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    MAKING WAVES. Gubat, Sorsogon is an emerging surfing spot in Luzon. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

    SORSOGON, Philippines – A local surf camp in Gubat, Sorsogon is making waves in the community, for reasons different from what others might initially assume.

    The growing interest for the water sports of surfing comes as no surprise to many especially in a country like the Philippines. In Sorsogon, however, the surfing bug evolved into a double-edged sword: kids enjoyed surfing so much that they started skipping schools to spend more time catching the waves.

    Because of this, the town's surfing pioneers have been imposing a "no school, no surf" policy since 2009 to keep children in school.

    Noli Mercader, one of the administrators of the Lola Sayong Ecosurf Camp, knew from the get go that schooling should not be sacrificed for surfing.

    “‘Yung ‘no school, no surf’ policy din, nakikita din namin na para mas maipagpatuloy pa yung camp. Kailangan nila mag-aral. Hindi naman lahat puro surfing,” Mercader said.

    (We consider the ‘no school, no surf’ policy as a sustainable strategy for the camp.The children need to go to school. It should not be all about surfing.)

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> SURF BOARD. Back then, Lola Sayong ecosurf camp only started with one surf board shared by everyone in the community who wishes to learn how to surf. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler </p>
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    The people behind the surf camp are childhood friends who used to treat the ocean as their playground. Mercader is one of them.

    According to him, surfing only started as a hobby for them. They learned how to navigate the strong waves with surf boards through the most millenial way possible – through YouTube. 

    In 2014, the group of childhood friends came up to Lola Sayong asking for a big favor: They wanted to use her property along Gubat's coastline to build a surf camp. To their delight and surprise, the elderly resident quickly agreed.

    Since then, surfing turned into more than just a hobby for Mercader and his friends. They slowly established the camp one nipa hut at a time. 

    Helping surfing trainers 

    While the surf camp in Sorsogon is unlike those in Siargao that offer world-class surfing spots, or those in Baler that draw hundreds of tourists at a time, residents would agree that it embodies a charm of its own. 

    For one, the camp opened many opportunities for residents such as Jay-Jay Eva. 

    Eva, 21, is studying to become a seafarer one day. When he is not at school taking up courses for his degree on Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation, he is at the beach teaching tourists and the kids on how to surf. 

    Just like his students today, he learned surfing and benefitted from the camp's "no school, no surf" policy a few years back. 

    "Ang kagandahan ng pagsusurf ay minsan nalalayo namin sila sa mga bisyo nila," Eva said, adding that surfing introduces a form of "healthy lifestyle" among the residents. 

    (What is good about surfing is that it keeps the kids away from vices)

     

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> INSTRUCTOR. Jay-Jay Eva, a 21-year-old instructor at Lola Sayong ecosurf camp, teaches kids who want to learn how to surf. Noli Mercador taught him how to surf when he was still young. </p>
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    "'Yung surf na ang nakatulong sa akin lalo na sa finance. Doon ako kumukuha sa pagiging instructor kaya natutulungan ko sarili ko," Eva shared in an interview with Rappler. 

    (Surfing helped me in my finances. I earn money in my job as an instructor that's why I can support myself.) 

    Maintaining the playground

    Managing the surf camp did not come easy. According to the Mercader, they had to balance the camp's need to generate income, their goal to make a positive impact, and keeping the place clean and pristine.

    He said that their main selling point is their playground – the clean ocean. That is why they need to take care of it through the many camp rules that they have implemented. 

    "Kung mangyayari man na aabusuin, o dahil sa pera, papasok 'yung mga guests. Kapag maaabuso 'yun, sa long term, mawawala yun," he said. 

    (If we exploit this place and allow the influx of so many guests, we lose this in the long term) 

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> SURF'S UP. Noli Mercador believes that they have to take care of the ocean and give back to the community in order to sustain their sufing camp. </p>
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    Various rules meant to keep the place clean and inviting are posted everywhere. At the entrance, a colorful sign that says "You are entering a no smoking zone" welcomes guests. On the other side of the camp, a place known as the "detox area," guests are reminded to keep their voices down. 

    What is most noticeable, however, is how, like the ocean that entices even newbie surfers, the instructors and the employees at the camp are always ready with their bright smiles and energetic hellos. 

    According to Mercader, their hospitability is rooted in the fact that everyone who help run the place consider the Lola Sayong ecosurf camp their second homes. 

    "Para sa mga guests, pupunta sila dito para payamanin pa yung mga mamamayan at makapagdugtong ng mga pangangailangan doon sa mga talagang nangangailanan," he said. 

    (Having guests in the camp helps the community by allowing the locals to earn money, especially those who need it the most.) – Rappler.com 


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    (First of 2 parts)


    At a glance:

    • President Duterte's intelligence and confidential funds alone are already 5 times bigger than the combined funds of the Office of the President (OP) received in 2016, the last budget enacted during the Aquino administration.
    • Current spending levels are unprecedented. If the pattern holds – even if the Duterte administration merely retains the current spending levels in the succeeding years of his term – the Duterte administration will still spend during its entire 6-year term at least 4 times more for intelligence and confidential activities than the Aquino administration. 
    • Given their nature, confidential and intelligence funds are difficult to audit and have been abused in the past. Clear plans and expected outcomes are needed to evaluate spending levels against outcomes.  

    MANILA, Philippines – In 2018, the Office of the President (OP) is once again expected to get a P2.5-billion allocation equally divided between confidential and intelligence funds.

    This sum is the same as the amount the OP received for these budget items in 2017. But it is 5 times bigger than the combined funds the office received (a total of P500 million) in 2016, under the last budget enacted during the Aquino administration. (EXPLAINER: Office of the President's confidential, intel funds)

    What this means, in effect, is that in just one year, President Rodrigo Duterte is allowed to spend 84% of the entire amount his predecessor was allowed to spend (P2.98 billion) for his entire 6-year term.

    This spending allowance for intelligence and confidential expenses is unprecedented. The graph below shows how President Duterte's budget for confidential and intelligence funds compares with those of previous presidents since 1989, from Corazon Aquino to Benigno Aquino III. (Before 1995, these were recorded as "discretionary and confidential expenses.")

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    In justifying the huge increase in these line items, the budget department said the funds will be used "mainly for President Rodrigo R. Duterte's war against drugs, criminality and corruption." Increased efforts in these areas on the part of the President, the department said, naturally requires an increase in resources.

    Critics questioned the big jump. Funds such as these, after all, had been subject to abuse in the past.

    For instance, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund scam that implicated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo involved the agency's intelligence funds. (Arroyo was acquitted by the Supreme Court in July 2016.)

    In investigations into corruption within the armed forces in the past decade, former armed forces budget officer George Rabusa admitted that relaxed controls over intelligence funds made conversion of funds from other budgetary items possible. 

    Unlike regular budget items, confidential and intelligence funds are liquidated using the sealed envelope system, making them difficult to audit.

    In a 2011 interview for the book, The Enemy Within, Newsbreak's book on military corruption, former Commission on Audit (COA) chair Guillermo Carague explained why. "We can't audit intel funds because they are used for espionage purposes," he pointed out. "How can you verify espionage?" 

    PRONE TO ABUSE. Because they are difficult to audit, confidential and intelligence funds have been abused in the past, as shown in previous scandals in the military involving George Rabusa, Jacinto Ligot, and Carlos Garcia.

    Following major corruption scandals that related to the use of intelligence funds, some efforts were made to improve controls over their release and liquidation.

    In 2015, a joint circular governing use of these funds was inked between the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), the Commission on Audit (COA), and the Governance Commission for government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC). The joint circular restricted the use of these funds for purposes identified below. 

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    Still, by their very nature and their impact on national security, the specific uses of these funds are not disclosed to the public, said former COA chairperson Grace Pulido Tan. Auditors still have to rely on certifications by government agencies using their confidential and intel funds, since receipts are not always expected for many expenses charged against these funds. 

    When Rappler asked him about this in an interview, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno asked citizens to put their trust in Duterte. "We just have to trust him na mabuting tao siya (that he is a good person)," he said. 

    Diokno made that statement about the Duterte administration's intel and confidential funds over a year ago, when the war on drugs was just starting to gain steam. 

    Now, as Duterte sought another extension of his self-imposed deadline on the eradication of illegal drugs in the country, questions mount over whether the significant increase in funds for intelligence and confidential expenses has achieved its objectives.

    Why put intel funds under OP?

    A big question that needs to be answered is whether it makes sense to put the funds under the Office of the President, considering that the OP is not a unit primarily responsible for intelligence outcomes. 

    Senator Antonio Trillanes IV earlier raised concerns over the capacity of the OP to manage such a huge increase in confidential and intel funds

    Ideally, a budget department insider said, these funds should go to the line agencies which are accountable for intelligence operations outcomes. "The President should not have that. Or it should be minimal as possible."

    Post-Martial Law, intel and confidential funds allocation under the OP first got a significant boost during the time of former president Joseph Estrada, when he created the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF). Diokno, incidentally, was also Estrada's budget secretary. 

    Since then, despite the much reduced role of the PAOCTF and anti-crime offices under the OP, the funds remained under the President's office. 

    BUDGET BOOST. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno also happens to be the budget secretary during the time of former president Joseph Estrada, the last time the OP got a significant boost in confidential and intel funds.

    Key security sector and crime enforcement agencies, however, have no reason to complain as they have their own share in the intel and confidential funds boost. 

    Apart from the OP, the biggest beneficiaries of the increases in the confidential and intelligence funds are the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the defense establishment:

    • The PDEA was not given any intelligence funds. But its confidential funds almost tripled from P73.6 million in 2016 to P203.6 million in 2017 and 2018.
    • The PNP got P469 million in 2017, or 53% higher than its 2016 budget. For 2018, however, its proposed intelligence funds will jump to P969 million – 3 times higher than its allocation in 2016, the last budget of the Aquino administration.  
    • The defense establishment's intel funds got a 518% boost (P1.646 billion) in 2017 from P266.4 million in 2016. For 2018, this will increase by another 13.7% to P1.87 billion.

    Note that this is on top of increases for other budget line items in these agencies.

    Overall, the PNP will get a total budget of P132.31 billion in 2018, from P111.62 billion in 2017 and P88.51 billion in 2016.

    The AFP will also be allocated a budget of P143.96 billion in 2018, an increase from P132.89 billion in 2017 and P113.21 billion in 2016.

    The graphs below show how confidential and intelligence funds for these agencies compare with other agencies of government since 2012, the earliest available year when confidential and intelligence funds were broken down in budget documents. 

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    As of 2017, confidential and intelligence funds for the country's armed forces is at least 6 times higher than the levels during the Aquino administration. Receiving the increases are the Philippine Army and the General Headquarters (HQ) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

    The Army's intelligence funds had jumped from P64 million in 2016 to P444 million in 2017. It will get the same amount in 2018. 

    Meanwhile, AFP HQ had received P1 billion more in intel funds, from P140 million in 2016 to P1.14 billion in 2017. It will get P1.36 billion in intelligence funds in 2018.

    Intel funds for the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy have remained the same. 

    Fighting the drug war

    The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is the agency mandated by law to implement the efficient and effective implementation of the national drug control strategy.

    Under the law, PDEA is tasked, among others, to "monitor and, if warranted by circumstances, inspect all air cargo packages, parcels and mails in the central post office, in coordination with the Philippine Postal Office and the Bureau of Customs." It is also supposed to "conduct eradication programs to destroy wild or illegally grown plants from which dangerous drugs may be extracted."

    In addition, it is mandated to "establish and maintain a national drug intelligence system" in cooperation with agencies "that will assist in the apprehension of big-time drug lords" as well as establish "close coordination, cooperation and linkages with international drug control and administration agencies and organizations."

    When Duterte assumed office, PDEA was the lead agency in the drug war – on paper. But it was the PNP that grabbed the spotlight in the first months, becoming the face of the administration's anti-drug efforts. 

    'WAR ON DRUGS.' In this file photo, President Duterte confers with PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa.

    Criticism over the PNP's bloody approach to the war initially forced the President to pull out the PNP and name the PDEA as the sole agency in charge of his "war on drugs" in October 2017. 

    This was short-lived, however. In early December 2017, the President brought the PNP back into the anti-drug operations, with PDEA retaining the lead role.  

    Picking on small fry

    Tokhang, the administration's main strategy to combat the drug menace, largely involved asking barangay leaders to submit lists of supposed drug pushers and drug addicts in their communities and literally knock on the doors of suspects. 

    Tokhang has a separate budget (amounting to P900 million) from the PNP's confidential and intelligence funds. With PDEA taking the lead in the drug war, the House and the Senate decided to realign the said funds to housing projects for the police and the military. 

    Apart from the PNP's door-to-door approach, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had also tried to implement "drop boxes" in barangays. Reports and feedback made through these "drop boxes" would supposedly help in battling criminality and drugs, but some residents fear it would lead to false information. The DILG eventually promised the Senate in October to "drop" the idea of drop boxes.

    These methods reflect a focus on street-level rather than big-time drug trafficking operations. Critics note that they have also resulted in many innocents becoming regarded as collateral damage

    During a Senate hearing in August, police admitted they verified the supposed drug ties of the slain 17-year-old Kian de los Santos through social media and only after the anti-drug operation. (READ: Kian drug ties confirmed via social media? Netizens slam PNP) – Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, Michael Bueza, and Wayne Manuel/Rappler.com

    (To be concluded)

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    NO HOLDING BACK. This couple from Samar says that no storm can postpone their much awaited wedding. Photo buy Allen Beverly Anire

    MANILA, Philippines – They say love conquers all.

    On Saturday, December 16, a couple from Borongan town in Eastern Samar decided to tie the knot despite heavy downpour brought about by Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-tak). (READ: DSWD: Over 220000 affected due to Urduja)

    In a Facebook post, wedding photographer Allen Beverly Anire shared the photos of newlyweds Mariel Anire and Charmaine Dulfo in ankle-deep flood waters with the caption: “Bumabaha sa pagmamahalan sa kasagsagan ng Urduja.” (As Urduja rages, they overflow with love.)

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    Allen Beverly Anire told Rappler the couple knew that the tropical storm would hit their town on Thursday. Urduja moved across the country in a slow pace, dumping almost two months' worth of rainfall in Eastern Samar. (READ: #SchoolPatrolPH: DepEd seeks info on schools damaged by Urduja)

    It seemed that the couple ran out of luck as Urduja made landfall in the province on Saturday afternoon, just in time for their wedding. Regardless, the photographer said the couple decided to brave the storm. (LOOK: Houses in Eastern Samar flooded due to Urduja)

    The bride, Mariel Anire, said deciding to push through with the wedding was the biggest decision she had made in her life, but added that it's only the start of a life-long commitment. 

    "No calamity can break, tear, or ruin our relationship from now on. We have passed the first trial, and there’s more coming. Whatever will happen in our life, we will stand as one. Our wedding proves it all," she said.

    The photographer recalled that waters flooded the church and heavy winds pounded the roof as the wedding ceremony was going on. 

    "The storm made the wedding more exciting and memorable. It showed that their love is unbreakable," Allen Anire said. (READ: WATCH: Woman keeps her dogs safe during Urduja) – Rappler.com 


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    DOUBLE TIME. Volunteers pack relief rations at the DSWD warehouse in Pasay City on December 18, intended for victims of the on-slaught of Tropical Depression Urduja. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines - The social welfare department is working double time to provide relief assistance to families affected by Tropical Depression Urduja (Kai-tak).

    In a 3 pm update on Monday, December 18, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said a total of P2,092,777.16 worth of assistance had been provided to affected families and individuals. The P867,762.16 came from DSWD while the P1,225,015 came from affected local government units (LGUs). 

    In a news briefing in Biliran, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that at least 31 died and 49 others are missingThe National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, citing data from the DSWD, also said 44,369 families had fled to 608 evacuation centers in Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga. (READ: #ReliefPH: Help victims of Urduja)

    "We are constantly communicating and coordinating with local government units and all units of the NDRMMC to ensure that the affected regions receive the assistance they need," said DSWD Officer-in-Charge Emmanuel Leyco, who flew to Biliran with other Cabinet members.

    Prepositioned goods

    DSWD said it had prepositioned family food packs in LGUs forecasted to be on Typhoon Urduja's path. The department’s regional offices are also on standby to repack goods. (READ: LOOK: Urduja pummels Tacloban City)

    Field offices in Eastern Visayas has been processing the procurement of additional 50,000 family food packs to be distributed to the affected residents in the region. They already sent food packs and non-food items, including malongs, hygiene kits, and clothing to the affected cities and municipalities in Samar and Tacloban City in Leyte as initial assistance. (READ: LOOK: Not even storm Urduja can stop these newlyweds in Eastern Samar)

    The DSWD said a total of 22,500 goods have been prepositioned in affected areas in the Bicol region. (READ: LOOK: Bicol braces for Urduja)

    In Central Visayas, some 8,000 food packs has been prepositioned in different warehouses. These are in Dumanjug, Madredejos, Pilar, Poro, Tabogon, San Francisco, and Toledo in Cebu. Some 30,000 food packs are on standby in the DSWD field office warehouse in Barangay Tingob, Mandaue City.

    Arnel Garcia, DSWD regional director in Bicol, said his office provided P422,100 in assistance to affected families, including stranded passengers, in Matnog, Sorsogon. They were also given at least 1,050 family food packs.

    LGUs spent P319,565 on hot meals for stranded passengers.

    He said DSWD Bicol has stockpile of 5,118 food packs in its warehouse, over and above the provision for prepositioning to LGUs. 

    The DSWD remains on red alert and is continuously coordinating with its field offices in the regions for significant reports on the status of relief efforts and assistance needed by those affected by the storm. – with a report from Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – The taxi driver who was slapped by a woman motorist over an alleged traffic row filed a complaint against her with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Monday, December 18.

    In a viral video on Facebook posted on Sunday, December 17, the taxi driver, Virgilio Doctor, 52, was seen slapped by a woman several times along Congressional Avenue in Quezon City. His taxi was also slammed with a golf club.

    The woman was identified as Cherish Sharmaine Interior, 31, a supervisor at a business processing outsourcing (BPO) company.

    Doctor went to LTFRB to file a case against Interior for physical injuries and damage to property. He was met by LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada on Monday afternoon.

    "Okay lang po sa 'kin lahat-lahat, nag-sorry na po ako kung sakaling ako man ang nagkamali. Kaso mananakit pa. Pinalo na nga ng tubo, wala namang masyadong basag sa salamin konti-konti lang," Doctor told his neighbor, Gilbert Manalili, in a video interview.

    (Everything is fine for me, I asked for forgiveness if ever I was at fault. But did she have to hurt me? She even slammed [my taxi with a golf club], my [windshield] damaged a bit.)

    Doctor said he felt lightheaded after being physically assaulted by Interior. He told Manalili that he has suffered from stroke that's why he has difficulty walking and talking as seen in the video.

    Land Transportation Office (LTO) law enforcement director Francis Ray Almora told Rappler that the LTO will produce a report on the incident on Tuesday, December 19.

    The viral video has been viewed over 10 million times and shared by 228,800 users on Facebook. – Rappler.com


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    MAP-MAKING. Filipino geographer and cartographer shows the 'circulatory' and 'skeletal' map of the Philippine archipelago. Created by David Garcia

    MANILA, Philippines – What do the country’s “circulatory” and “skeletal” maps look like?

    Geographer and cartographer David Garcia gave the public an idea with two maps he posted on Sunday, December 17.

    “It’s a way for me to share the little I know about maps by helping people understand geographic issues, especially in relation to urban planning and disasters by using arts, science, and a bit of persuasion in the map-making process,” David Garcia said in an interview.

    The first map, which he calls the "skeletal map" of the Philippines, plots the mountains and hills across the archipelago and shows their level of elevation from the coastline.

    {source}

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    The red violet lines are the coastline; the red, for hills that are 100 meters above sea level; orange lines for hills that are above 500 meters from the coastlines; and yellow and white for mountains that are 1,000 meters and 2,000 meters high, respectively.

    The second map, which he aptly calls the “circulatory” map of the Philippines, shows the rivers, lakes, and streams that circulate around the country.

    {source}

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    {/source}

    The thicker blue lines depict the main channels of the major river basins of the country.

    According to Garcia, he created the two maps "to show the distribution of topography and hydrography of the Philippines."

    "Usually, Google Maps is flat and does not highlight those physical features. So I highlighted the elevation and water layers just to raise awareness about physical geography – which is an influence to how our cities and towns experience geohazards," Garcia added. 

     

    Map-making for social change

    This is not the first time Garcia posted different versions of the Philippine map. He has advocated the use of maps in addressing disasters and climate change.

    While there are virtually thousands of maps available online, what makes Garcia’s works different is their aim to inform and effect social change.

    “The key there is I would like to share with people useful, beautiful, truthful maps that help make a point because I think mapping is also for social change,” Garcia said.

    Presenting maps in an aesthetically-pleasing way also matters to the young cartographer, who wants to help spread awareness on the significance of map making.

    According to him, social media has helped a great deal in reaching more communities with this message.

    "When I go to the communities, it really takes time to explain to them the technical side of mapping. I was thinking: 'What if i can help spread the messages through social media, considering that we don't have enough time to talk to many people at the same time?'" Garcia said in mixed Filipino and English. 

    To his delight, his efforts on social media have been met with interest. For example, his posts about the circulatory and skeletal maps of the Philippines have so far garnered 1,000 reactions as of posting. 

    His most viral post about the 100 largest islands in the Philippines has been shared over 1,600 times and received more than 4,400 reactions as of posting. 

    Garcia has also made all of his maps on Mapmaker, easily downloadable to spread awareness. – Rappler.com

    You can support his work by liking his Facebook page called Mapmaker. 


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    Conclusion

    (READ: Part 1: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?)

    MANILA, Philippines – Because actual expenses charged against intelligence and confidential funds are difficult to audit, it's important for them to show they are achieving their desired objectives. Responsible agencies that are accountable for outcomes should be clear. 

    For starters, they have to be released in the framework of a peace and order and safety program, according to former Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Grace Pulido Tan. Based on this, she said, auditors can then check if the funds were disbursed in accordance with that plan.

    In previous interviews for the book, "The Enemy Within", various auditors and budget experts stressed the need for Congress, which exercises general oversight over how the budget is implemented, to hold agencies accountable for outcomes promised on account of allocated intelligence and confidential funds.

    During a hearing on the proposed 2017 budget, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV suggested that if the funds were to be used for the Duterte administration's peace and order and anti-drug efforts, they should be allocated directly to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.  

    Senator Loren Legarda, the chair of the finance subcommittee which reviews the budget of the Office of the President (OP), approved the same on condition that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea submits the work and financial plan for these funds to the finance committee and to Senator Trillanes IV.

    Trillanes at that time said that approval should be "with the understanding that this is conditional, that if such submissions won’t be satisfactory then we may make or propose amendments at the proper time."

    Funds vs performance

    Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have claimed some measure of success. According to PDEA, some P18.9-billion worth of drugs have been seized since President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war started.  

    Apart from this, the PNP and other law enforcement agencies also claimed to have killed 3,967 drug personalities and arrested 118,287 in a total of 79,193 legitimate anti-drug operations as of November 27. PDEA also said that 4,747 barangays have been declared drug-free.

    But questions on how the President's men have been gathering intelligence on the drug war suspects remain of paramount concern. 

    It does not help that the drug list – which the President said, included politicians, police, and members of the judiciary with alleged ties to the illegal drug trade – has been found to be riddled with errors. The PDEA and the National Bureau of Investigation have denied that they were the source of the list. (READ: Duterte narco list now 6,000 names long and counting – PDEA)

    One potential use of intelligence funds is the purchase of information surveillance equipment which could be used by authorities to spy on big-time drug operations.

    In oral arguments at the Supreme Court on the war on drugs in early December, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio – the most senior magistrate on the bench – grilled the PNP for seemingly "concentrating on street-level operations" and "practically ignoring the big-time drug lords."

    And then there's the failure by concerned agencies to pin down the personalities involved in the smuggling of shabu worth P6.4 billion into the country in May 2017. (READ: Ombudsman creates panel to probe P6.4-billion smuggled shabu)

    The law enforcement units were not the only ones who have been criticized for failure of intelligence. The defense establishment, which also got a significant boost in intel and confidential funds, likewise got criticized for its failure to anticipate terrorist movements which led to the Marawi attacks. 

    CHIEF LEGISLATORS. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III

    Need for oversight 

    It is critical to raise these questions because, save for a few exceptions, intel and confidential funds, after being introduced, are rarely reduced. After the lumpsum confidential and intel funds were added to the Office of the President during the tenure of former president Joseph Estrada, they got slight reductions but were never removed.  

    During the time of ex-president Benigno Aquino III, a decision was made to reduce the allocation levels for confidential and intelligence funds for the OP and to distinguish amounts allocated for each. 

    If this pattern holds, even if the Duterte administration merely retains its current spending level in the succeeding years of his term, it still stands to spend at least 4 times more for intelligence and confidential activities during its entire 6-year term than the Aquino administration. 

    In an ideal situation, it is Congress that should exercise oversight of intelligence funds. Before the budget was approved, members should have asked for expected outcomes from intelligence operations. 

    Yet, despite questions raised by some sectors over the huge intel funds of the OP, the House panel which was supposed to scrutinize the OP's budget barely raised a squeak during the 2018 budget deliberations. They approved the OP's budget in 3 minutes, no questions asked. 

    Even the opposition was generally complicit. When the OP's budget for 2018 was presented to the Senate plenary, Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon said they will not raise questions regarding the budget of the President's office "out of inter-departmental courtesy."

    The graph below shows confidential and intelligence funds received by other departments and agencies since 2012. 

    {source}

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    <div style="text-align:left"><strong>Choose an agency by clicking on a name below:</strong>
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    <script src="https://pages.rappler.com/2017-yearender/confi-intel-graph-2.js"></script>

    <p class="caption"><em>Note: Amounts are in thousands of pesos. 2018 figures are based on the proposed budget, as reflected on the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF). 2012 to 2017 figures are based on the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA) and the 2013 BESF (for 2012). The Department of Transportation (DOTr) was formerly the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) until 2016.</em></p>

    </div>

    {/source}


    The bicameral conference committee has just finished deliberating on the proposed 2018 national budget. As expected, there was hardly any movement in these line items.

    Clearly, the President will once again get the intelligence and confidential funds he wants. No questions asked. – Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, Michael Bueza, and Wayne Manuel/Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – Keep this list of hotlines and social media accounts handy during emergencies:

    National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)

    • Telephone hotlines: (02) 911-1406, (02) 912-2665, (02) 912-5668, (02) 911-1873
    • Facebook: NDRRMC
    • Twitter: @NDRRMC_OpCen
    • Regional hotlines in Luzon:
      • National Capital Region: (02) 421-1918
      • Ilocos: (072) 607-6528
      • Cagayan Valley: (078) 844-1630 
      • Central Luzon: (045) 455-1145
      • Calabarzon: (049) 531-7266 
      • Mimaropa: (043) 723-4248
      • Bicol: (052) 481-1656, (052) 481-5031
      • Cordillera Administrative Region: (074) 304-2256, (074) 619-0986

    Office of Civil Defense (OCD)

    • Facebook: Civil Defense PH
    • Twitter: @civildefensePH
    • Regional hotlines: 
      • National Capital Region: (02) 913-2786
      • Ilocos: (072) 607-6528, 700-4747
      • Cagayan Valley: (078) 844-1630
      • Central Luzon: (045) 455-1526
      • Calabarzon: (049) 834-4244, 531-7279
      • Mimaropa: (043) 723-4248
      • Bicol: (052) 481-1656
      • Western Visayas: (033) 337-6671, 509-7971; 
      • Central Visayas: (032) 416-5025, 416-5025
      • Eastern Visayas: (053) 323-8453
      • Zamboanga Peninsula: (062) 215-3984
      • Northern Mindanao: (088) 857-3988, 875-3907
      • Davao: (082) 233-2022, 233-0611
      • Soccsksargen: (083) 552-9759; 553-2994
      • Cordillera Administrative Region: (074) 304-2256
      • Caraga: (085) 815-6345, 342-8753, 341-8629

    Philippine National Police (PNP)

    Bureau of Fire Protection (NCR)

    • Hotline: 117, (02) 729-5166, (02) 410-6319 (Regional Director, Information Desk)

     

    Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

     

    • Hotline: (02) 951-7119
    • Disaster Response Unit: (632) 931-81-01 to 07, local 426 
    • Earthquake text hotlines: For Globe and Touch Mobile users, text "IREPORT<space>name/location/message" to 2327 or 0917-890-2327. For Smart, Sun and Talk 'N Text users, text concerns to 0918-912-2813.
    • Facebook: DSWD
    • Twitter: @dswdserves

     

    Department of Transportation (DOTr)

    • Hotlines: 7890 or (632) 790-8300 and (632) 790-8400
    • Facebook: DOTrPH
    • Twitter: @DOTrPH

    Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)

    • Hotlines: 136, 882-0925 (flood control)
    • Trunkline: (02) 882-4150-77 local 337 (rescue), 255 (Metrobase)
    • Metrobase: 882-0860
    • Facebook: MMDA
    • Twitter: @MMDA

    Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)

    • Hotlines: (02) 304-3713, (02) 304-3904
    • Twitter: @DPWHph

    Philippine Red Cross (PRC)

    • Hotlines: 143, (02) 527-0000, (02) 527-8385 to 95
    • Twitter: @philredcross 

    North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) 

    • Hotlines: (02) 3-5000 and (02) 580-8910
    • Twitter: @NLEXtraffic

    Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) 

    • Hotline: (045) 459-0522
    • Mobile number: 0920-96-SCTEX (72839)

    Skyway System 

    • Hotline: (02) 776-7777 (PLDT)
    • Mobile numbers: 0917-539-8762 (Globe), 0999-888-0893 (Smart), 0932-854-6980 (Sun)
    • Twitter: @SkywaySOMCO

    South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) 

    • Hotlines: (049) 508-7509, (02) 584-4389
    • Mobile number: 0917-6877539 (Globe)

     

    Manila Toll Expressway Systems (MATES)

     

    • Hotline: (049) 5087539
    • Mobile number: 0908-880-7539

     

    Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA)

     

    Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)

     

    • Trunkline: (02) 426-1468 to 79, local 124/125 (emergency)
    • Mobile number: 0905-313-4077 (Globe)
    • Facebook: PHIVOLCS
    • Twitter: @phivolcs_dost

     

    Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)

    • Hotlines: (02) 527-3877, (02) 527-8481
    • Mobile number: 0917-724-3682 (Globe)

    Manila Water 

    Maynilad Water Services

    – Rappler.com 


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    CHRISTMAS REMINDER. Interior Undersecretary Austere Panadero reminds the public to take necessary preparedness measures before Christmas.

    MANILA, Philippines – Rainy Christmas or not, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Austere Panadero advised local officials and the public to be prepared for possible floods or landslides.

    In a press conference held by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), PAGASA Weather Division chief Esperanza Cayanan said there are two scenarios for the low pressure area (LPA) outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR):

    1. It may redevelop into a tropical depression and affect the Visayas and Mindanao.
    2. It may stay an LPA while proceeding toward southern Mindanao.

    In case it develops into a tropical depression, Cayanan said it may make landfall on December 23 or 24. (READ: EXPLAINER: How tropical cyclones form)

    Given this weather forecast, Cayanan urged the public – especially those living in areas affected by Tropical Depression Urduja (Kai-tak) – to closely monitor PAGASA updates leading to Christmas. (READ: #ReliefPH: Help victims of Urduja)

    "Since it may take the same route as Urduja, the areas that have recently experienced heavy flooding will be more prone to landslides and more floods," Cayanan said in a mix of Filipino and English.

    Preparations 

    Panadero echoed this reminder, adding that the NDRRMC preparedness cluster has already convened to prepare for the potential tropical cyclone, which would be given the local name Vinta.

    "Sa ngayon pa lang, kami ay nananawagan sa lahat ng pamayanan na kailangan talagang maghanda. Alam po natin na nasa panahon na tayo ng kapaskuhan ngunit mahalaga rin na alerto sa lahat ng panganib o banta ng panganib," he said.

    (As early as now, we are urging all communities to prepare. Although Christmas is already in our midst, it's important to be alert and prepared for all hazards or threats.)

    Below are the preliminary preparedness measures that local councils, government agencies, and private organizations have agreed to put in place before Christmas, according to Panadero: 

    • remind local government units (LGUs) about the protocols during disasters
    • LGUs to prepare evacuation centers and preposition relief goods, in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

    • prepare warning systems ahead of potential landfall

    • follow procedures for preemptive evacuation of residents in danger zones

    • Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), in coordination with PAGASA, to install necessary measures aimed at reducing the number of stranded passengers in ports and terminals across the country

    • telecommunications companies to ensure fast reinstallation of communication lines during disasters

    • Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on standby in case of landslides, especially in major highways 

    According to Panadero, PAGASA will get a more definite forecast of the LPA's track by Wednesday, December 20. – Rappler.com 


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    MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Do you know where your taxes go?

    The first national budget drafted completely by the Duterte administration amounting to P3.767 trillion ($74.79 billion) for 2018 is 12.4% higher than 2016The figure represents 21.6% of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018.

    The 2018 national budget also reveals the priorities of the Duterte administration – infrastructure, education, and the interior affairs sectors gained the most.

    After a threat of a reenacted budget, the bicameral conference committee on the 2018 national budget finally agreed to the government's financial plan for next year. President Rodrigo Duterte signed it into law on Tuesday, December 19. (READ: Alvarez to Senate: Restore P50B or we have reenacted budget for 2018)

    What's in the 2018 national budget? The spreadsheet below compares it with 2017:

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    Biggest budgets

    The report by the bicameral conference committee on the 2018 national budget showed that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) received the lion's share of funds at P637.86 billion ($12.66 billion) for 2017. (READ: Congress ratifies P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018)

    The funds will be used to sustain the government's infrastructure program "Build, Build, Build" in improving mobility across the country.

    The Department of Education (DepEd) received the next highest allocation at P553.31 billion ($10.99 billion). These will be used in establishing and maintaining facilities; hiring teaching and non-teaching personnel; and in developing and providing learning materials to students. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you need to know about the PH education system)

    Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) received an allocation of P170.76 billion ($3.39 billion) for 2018.

    DILG funds will be used for improved police operations with some P334 million ($6.63 million) allocated for the purchase of body cameras for the Philippine National Police and an additional P850 million ($16.88 million) for maintenance and other operating expenses of police stations.

    The chart below ranks the top 15 government agencies with the highest budget allocation in 2018:

    {source}

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    {/source}

    Top gainers

    Generally, most government agencies received higher budgetary allocations for the coming year with the DPWH gaining the most at P183.14 billion ($3.64 billion) or a 40.28% increase from last year's budget.

    Of the government offices, the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) budget grew 5 times at P12.81 billion ($254 million) – or a 411.13% increase from last year's P3.12 billion ($61.96 million) budget – apparently in preparation for the upcoming midterm elections in 2019.

    The Other Executive Offices group also received a notable increase at 72.26% or P31.36 billion ($622.77 million), having a total budget of P74.76 billion ($1.48 billion) for 2018.

    {source}

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    {/source}

    Funds under the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) increased 68.9% at P3.64 billion ($72.28 million). The bulk of NEDA's P8.93 billion budget will be used for its socio-economic policy and planning program, according to the 2018 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

    Budget cuts

    Only 6 government agencies received cuts from their funding next year – the biggest of which is the Office of the President (OP), leaving a P14.14 billion ($280.08 million) decrease from the 2017 budget of P20.17 billion ($400.53 million).

    The OP's 2017 budget included some P15.46 billion ($306.95 million) for the hosting of the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and related ASEAN Summits. Sans the hosting expenses, OP's 2018 allocation is at P6.03 billion ($119.72 million). (READ: Are Duterte's multi-million-peso intel funds achieving their purpose?)

    {source}

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    The Department of Finance (DOF) also received a decrease in funds at 10.15%, P2.18 billion ($43.28 million) lower than the 2017 allocation of P21.5 billion ($426.89 million). This leaves some P19.32 billion ($383.61 million) for the department next year.

    Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) received a total of P695.5 million ($13.81 million) for 2018 – 4.05% or P29.36 million ($583,062) lower than its 2017 funds at P724.87 million ($14.4 million).

    CHR's budget remains to be the second lowest among government offices since 2017, next to the Office of the Vice President's budget at P543.95 million ($10.8 million).

    2018 national budget

    Under the Philippine Constitution, the budgetary allocation for the education sector should be the highest priority. Article XIV, Section 5(5) states that:

    "The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment."

    This year, the allocation for the education department and the State and University Colleges (SUCs) amounts to P615.43 billion ($12.22 billion), excluding the automatic appropriations as listed in the bicam report.

    This is some P22.44 billion ($445.62 million) shy of the DPWH budget. (READ: Duterte's development plan: Recycled, failed economic policies) 

    The chart below shows each government office's share in the 2018 national budget, as well as in the 2017 and 2016 budgets:

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    In President Rodrigo Duterte's 2018 budget message last July, he said that some P1.097 trillion ($21.78 billion) – a third of next year's national budget – will be used for the government's "Build, Build, Build" program.

    It is part of the projected P8.1 trillion ($16.08 billion) funds that will be used for infrastructure development from 2017 to 2022.

    "Spending on infrasture is like opening a savings account in a bank – you earn interest. What we will earn as interest – or the overall returns – far exceeds the returns that can be provided by any other spending item, except for education and health," Duterte said in his budget message.

    Given the ambitious fiscal plan for the coming year, will the government be able to deliver on its promises to the public? – Rappler.com

    *$1 = P50.36


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    RELIEF EFFORTS. Philippine Red Cross deploys a humanitarian caravan to respond to the needs of the communities affected by Urduja. Photo by PRC

    MANILA, Philippines – Adding to the relief efforts initiated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs), various groups – like the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic Church – have responded to the needs of those affected by the heavy flooding and landslides in Biliran.

    The heavy rain brought by Urduja (Kai-tak) triggered floods that submerged houses, left passengers stranded in airports and ports, and forced residents to flee their homes. Hardest-hit areas include Eastern Samar, Biliran, and Leyte.

    Tropical depression Urduja, which battered Eastern Visayas as a tropical storm, has left 31 people dead and 49 missing.

    The weather disturbance has also damaged a bridge and several roads and houses in the region. (READ: #SchoolPatrolPH: DepEd seeks info on schools damaged by Urduja)

    The Diocesan Social Action Center of Caritas Philippines in Dumaguete has donated P50,000 pesos for the purchase of drinking water in Biliran.

    It will also be releasing an initial amount of P300,000 from their Alay Kapwa solidarity fund for those living in Biliran and Catarman. 

    The PRC, meanwhile, has deployed a humanitarian caravan in Biliran to bring water and relief items to affected communities in the province.

    According to PRC chairman Richard Gordon, a 15,000-liter water bladder will be placed at the Biliran Provincial Hospital to provide water regularly to patients and healthcare workers, and to nearby residents.

    URDUJA. Heavy winds and rainfall pound Tacloban City as Urduja in the afternoon, Saturday, December 16. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

    In a press statement released on Wednesday, December 20, PRC said the caravan consists of ambulances, a 5,000-liter water tanker, 6 water bladders, 5 tap stands, water treatment set, and portable generator sets.

    The humanitarian group also sent a 6-wheeler truck loaded with non-food items, such as hygiene kits, mosquito nets, blankets, and jerry cans.

    In a press release on Tuesday, December 20, the DSWD said it has so far provided a total of P39,927,848.80 worth of assistance to families and individuals affected by Urduja. 

    Meanwhile, local government units in affected areas have also provided a total of P1,253,57, bringing to over P41 million the total combined worth of government-provided assistance to the affected families.

    DSWD officer-in-charge Emmanuel Leyco said the agency will be on 24/7 shift to produce 479,000 food packs this December.

    "We see that Urduja has caused significant damage to life and property. The DSWD will continue to work closely with local government units and other national government agencies to determine the fastest and surest way to assist the affected families,” Leyco said.

    As of 2 pm on Tuesday, Urduja has affected a total of 244,301 families or 1,016,560 individuals in 1,679  barangays in the Bicol Region, Eastern, Western, and Central Visayas, Mimaropa, and Caraga.

    Some 11,670  families or 53,448  individuals are still staying in 365 open evacuation centers, the bulk of which is located in Eastern Visayas. Rappler.com

    If you want to help those affected by Urduja or if you have reports about their humanitarian needs like temporary shelter, relief goods, water, and hygiene kits, post them on the Agos map, text to 2929 (Smart and Sun), or tag MovePH on Twitter or Facebook. You may also link up with other organizations that called for donations.


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    Heavy winds and rainfall pound Tacloban City as Urduja is expected to make landfall in Eastern Samar in the afternoon, Saturday, December 16. File Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

    MANIL, Philippines – National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) advised the public to prepare again as the new low pressure area (LPA), which entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), could develop into a tropical depression in the next 24-48 hours. If it does, it will be named Vinta.

    “Pinapaaalahanan po natin ang ating mga kababayan na mag-monitor po tayo ng mga weather updates at manatili po tayong alerto,” OCD Spokesperson Romina Marasigan said. (We remind the public to monitor weather updates and be alert at all times.)

    In a press conference on Wednesday, December 20, NDRRMC said that once the LPA intensifies into a tropical depression, operations of all maritime-related activities in the eastern seaboard of Mindanao and Leyte will be disrupted. (READ: Tropical Depression Urduja now over West PH Sea)

    According to PAGASA, the LPA was last seen 925 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. (READ: Groups provide relief aid to Urduja-hit Biliran)

    The low-pressure area entered the country just two days after Urduja battered the eastern parts of the country with 6 recorded landfalls before weakening into a tropical depression.

    The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) confirmed that Urduja left 41 dead and 45 missing with 171 houses partially or totally damaged. 

    At present, 11,715 families are housed in 235 evacuation centers. The Department of Social Welfare and Development, along with local government units, spearheaded relief operations for residents affected by the tropical storm. (LOOK: Not even storm Urduja can stop these newlyweds in Eastern Samar)

    Stranded passengers were also allowed to travel as the weather improved; operations in affected ports are now back to normal. Authorities are also restoring electricity in affected parts of Cebu, Biliran, Eastern and Northern Samar. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – In a classic case of mistaken identity, Christine Joy Icamen-Interior was at the receiving end of online harassment by netizens after being mistaken for the woman caught slapping a taxi driver over a traffic altercation.

    In an interview with Rappler, Christine said the harassment started on Monday morning, December 18, a few hours after the video of the incident in Congressional Avenue in Quezon City went viral. The video on Facebook that has racked up 10 million views and 228,800 shares has since been taken down.

    As of posting, Christine estimated that she had already received over a hundred messages from strangers. The messages ranged from innocent inquiries about her identity to vitriol-fueled messages peppered with curses and death threats.

    "Mamatay ka sana. Kawawa 'yung matanda. 'Pag ikaw nakasalubong [ko], papatayin talaga kitang h*yop ka," read one of the messages. (I hope you die. I pity the old man. If I bump into you, I will really kill you, you animal.)

    As far as she knows, Christine said she is not related to Cherish Interior, the controversial woman who was caught slapping a taxi driver. The victim of mistaken identity said that her photos had also been posted on a Facebook page about Cherish, alongside other screenshots of Facebook users bearing the same last name.

    "This issue has greatly affected me, my work and my entire family, especially now that I have been receiving a lot of rude and offensive messages and death threats from different people," Christine said. 

    She also urged those behind the malicious Facebook pages to exercise responsibility on social media. 

    "Stop using my name, my pictures and my identity. Spare my family, we are not what you think we are. Please give us the peace we deserve, and please think before you click," she added. 

    Online threats, just like the one experienced by Christine, were among the top 4 cybercrime complaints in 2016. Based on the data from Philippine National Police-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), the other top cybercrime complaints include online libel, online scam, identity theft, and anti-photo and video voyeurism. 

    The taxi driver, Virgilio Doctor, 52, went to LTFRB on Monday, December 18, to file a case against Cherish Interior for physical injuries and damage to property.  

    The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Wednesday, December 20, the woman motorist may lose her driver’s license.

    "We will let the LTO (Land Transportation Office) decide if [it's a] suspension or cancellation," LTFRB board member Aileen Lizada told reporters in a text message. – Rappler.com

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – To prepare for the landfall of Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) raised alert level Charlie on Thursday, December 21, over 17 provinces on its path.

    The alert level was raised after a low pressure area strengthened into a tropical storm before its landfall. (READ: EXPLAINER: How tropical cyclones form)

    According to the DILG-Central Office Disaster Information Coordinating Center (CODIX), the following provinces will be within the 75-kilometer radius of Vinta's forecast track. Residents in these areas should expect moderate to heavy rainfall:

    • Agusan del Norte
    • Agusan del Sur
    • Bukidnon
    • Camiguin
    • Cebu
    • Lanao del Norte
    • Lanao del Sur
    • Misamis Occidental
    • Misamis Oriental
    • Negros Occidental
    • Negros Oriental
    • Palawan
    • Siquijor
    • Surigao del Norte
    • Surigao del Sur
    • Zamboanga del Norte
    • Zamboanga del Sur

    Minimum critical activities that LGUs should be enforcing in affected areas include the following:

    • Securing power, water supply, and communications
    • Starting preemptive evacuation
    • Announcing forced evacuation
    • Preparing a list of the evacuees
    • Distributing relief packs and conduct mass feeding
    • Stopping traffic in landslide-prone areas

    Alert level Charlie is based on Oplan Listo, a disaster preparedness manual that provides local governments with a checklist of things to do before, during, and after typhoons. (READ: FAST FACTS: Tropical cyclones, rainfall advisories)

    This checklist seeks to "minimize mistakes that may cost lives and grave destruction to properties."

    It includes flowcharts that correspond to 3 phases of critical preparedness actions – Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. It also provides a tropical cyclone information board, reference boxes, and minimum actions to guide mayors.

    Alpha and Bravo alerts

    Meanwhile, DILG-CODIX raised alert level Bravo over 9 provinces, which are expected to experience moderate to occasionally heavy rain.

    The following provinces fall within the 125-kilometer radius of Vinta's forecast track:

    • Bohol
    • Compostela Valley
    • Davao del Norte
    • Davao Oriental
    • Dinagat Islands
    • North Cotabato
    • Southern Leyte
    • Tawi-Tawi
    • Zamboanga Sibugay

    DILG-CODIX also raised alert level Alpha over 5 provinces that fall within the 175-kilometer radius of Vinta:

    • Davao del Sur
    • Guimaras
    • Leyte
    • Maguindanao
    • Shariff Kabunsuan

    In a bulletin issued 5 am on Thursday, state weather bureau PAGASA said Vinta packs maximum winds of 65 km/h, increasing from the previous 55 km/h.

    Based on its latest forecast track, Vinta is expected to make landfall in the Surigao del Sur-Davao Oriental area between Thursday evening and Friday morning, December 22. It is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Sunday, December 24, after crossing Caraga, northern Mindanao, the Zamboanga peninsula, and southern Palawan. 

    The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), in a previous press conference, already advised the public to prepare again for Vinta's possible landfall, especially that many areas in Visayas and Mindanao are still reeling from tropical storm Urduja. 

    Urduja, which battered Eastern Visayas, left at least 41 dead and 45 missing, with 171 houses partially or totally damaged. – Rappler.com 


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  • 12/20/17--20:52: The golden man of parol
  • PAMPANGA, Philippines – For many Filipinos, seeing parols (lanterns) means that Christmas is just around the corner. But for a parol maker, it is his bread and butter.

    Ernesto David Quiwa, 70, spent most of his life making parols in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga. (READ: Christmas, parol makers, just around the corner)

    "Parang hindi ako makatulog o balisa ako 'pag hindi ako gumawa ng parol. Parang napapanaginip ko 'yung Star of Bethlehem," he told Rappler. (I can't sleep or I feel upset when I don't make lanterns. I sometimes dream of the Star of Bethlehem.)

    Quiwa has been making parols for 53 years. He said the spirit of Christmas keeps him going.

    "Sa akin, mahalagang mahalaga ang paggawa ng parol dahil ang aking inspirasyon ang ating Panginoong Hesus... 'Pag walang parol, parang hindi masaya ang buhay ko. Kaya siguro kita 'nyo, 70 years old na ako pero malakas pa," he said.

    (For me, making lanterns is very important because my inspiration is our Lord Jesus Christ... If I don't make parols, I feel like my life is not complete. Maybe that's why even if I'm already 70 years old, I am still strong.)

    On his 50th year of making parols, he was awarded by the local government as the "Golden Man of Parol - San Fernando."

    Runs in the blood

    Parols have been around the country since the 1900s.

    Traditionally, these were made out of bamboo strips and colored paper. 

    Parols come in various shapes and sizes, but the basic 5-point star pattern remains the dominant design.

    The first parol in the country was made from bamboo and Japanese paper by artisan Francisco Estanislao, Quiwa's great grandfather, in 1908. According to him, his family has been in the business of making parols since then.  (READ: PH X'mas symbols, practices trace roots to Spanish era)

    Quiwa said that nobody taught him how to make parols. Rather, he feels like it runs in his blood. "Walang nagturo sa 'kin dahil ang paggawa ng parol mula pa sa kanunuhan namin," he said. (Nobody taught me because making parols started with our predecessors.)

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> GOLDEN MAN. In his 50th year of making parols, Ernesto "Tang Erning" Quiwa was awarded the Golden Man of Parol - San Fernando. </p>
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    He said that over the years, his family has been improvising new designs and gimmicks for their craft. Since Estanislao's first parol, his grandfather, Severino David, made the first lantern lighted by batteries. (READ: Elements of a Filipino Christmas)

    In 1957, the family of lantern makers upped their game by inventing a "rotor," which serves as the "brain" of a parol. Invented by Rodolfo David, rotors are huge metal cylinders that allows the lantern to dance in different combinations of colors and sounds.

    For his part, Quiwa started joining lantern-making competitions since he was 17 years old. In 1966, his craft was diplayed at the Manila Summit Conference – an event that made him decide to invest his time and energies in making parols.

    "Noong 1966, ginawa ko 'yung dinisplay sa Malacañan during the Summit Conference in 1966 na pinagawa ni Imelda Marcos at dinisplay mismo sa loob ng Malacañan. Doon pinuri ni US President Lyndon Johnson 'yung parol na yari sa Pampanga," he said.

    (In 1966, I made the lanterns displayed at the Malacañan during the Summit Conference in 1966 that was ordered for Imelda Marcos. It was there when US President Lyndon Johnson commended the lanterns made in Pampanga.)

    Home of Giant Lanterns

    Quiwa's lantern is now a household name for many Kapampangans.

    With his craft, he was able to raise his 5 children – all of whom finished different professions but decided their hearts are into parol making as well.

    Quiwa has been joining and winning lantern-making competitions both in the Philippines and abroad. But the Ligligan Parul or the Giant Lantern Festival in the city is what he watches out for every year. (READ: These 7 places in PH shine bright and beautiful every Christmas)

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> GIANT PAROLS. The Pampanga Provincial Capitol, located in San Fernando City, is lighted in Christmas colors ahead of the holidays. </p>
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    The Ligligan Parul usually coincides with the Simbang Gabi, the 9-day Masses before Christmas. Since 1908, it has been celebrated every year, except during the Martial Law years.

    Quiwa said that he has retired from making lanterns, but the Del Rosario village in San Fernando has no entry for annual Kapampangan festival. He lives in Santa Lucia village but he said he's happy to lend a hand since his brother is supervising their village's entry anyway.

    "Gusto kong ibalik 'yung kapanahunan noong early 80s na marami akong naturuan na lantern maker. Kanya-kanya na silang negosyo ngayon. Kaya itong lugar naming ito, tinawag nilang The Home of Giant Lantern," Quiwa said.

    (I want to bring back the time during the early 80s where I was able to train lantern makers. They have their own businesses now, that’s why our city was called The Home of Giant Lantern.)

    Dying craft

    Giant lanterns are the pride of San Fernando but not many from the younger generation in the city are as skilled in making lanterns.

    On Saturday, December 16, San Fernando City government held the Ligligang Parul. A total of 10 barangays competed for the best giant parol award this year, with Barangay Dolores bagging the P150,000 grand champion award. (READ: IN GIFs: Giant Lantern Festival winners in San Fernando, Pampanga)

    Quiwa was the lantern-maker Barangay Del Rosario – the village's first time to join the festival.

    "Kung hindi ako nakapagturo, noong early 80s, sino pa ang gagawa ngayon? Wala na. Kaya 'yun lang ang maipagmamalaki ko. lalong lalo na ngayon." (If I was not able to train in the early 80s, who will make now? Nobody. That’s what I can boast about, especially now.)

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    <p style="font-family: Roboto; font-weight: 300; size: 16px;"> DYING CRAFT. Quiwa wants to train the youth in making lanterns to save the tradition he lived with.</p>
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    Quiwa said that his only wish is to train the youth on making parols so that they can continue the tradition:

    "Ang nais ko sana kay Mayor or sa City government na kami ay mag-train ng mga kabataan para matuto sa mga parol na ito. Kasi kung hindi natin gagawin ito, mawawala na lang ang giant lantern festival dito sa siyudad ng San Fernando."

    (My wish for Mayor or the City government is that they allow us to train the youth to know how make lanterns. If we don’t do this, the Giant Lantern Festival will die in the City of San Fernando.)

    "Ang parol kasi ang ibig sabihin niyan pagmamahalan. Kapag nagsabit ka ng parol sa iyong bintana, pinasisinayan mo ang kapanganakan ng Panginoon. Ang ibig sabihin no'n pagmamahal dahil kasi nakiisa ka dahil sa selebrasyion ng Pasko,"

    (The meaning of lanterns is to give love. Because when you hang your lantern in your window, you are one with the birth our Lord. That means "to love" because you are one in celebrating Christmas.)– Rappler.com


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    HAZARD PRONE. MGB identifies the whole of Caraga region as one of the areas susceptible to heavy flooding and landslides

    MANILA, Philippines – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau tagged at least 5 areas located near the forecasted track of Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin) that are prone to landslides and heavy flooding.

    Based on the shapefiles of hazard maps produced by the national agency, the hazard-prone areas include:

    • Dolores, Eastern Samar
    • Laoang, Northern Samar
    • Roxas City, Capiz
    • Caraga
    • Dinagat and Siargao islands

    To prepare for the possible impact of Vinta, MGB advised officials from these areas to activate their local (barangay) disaster risk reduction and management councils for early disaster preparedness measures.

    In its latest bulletin, PAGASA already warned that scattered to widespread rain is expected in Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Caraga, Davao, and Northern Mindanao within the next 24 hours. Residents of these areas should be on alert for possible flash floods and landslides.  It could make landfall on Thursday evening or Friday morning.

    Landslides

    Local officials can also consult the map uploaded on MGB's website which indicates the areas prone to rain-induced landslides with 3 colors – red, green, yellow. 


    MGB explained that the red areas are highly susceptible to landslides. If a storm passes through a red area, people need to be alert. When water saturates the area, a landslide will likely occur.

    In its report, MGB said that people living in red areas should always be ready to evacuate. The longer the rainfall, the more vulnerable the red areas become. Those in red areas are mountains with steep slopes, fractures, and structurally weak rock formations with a history of landslides.

    On the other hand, green areas are moderately susceptible to landslides. People living here, however, still need to be careful. These are usually mountains and rock formations with moderate slopes.

    Yellow areas are less likely to experience landslides. Landslide debris, however, might still affect the areas as they could become an accumulation zone.

    According to the MGB, those susceptible to landslides should look out for the following signs:

    • tension cracks
    • fractured rocks and sediments
    • sliding slopes, active slide progressing
    • tension cracks, terracettes
    • seeps
    • thick soil overburden

    The MGB added that local government units and residents in low-lying areas or near riverbanks should be vigilant in monitoring river water levels. – Rappler.com


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    PARTNERSHIP. SDGsBizPH app consolidates Sustainable Development Goals stories from the Philippine private sector.

    MANILA, Philippines – While corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been a means of corporate self-regulation in the modern business world, "sustainable business" goes beyond that context of regulation responsibility – it takes on the company's purpose of existence.

    The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines and the Philippine Business for the Environment (PBE) launched the "SDGsBizPH" platform before private organizations on Wednesday, December 13, in Makati City.

    Seeking to strategically harmonize partnership and cooperation among businesses, the app serves as an online platform for the private sector to share their initiatives, stories, and projects aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

    "If you do good, you can do well. This is really the bottom line. Profit and social good are not mutually exclusive endeavors," said UNDP Philippines Country Director Titon Mitra during the launch.

    Prior to the launch, the UNDP had documented 139 initiatives from 75 companies in the Philippines supporting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

    PARTNERSHIP. Largest Philippine business associations forge partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo by Keb Cuevas/Rappler.com

    During the same event, Philippine companies signed an agreement with the UNDP to promote the goals and form an advisory council for the enhanced coordination of SDGs in the country.

    SDGs, our business

    According to a study by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, sustainable business practices create a profit potential of $12 trillion per annum in the global industries of agribusiness, health, development, and energy.

    While this statistic poses an opportunity for profit growth, it also serves as a call to action for businesses to integrate sustainable development as their core strategy.

    UNDP recorded a total of P40.7-billion total project allocations for the SDGs from companies that participated in the 2017 debut report.

    Among top priorities of the organizations were sustainable cities and communities (34%), quality education (28%), affordable and clean energy (19%), and good health and well-being (17%), among others.

    PBE Executive Director Bonar Laureto said that to achieve the SDGs, strategic coordination among businesses, civil society, and the government is needed.

    The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 meanwhile vows to promote inclusive growth and coordination with the SDGs. (READ: NEDA Board approve dev't plan, vows 'inclusive growth' under Duterte) – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is preparing for the onslaught of Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin), which is set to hit Surigao del Sur between late Thursday evening, December 21 and early Friday morning, December 22.

    In a press conference on Thursday, NDRRMC Spokesperson Romina Marasigan reiterated their call for residents living in landslide-prone and flood-prone areas to evacuate immediately.

    She also urged those living near mining sites in Mindanao to conduct preemptive evacuation to avoid casualties should there be landslides.

    Residents and local officials may refer to the hazard maps produced by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to check on areas susceptible to floods and landslides. The MGB has identified at least 5 hazard-prone areas in Vinta's path.

    Local preparations

    In Caraga and Northern Mindanao, local government units (LGUs) are also preparing for the landfall of the tropical storm. Both regions are in the direct path of Vinta. (READ: What LGUs should do before Vinta's landfall)

    The Surigao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) convened earlier on Thursday to map out measures for dealing with the effects of Vinta.

    Preschool to senior high school classes were canceled in Tandag City in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, and Agusan del Norte. The PDRRMO said classrooms in these schools are ready to accept evacuees.

    Agusan del Sur also prepared heavy equipment for possible rescue operations.

    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office in Caraga also prepositioned 9,201 food packs worth P2.625 million.

    Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) in Caraga has activated its Rapid Health Assessment teams for possible deployment. (READ: EXPLAINER: How tropical cyclones form)

    In Northern Mindanao, the DSWD activated its Quick Response Team (QRT). Regional Director Nestor Ramos also said food and non-food items have been prepositioned in Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, and Misamis Oriental.

    "As of today, DSWD Field Office X has prepositioned 30,000 family food packs and has a standby fund of P3 million as its augmentation to the local government units responding to disaster operations," Ramos added. – with a report from Bobby Lagsa / Rappler.com

    What's the weather like in your area? Report the situation through Rappler's Agos or tweet us at @rapplerdotcom.


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    WATER LEVEL. Cagayan de Oro River remains at normal level ahead of Tropical Storm Vinta's landfall. Photo by Angelo Lorenzo/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of Tropical Storm Vinta's landfall in Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro raised "code yellow" in the city, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRRM) said in a Facebook post Thursday night, December 21. 

    The CDRRM's announcement was based on Pagasa's severe weather bulletin issued at 8 pm.

    This means heavy rainfall of 7.5 - 15 mm in an hour is observed and is expected to continue for the next 2 hours. This can be equivalent to 2 gallons of rain per square meter per hour.

    When Pagasa gives yellow advisory, it means that residents in affected areas should continue monitoring their weather condition. Flooding for low-lying areas is possible. (READ: How to use PAGASA’s color-coded rainfall advisory)

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    Pagasa warned that scattered to widespread rains are expected in Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Caraga, Davao, Northern Mindanao, and the Zamboanga Peninsula within the next 24 hours. Residents of these areas should be on alert for possible flash floods and landslides.

    Based on its latest forecast track, Vinta is expected to make landfall in Surigao del Sur between late Thursday evening and early Friday morning, December 22. - Rappler.com


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    INCIDENT MANAGEMENT. Members of the Davao Oriental Incident Command Post monitor the effects of Severe Tropical Storm Vinta as it hits the province. Photo courtesy of Davao Oriental Province Facebook account

    MANILA, Philippines - At least 3, 363 families or 15,907 people were evacuated in Davao Oriental province due to Severe Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin), the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the region said on Friday, December 22.

    Local authorities earlier conducted preemptive evacuation in flood-prone and landslide-prone areas in the northern part of Davao Oriental, which includes the towns of Boston, Cateel, Baganga, and Caraga.

    In Cateel town, where the severe tropical storm made landfall at 1:45 am on Friday, at least 263 families or 1,315 people have sought shelter in evacuation centers as of 5 am, OCD Davao Oriental operations officer Franz Irag told Rappler. 

    "Stay in evacuation centers while it's not yet safe to return to your homes," Irag told the affected residents.

    Irag also warned residents in Davao Oriental of landslides and flooding, asking them to continue monitoring updates on the tropical storm.

    Pagasa earlier warned the public to take Vinta seriously, saying they should prepare and closely monitor updates.

    It also warned that scattered to widespread rains will continue in the Visayas and Mindanao within the next 24 hours. (READ: What are the hazard-prone areas along Vinta's path?)

    After landfall, Vinta is expected to cross Caraga, Northern Mindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and southern Palawan.

    It will then leave PAR on Christmas Eve, December 24. - Rappler.com

     If you want to help those affected by Vinta or if you have reports about their humanitarian needs like temporary shelter, relief goods, water, and hygiene kits, post them on the Agos map, text to 2929 (Smart and Sun), or tag MovePH on Twitter or Facebook. You may also link up with other organizations that called for donations.


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