Duterte must reset the national political discussion and move away from the old subtext of persecuting personalities and move boldly into taking concrete steps towards the national vision he laid out when he ran for president. Time is running out because after another year of this governance crap, the pull of the mid-term election will release mega money for all kinds of media plays that will confuse the average Juan will all sorts of BS.


Empower regional governance now
No, something big, like real change, must happen so that a chance at unity towards a better Philippines can take place. I would say that empowering regional governance now through executive fiat is a much better call than to threaten a “revolutionary government for the remainder of my term.” The latter doesn’t open genuine debate, rather, it engenders dissent, fear, anger, hopelessness, etc. and ultimately opposition based on personalities who said this or that, not the substance that we need to talk about to move forward for the sake of our youth. That RevGov is not only unnecessary, but it certainly won’t work, generating divisive heat and will set back his legacy of systemic change.


The proposal therefore to improve governance now is to empower the existing regional development councils and transform them into “regional development authorities,” or RDAs, through an executive order. It will be recalled that such bodies and authorities are already included in Article X, Section 14 of the Constitution. (The President shall provide for regional development councils or other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other government offices, and representatives from non-governmental organizations within the regions for purposes of administrative decentralization to strengthen the autonomy of the units therein and to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units in the region.)


What will the RDAs be managing? It is proposed that the RDAs manage the central government functions that have not been devolved to the local government units and supervise the faithful implementation of all laws that call for LGU implementation. We should see the national government in charge of “steering” and the LGUs doing the “rowing.” Correct ordering is a key principle of management, particularly if the desire is to unleash human potential.


Thus, national policy direction on economic development, environmental and natural resources, public works and highways, education and culture, justice, etc. will be set by the national government through the various Cabinet secretaries and the President, but the translation to regional and local action plans and budgets will be done by the regional development authorities (present RDCs on steroids so to speak). Again, the transformation of toothless RDCs into national partners in nation-building with real budgets and power is something that can be legally done by presidential executive order without need for legislation as the constitutional language is such that it is self-executing (unlike the anti- political dynasty provision).


What RDAs can manage
In short, it is proposed that the RDAs receive presidential authorization to manage, on its behalf the following functions: directly supervise BIR revenue districts in the region, strictly enforce people’s participation and “bottom-up” planning stated in the Local Government Code; enforce the E-commerce Law by having LGUs display in websites their budgets and expenses; directly supervise the PNP units in the region; ensure rationale regional and local land use and sustainable development plans; grant permits in the use of natural resources; and, directly supervise the regional line agency directors to ensure support for the LGU developments.


Imagine the Filipino potential that will be unleashed when regional line agency functions, talents and budgets are now programmed by the regional development actors and aligning these budgets with the budgets of the component LGUs. In fact, even congressional “pork barrel” can be programmed from regional budgets making their project choices better aligned with regional development and at the same time making them more accountable.


A typical regional development council has a membership 75 percent from the government, which includes elected officials like governors, mayors of chartered cities and regional line agencies like the DPWH, DoH, DA, DENR, etc., and 25 percent from the private sector, including NGOs and POs.


Note that the RDAs will be beyond the control and influence of any one or two existing political dynasts of component cities and provinces as they would be greatly outnumbered and none of the power handles (police, control over budgets) will be under their discretion. In fact, on the contrary, these local warlords will see their powers clipped dramatically, allowing more rational development initiatives to flourish at the sub-regional level.


Currently, something like 50 percent of the total government budget is spent by the regional offices of the line agencies but the spending is dictated by the national and not the component regional local governments. For our own sake, let’s rationalize that huge amount of money and democratize it and at the same time awaken the largely apathetic locals due to lack of power and money. This alone can dramatically change the direction and tone of political discourse nationally and in each of the 17 regions that make up our country.
Published in Commentaries
Thursday, 19 October 2017 10:25

Federalism as a grand bargain

Last of 2 parts
THIRD, a decisive and stable leadership is needed to deal with many outstanding national security issues that the country is facing and will continue to face in the years ahead—the war on drugs, terrorism and US-China relations. There is no certainty that a prime minister at least in the transition period can provide decisive and stable leadership. The prime minister has to constantly rely on the support of a majority in the parliament, each one of them representing powerful factions. Under these conditions, a prime minister can easily be weakened by factional infighting. A semi-presidential form of government provides a balance between decisiveness of a presidency and accountability in a parliamentary system.
Fourth, a presidency is needed to deal with gridlocks and instability associated with parliamentary systems, especially in a transition period where political parties are very weak. A sudden shift to a pure parliamentary system without a stabilizing and familiar anchor is risky. This has been the experience of countries which swung from presidential to parliamentary systems. In the long run, when our parliamentary system has become strong, we can shift to a full parliamentary system. Most federal forms of government in fact are based on parliamentary systems.


Proportional representation
For a semi-parliamentary form of government to be effective, it has to be stable. For this to happen, the ruling party should have a comfortable majority in parliament. Ideally, there should just be a few national parties—like in the case of federal countries such as the US, India, Russia, Germany, Malaysia, Australia, among others.


We can also take lessons from parliamentary democracies such as Japan. Before 1990, around 50 percent of all elected posts in Japan’s House of Representatives (HoR) were controlled by political dynasties. Today it is about 10 percent. In the 1990s, elections were based mainly on personalities and not issues. Today, elections in Japan are now based more on political party platforms. Political parties have become central to Japanese politics and voters choose on the basis of policies rather than personalities.


What did they do? In the mid-1990s, they introduced a type of proportional system of representation called mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) method of voting with dual candidacy. Before that, they used single non-transferable voting (SNTV). Their goal was to shift from patronage/personality-based competition towards two-party competition, party-centered campaigning, and party centralization.


Under MMM, voters have two votes. One is for the single-member district (SMD) like what we have now, and the other vote is for a political party with dual candidacy (i.e. you can be nominated for both SMD and as party representative). Half of all HoR seats were allotted for SMD and the other half to the open list. Party leaders choose the candidates.


Twenty years after this reform, studies have shown that: 1) the goals of two-party competition, party-centered campaigning, and party centralization have been achieved; 2) patronage/factions remain strong but their effects have been channeled towards intra-party politics; 3) clientilistic policies (local public and private goods) are giving way to much broader national public goods; and 4) the dual candidacy has resulted in incumbency advantage. Even after 60 years in power, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) only managed to get 3.2 percent of district voters to sign up for party membership.


In addition to MMM, there are other possible mechanisms to channel the interests of political dynasties. For example, the effects of political dynasties are likely to be exacerbated in poor/rural regions but not in urbanized areas (perhaps due to the middle class). We also know that political dynasties are organized around provinces, cities and towns.


Therefore, if we have a regional governor who is elected at large by voters from provinces, cities and rural areas (and even OFWs), the incumbency advantages of political dynasties at the regional level will be mitigated. The downside is that smaller provinces might be initially disadvantaged by bigger ones (Bohol vs Cebu, Aurora vs Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan vs Ilocos Sur etc. under the current set-up). However, leaders from the smaller provinces could always coalesce and become large enough to have stronger bargaining powers.


What would happen to the the party-list system? Under the proportional system of voting following the Japanese model, the current party-lists would be regarded like any other political party. Instead of being limited to a maximum of three seats, party-lists can compete for as many seats as they can as a proportion of the total number of votes they receive up to a maximum of 40 percent of the total number of seats in the House of Representatives. The regulation of political dynasties would help ensure that smaller political parties can also compete in the regions.
Strengthening governance in regions
There are two other valid worries of both critics and proponents of federalism that should be addressed. The first is the problem of uneven administrative capacities in the regions—some regions are strong while many are weak. The second is the problem of decentralized corruption that could result from the transfer of more significant powers of the regions. The solution to this is to commensurately strengthen the powers and capacities of constitutional watchdogs such as the Commission on Audit and Civil Service Commission to prevent the abuse of power. Much remains to be done also to improve the governance of local government units as they are given more powers and responsibilities.


One way to ensure that the regional governments would have the capabilities commensurate with the transfer of significant powers and budgets would be to transfer existing regional government agencies to the control of a regional governor. At present, these agencies are held accountable by their head offices in Manila, and provincial governors have little influence over them. The regional offices of the National Economic Development Authority will play in a key role in regional budget and policy planning, monitoring and coordination and reporting directly to the regional governor. The capacity of middle government—the regional government—would also have to be substantially strengthened. Successful parliamentary systems in fact are associated with a strong civil service.


This arrangement has many important advantages. First and foremost, there is no need to create another layer of bureaucracy and hence no additional cost for personnel. Second, the directors of these agencies will continue to report to their former head offices for purposes of coordination over technical standards and policy implementation. This is an arrangement called dual reporting system similar to the arrangement of the administrative staff of India. Third, regional civil servants will be subject to the same national professional qualifications standards to ensure consistency of qualifications nationwide. Civil service will remain national in character.


In addition to strengthening the regional civil service, there is also a need to strengthen the commission on audit and special courts such as the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman at the regional levels. The goal is to ensure that these agencies can effectively hold regional and local governments accountable and to allay fears about abuse of power and decentralized corruption.


In conclusion, for federalism to succeed, we need a grand bargain, a package of mutually reinforcing political, electoral and administrative reforms. Tinkering with the Local Government Code will not be enough. Doing so without this package of reforms would be risky and would likely lead to failure.
Published in Commentaries
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Tuesday, October 17, declared that Marawi City has been liberated from terrorists after more than four months of battle against the ISIS-inspired Maute group.


“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation for the people,” the Chief Executive said in his speech in Marawi City a day after Maute terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute were neutralized by government troops.


“‘Wag na natin itong ulitin kailanman. Sa panahon ko, hindi ako papayag. Government must have access dito sa loob,” he added.


In his seventh visit to the Islamic City, the Commander-in-Chief also expressed gratitude to the government troops.


At the same time, he lauded the military and the police for their bravery.


“Maraming salamat at maligaya kaming mga Pilipino sa inyo. Mabuhay! Mabuhay! Mabuhay ang Armed Forces pati police! Matatapang, lalo na sa babae,” Duterte said.


The President also expressed concern for the government’s security forces who were wounded.


“Mga minahal kong sundalo, pulis, ang problema ko ang nasugatan ngayon. Marami ‘yan. ‘Yung iba nabaldado,” he said.


“I can guarantee you. Sinasabi ko na sa inyo ngayon, walang iwanan. Ipupwesto ko silang lahat,” the President said.


Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the conflict, including more than 800 enemies, 47 civilians and 163 government troops since the rebellion started in May.


President Duterte: Old PUJs killing people
Meanwhile, President Duterte called on transport operators and drivers to modernize the public utility jeepneys (PUJs) as the old ones are already harmful to the public’s health.


“Kayong mga Piston, you know that you are poisoning the people. 2030, one-third ng Pilipino puro mahirap ‘yan mamamatay ng lung cancer,” the Chief Executive said.


“But change your machines, equipment because they are killing the people diyan sa carbon dioxide na ‘yan,” he added.


The President cited the program that would enable the operators to borrow from government and pay in tranches.


“Ang gobyerno may program, pinapahiram kayo ng pera. Ayan, bayaran ninyo dahan-dahan lang. Kung hindi niyo kaya ng monthly installment, ‘di piso kada araw,” Duterte said.


” You do it now. Implement now.. Gawain ko kung ano ‘yung tama, ano ‘yung kailangan para sa tao,” he added. (PND)
Published in News
Despite the presence of a few remaining Filipino and foreign terrorist fighters in the newly-liberated city, it is relatively safe to rebuild Marawi, said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar on Wednesday.


His statement came the morning after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city "liberated from terrorists," ushering in the beginning of the recovery of the ruined city.


"Relatively, it's already safe to rebuild Marawi," said Andanar in an interview on Unang Balita.


He said the rescued hostages he had talked to on Tuesday told him the number of terrorist forces had thinned out since Friday, when they last talked.


Andanar added that the main battlefield has decreased in size, from three hectares to two as of October 17.


In the outskirts of the city, rehabilitation and trade could begin, he said.
"Sa outskirts ng Marawi, syempre ang laking lugar n'un eh, ay okay na magsimula 'yung rehabilitasyon at kalakalan," said the PCOO chief.


What is not safe to say, on the other hand, is that martial law will be lifted after the presidential declaration of liberation.


"I wouldn't say that. I would leave that to the President," he said, adding there are remaining forces in Basilan and Jolo, Sulu that need to be countered.


The government will need P150 billion to rebuild Marawi City. The Office of Civil Defense, together with the Department of National Defense (DND), estimated the overall rehabilitation to cost at least P100 billion up to P150 billion.


Andanar said it is up to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to source the funds for the immense project, but that an initial P5 billion has already been allocated for use until December this year.


The PCOO, for its part, has received P30 million to establish a Salam television and radio station for the city, he said.


"At least, in terms of communicating the message of government ay magkakaroon po ng sariling TV at stasyon ang siyudad ng Marawi," he said.


Rehabilitation has already started in some parts of the city, he said, citing the building of both temporary and permanent shelters in certain barangays around the city.


Marawi City's ground zero has to be cleared entirely, said Andanar.


"Talagang wala ka nang mapakikinabangan eh. You have to bulldoze the entire area, 'yung ground zero," he said.


The nearly 360,000 individuals who had been displaced by the fighting may return home once the area is completely free from explosive devices, added Andanar.


"Once that is cleared already, na-mop out na 'yan, then they can already go back," he said.


He said Task Force Bangon Marawi will hold a meeting later in the day to discuss recovery efforts for the city, which endured armed fighting for almost five months. —Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas /KG, GMA News
Published in News
MANILA — The Department of National Defense (DND) on Monday said martial law would remain in effect in Mindanao despite the death of top terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute in Marawi City.


“No, we are not talking about lifting martial law yet, tingnan pa natin, we are only looking in the immediate aftermath of the killing of these two leaders, we may, sabi ko nga we may be lifting, I mean announcing the cessation of hostilities within this week and then after that we will find out,” Lorenzana told reporters during the press conference.


President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 216 on May 23 declaring martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. This was a result of the attack of the Maute groupin Marawi City, which is still ongoing and is subject to military operations.


The DND chief said they had yet to assess the situation in order for them to determine whether they can recommend the lifting of martial law to President Rodrigo Duterte.


“We will find out, we will assess the entire Mindanao if there is a need to recommend to the President the lifting of martial law,” he noted.


When asked on the possible retaliation of Maute remnants, Lorenzana said “We are prepared, our troops are prepared, alam naman natin that it is the modus operandi of the enemy to make, to create diversion dito, diversion dyan, retaliation din, so our troops are prepared.”


As of Monday, the number of slain Maute terrorists are placed at 822 along with 162 troops killed-in-action. (PNA)
Published in News
The United States on Tuesday hailed the operation carried out by the Philippine military that killed the two ISIS-linked leaders of a deadly siege in Marawi City as it vowed to continue working closely with its Filipino counterparts to fight extremism and terrorism.


“We congratulate our partners in the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their reported success in killing two of the leaders behind the months-long clash in Marawi: Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute,” US Embassy spokesperson Molly Koscina told GMA News Online.


Hapilon and Maute were killed in a gunbattle and their bodies were recovered in Marawi on Monday morning.


The AFP is in the final stages of eradicating the remnants of ISIS-linked Filipino militants, who staged attacks on Marawi City last May 23.


Nearly 1,000 people, including many militants, have been killed in months of fighting and an estimated 40 gunmen, including foreigners, remain fighting in a much-smaller area in Marawi, the military said.


Thousands, who have been displaced, either live in temporary shelters or are staying with relatives.


President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao to address the militant takeover in Marawi  – the worst crisis he has encountered since he assumed the presidency in June 2016.


US Special Forces have been assisting the AFP end the siege by providing technical assistance and enemy surveillance to Filipino troops battling the militants in Marawi.


“The US is proud to support the AFP’s counterterrorism efforts in Mindanao through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, and other technical assistance,” Koscina said.


Philippines-US counter-terrorism cooperation over the years has successfully led to the killing of key local terrorists in Mindanao.


“The US-Philippine alliance is built on a 70-year history. We will continue working with our Filipino friends, partners and allies to eradicate violent extremism and terrorism‎,” Kosina said. — Michaela del Callar/RSJ, GMA News
Published in News
Employees of the Department of Finance (DOF) are playing catch me if you can with their employer.


The DOF is faced with the challenge of discovering the unexplained wealth of its employees, who it says are better at hiding assets the higher they are in the bureaucracy.


“Our problem is, the higher the rank, the smarter they get in hiding assets. We just have to outthink them,” said Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin.


The DOF is conducting lifestyle checks on its employees and on those working at its attached agencies after finding out that some workers own expensive condominium units and cars despite their meager salaries.


Review of SALNs
“So what we do is to look up the SALNs [statements of assets, liabilities and net worth] of everyone under our umbrella.” Agabin told reporters on Friday night. “And then we compare, look at the trend and [their SALN] declaration.”


The DOF’s attached agencies are the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Local Government Finance, Securities and Exchange Commission, Insurance Commission and all local treasurers.


“Some are, let’s say, earning P20,000 a month, but you can see year-on-year jump in their SALNs … We discovered also, for instance, that they do not declare properties in their SALNs,” Agabin said.


Some officials and employees also collect cars, expensive bags and watches, as well as guns, Agabin added.


“Recently, we secured four or five [employees] for dismissal. Some of them, even if they earn only P40,000 a month they have two condos in Makati, expensive properties,” Agabin said.


The finance official said the DOF was investigating “many” employees, but declined to identify them.


“A couple” of high-ranking officials were also being investigated, he said. “Personally, it’s better if we investigate high-ranked officials, or else we will be accused of targeting only lower-level [employees].


But Agabin admitted that higher-ranked officials were getting better at hiding their unexplained wealth.


The DOF has a unit called Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), which investigates and files charges against erring revenue officials.


On its website, RIPS said that on the watch of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the DOF as of July had taken “punitive action against at least 19 erring local treasurers and other officials under its supervision, in line with President Duterte’s commitment to public accountability and transparency in government under his administration.”


Since its inception in 2003 until September this year, RIPS had investigated a total of 576 people, filed 250 cases, charged 305 people, dismissed 47 from service and suspended 96 others.
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