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Overseas voters registration begins 16 December

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Filipinos in Riyadh line up to vote during the midterm elections. Saudi Arabia accounts for 326,285 out of the 1,822,173 registered Filipino overseas voters for 2019, data showed. (balikbayan.asianjournal.com)

The number of deactivated overseas voters has climbed from last month’s 313,101 to 578,185 as of 5 December, data gathered by the Department of Foreign Affairs showed.

The DFA Overseas Voting Secretariat said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has deactivated them for failing to participate in the 2016 and 2019 national and local elections.  They are thus urged to register anew in order to vote in the 2022 presidential polls.

Registration will start 16 December and end 30 September 2021 at the following locations:

  • Any Philippine Embassy, Consulate General, Mission or Manila Economic and Cultural Office
    • Overseas Voter Registration Centers designated by Comelec

All Filipino citizens who expect to be abroad from 9 April to 9 May 2022 during the overseas voting period for the 2022 elections, are at least 18 years old by 9 May 2022 and not otherwise disqualified by law may register as overseas voters.

The Comelec recorded a total of 1,822,173 registered overseas voters from the May midterm elections. (With a report from DFA)

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Velasco breaks silence, refutes accusers

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Rep. Lord Allan Velasco: Silence does not mean I am disinterested. (Facebook grab)

Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco broke his silence Tuesday night amid accusations by a colleague that he is plotting the ouster of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and
assume the post after allegedly being unproductive for the past 15 months.

“I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker,” said Velasco in a statement following Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro’s charges against him.

“My silence does not mean I am disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant. Mum on issues means I just don’t want to call attention to myself,” Velasco said.

“Being party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time,” he added.

Velasco denied Castro’s allegations that he has been sitting idly and waiting for his turn to be Speaker under a term-sharing deal with Cayetano.

“Since I became a lawmaker I have worked quietly, away from publicity, to support this Administration and help accomplish the legislative agenda of President Duterte to improve the lives of the Filipino people. When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately, to the Filipino people. To God be all the glory,” said Velasco.

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TikTok urges social media alliance against suicide content

Agence France-Presse

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TikTok on Tuesday proposed an alliance with nine other social media platforms to work collectively and rapidly to remove suicide content, following an incident this month when a man killed himself on Facebook.

The Chinese-owned app said it had set out its proposal in a letter to the chief executives of Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit.

TikTok’s interim CEO Vanessa Pappas noted that each of the platforms had its own policies to take down harmful content and stop its distribution.

“However, we believe each of our individual efforts to safeguard our own users and the collective community would be boosted significantly through a formal, collaborative approach to early identification and notification amongst industry participants of extremely violent, graphic content, including suicide,” she wrote in the letter.

Pappas proposed a meeting of safety officers from each company to work out details of a collective approach, “which we believe will help us all improve safety for our users”.

TikTok launched its own investigation after clips of the man’s suicide were embedded into otherwise inoffensive videos shared widely on its global platform, which is especially popular with young teens.

The original video came from a Facebook livestream and showed an American man taking his own life, according to a warning TikTok sent to users on September 8.

Mea culpa

The video was uploaded to various social media platforms after a “coordinated attack” by people operating on the dark web, senior TikTok executive Theo Bertram told a British parliamentary hearing on Tuesday.

“Our hearts go out to the victim in this case. But we do believe that we can do things better in the future,” said Bertram, who is director of government relations and public policy for the company in Europe.

“We should now establish a partnership around dealing with this kind of content,” he said, noting the proposed alliance would build on existing collaboration by the social media firms against material showing sexual abuse of children.

Bertram refused to be drawn on TikTok’s travails in the United States, where a deal to restructure the platform involving Oracle and Walmart is in doubt, following threats by President Donald Trump to shut it down.

The executive insisted the platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is free of interference by Beijing but regretted instances in the past where it has taken down content critical of the communist regime.

Such content included references to the plight of Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, and to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

“There is no political censorship of any kind,” Bertram, a former adviser to British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, told the MPs.

“I accept there are things we’ve got wrong, but I believe TikTok overwhelmingly is a force for good.”

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Martires wants Office of the Ombudsman abolished, lifestyle checks discontinued

Michelle R. Guillang

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Ombudsman Samuel Martires said the government finds it hard to go after corrupt officials because witnesses are scared to testify.

Thus, it would be better that the office of the Ombudsman is abolished, Martires said during the House committee on appropriations hearing the budget proposal of his office.

Martires said investigators are not able to collect sufficient evidence for pending cases because nobody wanted to give testimonies.

“This is why we cannot arrest any corrupt official because the witnesses themselves are scared. We cannot accomplish anything if this goes on. As I said, maybe we could just abolish the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.

Martires even proposed that every government’s office could just create its own anti-corruption programs, thus his office could be abolished and would make the government spend less.

Also, Martires said the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) has been weaponized by the rivals of government officials, thus public access to SALN had to be restricted.

He said SALN has only been utilized by political opponents to destroy another official’s reputation and noted that SALN is not needed when a government official is sued for graft and plunder.

The Ombudsman on September 15 declared that SALN can only be accessed by authorized persons such as the person who filed the SALN and the one who he/she authorized; lawful order of the court to a pending case; and for the purpose of fact-finding investigations.

Moreover, Martires revealed that he himself demanded that lifestyle checks of government officials be discontinued due to its consistencies with the provisions stated under RA 6173 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The law, Martires said, has provisions that seem to be illogical.

“We have a lot to discuss Republic Act 6173. Let’s take a look at it. I will give you my recommendations, those which must be amended to RA 6173, before this year ends,” Martires said.

“There is a problem with the SALN’s form. A big problem. There’s the market value. What should we do with it? Should it be depreciated? Land is a real property that does not depreciate, but a house does,” Martires stressed.

The ombudsman said this is one of the things which should be reviewed in the form of SALN.

“We have to restudy the form of the SALN which is being used as a weapon of the political rivals or whoever is raging against a public official in order to prosecute the official,” he said.

“But the root of this is the ambiguous law, the unclear system of the form of the SALN,” he added.

He underscored that an official cannot be laid charges against just for living extravagantly or beyond his income.

“Who are we to conclude that an official is corrupt? What’s simple living to me may not be simple living to you or to anyone,” said Martires.

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Cooper agrees to contract extension as Azkals target 2026 World Cup

Ian Suyu

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The Philippine Football Federation has extended Azkals head tactician Scott Cooper’s coaching contract with the goal of leading the national squad to at least the prestigious 2023 AFC Asian Cup before making a strong push for a historic appearance in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Cooper, who previously spent his career in the Thai League, has been with the Philippine team since 2018, but it wasn’t until the joint 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers when he took the head coach position on a full-time basis.

Even PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta expressed satisfaction with the English manager’s performance so far in the qualifiers where the Azkals are third in Group A behind Syria and China.

“I think the team has improved under him and we look forward to him taking the team to another level,” said Araneta, who is also a member of the powerful FIFA executive council.

Though the squad remains in contention for the next edition of the World Cup in 2022, Azkals manager Dan Palami said that the 2026 tournament seems to be a more plausible target for them.

“We trust that coach Scott can take the team into where we want it to be,” said Palami.

“It is just unfortunate that the COVID-19 pandemic stopped our momentum, but we have set what we feel are realistic goals for the team in the future.”

Regardless of the postponement of the supposed resumption of the Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers in October and November, as well as the AFF Suzuki Cup which was penciled in December, Cooper has kept himself busy in communicating with the players and sharpening the arsenal of the national team.

Cooper expanded the squad’s stock of talents by identifying young homegrown stars who have the potential to be groomed and developed as part of the senior team.

Part of his program includes the creation of the Azkals Development Team, who is tipped to compete in the upcoming season of the Philippines Football League, guided with the aim of giving the young talents the chance to flourish and compete in a more intense level of the game.

The said up-and-coming team is composed of a fine field of talents bannered by former Ateneo ace Jayvee Gayoso, prized forward Chima Uzoka and stalwart midfielder Christian Rontini.

“When I first came here, I saw the massive potential of the Azkals,” said Cooper.

“During this pandemic, we’ve been setting goals and putting plans in place to achieve those goals.I can honestly say that we can still get better and I am committed to lead this team as it continues to make its mark in Asian and world football.”

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Banned Geisler cries for justice

Ian Suyu

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Former Olympian Donnie Geisler expressed frustration over his expulsion from the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA).

Geisler, who represented the country in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, tagged his expulsion from the federation as an unexpected and unfortunate decision.

He said all accusations hurled at him by federation officials were baseless and was just meant to stop him from pursuing his business and passion in teaching the sport.

“From the looks of it, these are all baseless and intended to create leverage against me,” said Geisler in a statement that came a day after the PTA announced that he had been declared as persona non-grata.

“The truth is on my side and I will continue with this uphill battle until such time that discriminatory actions are stopped and justice is served.”

The feud between Geisler and the federation that gave him a break during his playing days had been simmering for the past couple of months.

It started when Geisler invited national athletes Samuel Morrison and Arven Tolentino to conduct online training in his Donnie Geisler Taekwondo Training Center without seeking permission from the PTA.

It didn’t sit well with the federation as it slapped Morrison and Tolentino with suspension while banning other national team members from doing business with him.

Geisler filed a case in the Philippine Competition Commission last May, saying that what the federation’s decision was discriminatory and anti-competitive against him.

Two months later, he filed a pair of legal case, this time libel and cyber libel allegations against PTA secretary general Rocky Samson.

Last Monday, the PTA formally cut its ties with its former golden boy as Manolo Gabriel, the PTA sanction committee chairman, announced that they have declared Geisler persona non-grata and stripped him of his rights and privileges as member of the federation.

“We still want to get to the bottom of this issue, we know that there’s truth that must be heard coming from my side,” Geisler said.

“Now, we are doing our moves. We are going to answer this soon. I’m sure this will not end here. A lot of things will be coming along the way.”

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PH eyes more contact tracers—tracing czar 

Gabbie Parlade

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Tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong said the government needs to recruit more contact tracers amid the rising number of people who get infected with the coronavirus disease.

In a radio interview, he said that an ideal team of four people composed of a health worker and a police investigator should be allotted to trace the close contacts of each COVID case.

However, due to the lack of staff, some of the infected patients remain to have untraced contacts.

“Four is to one sana ang ideal kaya lang na-ooverwhelm po ng cases nangyayari po yan.  Kung minsan hindi na po nako-contact trace. There are places dyan sa Manila na tumatawag sakin mga tao nag [positive] na sila pero not one of the local government contact tracers ay tumawag na sakanila,” he said.

Although the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ongoing recruitment and training allotted for thousands of contact tracers, he warned that it may not be enough.

“Malaking bagay iyong pag-recruit natin ng 50,000 na contact tracers. Pero kung tatanungin ninyo ako, is it enough? Hindi enough iyan, kukulangin tayo,” he said.

“We need volunteers, cause-oriented groups na sa tingin nila meron silang critical thinking ability, iyong members may investigative mindset, hindi naman naghahanap ng suweldo. They can always volunteer,” he added.

At present, the country has 97,400 contact tracers and may be increased to 150,000 as soon the government begins hiring.

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Hike healthworkers’ salary and they will stay, says Labor secretary

Elmer N. Manuel @tribunephl_lmer

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The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Tuesday urged the government to hike the salary of nurses that would convince them to stay and give their services in the country amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a television interview, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III explained that salary upgrade for nurses is long overdue, noting that it is one of the reasons why around 200,000 nurses in the country are unemployed even if the Department of Health (DoH) already launched an emergency hiring program.

“We need to upgrade the salary of nurses, especially in the private sector.  How can we convince them if they will be the ones who will pay for their needs?

“What’s happening now is that nurses have 10 to 12 hours of duty, but the salary ranges from P9,000, P15,000, and maximum P18,000, so you really cannot blame them if they want to leave,” Bello said.

The Labor chief also stressed that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would need to go to Congress to call for passage of the law that would increase the salaries of nurses.

He also urged the nurses to assert their right by filing a complaint if they are being deprived of the benefits due them.

“They also have a responsibility to stand for their rights. Gather yourselves even for a day and file a complaint,” Bello said.

To recall, the government has suspended the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only allowing new hires who have completed their requirements on or before 8 March to leave.

The suspended deployment was eased Monday, when the President allowed all returning health workers and new hires who secured requirements by 31 August to leave the country.

Earlier this month, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) called for an increase in the minimum wage and benefits of nurses working in the private sector, saying they also render the same service as colleagues in the public sector.

While nurses in the public sector are assured of a salary increase under the Department of Budget and Management’s Circular 2002-4 issued on July 17, FNU said nurses in the private sector were not included.

“Sadly, no equivalent decree that may apply for nurses in the private sector to accord them due recognition and at par compensation to ease them from their present miserable condition even though both belong to one profession rendering the same service for the general population,” the FNU said in a statement.

The FNU said some nurses in the private sector cannot even afford their own basic needs because their salary is “way below” the minimum wage. “The wage of nurses in the private sector is way below at P537 daily for those in NCR and much lower at P280 per day in BARMM with some nurses getting an insultingly low P5,000 to P10,000 average monthly salary,” said the FNU. “Worse, these overworked nurses are made to handle a patient load beyond the DoH-set standard of 1:12 patients with no additional pay for overtime or extended work,” it added.

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DAR gives self passing mark on agrarian justice delivery program

Francis Wakefield

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Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones gave his agency a passing performance despite the quarantine restrictions in Luzon during the early months of the new coronavirus pandemic.

“The DAR implementation of a swift and efficient agrarian justice delivery program is on the right track with the help of the department’s zero-backlog campaign,” Castriciones said.

He also paid tribute to the farmers for ensuring enough food for Filipinos as the country continues to deal with the virus.

He said the farmers are the real strength of the country.

“I want our farmers to trust that agriculture is their key to success. In the first world countries, their farmers are earning big and are treated well by their citizens. We would emulate these countries to empower our farmers by pooling all our resources to improve their economic and quality of lives,” Castriciones said.

The Secretary showed his appreciation to them when he visited some of the houses of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) to deliver their certificates of land ownership award (CLOA) in Benito, Soliven, Isabela.

Legal affairs office Undersecretary Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan earlier reported the good news in favor of the ARB with the signing by President Rodrigo Duterte of Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law which condones the interest payment and restructures the principal obligation of ARB.

 

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Tolentino announces candidacy for POC president

Nick Giongco

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Incumbent Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino will be gunning for a fresh four-year term with a powerhouse ticket in the POC elections on 27 November.

Speaking in the online Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, Tolentino declared that Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio and Philippine Fencing Association chief Richard Gomez have decided to join forces with him.

Panlilio will run as 1st vice president while Gomez will seek the 2nd vice president post, according to Tolentino, who likewise formally declared his intention to seek a four-year term.

Panlilio’s main backer is tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, who supports various sports like boxing, weightlifting, gymnastics, badminton, football, taekwondo, golf, cycling, skateboarding and a few more.

Tolentino assumed the POC presidency only in July last year to use the unfinished term of boxing boss Ricky Vargas, who was forced to step down.

“My ticket is almost complete,” Tolentino, also a Tagaytay congressman said during the weekly forum backed by San Miguel Corporation, Go For Gold, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, stressing that he will reveal the complete roster next week.

The other elective posts are those of chairman, treasurer, auditor and members of the board while the position of secretary general will be done by appointment.

“I will definitely run for president. I just filled up the gap when Vargas resigned,” Tolentino said. “We are all free to run and aspire for the (POC) presidency.”

Set to challenge Tolentino for the presidency is World Archery Philippines president and renowned tax lawyer Clint Aranas, who enjoys the support of the majority in the POC executive council.

There will be over 50 voting members that will take part in an election that will take place in a soon-to-be-named venue and Tolentino said those attending will have to undergo swab testing in line with government safety protocols.

Former International Olympic Committee representative to the country Frank Elizalde, lawyer Teddy Kalaw and Cong. Eric Martinez, the chairman of the House youth and sports committee, will draft the guidelines after being tapped as members of the elections committee.

They will present the election rules before the general assembly on 30 September while the filing of certificate of candidacy starts on 1 October.

Meanwhile, Tolentino believes athletes from 19 national sports associations are expected to return to training camp not later than November.

“By October, perhaps, we would already be on modified general community quarantine and they will be allowed to train again.”

Tolentino made it clear, though, that only athletes eyeing to compete in Tokyo Olympic qualifying events will be given the green light to train again.

“Let us prioritize those NSAs that are getting ready for the Olympic qualifying (tournaments).”

Tolentino admits that the delay in the decision to revert to training mode was due to “safety concerns.”

The facilities are being used as COVID-19 treatment centers, said Tolentino, referring to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and Philsports in Pasig as prime examples.

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