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MANILA — "Kill me if I don't resolve heinous crimes and illegal drugs in six months." This in gist was what maverick Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told businessmen following his presidential bid.


Earlier, Duterte proposed to lease some islands in the country to investors so they could be developed, attract tourists and investors and open up more job and livelihood opportunities to the people.


“If I succeed perhaps that would be my greatest contribution to the country, but if I fail, kill me,” Duterte told a crowd during a book launching last week at Lucio Tan-owned Century Park Hotel in Manila.


Should he succeed, Duterte said his next plan is to work on “inclusive nation building.”


Later, Duterte presented his main platform during a meeeting with leaders of the Nationalist People' Coalition. The platform, he said, was centered on public order and safety, which includes curbing criminality and the rising cases involving drug abuse.


The tough-talking mayor also pressed his proposal for a change to federal system of government so other regions of the country would have bigger opportunities to grow.


Duterte has been vocal about his willingness to change the form of government to federalism to equally distribute the resources of the Philippines across the country.


Duterte said he would do his best to defeat crime and illegal drugs even if it will cost him his honor and life.


He maintained killing criminals and drug syndicates is the best way to secure the country.


“The best way for everybody, for their own good and for the good of this nation, is to stop it, but I won’t allow them to succeed, [in] three to six months I will finish it,” he said.


Duterte said he would not allow drug cartels to operate in the country and gave assuance the Philippines will not become “Asia’s Mexico” which he said has become a “narco-state.” 


He said the Philippines has no place for “El Chapos,” referring to Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, who was recaptured after six months on the run following his escape from prison.


Duterte’s running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, said they have made a comprehensive plan and strategy against illegal drugs.


“With the help of the people, we will end the reign of drug lords and make our streets safe again for our people,” he said.


Duterte said the country’s crime situation, particularly drug trafficking, has become so dire that bold solutions and swift actions are needed.

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MANILA — The Philippines is set to launch into space its first microsatellite in April, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).


Named as Diwata, the first all-Filipino assembled microsatellite, could be used in improved weather detection and forecasts, disaster risk management, detecting agricultural growth patterns, and the monitoring of forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites, and the territorial borders of the Philippines.


"Diwata was turned over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to prepare for its launch into space in April. With Diwata, comes the Filipino dream to have its own Philippine Space Agency," DOST said.


Recognizing the advantages of using satellite-based remote sensing, the government invested in the construction and launching of the Philippine scientific earth observation microsatellite, under the PHL-MICROSAT or Diwata program, with the budget of 800 million pesos (USD 16.76 million) for three years.


Diwata is the country's first microsatellite designed, developed, and assembled by Filipino researchers and engineers under the guidance of Japanese experts from Hokkaido University and Tohoku University.


Diwata-1 is a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite set to fly 400 km above the earth. It serves as a training platform and will pave the way for the Filipino team to further develop their skills in the space technology.


Part of the three-year program is the development of a second microsatellite (Diwata 2) to be launched in 2017.

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QUEZON CITY  — The management of the Social Security System (SSS) has come under fire from the Commission on Audit (COA) itself for mismanagement of its funds and assets amouonting to several billions of pesos.


The COA released its report on the agency amidst the SSS officials' insistence supporting President Aquino's veto of an approved bill providing P2,000 additional pension to each of all SSS members who are retirees.


Amidst backlash from the SSS members and the people, the SSS management also insisted on plans to increase SSS individual contributions despite of poor collection record.


In its audit report for 2014, COA listed SSS assets which it observed have been mismanaged and have hindered the pension fund agency from putting their money into profitable investments and from improving its pension and services to millions of contributors.


In its annual audit report covering the year 2014 and early part of 2015, COA said the SSS has foregone an estimated rental income of P198.118 million on properties like land, condominium units and buildings valued at P17.956 billion.


COA said these properties are idle but are incurring fixed costs, such as condominium dues and other utility costs.


The report said that under the investment property account or properties held to earn rental and/or capital appreciation, the SSS owns 102 condominium units in seven condominium buildings in Metro Manila; 44,000 square meters of office space, 16 residential houses and 69 parking lots, all valued at P17.956 billion.


The SSS owns 19 condominium units in Bella Villa, 51 units in Pioneer Highlands, one unit in Renaissance Tower, five units in Cyber One, four units in Bayview Tower, 18 units in Pryce Center and four units in EGI Rufino Plaza.


SSS also owns 44,000 square meter of office space in FCA 5 HK Sun Plaza and 16 office units in Philamlife Tower. It also owns 12 houses in Urdaneta Village Casa Real, and four houses in Urdaneta Village Residential.


SSS also acquired 69 parking lot spaces worth more than P37 million.


COA said these assets are idle and have no lessees, thus, “depriving the SSS of an estimated P198.118 million in a year when occupied/rented, computed based on the lowest rental rate of lessees in the condominium units, office/store spaces, houses or parking lots."


Further, COA said, "the idle/unoccupied properties incurred fixed costs such as association dues, electricity and water bills, repairs and maintenance, and manpower without any return on invested capital."


But COA found more SSS assets that were idle in Davao City.


The SSS also owns 15 units in Pryce Tower located in Pryce Business Park, J.P Laurel, Bajada, Davao City. It is a 15-story condominium building located in the Davao City business district. The SSS acquired the units in 2000 through stock to property swap.


The SSS owns three units in the 7th floor, seven units in the 10th floor, four units in the 14th floor and one unit in the 15th floor with a total floor area of 2,524.15 square meters.


COA, following its ocular inspection, said the units are ideally suitable for office spaces. The units are fairly maintained and with the location, SSS could demand high rental rates. However, of the 15 office condominium units owned by SSS, only one unit is being rented out.


SSS also acquired parking slots, located at the basement of Pryce Tower. Two units of parking slots are allocated to each office condominium. Ocular inspection showed 50 parking slots, while the IAD of SSS recorded 60 parking slots at Pryce Tower. The SSS Housing Asset Management Section (HAMS) Davao, however, reported 45 parking slots only.


SSS also owns 663 units of memorial lots in various measurements in Mt. Apo Garden Memorial Lots in Barangay Calinan, Davao.


COA said most of the memorial lots were not sold or occupied. There were few sales since its acquisition in 2000. According to an SSS personnel in Davao, one reason is only single interment is allowed unlike other memorial gardens that allows more than two interments. Another reason is its very far location from the city proper, thus residents would rather buy memorial lots located in the city.


All 663 memorial lots are idle.


COA also reported that SSS' unsettled dishonored checks continued to increase and have reached a total of P107.738 million in 2014, hence, "members/beneficiaries with deducted premium contributions and/or loans are deprived of timely availment of the social security protection and benefits due them, and the SSS of additional funds to be extended as social security protection and benefits for its members/beneficiaries."


Review of the list of dishonored checks as of November 30, 2014 from the Cash Department revealed a cumulative 3,544 unsettled dishonored checks totaling to P107.737 million, the report said.


Ma. Luisa Sebastian, assistant vice president of SSS, denied the COA allegations, saying it is unfair to say that the SSS has mismanaged the funds of the members.


According to Sebastian, their financial status will show that they have protected their assets, investments and members' contribution for the past six years.


"Hindi namin mainitindihan kung saan galing ang alegasyong hindi tama ang pamamahala naming. Kung titingnan po ang aming financial status, mula P8 billion on average revenue ng 2000 hanggang 2009, from 2010 ang average na natin 33B every year. Dito maipapakita namin maayos ang pamamahala ng pondo ng SSS," Sebastian said.


On the issue of dishonored checks, Sebastian said the SSS legal team has been continually pursuing those individuals or companies with dishonored checks.


She said they have also put up a Fraud Department that validates the checks before these are accepted, and reports are done monthly to ensure dishonored checks are replaced immediately for more efficient collection of contribution.


Sebastian also explained that out of some 93,000 delinquent employers, the SSS has already filed cases against 33,000 delinquent employers and has collected some P468 million.

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QUEZON CITY — After securing the denial of the petition for bail of detained Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. in 2014, Ombudsman prosecutors scored another victory after the Sandiganbayan rejected Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada's petition for bail for his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.


"We welcome this as good development and I extend my congratulations to our prosecutors," Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said, adding that "this is in line with my advocacy to whip the corrupt into line."


In a 215-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division said that the "prosecution has presented strong evidence of guilt against Estrada."


During the bail hearings, prosecutors presented expert witnesses from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Commission on Audit (COA), Field Investigation Office (FIO), local officials as supposed beneficiaries, and whistle-blowers Ruby Tuason, Benhur Luy, Mary Arlene Baltazar, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas.


In finding probable cause against Estrada, the Sandiganbayan said that Estrada's letters and project listings "spurred the release of his PDAF allocations" and that "as soon as the SAROs were released to the implementing agencies, Estrada himself indorsed a particular NGO for implementation."


The post-audit performed by the COA and the field investigation conducted by the Ombudsman's FIO show that Estrada's chosen NGOs, namely: Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI) and Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI) are dubious and that the project implementation turned out to be "bogus."


The FIO validated that "the supposed recipients of the projects denied having received or benefitted from any of the agricultural livelihood programs."


The Sandiganbayan observed that the COA and FIO findings "confirmed the simple yet massive irregularities and anomalies made."


It said that "it should behoove Senator Estrada to fully realize that it was his own legislative fiat which actually determined how such funds were utilized."


"As the lawmaker who pre-selected not only the implementing agency concerned but also went as far as indorsing an amount of buffering should shield Senator Estrada from an apparent liability under the present charge," the Sandiganbayan said.


Likewise, the Sandiganbayan also denied the bail petition of co-accused Janet Lim Napoles.


Napoles is the alleged "brains" behind the PhP10-billion pork barrel and the PhP900-million Malampaya Fund scams.


The Sandiganbayan resolution said that "Senator Estrada's endorsement of SDPFFI and MAMFI provided the crucial edge for Napoles to gain control in the diversion on his PDAF allocations" as "the prosecution evidence at this instance was profuse enough to decipher what was inherently wrong."


The Sandiganbayan threw out Napoles' defense of denial and said that "the prosecution witnesses Luy, Suñas, Sula and Baltazar have positively identified her as the mastermind in organizing the diversion of the PDAF funds."


Expert witness from the AMLC testified that "the control by Napoles over these NGOs became more obvious as fund transfers were directly made from the accounts of SDPFFI and MAMFI to JLN Corporation."


On the existence of conspiracy, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division said that "the conspiracy in the Estrada case was said to resemble the wheel conspiracy" wherein "the diversion of the PDAF allocations was controlled by a single hub, namely: Senator Estrada as the lawmaker who gave the impetus to release his PDAF allocations to favor Napoles who controlled the spokes of the conspiracy through her networking scheme."


The Sandiganbayan added that "primary whistle-blowers Luy, Suñas, Sula, Baltazar and Tuason were just among the many spokes of the wheel, the others being the heads of the implementing agencies, suppliers and others who contributed to the realization of the conduit scheme."


In appreciating the testimony of Tuason, the Sandiganbayan said that "whatever her motives are, Ruby Tuason is plunging deeper and digging the truth of the PDAF scandal."


The Sandiganbayan gave emphasis on its observation that Senator Estrada "did not deny" or "even attempt to deny" Tuason's account of "stealthily handing him the money from the transactions using his PDAF."


The Office of the Ombudsman filed the plunder and graft charges against Estrada in connection with the PDAF scam wherein he allegedly received PhP183 million in kickbacks.


Co-accused Pauline Therese Mary Labayen and John Raymund De Asis remain at-large.

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WASHINGTON ― Senator John McCain criticized the White House for delaying any future “freedom of navigation” patrols near artificial islands that China has built in the disputed South China Sea.


McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said China was continuing to "pursue its territorial ambitions" in the region, including by landing a plane on a man-made island in the Spratly Islands on January 2.


In a statement to Reuters, the Senator from Arizona said the US military's failure to conduct additional patrols last year was "disappointing yet hardly surprising."


He said the President Barack Obama's administration was "either unable to manage the complexities of interagency national security decision making or simply too risk averse to do what is necessary to safeguard the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific."


In October, the Pentagon began conducting patrols within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands.


McCain's complaints come after Chinese foreign ministry officials confirmed on Saturdaythat a test flight by a civilian plane landed on one of the islands, the first time Beijing has used a runway in the area, Reuters reported.


The landing was not a surprise, as China has been building runways on the artificial islands for over a year.


Washington suspects that the islands may be used as military outposts, while Beijing insists that they will serve primarily a humanitarian purpose.


China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which trillion in trade passes annually. However, there are overlapping claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.


After the Chinese plane’s landing, Vietnam launched a formal diplomatic protest, while the Philippines said it is planning to do the same.


"That's the fear, that China will be able take control of the South China Sea and it will affect the freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight," said Philippines Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose. (PNA/Sputnik)

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MANILA ― The camp of Senator Grace Poe has expressed optimism that the Supreme Court (SC) will act swiftly and impartially on the two sets of disqualification cases filed against the lady presidential candidate.


Atty. George Garcia, Poe’s lawyer, made the statement following the SC’s decision to grant the temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the disqualification cases against Poe.


Garcia said the SC, in fact, can rule as early as January on the case of Poe, the presidential race frontrunner based on surveys, who is facing legal hurdles from allies of other presidential contenders.


”Perhaps after the oral arguments on Jan. 19, the SC can immediately make the decision. That’s possible,” Garcia said in a press statement.


The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on Poe’s disqualification cases, as well as the petition to reverse the decision of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, on Jan. 19.


”I believe that because this is a case of transcendental importance, it will be given priority by the SC,” Garcia said.


Despite the SC's being on holiday recess, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno granted Poe's request for relief on Dec. 28, just a few hours after Garcia filed the petition.


The two TROs issued by Sereno, which are effective until further notice from the Court, prevent the Commission on Elections from implementing its decision to cancel Poe's certificate of candidacy for president.


The Supreme Court is expected to uphold the TROs when the Justices convene on Jan. 12.


Poe’s camp has also moved for the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Arturo Brion when the SC conducts the oral arguments. The three magistrates unanimously voted to disqualify her as a senator on the basis of her being a foundling.


Garcia also filed a petition to consolidate the rulings of two Comelec decisions, saying all four petitioners are similarly questioning Poe's natural-born status and residency.


Poe said she trusts the discernment of the justices of the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter on all matters concerning law. She also assured the public that she will respect and abide by the High Court's decision, whatever it may be.


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MANILA ― Two persons were killed in over 700 fireworks and 51 stray-bullet related incidents during the Christmas and New Year revelries.


Seven of the total number of injured victims were children, the youngest was a three-year-old girl from Zamboanga del Norte.


Nine people have been arrested by police for the illegal discharge of firearms, including a policeman and a security guard.


Among the nine suspects were Police Officer 1 Francis Nepomuceno, who fired his service firearm in Sariaya, Quezon last December 22; Erol Cimatu Calivoso, president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen in Pagudpud Ilocos Norte, who fired his .45 pistol on December 25; and Jerry Masaoay Divina, a security guard of Globe Telecom, who fired a homemade .22 revolver last December 26.


Nepomuceno, who is currently out on bail, will also be charged with administrative charges.


Most fireworks-related injuries came from the National Capital Region (NCR) with 243 cases (63 percent), followed by Region 5 (Bicol) with 31 cases (8 percent), and Region 4-A (Calabarzon) with 27 cases (7 percent).


In NCR, most cases were reported from Manila with 73 out of 243 cases (30 percent), 46 cases (19 percent) were from Quezon City and 28 (12 percent) cases from Marikina City.


In Nueva Vizcaya, an eight-year-old boy lost his three fingers after using kwitis.


Three Cebu City residents were hit by stray bullets during the New Year revelries, police said.


Police investigators identified the victims as Jovelyn Pucot of Sitio Kamansi in the hinterland barangay of Mabini; Mary Claire dela Lilan, 12, of Barangay Capitol Site and Janome Diaz, 22, of Barangay Duljo Fatima, all in Cebu City.


Health officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Friday reported zero firecracker related injury but admitted four persons were hurt by stray bullets during the New Year revelry.


Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, ARMM health chief, said two of the stray bullet victims were both minors, a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. The two were injured in the head and arms and remained confined at Jolo Provincial Hospital.


The third stray bullet victim from Jolo was identified as Nadzmier Jikiri, 32, who was hit in his legs. He was released after receiving medical treatment.


In Malabang, Lanao del Sur, a 41-year-old man sustained multiple gunshot wounds in his legs and arms during the revelry. He was rushed to Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

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MAKATI CITY ― The country’s population is projected to increase to 104 million this year as 1.5 million babies are expected to be born, according to the Commission on Population (PopCom)terday.


“The Philippines’ population is 102.4 million at the end of 2015 and this year it is expected to increase to 104 million,” said PopCom executive director Juan Antonio Perez III.


Perez noted the country’s fertility rate, which pertains to the “number of children that a woman wants to have in her lifetime,” had historically been going down. From 1.9 in 2010, it became 1.7 in 2015. 


“We’ll see if it goes below 1.7 (this year).  That means people are choosing to have less children more quickly. That can be attributed to economic situation,” he added.


Women usually want to have two to three children, while men aspire to have three to four. 

Perez said the increase in the population is driven primarily by 23 million women aged 15 to 49 who are of reproductive age.


Perez said in five to 10 years, the country will probably have the “biggest number of women of reproductive age that we will ever see, at 25 to 30 million.”


“We have many five- to 10-year-old girls who are going reproductive in the next five years. We cannot do anything about that. So what we are trying to do is reduce their need for services,” he added.


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MANILA (via PhilAmPress) — The Supreme Court (SC) stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, Dec. 28, from enforcing its decision that disqualified Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares from running in the 2016 presidential polls.


This after the SC issued two separate temporary restraining orders (TROs) stopping the Comelec en banc from removing Poe's name in the list of presidentiables in next year's national elections.


Poe immediately lauded the decision of the High Court for acting expeditiously on her petitions, adding she was humbled and grateful for issuing the TROs.


"I thank the Supreme Court for a just and compassionate decision. From the start, I had put my full faith in the judicial process. The Comelec denied our people their choices in an open election but I am confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the truth and the spirit of the Constitution," said Poe.


The TRO prevents Comelec from disqualifying Poe and removing her name from the ballot in the 2016 election. This also means that Poe, for now, remains a candidate for president.


The TRO was granted on the same day the petition for certiorari was filed by Poe's lawyer George Garcia, who scored the Comelec's haste and timing in issuing two separate decisions granting petitions to disqualify his client.


The poll body had come out with the decision last December 23, the last working day before the long Christmas break, and gave Poe only five days to seek reversal from the Supreme Court.


Poe's lawyer, George Garcia, had earlier pointed out that Comelec's deadline violated the Omnibus Election Code, which states that rulings can only be implemented after 30 days.


"We are confident the SC will honor previous jurisprudence on the rights of foundlings to a country and citizenship. I also pray that they will carefully look into the facts of my residence and my actual physical presence in the country," said Poe.


Garcia said Poe's camp also filed a separate petition asking the three Justices who voted at the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) to inhibit themselves from the proceedings. The three magistrates are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro and Arturo Brion.


Poe said she was hopeful that the Supreme Court will decide the same way it did on her father's case in 2004 and let the people decide for a "truly democratic elections."


The issuance of the TROs came hours after Poe filed two separate petitions for certiorari with prayer for the issuance of a TRO on the poll body's ruling.


Poe thanked the High Court for acting expeditiously on her petition despite being on recess for the holidays until January 10, but its rules allow the Chief Justice to act on urgent petitions, which later on must be upheld by a majority of justices.


SC Public Information Office (PIO) Chief and Spokesman Atty. Theodore O. Te said that the TROs were issued by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal Sereno since the SC is now on recess.


It was learned that the TROs were issued upon the recommendation of the ponente of the cases -- Associate Justices Mariano C. Del Castillo and Marvic F. Leonen.


The TROs issued by Sereno must be confirmed by the SC en banc upon the next en banc session on Jan. 12, 2016.


Aside from this, Sereno has ordered the Comelec and respondents to file its comment within a "non-extendible" period of 10 days from notice.


Likewise, the conduct of the oral arguments was set on Jan. 19, 2016, alongside with the oral arguments in the case of "Rizalito David vs. Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and Poe.

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MANILA — Members of the clergy have slammed the statement of presidential aspirant and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte regarding his plan to revive the death penalty once he is elected to the highest office in the country.


Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said he was shocked upon hearing about the plan, noting that reviving the death penalty by public hanging is against human life and not anymore attuned with the time.


“This is very shocking. At this age and time, doing these atrocities, which are against human life, is a pity precisely because civilization has already moved forward. In short, they seemed to have been born too late and the times of the barbarians are gone,” said the Catholic prelate.


He added, “I don’t agree with Mayor Duterte as far as taking human life so cheaply, so likely as if it is just getting rid of mosquitoes, getting rid of rats and the like. I’m sorry, I hope I’m wrong.”


Cruz said he is saddened that “there will be a candidate of this kind during this century.”


 Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee (CBCP-PAC), said that the presidential aspirant is misinformed that the death penalty prevents crimes.


“Duterte is misled into thinking that death penalty deters crimes. You do not deter crimes by hanging criminals. You deter crimes by having efficient and effective law enforcers, incorruptible judges and lawyers and strict and fearless prison administrators,” he said.


He added, “On impulse, it appears that killing criminals is effective. But if criminals believe that they can buy their freedom, of what use then is the death penalty? Reforming our criminal justice system is the ultimate solution to crimes.”


Duterte revealed that he is planning to revive the death penalty and the public hanging of convicted criminals in the earlier part of his administration if he is elected president.


He added that he would ask Congress to restore the death penalty by hanging in public.

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