Government authorities are keeping close watch on jeepney drivers who might abuse their Pantawid Pasada fuel subsidy by using the Landbank of the Philippines debit card worth P5,000 in purchasing basic commodities, particularly grocery items.
The subsidy was meant to help jeepney drivers and operators cope with the high fuel price due partly to the implementation of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion law that raised the excise tax on petroleum products. This and last week’s approval of a P1 increase in minimum jeepney fare also hope to ease the burden of the transport sector due to high cost of food.
The use of the card is allowed only in gas stations and not in supermarkets. Landbank president Alex Buenaventura warned that once the card is used in buying groceries, the user is automatically delisted from the fuel subsidy program.
But who could stop a jeepney driver from buying P5,000 worth of groceries in just one visit to a supermarket?
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By Chito Lozada — June 30, 2018TIER 1 IN FIGHT VS HUMAN TRAFFICKING The Philippines was among countries in the Asia-Pacific region with the best record on the battle against human trafficking for three consecutive years, two of which under President Duterte’s watch, an annual report of the US State Department said. The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2018 said the country received the highest “Tier 1” rating after fully meeting the minimum US standards against trafficking practices such as human smuggling and modern-day slavery. “The country retaining highest ranking in the report speaks of the determination of the Philippine government to uphold and protect human rights,”Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said. The Philippines, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan were the only countries in East Asia and the Pacific to be awarded Tier 1 status. The Philippines has been in Tier 1 on the US list for the past three years. From 2011 to 2015, Manila was in Tier 2 of the TIP report and it was upgraded to Tier 1 in 2016. “The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the Philippines remained on Tier 1,” the report read. “The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by convicting and punishing more traffickers,” it added. The report, released annually by the US government since 2001, is mandated under the US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. The four tier placements signifying level of compliance with TVPA standards are Tier 1 or full compliance, Tier 2 or no full compliance but making significant efforts to comply with standards, Tier 2 Watchlist or no full compliance and absolute number of victims increasing, and Tier 3 or no full compliance and no significant efforts to comply. TIP commitment validated “The report validated the country’s commitment against TIP,” Romualdez said. Romualdez was present in the report’s launch ceremony with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo. “Being in Tier 1 for three consecutive years showed the effectiveness of the Philippines’ victim-centered and multi-agency approach to address human trafficking,” Romualdez said. “The Philippine embassy in Washington, D.C. remains committed to engaging and cooperating with US stakeholders in advancing the international anti-TIP agenda,” he added. The government has “effectively” coordinated identification, referral, and provision of services to more victims and has increased efforts to help Filipino migrant workers that are victims of trafficking abroad, according to the report. The Philippines has also exerted efforts to reduce the backlog of trafficking cases in the courts. The State Department also recognized the sustained law enforcement efforts against human trafficking. “During the reporting period, authorities investigated 488 suspected trafficking cases, compared with 553 in 2016. These actions led to the arrest of 283 suspects, an increase from 272 in 2016,” the report said. It added during the reporting period, the government supported victims who served as witnesses during trials by providing assistance, security and transportation. “Continuing a donor-supported pilot program, two Department of Justice (DoJ) victim-witness coordinators assisted victims whose cases were investigated and prosecuted by anti-trafficking task forces,” the report said. Protect male victims Despite meeting the standards, Washington underscored Manila’s need to improve the availability and quality of protection for male victims. “(The Philippines should) increase the availability of specialized shelter and mental health services for victims of trafficking, including child and male victims of online sexual exploitation, (and) increase efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of trafficking, particularly complicit officials and labor traffickers.” The report said the government did not vigorously investigate and prosecute officials allegedly involved in trafficking crimes or punish labor traffickers. Efforts to investigate, prosecute and convict perpetrators of trafficking, particularly complicit officials and labor traffickers, should also be increased. Resources for anti-trafficking task forces should also be provided to support coordinated operations, protection services and timely preliminary investigation and prosecution of trafficking, including cases involving online sexual exploitation of children, it said.
By Angie M. Rosales — June 22, 2018Noy, Abad also guilty of malversation? Malversation and graft and corruption charges instead of usurpation of legislative powers should have been meted on former President Benigno Aquino and his Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) scandal, Sen. Richard Gordon said yesterday. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales last Tuesday indicted Aquino along with Abad with usurpation of legislative powers which is the lighter charge compared to the initial complaints filed against both. “They were even guilty of malversation, technical malversation in which usurpation is already absorbed. In order to commit malversation, they usurped the powers of Congress,” he said. Gordon explained that it amounts to technical malversation because Aquino and Abad tampered with appropriations by declaring it as savings so they could spend the fund somewhere else. “They were even guilty of malversation, technical malversation in which usurpation is already absorbed.” He said both officials deliberately substituted their judgement for the judgement of Congress. “And then they cavalierly declared savings so they can spend the money for a purpose for which it was not intended for. Imagine, declaring savings in the middle of the year. In any language, savings can only be declared at the end of the year. They thought nobody could question them,” Gordon said. Strike three Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, pointed out Aquino and his officials have committed such acts repeatedly, in the procurement of P3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine and misuse of P10.6-billion PhilHealth funds allotted for senior citizens. “It goes into habit, which is why they should file a bigger case. Because in Dengvaxia they did the same, they transferred money. Then in the PhilHealth case, again they transferred money for purposes other than what it was intended for. So that’s habit and that’s considered aggravating,” he said. Dengvaxia has paper trail “It’s a disease that has been there for a long time. There is a paper trail and witnesses so I see all of them culpable. There’s a very big possibility that all three of them, including (former Health Secretary Janette) Garin, will land in jail along with the others for Dengvaxia,” Gordon said. “Also in the case of PhilHealth kasi ganun din ang ginawa nila. Nagconspire silang dalawa ni Padilla (and Garin) na sabihin na hindi nila kailangan ng PhilHealth yung fund. Tapos a year later, sinabi ni Padilla na kailangan nila. Pero nakuha na nila yung pera. Obviously, it was for the campaign,” he added. “It has been a habit of Abad to make use of savings for other purposes,” Sen. JV Ejercito added citing the case of Dengvaxia controversy. Selective justice in DAP ruling Selective justice was employed by the Ombudsman and more severe charges should have been imposed on former President Aquino and his former budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad over Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy, officials asked on the decision Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales indicting Aquino over the multi-billion peso scam said. “The complaints, and these do come only from the President, those charged in the DAP were only in the opposition during the time of President Aquino; that’s why the complaints by many – selective justice,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. “Some quarters are already asking why [the charges were] only usurpation which is punishable only by six months. The original complaint was malversation,” Roque said. Roque, a former lawmaker, said he has yet to read the Ombudsman decision but he could surmise that “perhaps there were no personal benefits that’s why they reduced it to usurpation.” Slap on wrist “And I think Abad is very much guilty of this,” Ejercito said while agreeing to assertions of some observers that the recommendation of the Ombudsman was just a slap on the wrist on Aquino and Abad. But as far as Aquino is concerned, Ejercito said the former president could be guilty of negligence. “It’s the call of the Ombudsman as a Constitutional office to file charges and we are still nonetheless pleased that the Ombudsman has filed information to bring about accountability even from one who was the highest officer of the land, former president Noynoy Aquino,” Roque added.
By Daily Tribune — June 20, 2018By Alvin Murcia and Elmer Navarro Manuel The Supreme Court (SC) en banc voted 8-6 yesterday to deny with finality the quixotic quest of Maria Lourdes Sereno for reversal of her ouster as SC chief justice. In denying Sereno’s motion for reconsideration, the SC affirmed its original decision on May 11, also by a vote of 8-6, favoring the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Oscar Calida against Sereno. The High Court also set June 19 as the start of the 90-day period in which the post vacated by Sereno, now being held by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, should be filled. The quo warranto petition accused Sereno of failing to file her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as a professor of the University of the Philippines. Failing to comply with the SALN law, Sereno was unfit to serve as an associate justice and later on as chief justice, according to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) complaint, the first to be filed against an impeachable official. Sereno’s predecessor, Renato Corona, was also ousted but via an impeachment trial. The SC decision, according to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, mooted the impeachment complaint against Sereno. Breaking the news early in the day, presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters the President respects the decision of the SC, it being the final arbiter on legal matters. “So, like it or hate it, we have to submit to the decision of the SC. That is now a final and executory decision. Tapos na po ang pagiging Chief Justice ni Sereno (Sereno’s stint as CJ is finished),” Roque said. Sereno is also facing possible sanctions from the SC over statements she made during the pendency of the quo warranto petition, including those that allegedly cast aspersions on some of the associate justices who voted against her. The justices who voted against Sereno in both decisions were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes and Alexander Gesmundo. The six who voted against the quo warranto petition were Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa. Carpio had said while he believed Sereno should be made accountable for not dutifully filing her SALNs, among the other complaints against her, quo warranto was not the proper course of action to remove her from office. Oral arguments were held on the case against Sereno last April 10. “The SC has spoken. It has affirmed its ruling on the quo warranto petition declaring void the appointment of Sereno. Let us respect its decision, no matter what our persuasions are,” Speaker Alvarez said. As a consequence of the SC decision, the House of Representatives would now have to consign the impeachment complaint against Sereno to its archives, Alvarez added. In reaction, a livid Sereno told her supporters gathered at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City House leaders held hostage the judiciary’s budget to force the SC to remove her.