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Series tackles federal health care

Published in Upside


BEGINNING this week, the federal health insurance system headlines a series of presentations at Doelger Senior Center in Daly City.


Now more than ever, Medicare, the 53-year-old benefit for U.S. workers and people with disability, has riveted the attention not just of those imminently eligible but the nation at large. 


While politicians and pundits debate the future of the system launched by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1965, Americans get older and closer to the age when health care dictates the quality and length of life. 


Every day, 10,000 people in this country turn 65, the age people are generally eligible for Medicare.  Or about to retire long after celebrating their 65th birthday.  Or they may be way under the age of 65 and have been disabled for 2 years.  If they do not know when and how to enroll, they would be missing out on a valuable gift or incur late penalties.  


For them, their families or their representatives, the private nonprofit Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program or HICAP (pronounced high-cap) exists.


Following is the schedule of free and unbiased presentations at Doelger Center at 101 Lake Merced Blvd. in the Westlake area for everyone who are on or will be or is helping someone on Medicare:



No-cost nationwide counseling, advocacy

10:30 - 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018



Protect yourself from scams

11 a.m. - 12 noon, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018

Sponsored by the Office of SMC Supervisor David Canepa with welcome remarks from the Supervisor



Know how health care plans coordinate

10 a.m. - 12 noon, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018



Part C & Part D changes in 2019

10 a.m. - 12 noon, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018


HICAP guides Medicare beneficiaries in making choices for health care coverage.  It is not a government agency nor is it affiliated with the insurance industry.  Sponsored by the state through federal funds, the program is supported by state-registered volunteers at offices in every county in the U.S.  Counselors provide free, accurate, unbiased and confidential information.  They do not represent or endorse private firms or professionals nor do they sell or recommend health or insurance plans or medical equipment.


HICAP is the only private nonprofit authorized to discuss Medicare by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


In San Mateo County, HICAP is administered by Self-Help for the Elderly, a nonprofit multiservice agency headquartered in San Francisco.  Under the direction of program manager Christina Dimas-Kahn, HICAP SM provides the following services, always free and objective:


-          One-on-one counseling by appointment in 24 sites in accessible locations from Daly City and Pacifica in the North County to South San Francisco, Foster City, San Mateo and Belmont in Central County, San Carlos, Redwood City, Menlo Part and Palo Alto in South County and Half Moon Bay down the coast;

-          Information & Assistance by telephone;

-          Long-term care insurance counseling;

-          Referrals to coordinating local and state agencies;

-          Community Education through presentations before groups and participation in health, private and public fairs, and

-          Training for counselor registration with the California Department of Aging.


The program provides assistance and counseling in Tagalog, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese, German and Arabic.


Medicare recipients or their loved ones are encouraged to call HICAP at 650-627-9350 for more information or to schedule a free appointment or presentation.


(PNews Editor at Large Cherie M. Querol Moreno coordinates community outreach for HICAP San Mateo.)


Tougher war vs drugs, irresponsible mining vowed

Published in Latest News

QUEZON CITY – “The war against illegal drugs is far from over.”



President Rodrigo R. Duterte stressed this in his third and shortest State of the Nation Address (SONA) as he vowed that his administration's drug war will be “as relentless and chilling” as it was the day it began.


“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos, today, they run [into] billions in peso value,” Duterte said in his opening statements before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasan Pambansa Complex.


Duterte said he could only “shudder” at the harm that illegal drugs have caused Filipinos throughout the country, noting that this was the very reason why the drug war will not be set aside. “Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he stressed.


He said drug dealers know the consequences of their criminal acts but still resisted arrest. At the same time, he also hit human rights advocates and church leaders for criticizing his drug war.


Despite protests against the drug war, Duterte said it could not dissuade him from continuing his fight against shabu, cocaine, cannabis, heroine, and other illegal drugs.


“If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong.


“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. You worry about the present; I am concerned [about] both the present and the future. I worry about the future because I know what crimes can do to the youth of this country. If not stopped, crimes can make human cesspools of succeeding generations. I will not allow it to happen. Not during my term,” Duterte said.


The President's call came as a Pulse Asia survey showed almost seven out of 10 Filipinos believe that the eradication of illegal drugs is the most important accomplishment of the Duterte administration in the first two years of his term.


The survey, which was conducted from 15 to 21 June, revealed at least 69 percent of the 1,800 respondents considering the President’s anti-drug campaign as the most important achievement of the administration, while fighting criminality came in as second with 50 percent.


Duterte also assured Filipinos the government would intensify its campaign against irresponsible mining nationwide to further protect the environment, so future generations can benefit from the country's natural wealth.


The President warned about implementing stricter environmental protection policies, including prohibiting open-pit mining.


Duterte, at the same time, called on local government units (LGUs) nationwide to prevent environmental degradation in their areas like what happened to top tourist destination Boracay Island in Aklan province.


"I urge LGUs to pro-actively enforce our laws and not wait for us to swoop down on your areas just to do your duty and work," the President said. 


He raised the challenge among the LGUs, citing that the environmental degradation in Boracay reflects the government's negligence in law enforcement in the locality.


The environment provides water, food, and other necessities people need to survive, so enforcing laws protecting this is essential, he stressed.


"Environmental protection and ensuring needs of the people can't be over-emphasized," he said.


The government has closed down Boracay Island for six months beginning April 26 this year to hasten the cleanup and rehabilitation work in the world-famous Philippine beach resort.


Miners, he stressed, must radically improve the way they manage their operations and rehabilitate the areas where they mine.


"To the mining industry, I say this again and maybe for the last time: Do not destroy the environment or compromise our resources," he warned.


The President said the revenue that mining brings the government doesn't justify the environmental destruction from irresponsible mineral extraction.

"Don't just give me taxes. I can get these from other sources," he said, referring to the miners. "But give me what needs to be given to my countrymen."


All Filipinos must benefit from the country's minerals, he noted.


Duterte said irresponsible mining is destroying even the country's aquatic resources, compromising the availability of water and food.


"You can no longer fish in rivers, as these are contaminated," he noted, citing one impact of mine waste's flow into the water bodies.


Also in his SONA, Duterte renewed his vow to end corruption within government describing it as “a leech that it bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects.”


The President acknowledged that he dismissed several government officials including friends and political supporters, adding that although he valued friendships, “it has its limits.”


Meanwhile, he urged officials to cut red-tape within their agencies and make government services “truly customer friendly.”


“Our people deserve efficient, effective, and responsive government services. They deserve nothing less,” he added.


Published in Headline

Attempt on President foiled in Zamboanga, triggers stricter security measures in events




ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Duterte was targeted for assassination during his trip to Zamboanga Sibugay last week and the ISIS-Abu Sayyaf rebels were being pinpointed in initial investigations to be behind the new attempt on the President.


Mr. Duterte himself actually mentioned the attempt on his life but only in passing during his speech before residents of Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay during the celebration of the town’s 69th founding anniversary.


The threat did not deter Duterte from proceeding later to far-away Sulu province and also in Zamboanga City.


“I said if somebody would shoot then let him shoot,” Duterte said in his Visayan speech but he did not give details.


In Jolo, Sulu, Duterte awarded medals to 12 soldiers for gallantry in action against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in separate ceremonies in Sulu province.


Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said the awarding was held on Thursday and Friday when the President visited Zamboanga city and the province of Sulu.


 Duterte headed to Westmincom headquarters on Thursday night after his visit to the fire victims in Barangay Labuan, Zamboanga City, and proceeded to the Joint Task Force Sulu headquarters in Jolo, Sulu the following day.


Dela Vega said the 12 soldiers, who were wounded in separate clashes against the ASG bandits in Sulu, received the Order of Lapu-Lapu level of Kampilan Medal.


During his visits, Duterte reiterated his intention to bring peace to the war-ravaged region and rallied the locals’ support for the newly signed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).


“Iyong BBL tapos na. Bigyan lang natin ng panahon. Huwag tayong mag-giyera,” the President said.


“Huwag natin pasukan ‘yan. Hindi panahon natin ‘yan. Hindi ‘yung away na pwede tayong makipagsapalaran na ubusan. Mag-usap na lang. Iyong Abu Sayyaf, mag-usap na lang tayo,” he added.


To boost economic activity in the region, the Chief Executive also reiterated the idea of restarting barter trade in the region.


He stressed that improving the local economy could enhance regional peace and security.


“Kaya kung ako ang maglagay ng barter trade, sundin lang ninyo kung ano ‘yung patakaran ng gobyerno, wala na kayong problema kailanman. Ganun lang ‘yan eh,” he said.


“Noong pre-Spanish time, barter trade was going on. During the Spanish time, American, hanggang nasarahan ni Marcos. Gusto kong buksan. Gusto ko kayong bigyan ng opportunity na mabuhay,” he added.


In related developments:

1.       Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo urged the public to immediately report to police and military authorities any suspicious-looking person in their area.


"We call on our people to be vigilant and continue their active participation with security forces in reporting their observations," Arevalo said in the wake of the blast in Lamitan City, Basilan that killed 11 people and wounded seven others. Arevalo said authorities will not stop tracking down and neutralizing terrorists headed by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Furuji Indama, who is believed to have been involved in the attack.


2.       The Philippine National Police (PNP) vowed to go after those behind the bombing of a Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment in Lamitan City, Basilan.


"We will mobilize all available resources at our disposal to bring the authors of this crime before the bar of justice.We urge the peace-loving people of Basilan not to be cowed by this single act of heinous terror but to keep calm but vigilant against any attempt to sow violence and disrupt our normal lives," PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said in a statement. "We join the Filipino nation in strongly condemning this bastardly act of taking human lives for whatever motive its perpetrators may have," the PNP added.


 Mr. Duterte’s revelation did not receive much attention, however, since it was made when he was talking about a plan to arm local officials amid the string of killings early this month.


Those killed in the first week of the month were Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan City, Batangas, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet; Nueva Ecija’s General Tinio mayor Ferdinand Bote and Trece Martires Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan.


Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said the discovery of the slay attempt may have prompted security officials to be stricter in protecting the president as pens, pencils, bottled waters and similar gadgets were banned in public events like that in Ipil town and other protective measures were implemented.


 “If there is a repeat of violence in this area I will arm you,” Duterte said while recalling the attack on Ipil by Abu Sayyaf and other armed groups in April 1995.


Go said the President himself told him about the plot to kill him while they were on their way to Zamboanga Sibugay province.


Despite the threat, Go said the President insisted on proceeding to the province where the government provided assistance to 400 families who lost their homes in a fire in Barangay Labuan last 22 July.


“You know our President; he’s not afraid to die,” Go said.


“While we were in the helicopter, he told me: ‘Let them try’…he said he is ready. You know when the President took on his job he is ready to die,” Go added.


In July last year, suspected New People’s Army rebels ambushed a convoy of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) along the boundary of Davao City and Arakan, Cotabato.


Five PSG members were wounded during the ambush while a militiaman was killed by the communist rebels while withdrawing from the scene.


Go said it was not the first time the President received a death threat. He added both he and the President regularly receive information about threats practically wherever they go.


He said he and the President are unfazed by such threats and will continue to serve the people.


As proof the President did not mind the supposed threat, Go said he and Mr. Duterte proceeded to Jolo, Sulu to deliver government assistance to 30,000 individuals rendered homeless by a massive fire.


“The President always says ‘if it’s my time to go, it’s my time.’ So, we are not afraid to do our job,” Go said.


Meanwhile, Go thanked his supporters for heeding his appeal to use funds intended for posters or banners urging him to run for the Senate to instead help victims of calamities such as fire, flood and typhoon.


“I thank all my supporters. And I hope you will continue giving assistance to the victims,” Go said.


Published in Headline

Power struggle with Alvarez delays Duterte’s State of the Nation Address



(Photo from ABS-CBN News)


QUEZON CITY — The House of Representatives has formally installed former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district, Pampanga) as the new Speaker, replacing Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) after a “coup” which delayed by more than hour President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives.


Arroyo, 71, who is also a former Vice President and Senator, made history with her election as she becomes the first woman Speaker, the fourth highest official in the hierarchy in government after the President, Vice President and the Senate President.


Arroyo was first elected by 161 lawmakers after a rowdy proceedings when the House session was abruptly suspended and the microphone was turned off, enabling Alvarez to join the committee to welcome President Duterte together with Senate President Vicente Sotto III. Arroyo actually took her oath as Speaker immediately after her first election but Alvarez and his group refused to recognize the election.


As Alvarez and Sotto and the President were holed up at a waiting lounge preparatory to SONA, Arroyo and some lawmakers tried a few times to enter the lounge but failed. When finally she succeeded, Duterte and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdia, after some negotiations, proposed that Alvarez be allowed to occupy his seat with Sotto at the SONA and Arroyo, Alvarez and the lawmakers hold a special session after the SONA to make formal Arroyo’s election as speaker.


In the subsequent election that followed attended by 238 solons, Arroyo got a total of 184 votes, 48 against and 12 lawmakers abstained from voting, sealing her second oath taking and assumption as Speaker.


"I am extremely honored to have been supported by my colleagues at the House of Representatives to be their new Speaker," she said in her first statement as leader of the lower chamber.


Arroyo vowed to push for the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration in the House of Representatives.


"I will endeavor to carry out the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Lower House," she said.


 When the House met the next day, Arroyo presided over the session amid still some questions about her ascendancy. But the House was able to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law which a day before the House failed to accomplish due to the suspension of the session.


Malacañang readily expressed readiness to work with new Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte has very good relations with the former president and now Pampanga congresswoman.


“She was one of the staunchest supporters of the President during the elections. They share the same political agenda. So we foresee absolutely no problems in working with Speaker Arroyo,” Roque said.


Roque said he did not anticipate the House leadership change but he “noticed (that) the President was visibly concerned about the pronouncements of the Speaker (Alvarez) on no election, in so far as he related, also no elections to federalism.”


“He did not express concern about the Speaker. He did express concern about the no-el which was being pushed by Speaker Alvarez,” he explained.


Roque reiterated that Duterte “was even more emphatic that he definitely will not have any hand in no-el.”


Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who was rumoured to have helped engineer the ouster of Alvarez with whom she had a spat earlier, immediately congratulated Speaker Arroyo.


The presidential daughter also described the former President as “a strong leader.”


 “Congratulations to SPGMA (Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). A strong leader,” Duterte-Carpio stated in a text message.


Catholic prelates lauded the installation of former president Arroyo as House Speaker, replacing Alvarez.


Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes admitted that he was glad that Alvarez was replaced so that his plans will not push through.


“I am happy that Alvarez was ousted because of his extremely dangerous plans like 'no election in 2019', a clear violation of our Constitution,” Bastes said in a statement.


“I am glad that GMA is the speaker because she is a pro-life advocate and as President, she abolished the death penalty. She is also an economist,” he added.


 Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco noted that those who supported the installation of Arroyo must have thought of what she would achieve as a leader of the lower chamber.


“I’m sure our lawmakers would always consider how things can become better. They must have thought that GMA would deliver,” he added.


The Alvarez and Duterte-Carpio conflict started last February when he labeled the Davao City mayor as being part of the opposition when she formed the regional political party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago


A couple of months back in the Senate, PDP-Laban president Senator Aquilino Pimentel III relinquished the Senate presidency to Senator Vicente Sotto III, a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition.


Nueva Ecija Rep. Magnolia Antonino raised the motion to declare the speakership vacant.


The lawmakers then swiftly moved to elect a new leader with Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu nominating Arroyo to become the next Speaker. No other nominations were made.


The session was initially held without the presence of the mace, but it was restored during the nominal voting.


Ang Kabuhayan Rep. Dennis Laogan, the youngest member of the House in the 17th Congress, administered the oath of office to Arroyo.


The last time a House Speaker was ousted was in February 2008, when Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. was replaced by Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles.


Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza of Buhay party-list, a former appointee of then President Arroyo as Environment and Natural Resources secretary and one of the key leaders who helped in the election of Arroyo as speaker, said Alvarez’s call to postpone the 2019 polls delivered the final blow on the fragile “Super Majority” bloc.


“His calls for no-election [in 2019] did it. Look at what happened yesterday. All leaders of political parties from his so called Super Majority turned their backs on him. Hindi naman lahat ng congressman e mga pusakal (Not all lawmakers are addicted to power),” he said.


Alvarez took his position for granted by threatening members of the House if they didn’t toe his line, he said.


Arroyo herself got a taste of Alvarez’s “dictatorial” style when she was removed as deputy speaker for voting against the bill restoring the death penalty for drug offenses.


Alvarez also threatened to give zero budgets to lawmakers opposed to Charter change.


Alvarez even called for the abolition of term limits of elected officials during his speech for the opening of the Third Regular Session of the 17th Congress.


“Everybody saw the dictatorial tendencies [of Alvarez], and they did not like it,” Atienza said.


Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo of Marikina said the prime movers of the leadership change were Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. of Davao del Norte and Arroyo’s former budget chief, Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur.


Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes welcomed the change in leadership at the House of Representatives, saying he was “happy” that Alvarez was ousted.


“She is a pro-life advocate and as president she abolished the death penalty. She is also an economist,” the prelate said on Monday.


“I am happy that Alvarez was ousted because of his extremely dangerous plans like no election in 2019 in view of federalism, which the majority of Filipinos reject and abhor, a clear violation of our Constitution,” he added.


Bastes however urged President Duterte to not push through with his plan to fully implement the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law or Train, “because many poor people are now suffering because of the Train, a situation which Duterte seems to ignore or not notice at all.”


Rumors of a possible change of leadership at the House of Representatives gained traction in February this year after Duterte-Carpio issued scathing remarks against Alvarez, who supposedly called her newly-formed party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), as part of the opposition as it was not sanctioned by the President.


The Presidential daughter also alleged that Alvarez had boasted before a crowd that he, as House Speaker, could easily impeach the President.


Alvarez has denied these allegations.


Asked to comment on accusations that she had a hand in the removal of Alvarez as House Speaker, Duterte-Carpio said: “No comment.”

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