Priest asks for unwed teen mom’s forgiveness in handwritten letterBy Ivan Angelo de Lara | INQUIRER.net 1:00 pm | Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Video taken from Jieve Frias’ Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – After issuing a public apology for berating an unwed teenage mom during her child’s baptism, a Catholic priest in Cebu on Tuesday reached out to the 17-year-old mother through a handwritten letter.
“Allow me to express my deep regret for the painful action I’ve done to all of you and those who witnessed it. I had no intention of saying that in front of all of you. I deeply regret this and I beg you to forgive me for what I did last July 6, 2014 in the chapel of the Sacred Heart,” Father Romeo Obach of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris – C.Ss.R) said in the letter which was written in Cebuano. The young mother received the note on Wednesday.
He wrote that he also wanted to meet the young mom again so that he could apologize to her personally.
The Commission on Human Rights visited the young mother on Wednesday. In a tweet by Cebu Daily News, she said she and her family would no longer pursue a case against the priest.
On Sunday, Obach scolded the teen mom during the baptism of her baby for “sleeping with a man who was not [her] husband.”
“Makauulaw.Magpabunyag ka og walay bana. Nakig dug ka og laki nga dili nimo bana. Wala ma mauwaw Naka dungog ba na nako, dai? Wala ka mauwaw? (How shameful. You come here to have your child baptized without a husband. You slept with a man who is not your husband. Do you hear me, girl? Aren’t you ashamed?)” Obach said. The video of the incident, which was posted by the baby’s grandmother on Facebook, quickly became viral.
On Tuesday, Obach issued a public apology for the “words [he] said and the rude attitude [he] showed” during the baby’s baptism.
“I deeply regret that I have done this. I only later realized how cruel my ways to educate and impart lessons for the said event. I am deeply sorry to the mother of the child, her relatives, the sponsors and the witness of the incident. I am sorry to the Internet viewers, to the media listeners and the viewers for this mistake. I personally admit. I am deeply sorry and I humbly ask your forgiveness. I execute this statement of apology on this 8th day of July 2014 at Cebu City,” he said. Translation provided by Eileen Mangubat, Cebu Daily News publisher and acting editor-in-chief
Zamboanga ‘conjugal tents’ seenPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 am | Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
ZAMBOANGA CITY— The city government is thinking of building “conjugal spaces” for couples who lack privacy in their own tents in evacuation centers.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, in a press briefing on Monday, said the building of “conjugal spaces” was being considered to address a “natural” and “urgent need.”
Dr. Marcy Carpizo, director of Peace and Human Security at Western Mindanao State University, earlier suggested the construction of “a tent or a room where couples could express their sexual needs away from their children.”
“The special room or tent will spare the children from witnessing their parents’ sexual activity,” Carpizo said in an earlier interview with the Inquirer.
On Monday, Salazar urged Carpizo, who is also the national president of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking, to be part of the city’s protection cluster for the evacuees.
The idea was commendable for evacuee Isnira Jimlani, except that, she said, she would be ashamed to line up for the “conjugal space.” “What if there’s a long line?” the mother of 14 children asked.
Dr. Rodelin Agbulos, city health officer, said the idea of building a conjugal space was first brought up in October last year, weeks after Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members attacked villages here, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents.
The fighting between government forces and MNLF members left thousands of residents homeless.
But Agbulos said most of the evacuees did not see the conjugal space acceptable. “They said it would not sound and look good to see persons getting in and out of that tent,” Agbulos said.
He said another earlier suggestion was “to give coupons to couples to be accommodated in motels.”
He said some religious leaders were against the plan.
Fatima Pir Allian, program coordinator of Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro (Women for Justice in the Bangsamoro), said conjugal spaces could be simply described as “sex tents.”
“The local government should address the situation on sex, rape and whatnot by providing a decent home for the families,” Allian said.
“[A home] that is not shared by more than one family. A home that has division of spaces for the unique needs of children and their parents,” Allian added.
Professor Alih Aiyub, secretary general of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said building a conjugal tent would “not be a wise decision.”
“You invite the young to imagine dirty, malicious thoughts as they watch couples come in and out of the tent. The government should instead build temporary shelters,” Aiyub told the Inquirer. Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
Rice price hikes: No end seenPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:12 am | Saturday, June 21st, 2014
SAN JOSE CITY—Millers have been buying husked rice (palay) from traders at P26 per kilogram, which may push the prices of commercial rice in the market even higher in the coming months.
“P26 had been the buying price offered by the traders. We are forced to buy (the palay at that price) otherwise we will run short of supply for our clients,” said Edgardo Alfonso, president of the 26-member San Jose City Rice Millers Association.
The traders, whose number surged during the peak of the harvest season from March to April, competed with rice millers in buying newly harvested grains, Alfonso said, adding that they are now selling the rice back to the millers after keeping the stocks for weeks.
The fresh palay harvest was bought at a farm-gate price of P19 to P21 a kg. In past harvest seasons, the buying price for the grains was P14 to P15 a kg.
“We were caught by surprise by the high buying price of palay that prevailed during the last harvest season,” Alfonso told the Inquirer.
He said the rice millers here bought only 70 percent of palay during the harvest season for their milling needs. The milled rice will have a high selling price because of the steep buying price of palay, he said.
“The P2 per kilogram price hike of rice now was the result of that (increased palay cost),” he said.
At the current P26 per kilogram price, the wholesale selling price of rice may increase from P39 to P45 a kg for premium commercial rice.
“Based on that simple computation, we will have an idea how much the selling price of commercial rice would be during the lean months,” Alfonso said.
Rice millers here supply about 30,000 bags of milled rice daily to their clients in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog provinces and Cebu.
In Laoag City, the Ilocos Norte garlic growers and processors announced they would expand their garlic plantations from 2,000 to 3,000 hectares.
Mergie Selga, president of the group of local garlic growers and processors, said she believed the high price of garlic in the market was due to low supply.
Selga said garlic growers sold their remaining stocks when prices went up to a high of P260 a kilogram in Ilocos region and P300 a kilogram in Metro Manila.
Following a meeting of the National Garlic Action Team, she said the group may welcome garlic importation in July to augment supply. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon
Pangasinan mayor killed on eve of anniversary, son’s weddingBy Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo | Inquirer Northern Luzon 12:23 am | Sunday, June 8th, 2014
DAGUPAN CITY – Two armed men shot and killed Urbiztondo town Mayor Ernesto Balolong Jr., his police escort and an electrician on Saturday near an area in the town where the mayor was supposed to hold his 25th wedding anniversary party today, Sunday.
Balolong was at the back of the town’s convention center around 8:50 a.m. when armed men in a Toyota Innova drove up and opened fire, police said.
The mayor was inspecting the venue for his wedding anniversary and for the wedding of his son, Urbiztondo Councilor Voltaire Balolong, which were to take place simultaneously.
The gunmen alighted from the Innova and had calmly approached the mayor before they opened fire, according to a witness.
The witness said Balolong managed to scamper away but was felled by another shot. One of the gunmen approached Balolong and shot him at point-blank range, the witness said.
Police said Balolong and his escort, Police Officer 1 Eliseo Ulanday (not Umanday as earlier reported), were the apparent targets of the attack. Edmund Meneses, a supermarket electrician, was caught in the barrage of the bullets.
The attack also wounded Jose Vigilia, an employee of CSI Supermarket, and Rogelio Esguerra, a soy drink vendor.
Balolong was immediately taken to Elguira General Hospital in San Carlos City. But Dr. Samuel Elguira, owner of the hospital, said the mayor was already dead when he arrived in the hospital about an hour later, 9:55 a.m.
“He had 27 gunshot wounds in his chest, his back and his arms,” Elguira said.
Senior Superintendent Sterling Raymund Blanco, Pangasinan provincial director, said investigators found an abandoned dark gray Innova at Barangay Cayaoan Kiling in San Carlos City two hours after the shooting.
Balolong, a member of the Liberal Party, first served as town councilor in 1998. He ran for vice mayor in 2001 and 2004 and lost in both elections. In 2007, he was elected mayor.
In August 2012, the provincial board slapped Balolong with a 60-day preventive suspension over an administrative complaint filed by a former town treasurer.
In March this year, Balolong was again suspended for 60 days for another administrative case filed against him in the provincial board.
But Malacañang set aside both suspension orders.
A month before he was suspended in 2012, police raided Balolong’s house and poultry farm in Urbiztondo and found a cache of firearms. But because the 14 weapons found were all licensed, no charges were filed.
In November last year, National Bureau of Investigation agents raided Balolong’s house and farm. The agents were apparently looking for the weapon used in the killing of a Pangasinan politician and his wife in Manila in 2012.
Balolong was arrested and detained at the NBI office in Metro Manila. But after a week, he was released with no charges filed against him.
Pangasinan town mayor shot dead
Power co-op to refund overpaymentPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 am | Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
URDANETA CITY—The Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (Panelco) III said it would return to its consumers the excess of the generation cost it had collected in December last year and in January this year.
In leaflets given to consumers, Panelco III said the excess amount would be converted into rebates that would be reflected in the June and July billings.
But it was not clear yet how much the power distribution utility would return to its consumers. Panelco III has some 200,000 consumers in 16 eastern Pangasinan towns and in Urdaneta City.
Jeline Sales, head of Panelco III’s institutional services department, said the adjustment was being computed by the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.
On March 11, the Energy Regulatory Commission voided the electricity spot market prices implemented in December 2013 and January this year. It ordered PEMC to recompute the generation charges that distribution utilities had passed on to their consumers.
Sales said about 30 to 40 percent of the generation cost would be refunded for the December billing and about 25 to 30 percent for the January billing.
In December, Panelco III increased its power rate by P5.6 per kilowatt-hour, raising its residential rate from P9.8 per kWh to P15.4 per kWh. The following month, the rate was reduced by only more than P1 per kWh.
Board Member Ranjit Shahani, a Panelco III consumer, said he was happy with the refund but noted that Panelco III might have also miscalculated previous generation costs.
Shahani and his mother, former Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, had asked a local court to issue a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop Panelco III from implementing the power rate increase while the petition was being heard.
“This is just a partial refund. They (Panelco III) will refund more in the future,” Shahani said by telephone.
Coal plant can’t ease power woesPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:06 am | Saturday, May 10th, 2014
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A coal plant that is expected to ease the shortage of power in Mindanao has resumed operations, but the amount of electricity it is generating is barely enough to fill the wide power gap that continues to bring daily brownouts to many parts of the island.
The plant, owned by Steag State Power Inc. (SPI), resumed the running of one of its turbines, which has a generating capacity of 105 megawatts on Wednesday.
But as of Thursday, demand for power across Mindanao was 1,277 MW and supply was only 873 MW, or a deficiency of 354 MW, more than half of what the coal plant owned by SPI is able to produce.
In this city alone, demand is 140 MW but Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. is getting only 35 MW, causing up to 12 hours, or half a day, of brownouts daily.
Carsten Evers, SPI power plant manager, said Unit 2 of the SPI coal facility went online around 8:55 p.m. on Wednesday, a day ahead of target.
“We are happy to announce that SPI has added 105 MW to the grid and we hope that this will provide some relief in the precarious power supply condition of Mindanao,” Evers said in a statement.
Evers also said SPI was currently rushing work on the repair of Unit 1 to be able to put it back online on June 1 or earlier.
“We recognize the necessity and urgency of bringing the units back online and rest assured that we are doing our best to restore our full capacity the soonest possible time,” Evers said.
He said SPI employees were working round the clock to complete the repair of Unit 1 to restore the power plant’s full capacity.
SPI’s coal plant went offline on Feb. 27 after its turbines suffered damage. The cause of the damage was not made known.
Evers said preventive maintenance of the plant was ongoing concurrently with repair and restoration works.
SPI’s plant in Misamis Oriental province is the first coal-powered generating facility to operate in Mindanao.
It has two identical generators, each with a net capacity of 105 MW, or a combined net generating output of 210 MW.
Since its full commercial operation in November 2006, SPI has delivered more than 10 billion kilowatts per hour of electric power to the Mindanao grid, accounting for about a fifth of the island’s total power supply. Bobby Lagsa, Inquirer Mindanao
Mindanao power crisis: Crime spike tied to brownoutsPhilippine Daily Inquirer 12:04 am | Friday, May 9th, 2014
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Police are seeing a link between the power shortage that is gripping this city and other parts of Mindanao and a spike in the number of crimes in areas plagued by outages that last up to more than seven hours a day.
In this city alone, Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., city police chief, said the number of crimes that police have recorded has increased by 45 percent, or nearly half, in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year.
The city and other parts of Mindanao started to be plagued by brownouts in March as a result of a shortage in electricity that was made worse by the reduced output of two hydropower facilities—Angus and Pulangi—that supply 60 percent of Mindanao’s power.
Danao said by March, when the outages started being more frequent and longer, police started to record at least 58 crimes a day up from the 32 crimes reported daily in the same period last year.
He said in the first three months of the year alone, 4,000 crimes have been committed mostly against persons and property.
Danao said he believed the rotating brownouts are to blame for the spike in crimes.
For instance, he said, the outages are rendering CCTV cameras, which help in crime prevention and investigation, useless.
“Zero visibility,” said Danao. “You cannot see in the dark even if you have a generator,” he added.
He said police had to resort to extra effort, like increased visibility, to fill the gap that anticrime measures being crippled by the outages have left.
“I myself go on patrol,” said Danao.
Col. Casiano Monilla, head of the anticrime Task Force Davao, said soldiers, too, have been deployed to strategic areas in the city to help police fight crime amid the brownouts.
He said 17 members of the task force are to roam the city aboard motorcycles as a crime prevention measure.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said the city government plans to hire at least 1,000 watchmen to help law enforcers keep peace and order.
Each watchman would be paid P6,000 per month and get training on peacekeeping, said Duterte. They may also be issued firearms, he said.
“We have to give them more police power,” said the mayor.
In Cotabato City, police and military authorities said they were also bracing for a surge in criminality, particularly kidnappings, because of the outages.
“This is a united effort to quell lawlessness and terrorism that may occur at night while we are experiencing brownouts,” said Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division.
Hermoso said Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Cotabato City police chief, agreed to conduct weekly meetings on the anticrime campaign to keep authorities updated.
Ramil Masukat, head of the Radio Emergency Communication Network (Recon), an anticrime watchdog, said his group would help authorities fight crime in Cotabato City.
Recon members are armed with VHF radios that they can use to report crimes, he said.
The outages are also disrupting the ongoing registration of new voters in Kidapawan City, which is being plagued by up to six hours of brownouts daily.
Diosdado Javier, Kidapawan election officer, said the outages are slowing the processing of voter applications.
Javier said his office has requested for a generator from the Commission on Elections main office in Manila but there has been no response yet. Reports from Allan Nawal, Williamor Magbanua, Charlie Señase and Eldie Aguirre, Inquirer Mindanao
Ong offered to retire to preempt SC–LeonenBy Tarra Quismundo | Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:06 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–Dismissed Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong tried to influence the Supreme Court by offering to retire at a time when his fate was being decided by the high court magistrates for his alleged links with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is alleged to be the mastermind of the P10-billion congressional pork barrel scam.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen revealed this in his concurring opinion on the Sept. 23 high court decision dismissing Ong from the judiciary for grave misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety for “fraternizing” with Napoles, a litigant in a case that his sala handled at the antigraft court.
“Many times during the deliberations of this case, colleagues have pointed to the need for compassion for the case of Justice Ong. We are told that he has served long years as a judge and as a justice. We were even told that he attempted to informally circulate a letter through other colleagues in this court that he was willing to take optional retirement should he be meted with any kind of suspension,” Leonen said.
Offer to retire
Just before the high court released its decision on Ong’s case, there were reports that he had opted to retire. The high court said Ong never formally signified that intention. But in his concurring opinion, Leonen confirmed that Ong had indeed floated such intent, albeit informally.
“Influence peddling is wrong,” said Leonen, and called on other high court justices to “properly call out an attempt to illicitly influence this court when it happens,” saying the court has the “constitutional duty to discipline judges and justices of lower court.”
By a vote of 8 to 5, the Supreme Court dismissed Ong, finding him culpable for violating the judicial Code of Conduct and of “corrupt inclinations” for visiting Napoles in her office at least two times in 2012, fueling public “suspicion of his partiality.”
Two years earlier, the Sandiganbayan division that Ong headed had acquitted Napoles, the latter’s husband, Jimmy Napoles, and several others in a P3.8-million malversation case in connection with the delivery of substandard Kevlar helmets to the Marines in 1998.
Napoles’ former employees, Benhur Luy and Marina Sula, had testified on Ong’s links with Napoles in a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the pork barrel scam a year ago. The whistle-blowers said Ong had received checks amounting to P3.1 million from the businesswoman.
While the high court ruled that it would be difficult to prove the alleged bribery, the court “found credible evidence of Ong’s association with Napoles.”
But Leonen was more specific, saying “Justice Ong improperly received gifts and favors from Napoles.”
He said the antigraft magistrates must hold themselves to higher account, given the nature of the cases that they handle.
“Judges and justices cannot accept gifts, favors and accommodations,” Leonen said.
“The expectations of propriety are higher for Sandiganbayan Justices like Justice Ong. It is the Sandiganbayan that has the primary exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide the most difficult cases involving graft and corruption,” said Leonen.
Associate Justice Arturo Brion, meanwhile, urged his fellow magistrates to rethink the rule on using hearsay evidence in administrative proceedings. Brion’s proposition was in reference to part of the ruling that noted the lack of direct evidence to prove that Ong had accepted bribes.
“To be sure, I do not recommend an outright abandonment of our rule on hearsay, but I submit that it is high time that we reexamine its strict application in administrative proceedings, particularly in disciplinary proceedings of judges and justices where bribery charges are involved,” said Brion in his 27-page concurring opinion.
He pointed out how the “unnecessarily strict application of hearsay… has crippled this court’s capability to discipline its ranks.”
“The strict application of the hearsay rule, in effect, has shielded erring judges and justices from facing the consequences of their corrupt acts. As I earlier noted, the nature of a bribery case necessarily involves secrecy between the corruptor and the corruptee; thus, bribery rarely, if at all, surfaces when the transaction goes as planned,” Brion said.
He also noted that the court has shown its “extreme wariness in declaring that a judge had in fact been bribed, often using the hearsay rule to conclude that insufficiency of evidence prevents us from finding the judge liable for bribery.”
“It must not be lost on us that we send out a message to the public, to the members of the judiciary, and to the members of the bar, every time we decide a case involving the discipline of judges: we broadcast, by our actions, that we do not tolerate the acts for which we found the erring judge guilty. This message is lost when we penalize judges and justices for gross misconduct other than bribery, when bribery was the real root cause for the disciplinary action,” the magistrate said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Department of Justice may look into the criminal liability of Ong, if it could get its hands on the high court’s fact-finding report on which the justices based the decision dismissing Ong.
“I don’t know if that (the fact-finding report) is an attachment to the resolution of the Supreme Court, if it will be made public or if it will be shared [with us]. In any case, I’m sure the findings are in the resolution of the Supreme Court,” De Lima told reporters.
She told reporters she would have to see the exact findings of retired justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, who conducted the fact-finding investigation, from which “we can find out if there is basis for possible criminal liability. For now, I can’t say yet if there is any.”–With Jerome Aning
Palace disowns ‘mystery’ print adBy Christian V. Esguerra | Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:04 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–Malacañang on Tuesday disowned paid newspaper advertisements seeking at least 8 million signatures to urge President Aquino to make a “sacrifice” and seek a second term.
The Inquirer contacted Grace Pascual, who placed the ads. She said she would send a press release “that will answer all your questions.”
But the brief statement did not say how the group was formed, who was behind it, how many members it had—questions that the Inquirer raised to Pascual in a text message. She also did not respond to a call.
Pascual did not reply when asked if Malacañang had any involvement in the group. The press release named one Melvin Matibag as the group’s “lead convenor” and also mentioned “national youth leader Rj Echeverri.”
It was not clear if the group was referring to Rico Judge “RJ” Echiverri, the losing candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) in the 2013 mayoral election in Caloocan. He is the son of former Caloocan Mayor and now Rep. Enrico Echiverri.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Palace was not behind the ads, which were published Tuesday in major morning dailies and traced to a little-known group calling itself “Movement for Reform, Continuity and Momentum” (MORE2COME).
“We had nothing to do with them,” Coloma said in a press briefing.
In the identical ads, which also appeared in the Inquirer, the group claimed there was a “clamor” for Aquino to remain the President, a move that would require constitutional amendment. The full-page Inquirer ad cost around P200,000.
The group said “the most feasible way to effect a second term is through a constituent assembly,” insisting that Aquino “with his allies can deliver the numbers necessary to carry the amendments in both Houses.”
“President Benigno Aquino is an honest man! P-Noy must now seek a second term in order to make sure that the country stays on course, on the right road, and headed for continued growth and reform. We must maintain the momentum and continuity!” it declared.
“The call for him to consider leading the country again lies in the face of corrupt politicians who wish to lead the country, and the barrenness of talent and virtue among the presidentiables,” the group said.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Tuesday distanced himself from the movement. “I don’t have anything to do with it,” Roxas told the Inquirer after speaking at the Liga ng mga Barangay regional assembly at the Royal Mandaya Hotel in Davao City.
“That’s the initiative of some individuals. That’s all I can say. I actually only learned it from you,” said Roxas, the LP president on leave who first raised in August the possibility that Aquino would seek a new mandate after his term ends in 2016. The Constitution limits the president to one six-year term.
Asked about the movement, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said: “The President will listen to the calls … The President said we’re here to listen and understand where this is coming from.”
Abad, an LP stalwart, said at a Senate budget hearing the party had nothing to do with the ads, which he described as “an expression or endorsement of what good the administration is doing.”
Coloma did not say whether the Palace shared the group’s claim that Aquino was “still the best” person to rule the country.
He instead referred to Aquino’s previous pronouncement that “the people themselves would shoulder the responsibility in ensuring that the reforms already started would continue.”
The group’s ads, along with other statements expressing support for Roxas to become Aquino’s successor, were “spontaneous expressions of people’s sentiments,” Coloma said.
“It means that if these are spontaneous expressions, we have nothing to do with them and there is also no directive from us to stop or control them because they are expressions of the sentiments of the people,” Coloma said, adding that it was “impossible not to notice them.”
During his trip to Europe on Sept. 17, the President said there was still time to amend the 1987 Constitution and lift term limits in the event that he finally decided to go for another term.
“Don’t we have a saying that if one wants something, nothing is impossible, but if one doesn’t, nothing is possible,” he told reporters on a flight from Madrid to Brussels.–With reports from Marlon Ramos, Gil C. Cabacungan and Christine O. Avendaño
Palace denies hand in paid ad seeking Aquino re-election
‘Public opinion is our only weapon vs rise in kidnap cases’By Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:26 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
MANILA, Philippines–Some improvements in the antikidnapping campaign were observed in previous years, but kidnapping cases recently increased, according to Teresita Ang-See, founding chair of Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO).
Ang-See said MRPO was raising the alarm because one of the recent victims, Benito Chao, was killed, and the group did not want any more blood to be spilled in kidnapping cases.
“We’re making this public call because we all need public opinion and public pressure against these well-funded, well-organized, well-protected kidnap-for-ransom gangs. We don’t have weapons against them. Our only weapons are people like you, public opinion, public pressure to resolve the problem before it results in another death,” she told the Senate committee on public order.
The committee is hearing measures to modernize and improve the Philippine National Police.
Anticrime groups on Tuesday appealed for institutional and genuine reform in the PNP amid the rising cases of kidnapping.
Dante Jimenez of Volunteers against Crime and Corruption said kidnapping incidents were no longer limited to members of the Chinese-Filipino community. Anybody who is successful in business is being targeted, he said.
The involvement of police officers in kidnapping cases worsens the sense of unease, according to Ka Kuen Chua, MRPO chair.
Chua, who narrated his ordeal at the hands of kidnappers, said the reports about police officers turning criminal were not helping the fight against kidnapping.
He had been kidnapped twice, the first time in 2008 and the next in 2012.
Chua said he even considered himself lucky, since he was alive despite his ordeal. But he wouldn’t have had to endure the kidnapping had there been an efficient peace-and-order control system in place.
He said recent controversies involving police officers in criminal activities had made matters worse for his and others’ sense of security.
“Though it’s not for us to conclude that the national police organization is reeking of rats, suffice it to say that the rotten eggs in the organization have diminished our trust in our then regarded friendly neighborhood police,” he said.
He then wondered: “Where are we to go when the persons who are supposed to protect us are the same individuals who undermine the social order?”
Chua said there was a need to fully professionalize the PNP and to arm it with proper values to ensure it exists to serve and protect.
He said there was a need to pass laws to further equip and professionalize the PNP.
MRPO will remain a partner in crime prevention and control, and will work with all stakeholders, he added.
Ang-See provided several suggestions on how to bring about genuine change.
She said there should be a 90-day continuous trial for criminal cases with policemen as the accused. This would ensure the police officers would not be able to harass the victims and force them to withdraw cases.
She noted that MRPO was handling two kidnapping with murder cases and one kidnapping case involving policemen as suspects. All three are taking a long time to prosecute.
She also supported the idea of requiring SIM card registration, since kidnappers were using cell phones in carrying out their crime.
Ang-See also said there must be reform within the PNP. She said MRPO may be the worst critic of the PNP, but it was also its best partner as it had fought for a better budget for the PNP.
One of the things that need to be addressed is the matter of police officials facing cases or coddling criminals, and yet can still stay in their jobs, and at times are even promoted, she said.
There must also be a better distribution of PNP funds. Ang-See said the bulk of the budget went to the central office, and by the time the rest of the funds were distributed to the precincts, hardly enough was left for their needs.
There are also too many layers in the PNP organization, she said.
She noted that the PNP tended to be personality oriented, with the implementation of programs depending on who was at the helm. There was no continuity, she lamented.
The People’s Law Enforcement Board should likewise get a boost, in order to fast-track the resolution of administrative cases against policemen and to encourage people to complain, she said.
Jimenez, for his part, said he supported Senate bills to improve the PNP as well as the measure to restore the death penalty.
He also said the pay of law enforcers must be increased, since low pay can entice police officers to turn to a life of corruption.
Jimenez, whose group has filed a plunder complaint against PNP Director General Alan Purisima, also spoke of the need for good leadership in the PNP to boost the morale of its personnel.
Purisima said the recent increase in crime volume could be attributed to better reporting.
In 2011, the crime volume was 241,000 and in 2012, it went down to 217,000. But in 2013, it was 846,000 based on police blotters. If the reports in the barangays (villages) would be included, this would go up to 1.2 million.
This year, as of June, the volume of crime was at 631,000.
Purisima said that before he took over as PNP chief in 2012, Social Weather Stations conducted a survey and found that only 15 percent of the crime volume was being reported to the police.
But Sen. Grace Poe said the PNP should ensure that the crime volume would not increase, but at the same time must see to it that crime statistics were reported accurately.
She suggested that CCTVs be installed in precincts to help ensure accurate reporting as well as observance of proper processes.
Police visibility must also be increased, she added.
The PNP must also expedite the registration of firearms and curb the proliferation of illegal firearms.
Poe also proposed studying the idea of improving the independence of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) by removing the PNP chief as member. The Napolcom handles complaints against police officers.
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Hong Kong protesters reject demands to end ralliesAgence France-Presse, Associated Press 1:38 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
HONG KONG–Hong Kong demonstrators rejected demands immediately to end rallies that have paralyzed the city’s downtown, their numbers swelling for a third night before a national holiday Wednesday expected to put their campaign for free elections into overdrive.
Protest leaders are confident of mustering massive crowds, angered at Beijing’s refusal to grant full democracy, overnight and into Wednesday for the National Day public holiday marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China.
Thousands ignored a call from the city’s embattled leader to end the sit-in, as well as Beijing’s branding of their demonstrations as “illegal,” to take to the streets of the key financial hub.
A heavy downpour briefly sent umbrellas skyward and crowds scurrying, but the prospect of bad weather left the crowds undeterred.
“We have spent more than a week under the sun, under pepper spray, we of course can stand the rain. Nothing can stop us,” a recent university student who identified himself as Choi told AFP.
Beijing has been left grappling with one of the biggest challenges to its rule over the semi-autonomous city at a time when the Communist Party is cracking down hard on dissent in the mainland.
In his first public comments since demonstrators were tear-gassed by riot police on Sunday evening, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the pro-democracy sit-in organized partly by the Occupy Central group was now “out of control.”
“Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop. I’m now asking them to fulfil the promise they made to society, and stop this campaign immediately,” he said.
But protest leaders rejected Leung’s demands and renewed calls for the Beijing-backed leader to step down.
“I think there will be a massive turnout, over 100,000 people tonight and leading into National Day,” hedge fund manager and Occupy Central activist Ed Chin told AFP.
China’s government has so far not overtly intervened, leaving Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government to handle the crisis. But Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s rejection of the student demands dashed hopes for a quick resolution of the five-day standoff that has blocked city streets, forcing some schools and offices to close.
Leung’s statement drew a defiant response from the students.
“If Leung Chun-ying doesn’t come out to Civic Square before midnight … then I believe inevitably more people will come out onto the streets,” said Alex Chow, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the organizer of the university class boycotts that led to the street protests.
Chow said the students were considering various options, including widening the protests, pushing for a labor strike and possibly occupying a government building.
Despite the hardening rhetoric from both sides, the mood Tuesday night as the crowds of protesters swelled was festive. Few police were evident, and those who were appeared relaxed.
Both sides appeared to be waiting out the standoff, as police continued the light-handed approach to the protests they adopted after their use of tear gas and pepper spray over the weekend failed to drive out tens of thousands of people occupying streets near the government headquarters. The sit-ins instead spread to the financial district and other areas.
The demonstrations, the most intense civil unrest Hong Kong has experienced since its 1997 handover from British rule, were sparked by Beijing’s decision in August to restrict who can stand for the city’s top post.
British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Tuesday he will summon China’s ambassador to London over the protests to express his “dismay and alarm” about the refusal to grant free elections.
Hong Kongers will be able to vote for their next chief executive in 2017 but only two or three candidates vetted by a pro-Beijing committee will be allowed to stand–something demonstrators have labeled a “fake democracy” that shows Hong Kong cannot trust its mainland overseers.
‘Keep resisting for democracy’
Throughout Tuesday morning protester numbers dwindled from overnight highs, when tens of thousands turned the city’s downtown into a carnival after riot police withdrew.
But they began to pick up again by the afternoon.
“We are all afraid, but we think we should keep on resisting for full democracy,” Jacky Yip, a 22-year-old university student told AFP as thunder rumbled ahead.
“Never lose hope,” was one of the signs offering words of encouragement on the streets, alongside hundreds of messages, some in other languages.
Protesters have two demands–that Leung step down and Beijing rescind its insistence that his successor be vetted before standing for election.
“If the government does not respond after October 2, the action will inevitably be stepped up,” Alex Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told reporters.
Influential student leader Joshua Wong, who was detained by police last week, said Hong Kong’s leader was the “only one” who could end the protest.
“Everyone here has the power. We’re here for the bargaining chip with Beijing,” he said.
“Leung Chun-ying and the government are feeling increased pressure,” he added.
But analysts say the chances of Beijing backing down are virtually non-existent, leaving a city once renowned for its stability plunged into an unknown future–with democracy activists concerned the police could return in force at any moment.
Beijing stayed defiant Tuesday, saying it supported Hong Kong’s handling of the protests, which it described as “illegal activity.”
Frustration and strikes
Communist authorities are worried that dealing with the protests too softly could encourage wider demands for greater freedoms on the mainland, observers say.
Hong Kong authorities, meanwhile, are caught between protester demands, Beijing’s uncompromising stance and efforts to keep the city running.
Business leaders complain that the protests are hitting the economy. The world’s top cosmetics group L’Oreal said on Tuesday it was suspending all business travel to Hong Kong due to the street demonstrations.
Many locals have expressed frustration at the huge disruption, with the crowds blocking key junctions.
Police Tuesday again called for the protesters to disperse, saying emergency services were being disrupted by the ongoing blockade of major carriageways.
But the demonstrations have also prompted displays of solidarity. Some social workers and teachers went on strike after unions called for members to take action.
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Facebook clue for lifestyle check on cops in C. VisayasBy Carine M. Asutilla | Inquirer Visayas 1:08 am | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
CEBU CITY—The social networking site Facebook holds an enormous amount of information about its more than a billion users worldwide, including what authorities say could be leads to the lifestyles of police officers and their families in the Philippines.
Following a series of crimes involving policemen and questions on the integrity of the highest-ranking officer of the Philippine National Police, a lifestyle check has been ordered on all uniformed personnel of the PNP.
This could mean a search for clues on Facebook, the highly popular social networking site, according to Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Banas, PNP director for Central Visayas.
The region has 8,550 policemen and Banas said a check on Facebook for photos or videos could provide clues on the lifestyles of each of them.
Policemen in the region have decided to submit themselves to the lifestyle check amid a continuing slide in the popularity rating of the PNP brought about by scandals in the police force, Banas said.
He said the PNP had directed different police divisions to conduct the lifestyle check more thoroughly, especially on officers and men who are “guilty of ostentatious display of wealth.”
Those found with ill-gotten wealth would be charged, Banas said.
“If a child of a PNP personnel posts on his [Facebook] account a luxurious car, that can be looked into,” said Banas. “It has to be carefully investigated to find out if the car is really owned by the family,” he said.
He asked the public and members of the media to help the PNP monitor the lifestyles of policemen in Central Visayas.
If there are suspicions that a police officer’s lifestyle is beyond his income, Banas said, the public should report it immediately to start an investigation.
Banas said the regional police force had agreed to the lifestyle check and remained loyal to the PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima, who now faces graft and plunder charges.
A former PNP chief, Panfilo Lacson, has called on Purisima to quit out of “delicadeza,” saying his leadership, or lack of it, is dragging the national police force down.
Rafael Alunan, former head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, also called on Purisima to take a leave of absence as he tries to answer the allegations against him.