Items filtered by date: Monday, 16 October 2017

Laurente conquers bad boy image to become CESAFI Junior MVP

LESSONS LEARNED. Laurente makes the most of out of this season after his punishment-filled run last year. Photo by PJ Estan.

CEBU CITY, Philippines - From being the league’s bad boy to the 2017 CESAFI junior basketball MVP, the transformation of University of Visayas (UV) Baby Lancers Beirn Anthony Laurente can’t get any better.

The point guard and shooting guard admitted that he did not expect to get the prestigious honor because in their team alone, there were many who were also good and all useful to the team. Nevertheless, he was happy he got the award.

“Lipay kaayu kay mao na ako pangandoy sukad pag sulod nako sa UV. Nya dugay nana nako gepangayu sa Ginoo, taga gabie ko mag-ampo na ma MVP ko.” (I am very happy because I have always aspired for that since I joined UV. I asked that from God for so long, every night I pray that I become the MVP.)

His mother who was in town to watch and support him during the finals said she was very happy for her son as this was his ambition since he was 3 years old.

Prior to this season, Laurente had a reputation for his physical game on court and for being a troublemaker. However, it all came to head last season when he was thrown out from two games, incurred a total penalty of P15,000, and was made to do a total of 12 hours community service.

In the CESAFI, any player who is thrown out of the game will not only be suspended for one game but he will also have to pay a penalty and do community service. First offense would entail the player a P5,000 fine and 4 hours of community service. A second offense would double the penalty and the hours of serving the community, while a third would get a player banned from CESAFI. The rules are strict to deter recidivism among players.

However, it had to happen twice before Laurente realized things.

Laurente was thrown out the first time during a pre-CESAFI season game wherein he hit Don Bosco Greywolves’ Ken Gato with the ball. UV paid for the penalty and Laurente was tasked to clean a gym in one of the Cebu City barangays for four hours.

It apparently was not enough to jolt Laurente as he was again thrown out of the ballgame, this time during the season, when he hit University of Cebu Junior Webmasters’ John Bryl Cuyos in the face. UV then split the P10,000 penalty fee with Laurente so the cager had to shell out P5,000 and was tasked to do 8 hours of community service.

He managed to split the 8 hours—4 hours of cleaning and the remaining four hours of teaching basketball under the Cebu City Sports Commission grassroots program. League officials hoped he sees the wisdom of sharing his talent to young ones.

Following that second punishment, Laurente realized that being a hot head on court wasn’t worth it.

“Ako bad boy sa court, di ko ganahan mawala na nako kay mao na ako gusto, play physical ba, nya sukad atong naka community service ko kaduha kay kaduha man ko nakasa, didto rako natagam nga di man jud lalim.” (I am a bad boy on the court, I didn’t want to lose that tag because it is what I want, to play physical, but ever since I was made to do community service twice because I committed a mistake twice, I got discouraged because it is not really easy.)

There is a reason why Laurente resorts to playing physical. He said basketball is his outlet for his anger.

“Basketball, ara ra nako ma-ipagawas ako kalagot, og naa man gani ko problema dira nako masulbad kay para sa ako basketball is my life man.” (It is through basketball that I can let my anger out, if ever I have a problem, I solve it by playing basketball because basketball for me is life.)

But after serving his punishments, Laurente said he will still play hard on court but he now knows better than to let his anger get the best of him in a game.

Laurente started playing for the UV Baby Lancers since he was in 9th grade four years ago.

His older brother, who plays in a varsity league in Palompon, Leyte, was the one who influenced him to play basketball.

Laurente said he was a native of Baybay, also in Leyte. He grew up in Palompon before his family decided to return permanently to Baybay.

He was a student at the Franciscan College of Immaculate Conception when he signed up for a UV basketball clinic in their school in 2013. It was there that he was spotted by UV scouting coach Van Halen Parmis, also a native of Baybay. Laurente was asked to try out, then was accepted to UV’s junior team.

However, his mother wanted him to play with UV’s passerelle first as he was still in the 8th grade. He played passarelle for a for a year before he moving up to the UV Baby Lancers.

Now that he is an MVP, his biggest achievement in the sport so far, Laurente said he still feels the same about himself.

“Ako na feel sa ako sarili kay mao ra gehapon sauna, nya humble gehapon bisag unsa pa imo naabtan.” (I feel the same way as I felt before, and I should stay humble no matter my achievements.)

Safe to say that with his incredible transformation, there’s more to look forward from Laurente who like any young basketball player hopes to someday play in the PBA. –

  • Published in Sports

Olympic champion Ervin kneels during U.S. anthem

ANCHOR'S PROTEST. Mixed medly relay anchor Anthony Ervin is the first swimmer to kneel down during the U.S. national anthem. Photo from Facebook. 

LOS ANGELES, USA – Olympic 50-meter freestyle champion Anthony Ervin has joined the ranks of athletes protesting during the US national anthem by kneeling for a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at a swim meet in Brazil.

Ervin, 36, who became the oldest man to win an individual Olympic swimming gold with victory in Rio last year, took a knee during the Raia Rapida gala.

The veteran American star, who also won Olympic gold in the 50m free at the 2000 Sydney Games, staged his protest after anchoring the USA team in the mixed 200m medley relay on Sunday,October 15, swimming news website SwimSwam reported.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first athlete to kneel for the anthem in a series of protests last year to draw attention to racial injustice.

A fresh wave of protests in the NFL erupted last month after President Donald Trump derided protesting players as "sons of bitches" who should be fired.

Ervin, whose father is a black former Vietnam veteran, appeared to allude to his protest in a post on Twitter on Monday, October 16.

"My point is to save lives, and understand the imbalance. We all have our area. I'm a swimmer," Ervin said.

Ervin is one of the few athletes outside of the NFL to join the protests.

Oakland Athletics baseball player Bruce Maxwell also knelt during the anthem last month while several women players opted to stay in the locker room during the anthem before Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City's game in the National Women's Soccer League. –


  • Published in U.S.

Hapilon, Omar Maute offered millions of pesos to escape Marawi

GOOD NEWS. AFP chief Eduardo Año (2nd, left) and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (2nd, right) show photos of slain terrorist leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute to the media at Camp Ranao, Marawi City, on October 16, 2017. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler 

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The top leaders of the Marawi siege offered millions of pesos in exchange for their safe passage out of the war-torn city, Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año said.

Año said in a news conference on Monday, October 16, that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon – the supposed emir of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia – and Omar Maute were desperate to flee Marawi as government troops closed in on them.


Both were killed past midnight on Monday. (READ: Top Marawi siege leaders killed in clashes)

"We received such information that they were offering millions for anyone who can lead and can provide them with banca (boat) and guide them out of [the] main battle area," Año said in a press conference with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at Camp Ranao, the headquarters of the 103rd Infantry Battalion, on Monday.

The military believes that the nearly P1-billion loot taken by local terrorists from homes and establishments in Marawi is still hidden and buried somewhere in the main battle area.

"As days passed, they (terrorists) each took [their] own [share of the loot] and hid the money so that when they can escape, they can come back for it," Año said.

The AFP chief believes that the money is still in Marawi as the military had already sealed off the city.

"I believe the money is still inside the main battle area," Año said.

He added that Hapilon and Omar Maute were so desperate to get out of Marawi City that they even commanded their hostages to provide them with boats to aid their escape.

Año said that based on the information that the military received, there were at least two motorized boats readied for the terrorist leaders' escape but the latter were unable to reach them because of the intense firefight that later claimed their lives.

Año said the supposed escape route of the terrorist leaders had been sealed off by joint special operatives from the Army, Marines, and Special Action Force of the police.

The Navy Special Operations Group (NavSOG) and the police had sealed off Lake Lanao, which prevented any escape through the lake.

At least 20 terrorists were killed by the NaVSOG as they tried to enter or exit the main battle area through Lake Lanao.

"All who attempted to escape [through the lake] we have neutralized," Año added. –



Paolo now severe tropical storm; LPA affects Palawan

Satellite image as of October 17, 10:30 am. Image courtesy of PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines – Tropical Storm Paolo (Lan) intensified into a severe tropical storm as it continued to move over the Philippine Sea on Tuesday, October 17. It could even intensify further into a typhoon in the next 24 to 36 hours since it is over water.

In a bulletin issued 11 am on Tuesday, PAGASA said Paolo is now 765 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, moving north northwest at a very slow 7 kilometers per hour (km/h).


The severe tropical storm has maximum winds of 90 km/h and gustiness of up to 115 km/h.

Though Paolo is too far from the Philippines and there are no areas under tropical cyclone warning signals, the severe tropical storm's outer rainbands may bring light to heavy rain to Bicol, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

Paolo is not expected to make landfall since its track shows it moving upward instead of approaching the Philippines. Forecast track of Tropical Storm Paolo as of October 17, 11 am. Image courtesy of PAGASA

Also in the same bulletin, PAGASA said a low pressure area (LPA) continues to affect the province of Palawan.

The LPA is 395 kilometers west of Coron, Palawan, bringing light to heavy rain to the province. –


Neutron star smashup 'transforms' our understanding of Universe

DISCOVERY. Samara Nissanke, Representative of the Virgo Interferometer, speaks during a presentation at the ESO speaks during a presentation at the ESO (European Southern Hemisphere) German headquarters in Garching near Munich, southern Germany, on October 16, 2017. Christof Stache/AFP

PARIS, France – For the first time, scientists have witnessed the cataclysmic crash of two ultra-dense neutron stars in a galaxy far away, and concluded that such impacts forged at least half the gold in the Universe.

Shockwaves and light flashes from the collision travelled some 130 million light-years to be captured by Earthly detectors on August 17, excited teams revealed at press conferences held around the globe on Monday as a dozen related science papers were published in top academic journals.

"We witnessed history unfolding in front of our eyes: two neutron stars drawing closer, closer... turning faster and faster around each other, then colliding and scattering debris all over the place," co-discoverer Benoit Mours of France's CNRS research institute told Agence France-Presse.

The groundbreaking observation solved a number of physics riddles and sent ripples of excitement through the scientific community.

Most jaw-dropping for many, the data finally revealed where much of the gold, platinum, uranium, mercury and other heavy elements in the Universe came from.

Telescopes saw evidence of newly-forged material in the fallout, the teams said – a source long suspected, now confirmed.

"It makes it quite clear that a significant fraction, maybe half, maybe more, of the heavy elements in the Universe are actually produced by this kind of collision," said physicist Patrick Sutton, a member of the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) which contributed to the find.

Neutron stars are the condensed, burnt-out cores that remain when massive stars run out of fuel, blow up, and die.

Typically about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter, but with more mass than the Sun, they are highly radioactive and ultra-dense – a handful of material from one weighs as much as Mount Everest.

'Too beautiful'

It had been theorized that mergers of two such exotic bodies would create ripples in the fabric of space-time known as gravitational waves, as well as bright flashes of high-energy radiation called gamma ray bursts.

On August 17, detectors witnessed both phenomena, 1.7 seconds apart, coming from the same spot in the constellation of Hydra.

"It was clear to us within minutes that we had a binary neutron star detection," said David Shoemaker, another member of LIGO, which has detectors in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington.

"The signals were much too beautiful to be anything but that," he told Agence France-Presse.

The observation was the fruit of years of labor by thousands of scientists at more than 70 ground- and space-based observatories on all continents.

Along with LIGO, they include teams from Europe's Virgo gravitational wave detector in Italy, and a number of ground- and space-based telescopes including NASA's Hubble.

"This event marks a turning point in observational astronomy and will lead to a treasure trove of scientific results," said Bangalore Sathyaprakash from Cardiff University's School of Physics and Astronomy, recalling "the most exciting of my scientific life."

"It is tremendously exciting to experience a rare event that transforms our understanding of the workings of the Universe," added France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation which funds LIGO.

The detection is another feather in the cap for German physicist Albert Einstein, who first predicted gravitational waves more than 100 years ago.

Something 'fundamental'

Three LIGO pioneers, Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, were awarded the Nobel Physics Prize this month for the observation of gravitational waves, without which the latest discovery would not have been possible.

The ripples have been observed four times before now – the first time by LIGO in September 2015. All four were from mergers of black holes, which are even more violent than neutron star crashes, but emit no light.

The fifth and latest detection was accompanied by a gamma ray burst which scientists said came from nearer in the Universe and was less bright than expected.

"What this event is telling us is that there may be many more of these short gamma ray bursts going off nearby in the Universe than we expected," Sutton said – an exciting prospect for scientists hoping to uncover further secrets of the Universe.

Among other things, it is hoped that data from neutron star collisions will allow the definitive calculation of the rate at which the cosmos is expanding, which in turn will tell us how old it is and how much matter it contains.

"With these observations we are not just learning what happens when neutron stars collide, we're also learning something fundamental about the nature of the Universe," said Julie McEnery of the Fermi gamma ray space telescope project. –

  • Published in Tech

Filipino dead in California wildfires – DFA

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES. A firefighter uses a drip torch to set a backfire to protect houses in Adobe Canyon during the Nuns Fire on October 15, 2017 near Santa Rosa, California.

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino is presumed dead in the wildfires engulfing north California's wine country, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday, October 17.

The Filipino's remains, "which have yet to be positively identified, were recovered on October 14, 2017, in Napa County," the Philippine consulate general in San Francisco told the DFA.

"We offer our sincere sympathies and prayers to the family of our kababayan (countryman) who perished in this horrific fire," Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.

"I have instructed our Consulate General in San Francisco to offer all possible assistance to the family and to continue to closely monitor the welfare of other Filipinos in the affected areas," Cayetano added.

Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon said the Philippine consulate general in San Francisco "has been in touch with the victim's family and has offered assistance, especially in coordinating arrangements for the repatriation of the victim's remains."

"We also continue to communicate with the Filipino community through our social media advisories, and have offered consular assistance to Filipinos affected by the wildfires," Ascalon said.

At least 40 people have died in the California wildfires, said the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on its website.

The most populous US state regularly faces late-summer fires. But the blazes that have burned more than 217,500 acres (about 88,090 hectares) this month, devastating the winemaking areas of Napa and Sonoma, proved the deadliest in the state's history. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/


In Cavite, motorcyclists ride with cops to end riding-in-tandem crimes

TOGETHER. Cops and volunteers share the road to end criminality. Cavite Police photo 


MANILA, Philippines – Just days after the Philippine National Police (PNP) declared war against riding-in-tandem shooters, a provincial police office began inviting volunteers to go to the front lines.

The Cavite Provincial Police Office (PPO) launched on Monday, October 16, their Unified Motorcycle Riders Group (UMRG).


The program pools motorcyclists from all over Cavite to help cops hit the brakes on crimes committed by riding-in-tandem shooters.

Volunteers register themselves and their motorcycles with the police, then help cops as "force multipliers" in police operations.

Cavite is no stranger to such crimes. Just in August, Dasmariñas Cityimplemented a no-helmet policy after a succession of shootings supposedly done by masked and helmeted assailants riding motorcycles.

Bikers' database

LAUNCHED. Volunteers flood the stage for registration

LAUNCHED. Volunteers flood the stage for registration 

It starts with registration.

Motorcycle drivers are asked to go to police stations with their bikes so they can be listed and registered by cops.

Cavite PPO spokesperson Superintendent Janet Arinabo said the motorcycles need to be registered with the Land Transportation Office first before riders can volunteer.

"Para rin mag-register sila sa amin para malaman namin kung sinong may motor sa Cavite," Arinabo told Rappler in a phone interview.

([The program] is also a way for us to know who owns a motor in Cavite.)

At the end of the registration, Arinabo said riders will receive identification cards (IDs), which will contain the details of the driver and the bike.

Through the database, Arinabo said, cops can easily identify whether a registered motorcyclist commits a crime, or at least a traffic violation.

If an unregistered driver commits any violations of the law, cops can easily cancel out registered drivers from their list of suspects.


After the paperwork, it's off to the road. Registered riders can help cops in many ways.

For the faint-hearted, riders can just help in intelligence-gathering, by letting cops know when a rider, whether registered or not, is suspicious.

For those brave enough, they can take part in police operations themselves.

They can be part of police patrol operations, where riders share the road with cops in going around neighborhoods to monitor street crime. They can also man designated checkpoints in their localities.

When on patrol or at the checkpoint, riders may get a call for a chase if a rogue rider commits a crime, such as robbery, or in the worst scenario, kill a neighborhood resident.

In such cases, Arinabo said, volunteer riders don't need to go on the dangerous trip, as cops will not provide them offensive and protective equipment.

Service and volunteerism

PLEDGE. Cops vow to lead drivers to curb crime

PLEDGE. Cops vow to lead drivers to curb crime 

Registered riders, however, will not receive special treatment on the road.

"Siyempre count pa rin sila kung may violation sila. Applicable pa rin sa kanila ang laws sa kanila. Hindi porke na-issuehan sila, sila dapat ang mas mag-observe ng laws," Arinabo said.

(Of course their violations will also be counted. Laws are still applicable to them. They can't get away with it just because they were issued IDs. They should follow the law even more.)

Arinabo stressed that the effort, as a police-community program, was started in the name of volunteerism and service.

"Dito ine-encourage namin service, volunteerism. Wala po 'tong perks, walang bayad. 'Yung tumulong lang ang gustong tumulong sa efforts ng Cavite PNP dahil hindi lang responsibility ng police kundi ng lahat ang public safety," Arinabo said.

(We are encouraging service and volunteerism. This has no perks, no payment. We are just inviting those who want to help the Cavite PNP, because public safety isn't just the responsibility of the police.)

According to Arinabo, the clamor for a safer community has already drawn over 1,000 motorcyclists to volunteer on the first day of the program.

"Kasi kapag peaceful, mas magiging prosperous, at mas safe ang families nila," she said. (If it is peaceful, the communities will become prosperous and will become safer for their families.) –


Federalism in motion: a runaway train?

The federalism train has left the station. The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban (PDP) has submitted a draft Constitution to the House of Representatives; hearings on proposed changes are ongoing. But the PDP draft is loaded with so many compromises in an obvious bid to secure quick approval that it is not clear what its destination is.
Many key elements, the number and powers of federal states, fiscal relations between local and central government – the core of federalism – apparently are still to be worked out.

The PDP draft does not propose the number of federal states. Art X, Section 6. says (1) “There shall be created regions of the federal republic each consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays and geographical areas with sufficient territories, inhabitants, and resources necessary to sustain and promote a stable and efficient regional government, sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures…” The federal states and their boundaries will be set in an ordinance which will be an integral part of the Constitution. In interviews, leaders of the PDP Laban Federalism Institute say that they support the 11 federal states plus Metro Manila of Nene Pimentel.

The proposed formation process is long and involved.

(a) There shall be a plebiscite for the approval of regional units and territories simultaneous with the plebiscite ratifying the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

In case the voters of a proposed region did not vote favorably on the creation of a region, upon the petition of 5% of the registered voters in a region, another plebiscite shall be called and conducted for the purpose of this section.

The federal government shall continue to exercise its powers and functions over regions that did not vote favorably in such plebiscite.

(b) Within a period of 18 months from the ratification of the Constitution, Parliament shall enact a regional and local government code applicable symmetrically to all regions except for autonomous regions established under the 1987 constitution.

The regional local government code shall establish a regional commission which shall act as the interim regional government. Members will include incumbent governors of provinces and mayors of highly urbanized cities and independent component cities within the region. Until the enactment of an organic act for each region, the regional commission shall be the interim regional government, acting as a collegial body, with executive and legislative powers.

Chairmanship of the commission shall be by rotation among its members where each member of the commission from each province, highly urbanized city, and independent component cities shall be given a term of one year to serve as chairperson. The commission shall exercise the executive powers of the region as a collegial body. The commission shall elect a regional chief administrator who shall be a professional manager to exercise the executive functions of the commission. The commission shall create and organize the government offices and bureaucracy necessary for the effective and efficient functioning of the regional government.

The commission shall exercise the legislative powers granted by the Constitution to regional governments. The commission shall be assisted by a regional consultative assembly composed of 3 representatives from each of the legislative assemblies of each province, highly urbanized city and independent component cities.

The commission shall provide for regional councils composed of representatives of regional departments of the federal government and other government offices, and representatives from different sectors and non-governmental organizations for the purpose of advising the commission and regional consultative assembly.

The terms of office of elective regional and local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be provided by law, shall be 5 years and no such official shall serve for more than 2 consecutive terms.

(c) The federal government shall gradually devolve and decentralize funding, functions, and responsibilities in accordance with the financial and organizational capacity of the regions.

(d) Five years after the creation of the region, each region may opt for an organic act to be enacted by parliament in order to form the regional government with elective legislative and executive departments.

The PDP proposal leaves room for negotiating the fiscal shares of local and central government, limiting itself only to setting the frame for fiscal federalism. Thus, while national/federal taxes will be shared, “specific national taxes collected within the territorial jurisdiction of each region shall be retained by and shall accrue exclusively to the regional government.” Regional governments shall be entitled to at least 50% share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth such as mining, hydro and geothermal, forestry, fisheries, pasture leases within their respective areas.

An “Equalization Fund” is proposed to give unconditional, general purpose block grants as well as conditional and matching grants. The fund is to be administered by a “National Finance Commission” appointed by the president. The commission shall, after consultation with the regions, submit a report and recommendation to parliament on how the equalization fund shall be allocated. The allocation of these revenues among different constituent units of the regional government shall be determined under the regional and local government code.

The long transition period proposed by the PDP makes sense, given the complexity of the changes. It also gives scope to local initiative, making it a more democratic process than if it were imposed top- down. Another advantage is that it would minimize the resource requirements, less people and less additional money. Not incidentally, it would allow incumbents to remain in place with considerably more resources, minimizing opposition. Its main disadvantage, given the long and elaborate process, is that there’s also a lot of scope for things to go wrong.

I have a problem mainly with the criteria for determining the number of federal states. The PDP formula has no connection with the main weakness of the current set-up, the dependence of local government on central government transfers. There is more than enough fiscal space to support a shift to a federal system and its attendant redistribution of resources.

The problem is that given sharp inequality of regional economic activity, even if you give federal states new taxing powers, only 3 regions are financially viable. Only these 3 regions can generate enough revenue to support their expanded share of services. You will recreate the current system where the central government subsidizes most of the regions.

Miral is clear on the results of the current arrangement on corruption and service delivery. This arrangement “…weakens local governments’ incentive to exert effort in the provision of market-enhancing public goods. Local governments that exercise good governance are not able to fully internalize the revenue benefits of their good policies since increased tax collections that go with their economic growth-enhancing policies accrue to the central government that, in turn, distributes it to all local governments regardless of their performance… Financing of local government services by central government transfers weakens the link between the benefits and costs of public spending. Transfers relieve local governments from raising their own revenues that would require them to explain, justify, convince and demonstrate to their taxpayers that taxes are necessary and the funds raised will be spent responsibly…clientelism is facilitated and sustained by centralized taxation and central government transfers to sub-national governments…This is because they only consider the benefits of these projects without seriously examining their costs.”[1]

The design for a new federal system should address the way the current fiscal arrangement generates local governments which have little incentive to collect taxes, provide services, and are not accountable to their constituents. The new design should generate a new dynamic in local politics where political competition is focused on providing social and economic services for generating growth, where, as a result, local governments become more accountable to their constituents. In the end, a shift to a federal system with its attendant risks, is justifiable only if it advances local democracy.

In an earlier presentation PDP called for a “grand bargain” – a package of reforms to make federalism succeed. This is concretized in the proposed amendments. There is a long section (Art IX Section 11-13) regulating party-switching, dynasties and providing financial support for political parties. The allocation of 40% of seats in the federal assembly to a system of proportional representation could have done more to strengthen political parties. But this was compromised by putting the system in a regional straight jacket. Proportionality is to be determined by region instead of nationally.

In the end, the reform impulses of the PDP proposal are compromised by a design which is apparently geared towards securing support in the House of Representatives. Single member districts and their incumbents will be retained. The majority of party-list groups which are creations of local political clans are assured seats through a bastardized region-based proportional representation system. With federal regions still dependent on the central government, congressmen will also retain their “fetching” roles.

Students of charter change warn of “unintended consequences”. The logic of the PDP proposal seems to suggest an “intended consequence” – a political system which will be easier for the Duterte regime to control. Local governments which will remain dependent on central government largesse and a basically unchanged House of Representatives will mean no significant change from the current situation. The malleable “super majority” in the House will not have to contend with the Senate which will have less powers in the PDP proposal.

Can the Duterte regime pull this off? They first have to contend with the Senate where the required three-fourths vote means the 5 opposition senators only have to secure two more votes to block a House proposal. PDP people say there’s a “gentleman’s agreement” between Senate President Pimentel and House Speaker Alvarez for separate voting. One should also not underestimate the incompetence of this regime.

To assure regime continuity, the 2019 election should already be in the new system. This means they should go through the House and Senate deliberations and hold a plebiscite to approve a new Constitution within one year. If the Senate opposition secures the no votes, the Duterte people will have to go to the Supreme Court. All these will take time. By early 2019, they will have difficulty controlling politicians who will be busy preparing for the May 2019 elections.

Is there still room for significant reform through charter change? The PDP proposal does not provide too much hope. –

Joel Rocamora is a political analyst and a seasoned civil society leader. An activist-scholar, he finished his PhD in Politics, Asian Studies, and International Relations in Cornell University, and had been the head of the Institute for Popular Democracy, the Transnational Institute, the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party, and member to a number of non-governmental organizations. From the parliament of the streets, he crossed over to the government and joined Aquino's Cabinet as the Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

[1] Romulo E.M. Miral, Jr., “Taxation in a Federation”, in Brillantes, Ilago,, p.62-64


Gov’t bent on implementing PUV modernization program

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella FILE PHOTO / MALACANANG

Malacañang on Monday said that it would proceed with the government’s plan to modernize public utility vehicles (PUVs) despite the nationwide transport strike against the project.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said transport strikes would not deter the government from implementing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVVMP), which he called long overdue.

The program intends to phase out old PUVs, including 200,000 jeepneys, but its critics claim that it was “antipoor.”


Abella said various transport groups had expressed support for the project, except for Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide).

“The government, through the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), will continue with the discussions, consultations and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector,” Abella said.

At a press conference in Quezon City, groups supporting the jeepney drivers and operators said the PUVVMP was a “holdup” and “antipoor” scheme.

“Our small-time jeepney operators and drivers could not afford the very expensive electronic jeepneys,” said Ferdinand Gaite of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).

The proposed modernization plan worth P417 billion is expected to affect around 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila and 270,000 jeepneys nationwide, and around 650,000 drivers, according to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center.

Higher fare
Gaite said the plan to phase out jeepneys would result in a higher fare of P12 to P20 from the current P8 for a shorter distance. It would also mean shorter route and more drivers turning into contractual workers.

For Ron Villegas of the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center, the modernization program was like robbing the jeepney drivers and commuters.

Under the government’s plan, drivers would have to buy new e-jeeps worth P1.5 to P1.8 million subsidy, which he said was very expensive.


“Even with a promised subsidy, our small and independent operators would not be able to bear this,” he added.

‘Not the solution’

Jen Pajel of the All Workers Unity said the group was in favor of modernization, but pointed out that Mr. Duterte’s jeepney phaseout program was not the solution.

“If the government can allot P900 million for the anti-illegal drugs program (Oplan ‘Tokhang’) , they can also allot funds for the rehabilitation of jeepneys,” Pajel said.

Based on the modernization scheme, an operator should have 10 jeepneys. That means one operator should have P16 million to P20 million for the jeepneys and P4 million for registration, she said.

Among the proposed alternatives to the phaseout of old jeepneys are the rehabilitation of the vehicles, increased government subsidy for jeepney drivers and not big operators, and lower tariff for imported jeepneys.

But the long-term solution is to allow the country to have its own car manufacturing industry, said Cleng Holbe of Agham.

In the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said the transport strike was a wake-up call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to listen to the concerns of jeepney drivers and operators.

During floor deliberations on the DOTr budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto asked why the agency was embarking on a nationwide jeepney modernization program when it had yet to resolve traffic woes in Metro Manila.

Recto also pointed out that the DOTr was embarking on a new program when it was slow in the rollout and distribution of plastic drivers’ licenses and license plates. –Reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Jocelyn R. Uy


'Allah answered my prayers’

MARAWI CITY—“Allah answered my prayers,” Nairah Ampaso, 28, a mother of five, said on Monday after learning that government troops had killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, the last two leaders of the pro-Islamic State (IS) terrorists who seized this city nearly four months ago.

“We prayed that these leaders would be killed. I am happy that they are dead,” Ampaso told the Inquirer.

“I hope their deaths mean the end of the war and we can return to our homes,” she said.

Victory over terrorism
In Manila, Malacañang hailed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute as a “clear victory against terrorism.”

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines for killing the two terrorist leaders and said the government looked forward to rebuilding Marawi.

“This clear victory against terrorism proves the Duterte administration’s resoluteness in delivering on its promise of peace and prosperity to the people of Mindanao,” Andanar said.

Lawmakers also lauded the military for killing Hapilon and Maute, who had pledged allegiance to IS and seized large parts of Marawi on May 23 to establish an IS enclave in Southeast Asia.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, a former military officer, said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute were a “positive development” but he emphasized that first there must be an efficient delivery of basic services to the people to fully combat terrorism and other forms of violence.

“The battle [for] the hearts and minds of our people is not won by body count,” said Honasan, chair of the Senate special committee formed to assess and review the rehabilitation of Marawi.

End of hostilities
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, also a former military officer, said he hoped the deaths of the two terrorist leaders signified the end of hostilities.

“This decisive victory is a fitting honor to our soldiers, both fallen and living, who bravely fought in this campaign,” he said.


Sen. Miguel Zubiri, who is from Mindanao, said he supported keeping martial law in Marawi up to the end of the year to allow full use of human, material and financial resources and ensure the rehabilitation of the city would be achieved in a shorter time.

Sen. Sonny Angara said rebuilding Marawi was the government’s urgent task.

“We must do whatever it takes for the people of Marawi to safely return to their city the soonest possible time and for vital infrastructure to be restored,” he said.

Sen. JV Ejercito called on the government to learn from the lessons of Marawi “by strengthening our intelligence and counterterrorism initiatives.”

The terrorists surprised the military by easily seizing Marawi on May 23, laying siege to it, and lasting nearly four months in battling government forces for control of the city.

Beginning of the end
Catholic bishops said they believed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute would lead to the end of the crisis.

“Crumbling leadership signals the beginning of the end,” Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said.

Ozamiz Bishop Martin Jumoad said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders meant “the victory of peace and order in our society.”

“Praise God. This serves as a lesson that evil must be conquered so that goodness may reign,” he said.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee, said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders indicated that the war was coming to an end.

“We are very happy. This is what we are waiting for. This is an indication that the war is over,” he said.

For Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the deaths of Hapilon and Maute meant “the end of the siege of Marawi.”

But “it also marks the beginning of a long but necessary process of healing and recovery among our people,” he added. –Reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Richel Umel, Allan Nawal, Julie S. Alipala. Philip C. Tubeza, Jocelyn R. Uy and Tina G. Santos

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