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The National Bureau of Investigation would handle the probe into the decoupling incident of the coaches of the Metro Rail Transit last Thursday. File
MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez on Sunday said the National Bureau of Investigation would handle the probe into the decoupling incident of the coaches of the MRT-3 last Thursday.
In a statement, Chavez said he had a two-hour meeting with the NBI's Special Action Unit, which would lead the MRT investigation. He said he already conveyed the message of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade that the Department of Transportation and the MRT-3 would fully cooperate in the investigation.
“We thank the NBI for immediately forming a team of investigators,” Chavez said.
“DOTr and MRT will no longer make any statement regarding the investigation. Hawak na po ito ng NBI. Kung may statement man, sila na po ang magbibigay sa mga susunod na araw, (It is already being handled by the NBI. If there will be any statement in the coming days, it will be coming from them),” he added.
According to Chavez, the investigation would cover the decoupling incident and the missing messma card, commonly referred to as the black box of the light rail vehicle.
Chavez also met with MRT-3 Director for Operations Engr. Mike Capati, MRT Safety and Security Unit chief retired Major Willy Serano, his assistant Jess Duque and lawyer Dona Samson from the DOTr Office of the Undersecretary for Legal.
BURI denies sabotage plot
Meanwhile, the former maintenance provider of the MRT-3, Busan Universal Rail Inc., denied sabotaging the train and being involved in the decoupling of coaches last Thursday.
BURI spokesperson Charles Mendoza said they do not think they are among the persons of interest mentioned by Chavez.
“Wala kaming responsibilidad o involvement sa mga nangyari. Alam niyo naman, sila na ang nagpapatakbo ngayon, (We have no responsibility or involvement in the incident. You know that the government already manages the MRT,” Mercado said in a radio interview with dzMM.
The MRT-3 decoupling incident occurred a week after the government terminated the contract of BURI as its maintenance provider.
On Saturday, Chavez said there were several persons of interest in the MRT-3 incident but he refused to identify these persons pending the NBI probe.
The MRT-3 decoupling incident at the Ayala Station last Thursday disrupted train operations and forced hundreds of commuters to walk to the next station.
MANILA, Philippines — A former official of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Zamboanga peninsula has been sentenced to a maximum of 18 years in prison for the anomalous purchase of information technology (IT) materials.
Former regional director Jesus Nieves was meted a maximum prison term of 10 years for graft and another eight years for falsification of public documents.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division issued the ruling on Friday.
Nieves was slapped with the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, payment of P4,776,786 in damage to DepEd and a fine of P2,000.
Court records showed Nieves purchased IT materials amounting to P4,776,786 in April 2006 from Felta Multi-Media Inc. through direct contracting instead of public bidding as required under the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The court said a resolution of the bids and awards committee was falsified to make it appear that the BAC recommended the purchase of the materials through direct contracting.
While there was no direct evidence showing that Nieves was the one who falsified the BAC resolution, the Sandiganbayan said “case law teaches that he who stands to benefit from such falsified document is legally presumed to be the author thereof.”
The court said a Commission on Audit (COA) report in 2007 showed the DepEd regional office received P4,776,786 from the Department of Budget and Management, but the amount was not recorded in its book of accounts.
The COA said there were no disbursement vouchers and other supporting documents to prove that the purchase was above board.
The Sandiganbayan said the purchase was initiated despite a moratorium in the procurement of supplementary and reference materials to ensure that available funds are used to address the backlog in textbooks and teachers’ manuals.
“What made the matter worse is...that the accused was not able to come up with any reliable proof to show that the procured items had...been delivered...Neither did the defense present any of the supposed beneficiaries of the said items to debunk...the audit report,” the court ruling read.
Eight more talented acts made it to the semi-finals of AXN’s “Asia’s Got Talent” this week, and two of them are from the Philippines.
Fitri Cerado is a 14-year-old singer who auditioned in the first season of the talent search series but did not make it to the semi-finals. She even sang a duet with judge David Foster in this clip back when she was only 11.
But it was David who also told Fitri to work harder as there was a “certain disconnect” between her piano playing and her singing.
And worked hard she did. Two years later, Fitri is back in the thick of the competition.
“The reason I came back to ‘Asia’s Got Talent’ is because I want to prove David [Foster] wrong. I want to prove that I could work harder on my piano. I don’t want to give up on anything, I just need to work harder,” Fitri said with determination.
“Did I crush your dream?” David Foster asked.
“No, because I’m here now,” Fitri confidently replied before performing a mesmerizing rendition of The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun.”
“You just set a new standard. You just raised the bar for all the singers from now on. That was amazing, thank you,” said Jay Park, who along with Anggun and, yes, David voted yes to Fitri.
In this behind-the-scenes clip after she also earned a nomination for the Traveloka Award for most inspiring “Asia’s Got Talent” story, Fitri talked about her musical aspirations.
Another Pinoy act that advanced to the next round is DM-X Convaleñoz, the hair-flipping dance group from Compostela Valley. Composed of nine boys who all sport long hair, the group was formed eight years ago at a vacant lot where they practiced their routine. The group was a finalist during the fifth season of “Pilipinas Got Talent” last year.
Also, a Traveloka Award nominee, DM-X’s back story is made all the more inspiring by the fact that the respective parents of these boys did not initially approve of their dancing and instead wanted them to start working to be of help to their families.
They auditioned for “Asia’s Got Nothing” despite having some difficulties raising the money needed for their air fare to Johor, Malaysia where the show is taped.
Fortunately, the boys have more than what it takes to impress the judges and both studio and television audiences alike.
Fitri Cerado and DM-X Convaleñoz now join early qualifiers Deniel Sarmiento and Neil Ray Garcia Llanes for the next round. The Philippines is now the country with the most number of semi-finalists in the contest, which was first won by Filipino shadow dancers El Gamma Penumbra.
“Asia’s Got Talent” airs this Thursday at 8:30pm on AXN with replays shown throughout the week. To follow the journey of this season’s acts, check out #AXNAsia and #AsiasGotTalent.
AXN is available on Cablelink Channel 38, Cignal Channel 121, Destiny Cable Channel 61, Dream Satellite TV Channel 20, G Sat Channel 51, and SKYCable Channel 49. AXN HD is available on SKYCable Channel 247.
President Duterte rubs elbows with troops fighting terrorists in Marawi. He said he did not think soldiers had stolen civilians things during the siege, and had seen them use on occasion the amenities in house converted into hospitals or operations meeting rooms. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO DESK FILE
MANILA – President Duterte said Saturday he will lean heavily on the final recommendation of the Armed Forces and the National Police on the matter of extending martial law in Mindanao beyond Dec. 31, the new deadline approved by Congress at the height of government engagement with terrorists in Marawi.
“The declaration of martial law is always dependent on what the Armed Forces and the police say. Kung anong sabihin ng armed forces pati police [Whatever the AFP and PNP say], since they’re the ones who will be engaged….we should give credence to it,” the President said at a press conference in Davao City.
Responding to a reporter’s question on whether, with the developments in Marawi now, he was ready to lift the martial law declaration any time soon, Duterte said: “You know, declaration of martial law is always dependent [on] what the Armed Forces and the police recommends.
He pointed out that “they are the two entities that would be relied upon heavily by a President or Head of State when he entertains something like extreme measures — martial law, state of emergency.”
Whatever the Armed Forces and police say, “since they are the ones also who would be totally engaged . . . if there’s . . . trouble there, we should give credence to it actually,” the President stressed.
He said he was confident the security establishment would not “fabricate events” or dish out misleading reports just to lay the basis for a martial law extension.
Soldiers stealing? I don’t think so – Duterte
Asked if he himself had received any reports – since the martial law declaration – of abuses by soldiers in the communities during the Marawi siege, Duterte said, “No [and] I do not believe that the soldiers were there to [steal residents’ things]… Paano nila manakaw ‘yan [How can they steal those]? I was there. And they were billeted in houses. And they were using the amenities” of the houses where they were staying at any given time during the course of the five-month war, he explained.
“‘[The] refrigerator. There was power. Ginagamit ‘yan mga [They’re using the] electric fans. And kung ‘yan lang, I am not ready to put to task my soldiers. ‘Yung sabihin mong mga furniture. Paano nila dalhin?” Duterte wondered aloud.
When soldiers exit an area, all they bring with them are their guns and their knapsack and it’s so easy to see if anyone brought out anything he did not own, he pointed out.
‘Pag move out mo, ang dala-dala mo lang ‘yung knapsack mo pati baril mo. Eh ‘di makita ka ng opisyal [When you move out, all you can carry is your knapsack and your gun]. Those are very large things that you cannot hide in your pocket. And I do not believe na para ‘yan lang, nakawin ng sundalo [that soldiers would steal just for stuff like that].”
He confirmed that, from what he witnessed when he visited the site, the troops on the ground were using basic amenities: “ginamit nila, tama ‘yan kasi napunta ako [the soldiers used the amenities, that’s right, when I went there] several times. I went to the houses used as hospitals, emergency.”
He recalled going to one house “where they used to confer and I attended one using an electric fan, probably also borrowed. But I do not think my soldiers would be… Alam nila ‘yan [They know better than that].”
The Maris hydro was originally conceptualized and developed by the operations, maintenance, and business development teams of AboitizPower large hydro business unit, SN AboitizPower (SNAP). HANDOUT PHOTO
MANILA – On the back of a strong demand for renewable energy (RE), AboitizPower said it continues to ramp up its portfolio of generation facilities across the Philippines.
AboitizPower’s subsidiary, SN AboitizPower, has completed the commissioning of its 8.5-megawatt (MW) Maris Main Canal 1 hydroelectric power plant, as it gears toward full commercial operation this November.
The plant re-utilizes the water coming from the 360-MW Magat hydro plant through the re-regulating dam located downstream of Magat. The water then flows into the Maris Main (South) Irrigation Canal. The project was made possible with the support of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Energy (DOE), host communities, and local government units.
Maris hydro is the first greenfield project of SNAP. It is composed of two units of Kaplan pit type turbines with generator nameplate capacity of 4.25 MW each. Unit 1 was commissioned on October 24 while Unit 2 was commissioned on November 6. The construction of the US$47-million hydro plant, located in Brgy. Ambatali in Ramon, Isabela, took about two years.
Meanwhile, in October, AboitizPower’s run-of-river hydro business unit, Hedcor, signed civil works contract with UK-based contractor, Whessoe, for its 19-MW Bineng Combined Hydropower Project in Benguet. The project, which will increase the combined capacity of the Bineng plants from 5.48 MW to 19 MW, was approved by the municipal council of La Trinidad in July this year.
In addition, Hedcor’s 69-MW Manolo Fortich project, also a run-of-river hydro, which is currently synchronizing to the grid, is targeted for commercial operations in 2017 or early 2018. Once completed, it will increase Hedcor’s capacity of 185 MW of clean and renewable energy from 22 hydropower plants nationwide.
This brings AboitizPower’s advanced hydro project developments at present to around 97 MW.
Antonio R. Moraza, AboitizPower President and COO, said the company’s continued expansion of RE portfolio is in line with its balanced mix growth strategy.
“We never stop looking for ways to maximize productions from our RE facilities because we know the role it plays in our overall strategy,” Moraza said.
Moraza added that apart from new RE businesses, the company also explores innovative ways to maximize clean and renewable energy sources.
“If we can maximize the potential to produce more energy from an existing resource, we will do it, and that is what we did with Maris, as well as the binary plant in Makban, and soon in Bineng. And our teams will continue to look at these opportunities, as well as new greenfield renewable projects wherever they are available and viable,” Moraza said.
AboitizPower and its partners currently have a total of 787-MW capacity from hydropower generation facilities, which make up 62% of the total 1,263-MW RE capacity. The company also owns the 4th and the 7th largest geothermal power plants in the world, which are the 448-MW Makban Geothermal Power Plant in Laguna and Batangas, and the 234-MW Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant in Albay, respectively. In 2016, AboitizPower also launched its first venture into solar power in Negros.
MANILA – The House Justice panel will rule, before Wednesday’s (Nov. 22) hearing on determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whether to grant two similar motions seeking to allow Sereno’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses for her.
However, in the view of Justice committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali – apparently confident the panel will reject in a vote the two motions – Sereno will be at a terrible disadvantage if she insists on not appearing personally or not confronting the witnesses against her.
“You know, the right to counsel happens in the actual trial. Pero . . . wala pa tayo sa trial [But we’re not yet in the trial stage]. [This seems akin to a] preliminary investigation [but it’s not a] preliminary investigation,” Umali said in a radio interview Sunday, as Sereno’s lawyers , with backing from Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, insist on allowing the chief magistrate to field her counsel to the hearing.
Umali said, “hindi established ang mga rights dito to counsel [the rights to counsel are not established here]. And unfortunately, under our rules, we do not allow lawyers to speak. So [that’s what we’ll have to resolve, whether or not to allow this]. Pero [But] at the end of the day, it will be the vote of the majority that will be followed.”
The Justice panel chief continued, in his DZBB interview: “Unfortunately for the respondent . . . I’m just thinking aloud, [there is a] super majority and [it won’t be easy, as they say, to pass something like that; to let that motion win in a vote].”
He said “whatever will be the majority vote, will be the basis of our decision.”
In his position paper last week, Lagman had said that the process of determination of probable cause in an impeachment is akin to that in a criminal case. Lagman, a lawyer, said to prohibit Sereno from deploying her lawyers to cross-examine witnesses against her would render useless the right to counsel enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
Umali acknowledged the similarity, but stressed that an impeachment is sui generis [in a class of its own].
“In fact, it cannot be a criminal case [because the respondent in this case is not jailed; we don’t have the power to order his/her jailing].” Instead, Umali said, “this is also akin to [an] administrative case [where removal from office is the punishment for the respondent].”
Thus, Umali concluded, “it’s neither criminal nor administrative, anywhere in between that,” and that is why he does not think the so-called right to counsel repeatedly invoked by Sereno lawyers and by Lagman would apply in this case. “And more than that, if I may say so, siya ay respondent lang, siya ay hindi akusado [she is just a respondent here, not yet accused].”
The Sereno camp had earlier floated the possibility that the chief justice may take her case before her own peers and seek the en banc’s opinion on the unprecedented debate.
Umali, however, noted that the Constitution clearly does not grant the SC any jurisdiction on impeachment cases. He said the Charter states “the impeachment court is the sole judge of any issues pertaining to impeachment. So [maybe] the more appropriate venue” for raising the issue “should be the impeachment court and not the Supreme Court.”
He said that for one thing, Sereno is not entirely helpless even though there is a super-majority in the House that is apparently against her. The requirements of strong evidence will still be imposed on the complainants, and the “ground of course [is] defined . . . under the Constitution and the rules. Culpable violation of the constitution, graft and corruption and other high crimes, betrayal of public trust.”
In his view, said Umali, simple probable cause just won’t do, “dapat merong [there should be] prima facie evidence. Pero ang sinasabi ng rules namin ay probable cause lang [and yet our rules require only probable cause].”
He expressed hope Sereno will reconsider and personally attend Wednesday’s hearing to determine probable cause.
“If she does not attend, it’s her own lookout [because] I don’t know how [the] allegations or charges against her can be controverted without her attendance. . . . Under the rules . . . the lawyers are not allowed to speak for the respondent. . . . So if she does not attend. whatever is presented to us cannot be controverted” and will be included in the report that becomes the basis for voting on probable cause.
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte appears ready to take a crucial turn in his love-hate relationship with the Left, signalling Saturday night he will place the New People’s Army in the same category that the United States has placed it – as “terrorists” – and warning activists he will find a way to expose their alleged unholy alliance with armed rebels. The threat drew angry reactions from an activist group Sunday.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City, Duterte said he would henceforth also have government lawyers file, not charges of rebellion but ordinary criminal offenses like murder and arson against arrested communust rebels. He said he was fed up with the series of NPA attacks on businesses in the countryside, especially the torching of their equipment and facilities.
He blamed the attacks on the businesses and revolutionary taxes for driving out investors and jacking up prices of goods produced by the businesses that remain.
The threat of launching a crackdown against legal progressive groups affiliated with the main leftwing alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan was assailed by one of the alliance’s members, Anakbayan.
The youth group said in a statement Sunday morning that it was not hard to see why Duterte would want to do this. “Progressive groups have been at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war on drugs, all-out counterinsurgency ops, and martial law in Mindanao that trample on human rights as well as his perpetuation of anti-people neoliberal policies. Duterte’s threats will not intimidate us into submission,” said Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo.
In a talk with reporters Saturday night, Duterte said of the NPA, armed wing of the National Democratic Front (NDF) with which his government had pursued peace talks in a bid to end a four-decade insurgency: “Before, we recognized them as legitimate rebels. But with their continued depredations, killing innocent people even an infant four months old, I’ll be issuing a proclamation. I will remove them from the category of a legal entity . . . placing them – same as America – [in the category of] terrorists.”
Duterte was alluding to the killing of an infant who was among eight civilians in a Toyota Fortuner caught in the crossfire when NPA rebels ambushed a police vehicle in Bukidnon last week.
The NPA local command admitted killing the infant, apologized to civilians and offered to recompense them.
The incident, however, angered Duterte, who learned about it in between his ASEAN hosting duties. He said Saturday he was just allowing the soldiers to rest, after a harrowing five months of fierce engagement with the homegrown, but ISIS-inspired Maute Group that laid siege to Marawi City.
“Pinagpapahinga ko lang mga sundalo ko [I’m just allowing the soldiers to rest]. But we will also go on the offensive,” Duterte said.
No more ‘rebellion’: criminal charges to be filed
He said it was also time to change the government’s legal tack against the rebels. “So beginning from now, wala nang [there’ll be no more charges called] rebellion-rebellion. We will fight terrorism, murder, arson na…. because we will consider them criminal already.”
He said the government “may take steps” against activists, sounding stung by the tags of “fascist” and “imperialist dog” that the various protest groups had hurled at him during rallies while the country was hosting the 31st ASEAN and Related Summits and he met with world leaders including President Donald Trump of the United States, one of nine country dialogue partners that joined the ASEAN events in Manila.
At the start of his presidency in June 2016, Duterte had fast-tracked peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP, occasionally referring to himself as “socialist” and “leftist” and citing his ties with some leaders like CPP founding chairman Prof. Jose Maria Sison, based in The Netherlands. Negotiations have since been suspended, though he recently said he wold not block an announced plan by his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, to reach out to local rebels in her area.
Duterte had also named several leftists to the Cabinet, but at least two of them – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo – have since been rejected by the bicameral Commission on Appointments dominated by his congressional allies.
On Saturday, he said he believed groups like Bayan were in league with the communist rebels, adding “We will study and maybe we will have a crackdown here somewhere.”
In reaction, Anakbayan’s Crisostomo said, “That Duterte is contemplating a crackdown against activists and progressive groups speaks much of his antipathy to any criticism and his thirst for absolute power. Repression is the logical consequence of equating all dissent with detabilization.”