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    File photo of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr (center). File photo by Noel Celis/EPA/Pool

    MANILA, Philippines – The late Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr and his wife Bai Lala Uy had illegally amassed P54.9-million worth of properties, according to state investigators, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales wants to seize them and return them to the national treasury.

    Morales directed the filing of a forfeiture case against the estate of the Ampatuan couple acquired in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2007, saying their wealth is "manifestly out of proportion" to the late governor's salary as public official and other legal sources of income.

    A lifestyle check revealed that Ampatuan Sr did not declare the following properties:

    • 15 real estate properties in Cotabato and Davao: P55,134,283.10
    • 25 vehicles: P27,567,000.00
    • 23 firearms: P3,838,000.00.

    Below is the Ombudsman's computation of Ampatuan's illegal wealth:

    Year

    Income

    Expenditures

    Total Expenditures

    Unexplained Wealth

     

     

    Real Property

    Vehicles

    Firearms

     

     

    2002

    310,773.09

    2,338,770.00

    3,209,900.00

    770,000.00

    6,368,670.00

    6,057,896.91

    2003

    1,196,403.67

    2,000,000.00

    1,154,100.00

    200,000.00

    3,354,000.00

    2,157,596.33

    2005

    1,560,327.92

    2,050,000.00

    1,260,000.00

    262,000.00

    3,572,000.00

    2,011,672.08

    2006

    1,560,170.78

    420,000.00

    1,673,000.00

    80,000.00

    2,173,000.00

    612,829.22

    2007

    1,608,120.76

    42,102,753.10

    3,220,900.00

    410,000.00

    18,505,250.00

    44,125,532.34

    TOTAL Unexplained Wealth

    54,965,526.88

     

    Although criminal charges against Ampatuan Sr were dismissed on account of his death in July 2015, Morales said "the government is not precluded from recovering his unexplained wealth. Notably, a petition for forfeiture may still be filed against his estate.”

    Morales based her resolution on Section 2 of Republic Act 1379 which states that "whatever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency an amount of property which is manifestly out of proportion to his salary as such public officer and to his other lawful income and the income from legitimately acquired property, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired.”

    Discrepancies

    It appears that Ampatuan Sr had 3 favorite things he spent his money on: houses, cars, and firearms. He appeared to have a pattern of purchasing them over the years but the Ombudsman found there was a mismatch in his income and spending spree.

    In 2002, for example, Ampatuan Sr was recorded to have earned P310,773 only, but he was able to buy a house in Davao City, two Ford cars paid for in cash, and various firearms with a total amount of P6.3 million.

    In 2003, his recorded income was P1.19 million only, but he was able to buy two Toyota Hilux vans and various firearms, and pay for the renovation of his house in Shariff Aguak for a total expenditure of P3.35 million.

    In 2005, his net income was P1.5 million only, yet he bought a farm lot in Shariff Aguak, a lot in Cotabato City, one Toyota Hilux, and several more firearms, bringing his spending total for that year at  P3.57 million.

    In 2006, his net income was again P1.5 million, but he bought another lot, another car, and more firearms for P2.17 million.

    Finally in 2007, Ampatuan Sr earned P1.6 million but he spent P42 million in acquiring more real estate and improving those he already owned. He also bought a Toyota Hiace, a Toyota Hilux, and two Honda motorcycles totalling P3.22 million. He allegedly paid for all the vehicles in cash.

    Defense

    Before his death, Ampatuan Sr had explained that his wealth was inherited from his father Hadji Aguak Ampatuan who he described as an "affluent man owning several pieces of land, businesses and properties."

    He also said that his periodic income from his farming business allowed him to pay the installments of his acquisitions.

    He also denied owning several properties attributed to him by the Ombudsman's lifestyle check, and defended his non-declaration as being due to his detention in 2009 for being the prime suspect for the Maguindanao massacre.

    He also explained that some of the vehicles found by the lifestyle check belong to relatives and friends who bring them over to the small mechanic shop that he owned. Some of the vehicles, he said, were either non-functional or badly damaged and therefore had no commercial value.

    Ampatuan Sr admitted to owning the firearms but he said they were given to him by friends.

    "There is convincing evidence that he and his family failed to lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income due to their extravagant and ostentatious display of wealth, hence, there is sufficient ground for this Office to institute the appropriate forfeiture proceedings against Ampatuan's estate," Morales said in her resolution.

    Ampatuan Sr died at the age of 74 while on trial for the Maguindanao massacre. He had liver cancer.

    He is one of the more than 100 individuals accused, including his son Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr, in the massacre of 58 people in 2009, believed to have been plotted to thwart the gubernatorial candidacy of rival Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu for the 2010 May elections.

    Mangudadatu sent a convoy of vehicles that included his wife, lawyers, and other female relatives to file his certificate of candidacy in Sultan Kudarat. Thirty-two journalists were present to cover Mangudadatu's candidacy. The convoy, among them two civilian vehicles, was stopped at a hillside by waiting gunmen. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – A post narrating a woman's experience of sexual harassment in public recently went viral on Facebook.

    In a Facebook post that has generated at least 7,000 likes and 3,000 shares as of January 28, *Sandra Dela Cruz recounted how a man touched himself in front of her in a jeepney.

    "Today, I sat in a jeepney wearing a 3/4 sleeve dress with a backpack across my lap and a Mumuso ecobag full of sanitary napkins across my legs. The man sitting in front of me on the jeep suddenly jumped up then slid down, even if the jeep was moving at a regular pace....He had his dick out and he was masturbating," Dela Cruz said in her post dated January 22. 

    The experience caused her anxiety and trauma, Dela Cruz said.

    “My mind blanked out because of shock. Again, in public, broad daylight…. I couldn't decide what to do – I couldn't yell, couldn't say anything, didn’t even think of taking out my pepper spray (which really isn't a smart thing to do),” she recounted. 

    This is not the first time this happened to Dela Cruz. In the same post, she disclosed her first experience of sexual harassment in public 11 years ago. She was just 16 years old then when, while walking along their street in broad daylight, a man who she thought wanted to ask her for directions stopped directly in front of her and “unzipped his fly and took his privates out.” 

    “He said something incomprehensible; when I asked 'Ano po?' he unzipped his fly and took his privates out. He started touching himself in front of me..., Until now, that image is burned in my brain,” she said.

    “Thinking about it now – a man I did not know started touching himself in front of me, in a public place during broad daylight, the very street that I grew up in, a place that I'd always viewed as 'safe' – is that really 'nothing'?” she added.

    What victims should do

    The Philippines has laws regulating acts of sexual harassment such as the Anti-Sexual Harrassment Act of 1995, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act, and the Revised Penal Code on Acts of Lasciviousness. Senator Risa Hontiveros recently filed 3 bills or the "Tres Marias" bills which seek to criminalize online sexual harassment.

    Street harassment is penalized in Quezon City, the first city in Metro Manila to impose such a penalty. A Social Weather Stations (SWS) study in 2016 showed that3 in 5 women were sexually harassed at least once in their lifetime in the city.

    Anecdotal reports shared by Filipino women like Dela Cruz prove that sexual harassment in the Philippines continues. 

    Victims of sexual harassment may file a case with the appropriate Regional Trial Court, designated as a Family Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over cases of violence against women.

    The Philippine Statistics Authority provides assistance to victims of sexual harassment in the agency which includes counselling, referral to agencies offering professional help, and advice or options before the victim files a complaint.

    A victim can address sexual harassment in a number of ways, as suggested by street harassment expert Martha Langelan in her book, Back Off! How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers. Langelan suggested that the victim should show that he or she is neither a passive object of lust nor a hysterical victim. For Langelan, aggressive responses might lead to the harasser becoming aggressive in turn, or dismissing the anti-harassment message.

    This can be done through “all-purpose” statements such as: "Stop harassing. I don’t like it. No one likes it. Show some respect," or “When you say, ‘Hey sexy’, it makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’d prefer just a hello.” 

    A victim may also name the behavior and then make a command: “You’re taking pictures of the women on this train without their consent. It’s incredibly disrespectful. Stop right now.” 

    For Dela Cruz, victims may also document their experience. Taking a photo and noting details such as time, date, location will help the authorities look for the harasser.

    Prevalence of rape culture 

    While her post garnered empathy,  Dela Cruz also received comments that she believes are examples of how “rape culture” is perpetuated in the country. 

    One of the comments dismissed her experiences as harmless since there was “no personal wrong directly done to her” and “no attempt to coerce the victim to do something she didn’t want to do.”

    Others made a case to defend the harrassers by suggesting that they might have a psychological disorder. “The public needs to have awareness on mental health so we could avoid shaming people who could otherwise be suffering from mental illness.

    But even if that was the case, Dela Cruz said that does not mean “we just stand back and 'understand' them.”

    “Does this unproven possibility take away from the fact that we were actually harassed, that we felt violated?” she added. 

    Dela Cruz said she hopes her post can help other women speak out against sexual harassment and rape culture, in general. – Rappler.com 

    *Not her real name


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    PREPAREDNESS. Smart Communications tests its emergency alert system meant to help the public prepare for disasters

    MANILA, Philippines – Did you get a warning alert on your mobile phone recently? No need to panic. It only means your mobile phone is ready to receive emergency alerts in times of calamities and disasters.

    On Thursday, January 26, Smart Communications tested their emergency alert system meant for broadcasting official disaster warning messages from authorized government agencies straight to their clients' mobile phones.

    The goal of the system is to amplify the disaster preperedness efforts of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in times of emergencies and calamities.

     

    The emergency SMS broadcast is in compliance with Republic Act 10639 or The Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act which was signed almost 3 years ago. It mandates all telecommunications service providers to send free mobile alerts in times of natural and man-made disasters and calamities.

    Despite delays in its implementation, telecommunication companies have already started to integrate the warning alert system into their services.

    Globe Telecom, in a press release last December 26, 2016, said they transmitted a total of 11 text messages to warn their customers of potential dangers in their respective areas prior to the landfall of Typhoon Nina. 

    The mobile alert is free and includes the following features:

    • Critical information that affected communities can use to prepare for and respond to disasters

    • Contact information of authorities and responders in affected areas

    • Information on evacuation centers, relief sites, and pick-up points 

    • Up-to-date information provided by state weather bureau PAGASA, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), and NDRRMC 

    How to activate the emergency alerts on your phone

    The alerts will be sent directly to subscribers located within and around affected areas.

    For Android users, just go to your messaging settings and look for “Emergency Alerts” or “Cell Broadcast”. Turn them on.

    For iOS users, update to the latest version first, go to “Notification settings” and scroll all the way down, then turn on “emergency and government alerts". – Enrico Belga Jr/Rappler.com 

    Enrico Belga Jr is a Rappler intern.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Due to incessant rain in upland Bukidnon and in Cagayan de Oro City itself, Mayor Oscar Moreno ordered residents in some flood-prone areas of the city to evacuate on Saturday, January 28.

    "A substantial number of residents are preemptively evacuating in Barangay Cugman," Moreno told Rappler, noting that the city is already on red alert for possible flooding.

    Red alert, an advisory which state weather bureau PAGASA gives, indicates that torrential rainfall of more than 30mm in an hour has been observed and is expected to continue for the next two hours.

    This can be equivalent to 8 gallons of rain per square meter per hour. Continuous rainfall of more than 65 mm for 3 hours can also prompt PAGASA to give this advisory. This means that severe flooding in low-lying areas is expected and residents should start evacuating. (READ: How to use PAGASA’s color-coded rainfall advisory)

    CAGAYAN DE ORO FLOODING. Flood swamps a street in Cagayan de Oro City on January 28, 2017, making travel difficult for motorists. Photo by Rhoel Chaves Conde/CDO City LGU

    Moreno urged other residents in the eastern part of Cagayan de Oro, particularly those who live near creeks that are anticipated to overflow, to seek temporary refuge in designated evacuation centers. 

    Cagayan de Oro City was placed under a state of calamity on January 17, following massive floods triggered by nonstop rains since January 16.

    At least 7 were reported dead in the city and in the province of Misamis Oriental. (READ: Too much rain, garbage, clogged waterways caused Cagayan de Oro flood– Rappler.com




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    CAGAYAN DE ORO FLOODING. Heavy rains flood a street in Cagayan de Oro City on January 28, 2017, making travel difficult for motorists. Photo by Rhoel Chaves Conde/CDO City LGU

    MANILA, Philippines – Evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro City were opened after Mayor Oscar Moreno ordered residents in some flood-prone areas of the city to evacuate on Saturday morning, January 28. (READ: Red alert: Cagayan de Oro orders evacuation in flood-prone areas)

    As of Saturday afternoon, here is the list of safe evacuation centers where affected residents temporarily sought refuge as of 1:20 pm, according to the city government:

    • Bonbon Elementary School - 15 families 
    • Cugman covered court - 5 families
    • Puerto covered court  - 10 families
    • Puerto Elementary School - 10 families
    • Macasandig covered court - 12 families

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in CARAGA has prepositioned at least 11,100 family food packs for the flood victims. The agency has also extended about P 4.3 million worth of assistance to the local government units of the affected areas.

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Alamin ang tungkulin ng lokal at nasyonal na pamahalaan sa panahon ng kalamidad <a href="https://twitter.com/dswdserves">@dswdserves</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/sec_judy">@sec_judy</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DSWDMayMalasakit?src=hash">#DSWDMayMalasakit</a> <a href="https://t.co/eo5bcBLT5J">pic.twitter.com/eo5bcBLT5J</a></p>&mdash; DSWD Caraga (@dswdcaraga) <a href="https://twitter.com/dswdcaraga/status/825219362944528385">January 28, 2017</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    The following responders are already on standby for rescue and relief operations at the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (CDRMMD):

    • Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA) 
    • Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
    • Philippine Air Force (PAF)
    • Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)
    • Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)

    Moreno activated the CDRRMO's Incident Management Team as early as 10 am, Saturday. The city raised the alert system to Red at noon time. The city’s Road and Traffic Administration (RTA), learning from the previous week's experience,  diverted traffic away from the National Highway to an alternate route.

    A Red alert – an advisory given by state weather bureau PAGASA – means that severe flooding in low-lying areas is expected and residents should start evacuating.

    PAGASA has placed Camiguin, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental on Orange alert. It also put the entire CARAGA and Lanao del Sur regions under Orange alert. 

    And Orange alert means that residents in affected areas should be on alert for possible evacuation. Flooding in affected areas is expected. (READ: How to use PAGASA’s color-coded rainfall advisory)

    Cagayan de Oro City was placed under a state of calamity on January 17, following massive floods triggered by nonstop rains since January 16.

    At least 7 were reported dead in the city and in Misamis Oriental.

    Emergency hotlines

    If you need help, contact the following emergency hotlines.

    Agos eBayanihan 2929 free text

    Affected areas in Camiguin, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Misamis Occidental can also send #FloodPH, #RescuePH, and #ReliefPH reports via the Agos eBayanihan platform:

    Smart, Talk & Text, and Sun subscribers can send at least 3 free text messages per day, while succeeding messages will be charged P2.50.

    As part of the country's Emergency Telecommunications Cluster during disasters, the Agos eBayanihan team monitors, verifies, and relays these reports to concerned government agencies.– With a report from Bobby Lagsa/Rappler.com


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    SEARCH AND RESCUE. The city disaster management office has deployed the police and the army for disaster response following flooding in some areas in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo from Cagayan de Oro City Information Office

    MANILA, Philippines – Northern Mindanao police deployed search and rescue teams as heavy rains triggered fresh flooding in Cagayan de Oro City on Saturday, January 28.

    "Our search and rescue personnel and 4 10-wheeler 6X6 trucks are already deployed to help in the evacuation," said Chief Superintendent Agripino Javier, Northern Mindanao Police Regional chief.

    Javier said he ordered the deployment of police search and rescue teams as part of the government's "precautionary measures" to protect residents.

    "We are now taking precautionary measures. We are particularly assisting the CDRRMO and PDRRMO on pre-emptive evacuation as well as managing traffic. We have deployed police personnel on key areas to direct traffic, help stranded motorist and provide assistance to the public," Javier said.

    Regional police spokesperson Superintendent Surki Serenas said that following Javier's directive,  "all police units in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental are on alert and ready for emergency response."

    The Philippine Army also deployed its personnel for humanitarian aid and disaster response.

    State weather bureau  PAGASA earlier announced that a low pressure area and northeast monsoon affecting Mindanao has brought continuous heavy rains over Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro, rendering parts of the Iligan-Cagayan de Oro-Butuan national highway impassable due to flooding.

    The following responders are already on standby for rescue and relief operations at the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department (CDRMMD):

    • Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA) 
    • Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
    • Philippine Air Force (PAF)
    • Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)
    • Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)

    Currently placed under Red alert, torrential rainfall of more than 30 mm in an hour has been observed and is expected to continue for the next two hours in the city. (READ: Red alert: Cagayan de Oro orders evacuation in flood-prone areas)

    Barely a week has passed since Cagayan de Oro City was placed under a state of calamity on January 17, following massive floods triggered by nonstop rains since January 16.

    At least 7 were reported dead in the city and in the province of Misamis Oriental. (READ: Too much rain, garbage, clogged waterways caused Cagayan de Oro flood– Rappler.com

    To report flooding incidents and calls for help, contact:

    • ORO Rescue - 0917 555 924
    • CDRRMO Hotline - (088) 857 4144
    • National Hotline - 911
    • Agos eBayanihan Free SMS - Text <RESCUEPH> <Name of person to be rescued> <Barangay, City/Town, Province> and send to 2929

     


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    MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Accommodating persons with disabilities (PWDs) in higher education has always been an uphill battle. Due to their varying limitations, accepting PWDs has not been easy and for colleges and universities.

    This is the challenge the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (CSB) wishes to overcome with their Center for Inclusive Education.

    "We want to create a society that's not just thought of us equal but equitable. We want to make sure that people who need support to be able to access higher education get the necessary support that they need to be able to access it," said Dr Catherine Deen, the center's director.

    CSB's advocacy towards inclusive education started in 1991 when they introduced a short course for persons with hearing disabilities. This was developed into a full program by 2000 and eventually became the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies.

    From accomodating only those with hearing impairment, the college has expanded its reach to persons with different disabilities such as visual and orthopedic impairments, learning disabilities and autism.

    Services and facilities

    All courses are open for PWD students so long as they pass the entrance exam of the school. Deen said they give special examination for these students as long as there is formal diagnosis of their condition. They are also provide with a special test center that is free from distractions.

    Upon entry, they offer their main service – case management – to their students. They work with the doctors and parents to identify the students' needs and monitor them to ensure they successfully finish their courses.

    Those with doctors' recommendations are also given consideration by pacing their course load and extending the time they need to finish their education.

    Aside from these services, the school also set up PWD-friendly facilities for their students, such as a ramp for wheelchair-bound students, a braille printer, and an exclusive learning center for distraction-free studying. (READ: Cavite, Cebu schools prepare PWDs for employment

    STUDENT LEARNING CENTER. Students of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde have access to the Student Learning Center, a learning resource that offers free tutorials and other learning services. Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler

    Ramps are a common sighting inside De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde for wheelchair-bound students.

    A braille material printer for visually-impaired students.

    Incheon declaration

    Despite the big strides they are making in pushing for inclusive education, Deen said this advocacy still has a long way to go in the Philippines.

    Some of the challenges she cited – which they are experiencing themselves – are the lack of willingness among teachers to teach PWDs, students concealing their condition, and failure to get employment after college, a scenarios also present in most higher education institutions. (READ: Job matching site promotes employment for PWDs)

    But while they are working on these limitations, the government also has to do its part in advocating inclusive education. The Philippines is one of the signatories in the United Nations' 2015 Incheon Declaration that seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all" by 2030.

    Lagging behind

    Currently, the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA) only has a list of 10 colleges and universities in Metro Manila accept PWDs. Not all of these higher education institutions accomodate a wide range of disabilities.

    NCDA Chief Information Officer Rizalio Sanchez said pushing for schools to be PWD-friendly, is difficult for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) because institutions – both public and private – are in a way autonomous. CHED, however, is offering scholarships for PWDs taking 4-year courses to alleviate their struggles in schooling.

    Although NCDA continues to campaign for inclusive education, the government has yet to make this a priority. He said the Philippines is extremely lagging behind when it comes to programs for PWDs. (READ: LGU empowers persons with autism through employment)

    "When I went to Japan for a training in 1996, they said we are 20 years behind in our disability programs. When I went to Korea in 2008, they said we are 10 times more developed than them in 1960s but now we are 6 times poorer," said Sanchez.

    Sanchez said PWDs, like abled bodies, has dreams they wish to fulfill and rights they are entitled to that the government must ensure to provide. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – Disaster responders are coming to the rescue of Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) or Project NOAH, the government’s flagship platform for natural disaster information, which is under threat of being phased out. 

    As news that Project NOAH is facing shutdown by March spread on Sunday, January 29, rescuers and disaster risk reduction (DRR) advocates urged President Rodrigo Duterte to save the initiative under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). (READ: Gov't to stop Project NOAH due to 'lack of funds')

    "I ask you to rally with me to retain this program in the government as it benefited all of us in (terms of) the science of knowing (about the) hazards affecting our communities,” Dr Ted Esguerra, founder of the Wilderness Search and Rescue Philippines, Inc (WISAR), said in a Facebook post.

    "Let us pray that the good President Rody Duterte will check on this matter,” Esguerra said.

    On Monday afternoon, the DOST issued a statement, saying Project NOAH had reached its "project end date" and should now be turned over to the weather bureau PAGASA "for adoption and use."

    Local governments defend Project NOAH

    Local disaster risk reduction managers and advocates echoed Esguerra’s call, arguing that Project NOAH had provided them with critical information that helped in warning residents of risks. 

    In Northern Mindanao and Caraga, where various areas were recently swamped by floods due to the tail-end of a cold front, Project NOAH served as a guide for preparedness and response efforts.

    "It is very useful to us in Malaybalay City and Bukidnon province. It [gives] us advance warning in our area of responsibility so we can prepare ahead of time [to achieve] zero casualty. If this one will be dissolved, we will be blind in our disaster preparedness program,” according to Alan Julaily Comiso, an officer of the Malaybalay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO).

    Former Butuan City Public Information Office (PIO) head Jenny Michelle Mix is hopeful that President Duterte will save NOAH if the project needs more funding.

    "This is sad news because we always use it here in Butuan and Caraga. We’ve been experiencing flooding here for nearly two weeks already," Mix said. 

    The local government unit has been relying on Project NOAH's Doppler radars and automated rain gauges to prepare for flooding, she added. 

    In Tuguegarao City, the platform has helped disaster managers achieve "zero casualty" after 3 major typhoons, including Typhoon Lawin (Haima).

    "With the help of Project NOAH, we are updated with the water level not just in our city but also in upstream areas," Angelo Suyu of the Tuguegarao City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said.

    The same technology made geology student RL Abanza more confident in sharing weather-related information on social media.  "One of the great features of the system is that they provide real-time rainfall contour maps together with near real-time Doppler images, which are of big help in the planning of our travels and in disseminating critical disaster information," Abanza said in a blog post on X.

    "My weather-related posts are of considerable accuracy thanks to the data from the Project NOAH website," he said.

    Averted disasters

    NOAH undertakes disaster science research and development, use cutting edge technologies, and recommend information services for the government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts.

    "They  may have bits and pieces of what we have in NOAH, but in terms of the holistic approach, we address the problem of warning which needs to be accurate, reliable, understandable, and timely," Dr Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project NOAH, told Rappler in an earlier interview.

    "We’re also looking at the element of getting the communities to make the appropriate response, and that element is very important to match the warning because if the response is inappropriate, it may lead to loss of lives," Lagmay added.

    Since it was introduced in 2012, the risks of at least 13 severe hazard events, including Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) in 2014, have been reduced with the help of Project NOAH. (READ: How a small Samar town survived deadly storm surges).

    "Events like the rise in water level of a river by as much as 10 meters, and in many cases all over the Philippines, that happened but because of warnings given by NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) through information provided by Project NOAH with real-time technology such as the sensors, water level sensors, and satellite information, we were able to avert disasters," Lagmay said.

    'Take care of scientists'

    However, the future of the project is now unclear. On Sunday, Lagmay confirmed that Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officials informed his team that their request for extenstion would not be approved. 

    "We just made an appeal. But we lost 40 well-trained, skilled and experienced scientists," Lagmay said in a text message.

    "DOST must take care of its scientists. Human resources are more important than technology," Lagman said. 

    According to Lagmay, this situation has begun under the Aquino administration, when mid-level officials of the DOST, who are still in government, told them there were no funds for the project.

    The program was established in 2012 in response to former president Benigno Aquino III's instructions to provide "a more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system, especially in high-risk areas" throughout the country.

    Among other hazards, an average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, constantly threatening a developing economy and endangering millions of people living in vulnerable areas. – Rappler.com

     

     


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    MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The University of Santo Tomas Office for Student Affairs (OSA) has received flak from a post that went viral.

    On Sunday, January 29, Geo Celestino narrated on Facebook how the Social Welfare and Development Board (SWDB) in UST wrongly accused his sister and sexual harassment victim Yssa Celestino, of "falsely accusing another student of wrongdoing." The SWDB is under the university's OSA.

    Celestino, a third year student from the College of Fine Arts and Design in UST, was reportedly molested by a fifth year UST Engineering student.

    Geo Celestino's Facebook post got shared over 30,000 times. It also garnered at least 35,000 reactions and 2,100 comments as of posting. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in the Philippines)

     

    Incident

    It all started when, one night in June 2016 after school, Yssa Celestino fell asleep on the ride home while on board a UV express vehicle. She reportedly then felt a hand up her legs. When asked why she did not stop the man who was molesting her, Geo said his sister wasn't sure anyone would believe her.

    “What if I was only imagining this? What if hindi maniwala sa’kin mga kasama ko dito sa UV express? What if mapahiya lang ako? What if hindi naman pala sinasadya ni Kuya na hipuan ako, na baka inaantok lang din siya?” Yssa Celestino reportedly said, according to the viral Facebook post.

    (What if they do not believe me? What if I only end up humiliating myself? What if the molester did not intend to harass me – and he was also just sleepy?) 

    Instead of confronting the perpetrator, Yssa shook her leg instead. But this did not stop the molester who apparently was another student from UST.

    “And then she said she felt him again touch her leg. Now there were a million other choices that she could’ve made at that time, but what my sister did was take a picture of this molester,” Geo Celestino said in his post.

    Yssa then posted the photo on Twitter and urged fellow UST students to take care when commuting home.

    Blaming the victim?

    Things escalated when, after the photo on Twitter went viral, the UST SWDB summoned and questioned Yssa about her intentions in posting the photo.

    “Her well-meaning gesture was being questioned, and the case I mentioned at the start of this prose was filed against her. The process dragged on, and my sister who was already enduring the tough demands of CFAD to be a good student, just wanted to get things over with,” Geo added.

    According to the elder Celestino, his sister’s explanations to the UST SWDB fell on deaf ears.

    He added that the hearing dragged on for months until, on the last day of the hearing, Yssa Celestino was asked to apologize to the graduating UST student.

    On Friday, January 27, their parents received a “Notice of Resolution.” Their parents needed to affix their signatures, signifying they accept the results of the hearing.

    Geo Celestino, in an interview with Rappler, said that their family decided to seek legal counsel regarding the matter. They also met two lawyers from Gabriela, a progressive women's group, a day after the post went viral on Facebook. 

    Statement from UST

    In a statement, UST OSA Director Associate Professor Giovanna V. Fontanilla said they have investigated the administrative case involving Yssa Celestino. According to Fontanilla, the facts and evidence that Geo Celestino revealed in his viral post do not conform with their records on file. 

    "The University is under obligation to maintain and keep the confidentiality of student discipline cases, hence, it is with deep regard that it cannot reveal any details of the case except to say that the due process requirements under the law and jurispridence were observed and duly complied with," Fontanilla added.

    In a report by the Varsitarian, UST's school publication, secretary to the SWDB director Angelica Guazon also stressed that the board followed standard operating procedures during the investigation. 

    According to official reports in the Philippines, 58% of incidents of sexual harassment happen on the streets, major roads, and eskinitas (alleys). Physical forms of sexual harassment occur mostly in public transport. 

    Sexual harassment can be punished under Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, and the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on Acts of Lasciviousness.

    RA 7877 penalizes sexual harassment with imprisonment of 1 to 6 months, a fine of P10,000 to P20,000, or both. Acts of lasciviousness, on the other hand, would mean imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code. – Rappler.com 


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    HIGHER WAGES. Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissiner Jesus Clint Aranas seeks for the bureau to be exempted from the Salary Standardization Law. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – How do you curb corruption in the country’s biggest tax-collection agency? 

    Exempt tax collectors from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

    A competitive salary package for tax collectors is the answer, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissioner Jesus Clint Aranas said in a tax forum on Wednesday, February 1, in Pasay City.

    Aranas said that salaries play a big part in professionalizing the bureau, noting that personnel with lower salaries are the ones who "most likely" give in to corrupt practices. 

    "If you have a noncompliant taxpayer and a revenue examiner with a low salary, that's where corruption starts," the deputy commissioner said. (READ: Impact of corruption on the Philippines

    A bill that was recently submitted to Congress seeks to exempt BIR from the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) to enable the agency to adopt its own compensation packages that are comparable with the private sector. 

    "We need more decent people at the revenue service. The only way to eradicate corruption is to standardize salaries," he said.

    Undermanned agency

    According to Aranas, tax administration is difficult because the agency is undermanned. He noted that the BIR's compensation packages have discouraged professionals from joining the agency.

    The deputy commissioner said that some certified public accountants in the bureau earn a net of P14,000 a month, which is way below hiring rates in the private sector. BIR'S proposal allows for competitive salary packages as much as P60,000 a month for an accountant, he said.

    The BIR currently has about 10,000 employees while there are more than 11,000 posts that are yet to be filled. 

    "No one is interested. We're always the last option. Otherwise, we won't have this kind of vacancy," he said.

    Abolish BIR?

    Asked whether he welcomes the idea of abolishing the BIR, Aranas said he is open to it if overhauling the agency will help reduce corruption and stabilize the tax system. (READ: #AskTheTaxWhiz: Can we really stop corruption in BIR?)

    Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently filed a bill that will replace the BIR with the National Revenue Agency. The proposal seeks to further "professionalize" the agency and to improve tax collection to reduce the country's deficit.

    BIR is considered among the corrupt agencies in the government. Aranas claimed that sums of money lost to corruption exceed what the agency is actually able to collect. 

    "The other way is to discipline them. But even if you discipline a hundred children, those children will still be hungry," the deputy commissioner said.

    "Money is the root cause," he added.

    In a 2013 survey, the Office of the Ombudsman found that one in every 20 Filipino families paid a bribe or grease money when transacting with a government agency.

    To stop this practice, Aranas also urged business executives during the forum to pay the right taxes on schedule.

    "Just be compliant. The system works if you make it work for you," he said. – Rappler.com  


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    PRAYER. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles (second from the right) leads a series of prayer for Secretary Gina Lopez and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. All photos by Cathrine Gonzales

    MANILA, Philippines – Around a hundred priests, lay ministers, and farmers gathered at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, February 2, to rally in support of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez.

    The group, led by Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Batangas, claimed that many are calling for the dismissal of Lopez due to her strong views against mining and other environmental issues. (READ: Investors in mining panic over Gina Lopez appointment)

    Sinusuportahan po namin si Gina Lopez bilang Secretary ng DENR sapagkat maraming gusto siyang paalisin,” Arguelles said. “Hiling natin kay President Digong na huwag siyang alisin sapagkat makabayan po talaga si Secretary Gina. Iniisip niya ang kapakanan ng mga mahihirap.”

    (We support Gina Lopez as Secretary of the DENR because many people want her out. Our request to President Digong is to not remove her because Secretary Gina is really nationalistic. She thinks of the welfare of the poor.)

    He also lauded Lopez for "cleaning up" the DENR, adding that some employees of the agency reportedly received bribes under past administrations.

    Most of Lopez's supporters came from Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Antipolo, and Quezon. Arguelles said that in Batangas, Lopez has always been their partner in fighting mining and quarrying. 

    The priests also led a prayer walk from Quezon City Circle to the DENR Central Office for Lopez.

    The rally for Lopez was held on the same day that the environment chief released her department's final mining audit report. (READ: DENR announces closure of 23 mining operations)

    People's ally

    Francisca Edma, a 70-year-old farmer from Quezon, expressed her support for Lopez and her advocacies.

    Ang nais po namin ay siya na talaga. Kase po sabi niya sa amin, siya ay kapanalig ng mga nag-aalaga ng kalikasan (We really want her [as DENR secretary]. It’s because she said to us that she is an ally of the people in looking after the environment),” she said.

    SUPPORT. Priests, lay ministers, and farmers all wore red as they gathered at the DENR Central Office as support for Secretary Gina Lopez.

    Edma said  Lopez, through advocacies and projects, will help communities prepare for typhoons, and prevent possible future tragedies. In 2004, Edma nearly lost her entire house due to the extreme flooding caused by a typhoon. 

    Natatakot kami kapag sinira ang kagubatan dahil baka umulit na naman ‘yong bahang ‘yon. Maapektuhan na naman ang aming kabuhayan, ‘yong aming lupain doon (We are afraid that if the forest is destroyed, that flooding may happen again. Our livelihood and lands will be affected again),” she said.  

    Asked of what she thinks of people who want Lopez’ removal, she said, “Hindi nila maintindihan. Hindi nila maintindihan kung ano 'yung kalagayan ng mga tao lalo’t higit po sa amin sa kabundukan, 'yung mga katutubo. Napakalaki pong perwisyo kapag 'yung aming kabundukan ay nasira.”

    (They can’t understand the situation of the people, especially to us who live in the mountains, the indigenous people. If our mountains are destroyed, there would be so much damage.)

    Duty to God

    For Archbishop Arguelles, fighting for the environment is a duty to God. 

    Sana ang mga naiwan dito sa DENR at ipagtanggol talaga (ang kalikasan). Sapagkat ito’y katungkulan natin hindi lamang sa bayan, hindi lamang sa mga papalit sa atin sa mundong ito, kundi sa Panginoong Diyos dahil haharap tayo sa kanya sa darating na panahon,” he said.

    (We hope those left in the DENR will really fight for the environment. This is a duty not just to the nation, not just to the next generation, but also to God because we will face him later on.)

    case was filed against Lopez before the Ombudsman on January 10, for allegedly ignoring information that the agency's air quality monitoring machines are defective. Lopez had said that the DENR is investigating the claim. – Rappler.com 

    Cathrine Gonzales is a Rappler intern studying journalism at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.


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    MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office for violating  PAO's legal mandate to provide legal services for free.

    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in a statement on Thursday, February 2, that Jennifer Garcia-Laudencia of PAO San Jose in Occidental Mindoro is guilty of grave misconduct for charging P6,000 to prepare her clients' counter-affidavit, and P3,000 for preparing the rejoinder.

    The complaint was filed by spouses Rodolfo and Maira Abrea. They also alleged that Laudencia tried to solicit P25,000 from them, supposedly to pay off the prosecutor to get their charges dismissed.

    In her counter-affidavit, Laudencia said the Abreas' allegations are unsubstantiated.

    State investigators said there is reasonable ground to charge Laudencia of the misconduct. 

    "The standard of substantial evidence is satisfied when there is reasonable ground to believe that a person is responsible for the misconduct complained of, even if such evidence might not be overwhelming or even preponderant, as in the present case," the Ombudsman said in the resolution.

    Another basis for her dismissal is the complaint that she gave legal services to a person who was not an indigent. PAO lawyers are mandated by law to assist, free of charge, indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative.and other quasi-judicial cases.

    Laudencia represented a certain Mike Tiu Santiago even when he didn't pass the "indigency test." Laudencia said Santiago possessed an affidavit of indigency, but the Ombudsman said that was not enough.

    "The PAO Operations Manual requires submission of proof of income such as income tax returns, or certificate of indigency from the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the Barangay Chairman,” said Morales.

    Laudencia was slapped with several complaints that sought her dismissmal, including giving legal assistance to a drug inmate at the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm (SPPF), and that she assisted SPPF employees even when she blocked their impending relief for the death of an inmate inside prison.

    Other complainants alleged that these indicate that she is a protector of inmates and guards inside SPPF responsible for the proliferation of drugs inside the prison.

    The Ombudsman said these other allegations, however, were unsubstantiated.

    This is one of the many allegations of corruption against lawyers and court employees. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had promised to clean their ranks.

    The Supreme Court has disbarred 40 lawyers as of September 2016. It has also suspended 224 lawyers and 33 notarial practices.

    From 2012 to 2016, SC has also dismissed 116 court employees, and suspended 227. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft Sandiganbayan has affirmed the graft charges against former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation chairman Efraim Genuino that stemmed from the alleged misuse of P37 million worth of Pagcor funds in 2012.

    In denying Genuino's motion for judicial determination, the Sandiganbayan's Special Third Division will proceed with the graft case against Genuino for releasing P37 million for the training of the national swimming team in 2012 without the approval of the Pagcor board.

    The court said Genuino’s camp did not present any new argument.

    The court had already issued an arrest order and a hold departure order against Genuino, who has posted bail. (READ: Ex-Pagcor chief charged with graft asks permission for overseas trips)

    The justices explained that the court's decision to order his arrest means it had already determined probable cause. The court said that to file a motion for judicial determination is a “superfluity if not a deliberate attempt to cut short the process by asking the judge to weigh in on the evidence without a full-blown trial.”

    Genuino argued that there is no proof that he signed Pagcor’s checks payable to the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA). 

    Genuino added that as chairman, he was a mandatory signatory to bank accounts but this didn't mean there is probable cause to order his arrest.

    He also argued that just because he was the chairman did not automatically make him liable for crimes committed inside his office.

    The Ombudsman also noted that the swimmers used the sports facility Trace Aquatic Center (TAC), which is owned by Genuino and his family.

    Because of this, he was also charged of violating Section 3(h) of the graft law which penalizes a public officer for “indirectly having financing or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”

    Genuino argued that TAC is a “non-stock” company where all incorporators do not profit. He also said he inhibited himself from all Pagcor board meetings involving the national swimmers.

    In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan said Genuino might have just inhibited from the meetings precisely because he knew the swimmers were going to use the family-owned TAC facility.

    The court added that Genuino never disclosed to the board that he has a “substantial interest" in TAC.

    The justices added that Genuino’s inhibition in deliberations involving the financial assistance to swimmers “was all for show as he subsequently authorized the disbursements.”

    Genuino, who served as Pagcor chief until 2010 under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is accused of turning Pagcor into a "milking cow" and is facing charges.

    The Department of Justice filed criminal complaints against him in 2012 for allegedly donating Pagcor funds amounting to P186 million to a charity he founded. He also allegedly spent P26.7 million in casino funds to buy tickets for a film co-produced by his charity and diverted rice donations for typhoon victims to help the election campaigns of his two sons. – Rappler.com 


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    MANILA, Philippines – A total of 140 local government offices received an "excellent" rating from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for its delivery of frontline services.

    This comprises 12.62% of the 1,109 service offices in CSC's 2016 Report Card Survey, published on Monday, January 30. An additional 15 offices were rated "outstanding" in terms of providing government service.

    Meanwhile, 127 offices (or 11.45%) got a failed rating for not meeting benchmarks to comply with Republic Act 9485 or the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA).

    A big majority of the offices in the survey, numbering 739 (66.64%), obtained a "good" rating, while 88 received an "acceptable" rating.

    The Report Card Survey, conducted from March to December 2016, rated the service delivery of select cities and municipalities, barangays, local water districts, state universities and colleges (SUC), and branches of the Land Bank of the Philippines, a government-owned and controlled corporation.

    The CSC said these offices were graded for their compliance with the Anti-Red Tape Act, such as the posting of a Citizen's Charter, observing the No Noon Break Policy, wearing of IDs or nameplates, having public assistance desks, and having anti-fixer initiatives.

    The survey also gave scores based on clients' overall satisfaction, in terms of quality of service and feedback on facilities and the physical layout of the office.

    CSC Public Assistance and Information Office director Maria Luisa Agamata told Rappler on Thursday, February 2, that the survey results were "relatively good," given the number of offices that got high ratings.

    For offices that were rated "excellent", Agamata said that there is a bigger challenge for them to maintain that rating.

    On the other hand, Agamata warned offices that got a "failed" rating, "If they would not be able to improve their services, under the provisions of the Anti-Red Tape Act, they [officials] may be dismissed for neglect of duty or failure [to render services]."

    Agamata then said that the CSC has a mechanism called the Service Delivery Excellence Program to assist in improving frontline services. She added that the agency can also help in streamlining processes like the approval of business permits.

    Top 10

    These are the top 10 offices in each category in the 2016 Report Card Survey, along with their corresponding scores. All are rated as "excellent" by the CSC, except for the top 10 SUCs, which garnered a "good" rating. The complete list of service offices and the corresponding ratings can be found on CSC's website.

    Cities and municipalities

    1. Santiago City, Isabela – 96.45
    2. Tagum City, Davao del Norte – 95.59
    3. Arayat, Pampanga – 94.74
    4. Mamasapano, Maguindanao – 94.67
    5. Dolores, Abra – 94.65
    6. Iriga City, Camarines Sur – 94.64
    7. Talipao, Sulu – 94.56
    8. Labo, Camarines Norte – 94.44
    9. Lal-lo, Cagayan – 94.4
    10. Mati City, Davao Oriental – 93.81

    A total of 597 first to sixth-class cities and municipalities were rated for issuance of business permits and licenses, and the delivery of health and civil registry services.

    Barangays

    1. Calao West, Santiago City, Isabela – 96.55
    2. Madaya, Maguing, Lanao del Sur – 96
    3. Barangay 57, Dap-dap, Legazpi City, Albay – 95.81
    4. Osmeña, Ilagan City, Isabela – 94.47
    5. Limo-ok, Lamitan City, Basilan – 94.42
    6. Aurora West, Diffun, Quirino – 94.26
    7. Atulayan Sur, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan – 93.84
    8. Santa Maria, Lal-lo, Cagayan – 93.69
    9. San Antonio, Pili, Camarines Sur – 93.42
    10. San Juan, Iriga City, Camarines Sur – 93.27

    A total of 146 barangays in the surveyed cities and towns were rated for issuance of barangay certificates/clearances and business tax permits, as well as the delivery of health services.

    Local water districts

    1. Silay City Water District, Negros Occidental – 92.92
    2. Concepcion Water District, Tarlac – 92.84
    3. Casiguran Water District, Sorsogon – 92.7
    4. Metro Kalibo Water District, Aklan – 92.59
    5. Isabela City Water District, Basilan – 92.35
    6. Plaridel Water District, Bulacan – 92.25
    7. General Santos City Water District, South Cotabato – 92.05
    8. Victorias Water District, Negros Occidental – 91.94
    9. Lamitan Water District, Basilan – 91.71
    10. Himamaylan Water District, Negros Occidental – 91.66

    A total of 213 water districts were rated for its performance in the application and installation of new service connection, office collection or water bill payment, and processing of requests for service or reconnection.

    State universities and colleges (SUC)

    1. West Visayas State University – 87.72
    2. Mariano Marcos State University (Ilocos Norte) – 85.7
    3. Central Philipiine State University (CPSU) (Main Campus) – 85.63
    4. Aklan State University (Kalibo Campus) – 85.38
    5. University of the Philippines Visayas (Miag-ao Campus, Iloilo) – 85.27
    6. Surigao del Sur State University – 85.07
    7. University of the Philippines (Diliman) – 84.87
    8. Northern Negros State College of Science and Technology (Cadiz Campus) – 84.54
    9. Iloilo Science and Technology University (La Paz) – 84.38
    10. Aklan State University (Main Campus) – 83.62

    A total of 53 SUCs were graded for its delivery of registrar and student services.

    Land Bank branches

    1. San Isidro Branch, Isabela – 93.49
    2. Camp Crame Branch, Quezon City – 93.34
    3. Goa Branch, Camarines Sur – 92.91
    4. Malabon Branch, Malabon City – 92.88
    5. Jaro Branch, Iloilo – 92.67
    6. Roxas Branch, Isabela – 92.58 (tied)
    7. Sipalay Branch, Negros Occidental – 92.58 (tied)
    8. Don Carlos Branch, Bukidnon – 92.11
    9. Camiling Branch, Tarlac – 92.07
    10. Katipunan Branch, Quezon City – 91.64

    A total of 100 Land Bank branches were rated for select frontline services, such as the opening of bank accounts and the online collection of payments to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

    An "excellent" rating is equal to a numerical rating from 90 to 100, with no delinquent score in any sub-area or item on CSC's report card. An "outstanding" rating has the same numerical rating range, but with a delinquent score in any sub-area or item.

    A "good" rating means an office got a score from 80 to 89.99, while an "acceptable" rating means it obtained a score from 70 to 79.99.

    A "failed" rating is equivalent to a score of 69.99 below, or with a failed score in any of the two core areas (ARTA compliance and overall client satisfaction) on the report card. – Rappler.com

    Do you know any instances of corruption or want to commend good practices by public officials? You can send us the details by visiting www.fightcorruption.ph or by filling up the form below:


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    SOLAR POWER. Gaisano Capital Mall is now equipped with a 103-megawatt solar rooftop system that can supply up to 50% of the mall’s daytime load. Photo courtesy of Gaisano Capital

    ILOILO CITY, Philippines – To cut the high cost of electricity in the city, more establishments here are converting to clean energy, specifically solar power.

    Despite the recent drop in power rates from around P13.50 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2010 to P10.26 per (kWh) in 2016, Iloilo City’s power rates are still among the most expensive in the country.

    Increased economic activities in the city are projected to create more demand for power. But issues raised against the cost of power and the environmental impact of coal power plants are seen to hamper the crucial delivery of power requirements in the region.

    Iloilo city officials, led by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, welcomed the move in view of the increasing demand for cheaper power sources, It also in line with the city’s commitment for more environment-friendly establishments in the fast-growing business capital in the Visayas.

    Robinson's Place Iloilo

    Gokongwei Group-led Robinson's Land Corporation (RLC) partnered with Solenergy Systems Inc for a 613-kilowatt peak solar power system expected to generate 815 megawatt (MW) hours annually for it’s mall in Iloilo, beginning December 2016.

    Robinson’s Iloilo converted its rooftop into a solar plant with 2,404 pieces of solar panels, making it one of the biggest grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) installation in the city.

    GREEN MALL. Robinsons Place Iloilo completed its rooftop solar plant in December 2016. Photo courtesy of Robinsons Place Iloilo

    RLC General manager for Corporate Energy Cesar Camaongay said such projects respond to concerns over the high cost of power in the region, and complements RLC’s promotion for renewable energy sources. 

    While offsetting peak loads during the day, the added layer of solar panels on the roof will also improve the malls' cooling load. The system is expected to generate savings of around P1 million ($20,000) a month.

    More importantly, the solar power system is seen to mitigate 490 metric tons of CO2 emissions a year.

    This is the second RLC mall, after Robinson's Place Palawan, to convert to solar energy. Similar projects are in place in other Robinson’s malls in Antique, Roxas, and Dumaguete.

    Gaisano Iloilo

    Gaisano Capital, in partnership with Lopez-led Energy Development Corporation, unveiled the largest solar rooftop system in the province in its mall in La Paz District, Iloilo City, in January 2017.

    The mall is now equipped with a 103-MW solar rooftop system that can supply up to 50% of the mall’s daytime load.

    “The solar rooftop systems have come down in price and will continue to do so. We will harness solar so we can provide cleaner and more affordable energy options to our customers. Both the customers and environment win so it’s a business we are committed to,” EDC President and COO Richard Tantoco said.

    As the system does not use fossil fuels, it will help cut carbon dioxide emissions by around 770 metric tons annually.

    “We are happy to see the completion of our largest solar rooftop project and provide added value to our La Paz customers. We are one with EDC in promoting the use of and enhancing our operations with cleaner energy technologies. This is our own contribution to reduce the negative impacts of climate change,” said Gaisano Capital Vice President for Operations Edmund Gaisano Jr.

    EDC and Gaisano Capital have finalized agreements for the installation of similar solar rooftop systems in the latter’s 5 other malls in Panay island. 

    Renewable region

    The first-ever solar power plant in the entire Panay and Guimaras Island was inaugurated in Miag-ao town in Iloilo, in September 2016.

    Located in Barangay Naratan-an, around 7 kilometers from the town proper,  the solar plant can deliver up to 5.67 MW of renewable energy.

    Cosmo Solar Energy Incorporated plans to expand the plant, currently on a 15-hectare lot, to an additional 15 hectares, which would increase its capacity to 10 MW. 

    A wind farm is also being built in neighboring Guimaras province that is said to be capable of generating 54 MW of wind energy. Led by Tran-Asia Power Generation Corporation, a total of 27 windmills are currently found in the town of San Lorenzo – each with a capacity of generating up to 20 MW.

    Some 23 more windmills are expected to be constructed in the towns of Sibunag and Nue Valencia this year. 

    Meanwhile, in Antique province, Sunwest Water and Electric Company Incorporated is constructing an 8MW hydropower plant along Paliuan River in Barangay Igsoro, Bugasong.

    These initiatives will be fully operational this 2017 and are expected to help answer the call for alternative energy sources amid the growing power needs of the region. – Rappler.com

    Russel Patina is one of Rappler's lead Movers in Iloilo.


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    COMPLETE ATTENDANCE. Both parents accompany Kaye Pauline (L) and Kate Julianne Larroder (R) to 2017 National Schools Press Conference in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. Photo by Vina Salazar/Rappler

    ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, Philippines – Among the 5,000 campus journalists in this year's National Schools Press Conference in Zamboanga del Sur, there were two Ilongga sisters who had worked their way up to the nationals for 5 straight years.

    Kate Julianne Larroder, a Grade 7 student from University of the Philippines High School-Iloilo, is only 12 but it's her fifth consecutive time competing in the NSPC.

    With her is her elder sister and her teammate, Kaye Pauline, a Grade 9 student also of UPHS-Iloilo. At 15, she, too, is a seasoned campus journalist. It's her fourth NSPC.

    Even with limited resources, the sisters excelled in academics and bagged awards from competitions. They said they were lucky to have supportive parents and relatives who helped them financially. (READ: #NSPC2017: A thousand stories of hard work, hope, and excellence)

    The Larroder sisters have been recipients of the region's Most Outstanding Campus Journalist award. Kaye Pauline received the award for secondary level in 2014, while Kate Julianne was awarded for the elementary level in 2016.

    Since 2013, the Larroder sisters have been representing Western Visayas at the annual campus journalism tilt. They obtained their elementary school education at the SPED Integrated School for Exceptional Children in Iloilo City, and then transferred to UPHS-Iloilo for secondary education.  

    Start 'em young

    FIFTH TIMER. This year's NSPC is Kate Julianne's fifth time joining as a competitor. Photo by Vina Salazar/Rappler

    For the sisters, age does not matter. "I started at the age of 8 and the result of our performance was not that bad. In the next few years, I enhanced my skills; I won awards. I made my parents proud," said Kate Julianne, the younger of the two.

    Their NSPC journey together all started when their elementary school's radio broadcasting team needed a replacement for the nationals. Kaye Pauline was part of the original competing group but Kate Julianne was not. 

    "Takot na takot ako noong time na 'yon kasi wala akong experience. At saka hindi ako nag-RSPC. Diretso akong NSPC so wala talaga akong practice," Kate Julianne said, reminiscing how hard it was for her then.

    (I was really nervous that time because I did not have prior experience. And I was not part of the RSPC [Regional Schools Press Conference team]. I went straight to NSPC; I lacked training.)

    "Tapos, bigla akong sinalang sa technical application. Hindi ako natuwa! Ano ba kasing alam ng 8 year-old sa technical application (Then, I was fielded to compete for technical application. It was not fun! What would an 8 year-old know of technical application)?" she added.

    Things changed for Kate Julianne when she was tasked to compete in the infomercials. Although she liked the experience, their team did not win awards under the radio broadcasting category. Their team joined Tagis Talino instead, a quiz bee for journalism, where they won 2nd place.

    "It was encouraging," she said. "The award encouraged us to continue our journey in journalism and in the National Schools Press Conference."

    Learning experience

    For Kaye Pauline, her first try was a learning experience. Prior to joining NSPC, she went to a journalism workshop in school where the Best Anchor would be the designated anchor for RSPC. Kaye Pauline, in Grade 5 then, won the award.

    "Pagkatapos ng first namin sa NSPC, tinuloy namin ang newscasting. Doon, mas na-develop yung skills namin (After our first NSPC, we continued newscasting. Our skills were developed there)," she said.

    After Kaye Pauline's first NSPC, she joined ABS-CBN's Inter-school Newscasting Competition in Iloilo. She was one of the 20 grand finalists under the Hiligaynon category and won second place. She eventually competed for regionals and placed second as well.

    Last year, her younger sister also joined ABS-CBN's newscasting competition under English and Hiligaynon categories. Kate Julianne bagged the awards for both categories – Champion for English and Second Place for Hiligaynon. She reached the regionals and placed second in both categories.

    Practice makes perfect

    FIRST TIME. From radio broadcasting, this is their first time competing for TV broadcasting. Photo by Vina Salazar/Rappler

    For Kate Julienne, her ate (older sister) will always be her mentor. "Gaya-gaya ako sa kanya eh (I always copy her)," she said jokingly.

    During training, they would always turn to each other no matter what. "Coach kami ng isa't isa (We are each other's coaches)," the younger of the two said. Despite being experienced NSPC delegates, they said that they still feel butterflies in their stomachs every time.

    "Medyo kinakabahan po kasi di mawawala 'yun eh. First time namin sumali sa TV broadcasting. So from radio to TV broad, mas grabe 'yung preparations (We still feel nervous. It's our first time joining TV broadcasting. So, from radio to TV broadcasting, preparations are more intense)," Kaye Pauline said.

    "We practice every night. We rest at times but we always practice. We write, help in production, read aloud. Then record and edit videos," Kate Julianne said in a mix of English and Filipino.

    They said they don't let get stressed and let pressure get the better of them. "If we get pressured, that could be one reason that will hinder us from winning because we might think about it all the time," she added.

    On top of that, having a good support system greatly helps, according to her. "Dahil sa support ng family, friends, coaches, teammates, parang hindi na rin kami nape-pressure (Because of our family's, friends', coaches', teammates' support, it's like we don't get pressured at all)," Kate Julianne said.

    Behind the scenes

    Daryl, the mother of the Larroder sisters, said she is blessed to have such talented daughters.

    Daryl, who is being pregnant with her third child and had been diagnosed with Stage 2 Thyroid Cancer, still watches over her daughters tirelessly day in and day out. She had accompanied them in every competition they joined.

    "Gusto ko kasi, bawat achievement at competition nandiyan ako, nawiwitness ko. Kasi hindi naman sa lahat ng time nandiyan tayo para sa kanila, so every moment dapat i-cherish ‘yun," she said.

    (What I want is to be there, to witness every achievement and competition. Because we will not be there all the time for them, so we should cherish every moment.)

    The girls' parents are unemployed. Their father stopped working to take care of them and their mother. Fortunately, an uncle who is a registered nurse based in the United States supports them financially.

    Their situation has not stopped their parents from supporting their daughters in every challenge they face. In trying times, Daryl said that words of encouragement are important.

    "Ini-encourage ko lang. Mino-motivate ko sila na 'wag susuko sa challenges. Na 'wag tumigil na challenge lang talaga ang lahat. May purpose kung bakit nangyayari 'yung ganun," Daryl said, recalling Kate's first time to join the NSPC and when Kaye failed to join the conference in 2015.

    (I just encourage them. I motivate them not to give up on any challenge. That everything is just a challenge. That there is a purpose behind why things happen.)

    According to her, the key to a child's success is supporting their passions.

    "Ang pinaka-importante lang, kung alam niyong passion ng anak niyo, go for it. I-push niyo sila. Try to push them at tsaka support niyo talaga kung ano gusto nila," she said. (What's important is that, if you know what your child is passionate about, go for it. Push them. Try to push them and support them in what they want.)

    "Guide them all the time. Have trust in them," she said.

    After the grueling 4-day national conference, weeks spent in training finally paid off. This year, Kate Julianne was awarded as the 2nd Best News Anchor. Their team was also recognized as the 2nd Best in Technical Application. (READ: FULL LIST: #NSPC2017 winners in the Secondary Division)

    NSPC is the Olympics of campus journalism in the Philippines. It is held yearly by the Department of Education. Next year's NSPC will be hosted by the Negros Island Region.

    "I feel very happy that I reached NSPC for the fifth time already," Kate Julianne said. Despite being in the nationals for many years, for her, it still feels different every time. "We always pray to God for the best to happen." – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – Artist and activist Nikki Luna staged an art exhibit and spoke on the growing number of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines and its effects on women to raise awareness about the issue.

    The exhibit entitled, “Violence Need Not Be Bloody For It To Be Validated As Such”, features 3 art pieces with 5,000 pieces of .45 bullet casts that represent EJK victims.

    Luna emphasized that for every person killed in the war against illegal drugs, there is always someone left behind and most often it is a woman. 

    “It is particularly pointing out how women, who are wives of the victims of alleged drug pushers or those who were accused and killed, are the ones left behind. The burden is on the woman because of her value as an integral part of someone’s life,” said Luna. 

    Women left behind, Luna pointed out, muster the power and strength to carry the burden left behind by their loved ones.

    As of January 31, President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody war on illegal drugs already killed around 7,080 people, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

    'Womanhood is power'

    ART ACTIVISM. Nikki Luna (left) discusses her art with independent curator Eileen Legaspi Ramirez. Photo by Lourd Gentolio/ Rappler

    Some of the bullet casts were used to form the statement “Womanhood is Power” and the remaining bullets were given to the attendees to be nailed in a black wall inside the gallery. 

    “Womanhood only becomes a problem when it is locked in a box where womanhood equates to motherhood, womanhood equates to being a wife. Womanhood equates to certain things that the society have conditioned us (to think) that this is how it is to be a woman. If you’re out if this box, you’re not one,” Luna said.

    She added: “So if you’re not a mother, if you don’t choose a male partner, if you don’t choose to have kids, if you don’t want kids, these factors come. They have up till now measured women (based on) these categories. Being a woman is a weapon because there is so much that we can be without these defined categories.” 

    The second piece of the exhibit is a cast of the skirt identical to the one Vice President Leni Robredo has in her wardrobe. According to Luna, the second piece was conceptualized after the story about President Rodrigo Duterte ogling at the Vice President's legs came out.

    The last piece of the exhibit is a video installation that features a woman sweeping the blood of her dead husband, an alleged drug pusher who was killed.

    The exhibit is open for public viewing until Thursday, February 9, at the Finale Art File, in La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces, Makati. – with reports from Lourd Gentolio/ Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman once again ordered the dismissal of Tuguegarao Mayor Jefferson Soriano, this time for administrative charges over an anomalous terminal deal.

    In a statement sent to media on Monday, February 6, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Soriano was found guilty of grave misconduct and abuse of authority for an illegal contract he awarded to a terminal provider.

    In October 2013, Soriano ordered all bus, van, and jeepney operators and drivers in Tuguegarao City to vacate their terminals, citing a local ordinance that authorizes the city goverment to designate parking areas.

    Two months later, Soriano issued a provisional permit to operate to One Way Parking Terminal, Incorporated (OWPTI). Soriano endorsed OWPTI to the Sangguniang Bayan for approval on the same day, but the company was already allowed to operate even without the required authorization from the Sanggunian Bayan.

    Morales said Soriano "committed a corrupt act when he gave unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference to OWPTI through manifest partiality by issuing the provisional permit without prior ordinance and authorization from the Sanggunian."  

    Dismissal from service means Soriano is barred from ever holding public office, and his retirement benefits are forfeited.

    Fired once before

    This is not the first time that Soriano has been dismissed by the Ombudsman. In September 2014, he was also found guilty of the same administrative charges for issuing an unauthorized permit to a businesswoman during the city fiesta.

    Soriano closed some streets in the city, and allowed a businesswoman named Vicky Medina to operate stalls there without the required approval of the city council.

    He was also subsequently charged with two counts of graft for the same case.

    But he was able to keep his post after a reinstatement order from the Court of Appeals. 

    Other corruption claims

    Soriano has also been suspended thrice by the Sandiganbayan over other corruption claims.

    In 2015, the anti-graft court ordered Soriano's suspension over his alleged involvement in the anomalous purchase of rubber boats amounting to P131.5 million when he was chair of the bids and awards committee (BAC) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

    The suspension order during this time overlapped with an earlier suspension order against him for being involved in the PNP's irregular purchase of two helicopters in 2009. Soriano was involved in this case as the PNP's former deputy chief for operations.

    Poll fraud

    In January 2016, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) annulled Soriano's 2013 proclamation due to poll fraud.

    Delfin Ting, Soriano's rival in the 2013 polls, had filed an electoral protest alleging that there were "widespread fraud, irregularities, and terrorism perpetuated" by Soriano's camp. (READ: Comelec division ousts Tuguegarao mayor over 2013 cheating)

    Despite the 2013 electoral protest, Soriano was still allowed to run in the 2016 polls, where he defeated Ting. – Rappler.com


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    HELP OFWS. Lolita Lledo, associate director of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, criticizes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for saying he will 'not lift a finger' to help undocumented Filipinos in the US. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler

    LOS ANGELES, USA – A Filipino-American leader criticized Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for saying he will "not lift a finger" for undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deported from the US. 

    Lolita Lledo, associate director of the Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, pointed out that many undocumented OFWs even campaigned and sent money for Duterte in the last elections.

    "Siyempre hindi kami natuwa (Of course we weren't happy)," Lledo said on Friday, February 3, when asked to comment on Duterte's statement.

    Referring to undocumented OFWs, she said in a mix of English and Filipino: "We just wanted to remind President Duterte that they are still Filipino citizens. The passports they hold are Filipino passports."

    Lledo made these remarks before Filipino journalists visiting the US for a reporting tour organized by the Foreign Press Centers of the US State Department. She was reacting to Duterte's statement on January 29 that he will not help undocumented Filipinos affected by the immigration policies of US President Donald Trump. 

    Duterte said he will avoid meddling in the same way that Trump promised not to interfere in his war on drugs, which former US president Barack Obama criticized for alleged human rights abuses.

    Duterte, who is known for his iron-fisted stance toward law enforcement, told Filipinos in the US: "You better be on the right track. If you are not allowed to stay there where you are staying, get out. Because if you are caught and deported, I will not lift a finger. You know that it is a violation of the law." 

    'Bagong bayani'

    Lledo, however, made an appeal for undocumented OFWs in the US, who remain one of the Philippines' largest sources of overseas remittances.

    Lledo said: "Sabi nga, kami ang mga bagong bayani. Ganito ba ang trato sa mga bayani? Kapag ikaw ay nagkaroon ka ng problema, sa halip na tulungan ka, hindi ka tutulungan?"

    (They say we're the modern-day heroes. Is this the way you treat heroes? If you encounter problems, instead of helping you, they will not help?)

    She added that many Filipinos who have overstayed in the US, at least in southern California, "are mothers who left the Philippines." 

    "Kaya kami nag-overstay, kaya kami naglabag ng batas, kasi mahal namin ang pamilya namin," she said. (The reason why we overstayed, why we broke the law, is because we love our families.)

    Lledo said: "'Yan ba ang mga kriminal? Sige, sabihin 'nyo, kung ang pagmamahal sa pamilya at pagmamahal sa aming trabaho ay pagiging kriminal, eh 'di kriminal na nga ang tingin ng lipunan. Pero sinasabi namin, we need to look beyond. Tingnan natin, bakit kami napupuwersa sa ganitong sitwasyon."

    (Is that what you call a criminal? Okay, if you would say love for our family and love for our job is about being criminals, then let society view us as criminals. But we're saying we need to look beyond. Let's try to see why we're forced into these situations.) 

    At the same time, Lledo reminded the Philippine leader: "President Duterte, marami sa mga undocumented dito sa Amerika, sumuporta sa 'yo, mga avid fans mo, mga nagkampanya sa Facebook at lahat lahat...'Yung iba nga, nagpadala pa ng mga pera du'n e. Ngayon in trouble kami. Hindi naman namin akalain na mananalo 'yang si Trump."

    (President Duterte, many of the undocumented here in America have supported you, are your avid fans, are among those who campaigned on Facebook and everywhere else...Others even sent money back home. Now we're in trouble. We never imagined Trump would win.)

    Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center, added that the immigration system in the US is "too broken" in the first place. "Maraming kailangang ayusin (We have a lot to fix)," she said.

    She also said that people need to recognize that immigrants "have the same dreams and hopes" as Americans.

    "Dapat may respect din sa mga immigrant (There needs to be respect for immigrants)," Versoza said.– Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – On Tuesday morning, February 7, Rappler talks to Jerome Zayas and Sarah Jane dela Rosa, inclusive education advocates.

    Inclusive education is when children, with or without disabilities, take classes together. But how far has the Philippine education system advanced in promoting – and practicing – inclusive education? 

    Zayas is the founder of the Inclusive Development and Empowerment Agenda (IDEA), and is currently working on a research project on disability inclusive disaster risk reduction. 

    Dela Rosa is a 22-year old student of Doña Juana Elementary School in Holy Spirit, Quezon City. She has cerebral palsy and is fully included in a regular class.

    Watch them tell their stories on Rappler. – Rappler.com


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