Items filtered by date: Sunday, 27 August 2017

Drug testing of students ‘preventive, not punitive’ – Briones

MANILA – Education Secretary Leonor Briones promised strict confidentiality in the conduct of the forthcoming random drug testing among high school students.
The Department of Education (DepEd) chief gave the assurance after she was asked about the safety of students who will undergo the drug test following the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos in an anti-drug operations conducted by the Caloocan City police.
DepEd is about to begin the random drug testing of students in September through DepEd Order Number 40, series of 2017. DepEd also ordered the random drug testing of teachers and the mandatory drug testing of all DepEd employees.
“The circular is very, very clear. This is not a punitive law enforcement exercise. It is a preventive exercise. And this was planned as early as last year pa in response to public demand. Now every effort is going to be made to protect the identities of whoever will be identified in the test as related to drugs,” Briones told Rappler on Tuesday, August 22.
She added specific details about the student undergoing the test – their personal information, the name of the schools, and drug test results – will not be publicized.
“And so, you will not even know the school. And we’re not going to have a press conference. The test will not be done under your eye. You will not be interviewing the persons, etcetera, etcetera. The press will not be involved here. The thing is going to be confidential,” said Briones.
“If there will be a leakage, it will probably be from other sectors, not from us. Never, never, never from us because we have strict penalties for release of confidential information,” she added.
Several netizens and lawmakers are concerned over the safety of students undergoing drug tests to be administered in schools after the death of Delos Santos.
The Grade 11 student, labelled by the police as a drug runner, was killed in Caloocan City last week. Cops claim Delos Santos fired the first shots.
But CCTV footage and witnesses said Delos Santos was blindfolded by cops, beaten up, forced to hold a gun, before he was shot by the police. Autopsy results showed he was killed by 3 bullets that entered the back of his head.
Lawmakers already slammed the Commission on Higher Education for allowing colleges and universities to implement mandatory drug testing among students and student applicants. (READ: Mandatory drug tests could lead to ‘tokhang’ in schools, warns students’ union)
Briones said the DepEd will make sure parents of students who will be chosen for the random drug test will be informed about the guidelines for the drug test. A written notice will also be given to the parents.
But failure to return the acknowledgement slip of this notice “shall not be a bar to the conduct of the drug testing and of the said students’ inclusion in the sample.” This means with or without the parent’s consent, a student chosen for the random drug test would have to go through with the procedure.
“Because according to the law, consent is not needed. What is important is that they are informed,” explained Briones.
Still, the DepEd chief said the department order has laid out the necessary safeguards to protect the students.
Students who test positive will undergo confirmatory tests. If these second tests yield another positive result, the students will be referred to a DOH-accredited physician and health facility, where they will be subjected to a drug intervention program.
Briones said drug test results will not be a basis for the school to punish the student. –



How POTUS proceeds to bolster fiction naming PH as background: General Pershing's 1919 command post

News reports have called one of the latest Trump tweets about U.S. General John J. Pershing's command in the Philippines "an unsupported story." The gist of that same tweet was re-aired very recently although it was branded as nothing short of a tale when it was initially bruited about as "unconfirmed."
Trump was wont to quoting the same during the course of his 2016 presidential campaign heard about in several states.
"That we should study about General Pershing's executing prisoners for dealing with radical Islamic terror," was the prescription that Trump zeroed in on considerably.
"Pershing was reportedly responsible for putting down a militant Muslim group in the Philippines by executing its members with bullets dipped in pig's blood," per the Trump story. The same narration by the same narrator on numerous campaign was supposed to scare other militants into submission.
"You'll take a look at General Pershing in 1919 in the Philippines, how he stopped terrorism.
"He took 50 men, and he dipped 50 bullets in pig's blood. For 28 years, there was no terrorism," Trump continued to state.
SNOPES, the definitive fact-checking and internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation, in a published announcement did not support the Trump story.
The aforementioned source of a largely reliable fact-checking methodology has earned the reputation as the least-biased check source. Touching on the presidential campaign efforts, Trump was reported to have announced numerous promises.
The 45th U.S. president has been known to author his "contract with the American voter," pledging how he would continue to expand on other promises and vows he has sworn to uphold but still remain to happen.
He promised how he has the will to make, to highlight his accomplishments and "the world will note his progress," as "immediate."
The news story lines are telling about how the president has found himself increasingly isolated. Those who have been called all the president's mentors, include America's top military officers, corporate executives, and a few Republican leaders in Congress.
Foremost among those who have sent statements are the two living GOP ex-presidents and foreign leaders previously friendly to the current U.S. president sent a message: "Racial bigotry and extremism must be condemned. Some mentioned Trump by name; others didn't.
What sparked reaction to the Trump comments was the very one which suggested an "equivalence between neo-Nazi groups and their opponents."
Interestingly, those chief executive officers, identified as America's "corporate elite" who once stood by Trump tendered their resignations from the economic advisory and manufacturing councils that the president tweeted he was disbanding them. The truth has prevailed: those who resigned turned in their letters before Trump's action of disbanding the same councils.
For instance, the head of JP Morgan Chase and company stated that "the economic advisory council had already decided to end on its own."
A word of cheer on Obamacare which was one of the chief election vows that Trump has made emphatic:
The Trump administration backed away from causing an immediate crisis in healthcare marketplaces and consented to continue making payments to insurance companies. Much of America's corporate elite members who once stood by Trump to give him time to lead, have shown how that support has been waned and will continue to wane.
Likewise, the picture from that same group has been telling. Truth will ensue and the American electorate will do what will be expected of all its members: to vote wisely for the sake of the country they call home, to see the veritable return of democracy, for the people, of the people, and by the people.


Pampanga native creates her own future against all odds

Rosemed, CA – “Queng leon queng tigre ecu tatacut, queca pa?” That’s how Mercy Tolentino Steenwyk, a petite native from Lubao, Pampanga, got everyone’s attention when she spoke before a group of young professionals on July 24, at the Southern California Edison employee lounge here during the Asian American Professional Association’s ‘Create Your Own Future’ Speaker Session #3. Pampanga warriors’ motto means ‘I fear neither lions nor tigers, why should I be afraid of you?’
Mercy shared her lessons in courage, after facing numerous rejections; perseverance, after doors closed on her and nay-sayers confronted her; and lessons in humility. She shared five critical strategies to create your own future: (1) Know who you are, your deep driving desire, your passion, and purpose. (2) Focus on the big picture, which holds everything together. (3) Never stop learning and embrace a growth mindset that helps you to meet each challenge and keep going. (4) Surround yourself with inspiring people. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And (5) Have faith in yourself and believe in your purpose.
Born in Lubao, ‘a sleepy town in the Philippines,’ Mercy earned her degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines. She wrote art reviews for the local paper before traveling throughout South East Asia, and came to the United States as a young professional. Though her career in art journalism morphed into PR and, later, an entrepreneurial venture, “my love for the arts remains,” she noted.
She says she draws inspiration from her home country. “The bright and vivid colors along with tribal aesthetics reference not only my Filipino heritage but the history of my culture as a whole.” Her work intertwines portraits with bold abstract shapes to explore the notion of time and the human condition. Drawn to tell the story of those who may not be allowed to speak for themselves, Mercy’s work looks to give a voice to those without one.Mercy and family



Mercy Tolentino Steenwyk, 3rd from left, with AAPA Program Director Lia Andika and Program Manager Freya Nishimura; daughter Emily Steenwyk, sister Daisy Walworth and AAPA president Francis Cheung; back row: Steve Walworth and Howard Steenwyk. Photo by Lydia V. Solis.


In the early 1990’s Mercy was determined to create her own future against very low probability: she’s not an engineer; she’s not a lawyer; and she doesn’t even have a business degree. She had no capital and had a young family to support; and her friends discouraged her from starting a business, advising her: “You’re a minority woman in a male-dominated industry.”
But Mercy believed in herself. “I had the passion and purpose, and faith,” she asserted, “and I welcomed the challenge, remained resilient and had a growth mindset.” She went on to build one of the leading expert and consulting service companies in the nation.
Mercy Tolentino Steenwyk is the founder, president and CEO of ForensisGroup. The adjective forensic, according to, comes from the Latin word forensis, which means ‘in open court’ or ‘public.’ “I founded the California expert resource group in 1991, with just ten engineers,” she narrated. “Today, the firm boasts over 3,000 consultants and experts in hundreds of technical and scientific disciplines.” ForensisGroup’s mission, Mercy expounded, is “to bring the best minds together to uncover the truth when something has gone wrong and then, ultimately improving people’s lives and making the world a safer and better place.” She has grown her nationwide expert and consulting firm into a multi-million dollar business, earning close to $10 million in sales in 2016. Such success has been noticed by private and public firms across the nation, including 98 of the top 100 law firms in Los Angeles, having all contacted ForensisGroup for its particular brand of quality, service, and expertise.
ForensisGroup has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses and Top Minority-Owned Businesses in Los Angeles for the past several years. While the company has made Los Angeles its home for more than two decades, its services now stretch far beyond the city and it serves over 15,000 clients in 20,000 litigation cases nationwide.
But it’s not all business for Mercy, who was one of the top Five Finalists in Women Making a Difference in Los Angeles. The success of ForensisGroup has provided opportunities with which Mercy and her company help the community. She serves on the board of directors for the American Red Cross in the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter and is a Community Boardmember of Youth Business Alliance. “My mission,” she declared, “is to educate as many children as possible and to challenge business leaders to drive their companies with a higher purpose. The daughter of educators from Davao, who believes that the best gift for children is education, runs the ForensisGroup Give Back Program which through Empowerment through Education provides scholarships to 50 students and “we have graduated teachers, engineers, and vocational people through the years.” The program also provides meals to malnourished children two times a week in the Philippines and supports other causes. “We’re partners with the American Red Cross,” she added, “and we raised close to $30,000 for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan by matching various donations.
“She inspires me everyday,” says daughter Emily, who is a teacher. “She’s a loving mother and I trust her as my mentor. She’s always pushing me to give back for the greater good. More than ever, I’m inspired to create my own future.”

The Asian American Professional Association (AAPA) is a non-profit organization committed to addressing the diverse talent challenge in corporate America. AAPA focuses on inspiring, developing and promoting Asian American professionals and minorities to maximize their leadership potential. For over 17 years, according to Freya Cruz-Nishimura, more than 75 passionate AAPA mentors have delivered the award- winning AAPA mentoring program to over 1100 mentees. AAPA’s programs include one-on-one mentoring and effective leadership and management training through speaker sessions, workshops, and special networking events.


A brief message from PABA regarding the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia

The Philippine American Bar Association (“PABA”) issued the following statement regarding the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia:
PABA is deeply saddened and horrified by the events that took place in Charlottesville this past weekend. On Friday night, groups of white supremacists and neo-Nazis stormed the University of Virginia with torches, and on Saturday they took to the streets of Charlottesville, spewing hate and violence. By the end of the weekend, one woman was killed, two law enforcement officials died, and many others were injured. The actions taken by these white supremacists and neo-Nazis are shameful and abhorrent, and have no place in a civilized society.
The events in Charlottesville are a grim reminder of the history of exclusion and violence experienced in this country by Asian Americans generally, including Filipino Americans, as a result of anti-immigrant, racist, and xenophobic sentiments, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, anti-miscegenation laws, the Japanese internment, and the deadly anti-Filipino riots in Watsonville, California. Such acts of racism and intolerance should have been condemned then, and we stridently condemn the recent acts in Charlottesville now.
An act of terror targeting any minority group is an act of terror against us all. PABA stands in solidarity with all those whose security and well-being in this country are threatened by these hateful groups. There can be no center ground, and equivocation on these issues is an endorsement of hatred and bigotry. As a result, PABA calls upon President Trump to definitively and unequivocally condemn these hate groups.


The need to refocus the Filipino ‘national agenda’

Filipino students learn early on in their history and social studies classes about the people, the significant dates and places, and the events that helped shape the Philippines as a nation.
During the month of August for example, we remember the “Cry of Pugad Lawin” in 1896 that was led by Andres Bonifacio of the revolutionary Katastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (“Katipunan”). Before the Katipunan uprising, Bonifacio wrote a poem with the title “Katapusang Hibik ng Sangkatagalugan” (The last appeal of the Philippines)---
“Mother, in the east is now risen, the sun of the Filipinos’ anger, that for three hundred centuries we suppressed, in the sea of suffering and poverty.”

Then on August 13, 1898, poet Amado Hernandez wrote--- “Ganito ring araw nang agawan ka ng laya, Labintatlo ng Agosto nang saklutin ang Maynila,” in his work “Kung tuyo na ang luha mo, aking bayan,” as he expressed his thoughts, feelings and opposition to American colonialism and imperialism.
Fast forward to August 2017 and we are witnesses to the rare occurrence of a solar eclipse as the moon passes between the sun and the earth. For a moment, the bright sky darkens and where the sun should be, we see a black circle ringed by a halo of light instead.
In the Philippines the “dark skies” these days that people see and witness is not a natural phenomenon. I refer to the “obsession of killing people” in the name of the war on drugs perpetrated by unknown motorcycle-riding vigilantes and allegedly by some members of the Philippine National Police who have made numerous claims that the victims “resisted” and that they were left with no choice but to shoot and kill.
The family of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno, a human rights and democracy icon and a fellow detainee of Sen. Ninoy Aquino who was fatally shot at the airport tarmac on August 23, 1983, released a statement recently about the gross human and civil rights violations that are taking place in the Philippines in the name of the government’s war on drugs. The Diokno family stated---
"ENOUGH of the slaughter of mostly poor Filipinos. Enough of the perversions of law in the name of the war on drugs. Killings, rather than the arrests and prosecutions mandated in our laws, have become the standard operating procedure of law enforcement. The murder of Kian de los Santos, and the deaths of thousands before him, show how little the government values the lives of Filipinos, and how much contempt it has for the law.

It is time to speak out against the killings. Silence abets murder, and we will have none of both. The Diokno family, guided by the principles of our parents, pledges to stand for justice and human rights. We lend our voices to the raging cries of the thousands killed and call on the government to comply with the Constitution and laws of our country, and stop the bloody war on drugs, which has only resulted in death, and has not reduced the influx of drugs into the country. We invite all Filipinos to stand with us, for love of country, justice and human rights."

The archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, also asked the Filipino people to reflect, to pray, and to act in response to the increase in the number of people who have been killed as a result of the “intensified war on drugs” in the Philippines.
It appears that the only strategy of the government is to “conduct police raids” in poor residential areas while it continues to ignore the need to seek a joint solution with the country that is said to be the primary source of illegal drugs in the Philippines. What about closing the access of big-time drug lords to the country’s piers and ports?
While illegal drugs remain a problem, the nation has lost its national focus on the more telling and important problems that it must face and tackle--- poverty, lack of education, territorial dispute with China, access to affordable health care, high-level corruption of government officials, Manila traffic, and unemployment--- problems that have made drugs attractive to some people because they feel hopeless.
The “crimes of the poor” became the national focus and agenda while problems that have caused more damage to the nation, to the people, and to the national psyche and soul of the Filipino people have been ignored and not dealt with.
Until next week!

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105.



Immigrating to the United States is difficult under the best of circumstances. American immigration laws are notoriously thorny and byzantine; many judges have said that only the Internal Revenue Code rivals the Immigration and Nationality Act in complexity.
These complications are magnified when an immigrant has a criminal record. Crimes can trigger severe immigration consequences, including removal (deportation) from the U.S. or bars to admission or relief. Pleading guilty and accepting what appears to be a lenient sentence like probation without jail time can have dire consequences for a noncitizen.
Of course, not every criminal conviction is so calamitous. Practitioners call the interplay of immigration and criminal law by its own name, “crimmigration,” and the practice of crimmigration law requires an exhaustive knowledge of criminal and immigration statutes, and a familiarity with a constantly changing body of case law that continues to add nuance and wrinkles to the rules.
Immigration laws set forth specific offenses that trigger immigration consequences. When a person is convicted of a crime in state court, practitioners and judges must make an exhaustive analysis to determine whether that state crime fits within the “generic” federal definition of a crime with immigration consequences. The courts use terms like “categorical approach” and “modified categorical approach” to determine whether there are alternative means or alternative elements such that a person convicted of a state crime that sounds like a deportable offense is actually not deportable.
If your head is spinning at this point, don’t worry: you’re in good company! The rules for determining when a crime has immigration consequences are continuously evolving and morphing through decisions issued from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, the immigration courts, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). To be polite, crimmigration has a tendency to frustrate and confuse. But, with the right counsel and zealous advocacy, there may be hope, even for difficult cases involving serious criminal records.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published two decisions last week that prove this point. In Sandoval v. Sessions, the court found that the Immigration Judge (IJ) and the BIA had both erred when they denied relief to a permanent resident who was ordered deported because of his conviction for “delivery of a controlled substance.” The IJ and the BIA refused to allow Mr. Sandoval to apply for relief, despite the facts that he had a green card, had lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years and had not been arrested since his conviction in 1998, and his two children and his wife of 26 years were all U.S. citizens. Mr. Sandoval’s lawyer argued that the statute of conviction was overbroad, and did not match the generic federal offense of “drug trafficking.” The IJ and the BIA rejected that argument, but the Ninth Circuit agreed with Mr. Sandoval’s attorney. After a detailed analysis of the complicated interplay between the criminal statutes and the immigration laws, the Ninth Circuit found that Mr. Sandoval was eligible for relief, reversed the order of removal, and sent the case back to the Immigration Court.
The second case, Lozano-Arredondo v. Sessions, also illustrates the value of zealous advocacy. Like Mr. Sandoval, the immigrant in Lozano-Arredondo was found ineligible for relief and ordered removed by an IJ because of a criminal conviction. Mr. Lozano-Arredondo’s attorneys appealed that decision, first to the BIA and then to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the IJ and the BIA had misapplied the rules for criminal bars to relief. The court analyzed the criminal code and the immigration laws, comparing the statute of conviction to the generic federal definition of a “crime involving moral turpitude.” The court addressed when it is appropriate or not appropriate to look beyond the statute to decide if a person is barred from relief. As in Sandoval, the court concluded that the IJ and the BIA had wrongly ordered removal, and sent the case back to consider Mr. Lozano-Arredondo’s eligibility for relief.
These two cases demonstrate the value of a good crimmigration lawyer. Mr. Sandoval and Mr. Lozano-Arredondo were both ordered removed because of criminal convictions, but their lawyers appealed those removal orders up to the Circuit Court and won. Now, they both have the chance for relief so that they can stay with their families in the United States as permanent residents.
A noncitizen with a criminal record is not without hope but the battle for immigration relief may not be easy. The interplay of criminal and immigration laws is a minefield of statutory interpretation that requires careful navigation. Any person facing such difficulties should have a knowledgeable lawyer willing to fight for them and make the hard arguments to let them stay in the U.S.


PH Navy gets new radar system from US

MANILA –The Philippine Navy's (PN) maritime domain awareness capability got a much-needed boost as it formally accepted a US-donated tethered aerostat radar system (TARS) Tuesday.
Capt. Lued Lincuna, Navy spokesperson, said the 28-meter TARS was handed over by US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission to the Philippines, Michael Klescheski, to PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph S. Mercado.
Turnover ceremonies took place at the Naval Education Training Command (NETC), Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui, San Antonio, Zambales.
TARS is a large fabric envelope filled with helium, and can rise up to an altitude of 5,000 feet while tethered by a single cable.
Specifically, the 28-meter class TARS is a self-sustained, rapidly deployable, unmanned lighter-than-air platform to be utilized by the PN to bolster its maritime domain awareness.
The NETC in Zambales was chosen to be the staging point since, as the largest real-estate property of the PN with flat terrain, it fits the minimum space of 300 ft x 300 ft open area requirement for the launching of the aerostat.
Also, as the premiere training institution of the PN, personnel here can be trained using this system as one of the new competencies.
Lincuna said TARS will enhanced the PN's capability to detect intrusion in the country's territorial waters via its sensors and help in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
It also includes a weather station that provides telemetry data to the ground station for the monitoring of ambient temperature, pressure, wind speed and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system.
Lincuna said the donation is part of the US Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) Program (2016-2020), a capacity-building assistance for Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines that aims to improve the ability of these countries to address a range of maritime challenges. (PNA)


DSWD to prioritize upgrade of home for the elderly

MANILA –The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will include in its priorities the improvement of its centers and institutions, especially the Golden Reception and Action Center for the Elderly and Other Special Cases (GRACES) Home for the Elderly in Bago Bantay, Quezon City.
“I go to GRACES several times a week these days. It is now top priority of the department, where all our resources will be put forth to make sure this Center will be the haven it was meant to be,” DSWD Assistant Secretary for Centers and Institutions and Other Special Directives, Lorraine Marie Badoy, said in a statement released Tuesday.
GRACES, one of the DSWD’s four residential facilities for the elderly, takes care of at least 300 senior citizens who have been neglected or abandoned by their families.
Badoy's team and a number of volunteers have been organizing a regular “Kamustahan with Lolos and Lolas” at GRACES.
Over the weekend, Badoy was joined by outgoing DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, department officials and employees in a “Kamustahan” with the elderly at the center.
They dined with the residents, bonded with them through singing and dancing, and gifted them with snack packs.
GRACES can only accommodate up to 200 occupants, but the number of its residents has increased as senior citizens rescued from the streets by social workers and local government units (LGUs) have been brought to the center. This resulted in congestion and the lack of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers, as well as beds for the residents.
“I thank Sec. Judy Taguiwalo. It was she who gave me this assignment. I heard how she wept when she saw GRACES and Jose Fabella Center for the first time. And when I went, I saw clearly why she did. These centers had fallen by the wayside and had ceased to be the havens for the least of us that they were meant to be,” Badoy said.
She said the department is creating a crisis management team to take over these two centers, and has joined hands with the private sector, LGUs, nursing/medical schools and corporations “to ensure we give this project our best shot”.
Badoy added that they welcome possible partnerships and volunteer work for the improvement of the center. Those who are interested may coordinate with her office at 709-1467 or 931-8101 local 420 and 421.
Meanwhile, in her one-year stint as social welfare chief, Taguiwalo has appealed to the public to help the department provide better care and services to the elderly.
“The government should primarily respond to the needs of our residential facilities. However, the assistance that it can provide is limited. Given this, it is also important that even private citizens and the rest of our communities help and pitch in so we can provide better care and services for our elderly, who rely on our compassion and assistance,” she added. (PNA)


Young writer from Marawi wins EU’s essay contest

MANILA –A native of Marawi, who talked about European cuisine and its similarities with the Filipino dishes, was adjudged as the grand winner in the essay competition hosted by the European Union (EU).
“I’m dedicating this (award) to the people of Marawi who up to this moment, they are shattered, experiencing so much pain. As a way of boosting their morale, this victory is for them,” Salem Rangiris Jr., who hails from Lanao del Sur, said in an interview.
Rangiris, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the Mindanao State University, believed that he could help alleviate the pain felt by the people of Marawi once he posted his award on Facebook.
In his winning essay, he compared Europe’s foods pair of white chocolate and caviar with Philippines’ bagoong (salty small fish) and mango, or soy sauce and cotton fruit (santol).
Rangiris also talked about the cultures and values among the EU and the Philippines.
He joined the "open category" meant for professionals.
Rangiris, last week, started working at the Department of National Defense’s Philippine Veterans Affairs Office in Quezon City as an administrative clerk.
Meanwhile, students Hannah Joy Ibarra from the University of Santo Tomas and Joshua Angelo Paguia from Mabini Colleges were awarded as category winners for college and high school editions.
During the awarding ceremony held Tuesday in Makati, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen congratulated the winners and praised them for their works.
He also encouraged them to read and to write more about the EU so that they can become "ambassadors of goodwill" for both the EU and the Philippines.
“The power of the written words is enormous and you make better use of them and help in strengthening people-to-people links and in connecting peoples,” Jessen said. "The narratives shared by young Filipinos have led to interesting, exciting and colorful narratives".
The works of 13 finalists would be published in a booklet during the year.
The, the online media partner of the essay writing contest will publish the works of the Grand and Category Winners.
Winners and finalists also received certificates, medals, plaques and tokens.
The What's EUr story essay writing competition was open to Filipino youth aged 16 to 35 years old to encourage them to share their narratives linked to the EU whether these be about their travels, impressions, insights about the EU or any of the EU member states. (PNA)


Ping Lacson: Whispers tell of P100-M ‘pasalubong’ for Faeldon

MANILA -- Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday, August 23, accused former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon of "promoting" corrupt practices in the Bureau of Customs, even mentioning a report that the former rebel officer received a P100-million payoff as a welcome gift shortly after he assumed the post in 2016.
"Loud whispers in the four corners of the Bureau of Customs compound tell of a P100-million pasalubong to the newly installed commissioner, a quarter of which was retained as finder’s fee by his middle man named Joel Teves," Lacson said at the start of a privilege speech exposing corruption at the BOC.
The speech came while the Senate blue ribbon committee is in the middle of an investigation of the P640-billion shabu shipment that slipped past customs personnel in May.
"As head of the Bureau, with the backing of no less than the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Commissioner Faeldon should have started the cleansing in the Bureau by eliminating what has been corrupting the agency for so long, the 'tara' system," Lacson said.
"Unfortunately, instead of going against the system, siya ang kinain ng sistema, thereby effectively tolerating and even promoting the impunity of corruption," he added.
Lacson compared the supposed "welcome gift" to the multi-million-peso "pabaon" for retiring officials of the Armed Forces "under a previous administration."
"If in the AFP, under a previous administration, you end your stint with the infamous 'Good bye Pabaon', sa Bureau of Customs naman you start your stint with a 'Welcome Pasalubong'," Lacson said.

"Holy mackerel! Welcome pa lang, may kita na," he added.
Faeldon, in a statement, denied that he authorized any person to accept bribes or "tara" in his behalf.
"I have not asked anybody to collect tara for me nor have I accepted any tara from anybody. Again, I have not done any form of corruption in my many years of government service nor tolerated those who tried even in the form of request. No is no," Faeldon said.
"The country will appreciate if a third party investigation by a competent body will be conducted so that justice will be served. Just like the honorable Senator Lacson and the Filipino people, I want the truth to come out," he added.
Lacson in his speech named Faeldon and several Customs officials who allegedly received payola.
In his privilege speech, Lacson said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has become a “haven” for crooks so much so that it can give the “Mafia stiff competition.”
“The Bureau of Customs is heaven - a heaven that is a haven for crooks, criminals, malefactors, and Faeldons… sorry, I meant felons,” he said.
Lacson also cited information from an “unimpeachable source” that one of the “prominent” Customs officials he named received a total amount of P5.109 million. Lacson did not name who the Customs official was.
‘Tara list’
Apart from Faeldon, Lacson also named Deputy Commissioners Teddy Raval, Ariel Nepomuceno, Gerardo Gambala, Natalio Ecarma III, and Edward James Dy Buco, Director Neil Estrella of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, Director Milo Maestrecampo of the Import and Assessment Service, and Larribert Hilario of the Risk Management Office, among others.
Maestrecampo, Estrella, and Hilario have all been tagged to be involved in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China. The said shipment was seized by the BOC days after it passed through its green lane.
Both Maestrecampo and Estrella have submitted their courtesy resignations.
Lacson further alleged that the standard tara for each office or division are as follows:
P5,000 to P10,000 for Command Center (COMMCEN)
P1,000 to P3,000 for the Assessment Operations Coordinating Group (AOCG)
P1,500 to P3,000 for the Intelligence Group (IG)
P3,000 to P10,000 for CIIS CENTRAL
P500 to P1,000 for CIIS Director’s Office
P1,000 to P3,000 for the Intellectual Property Rights Division (IPRD)
P1,000 to P2,000 for the Accounts Management Office (AMO)
P1,000 to P3,000 for the Import and Assessment Service (IAS)
Lacson also cited information from an “unimpeachable source” that one of the “prominent” Customs officials he named received a total amount of P5.109 million. Lacson did not name who the Customs official was.
Players, collectors
The senator also named bribe givers, bag men, and collectors at the Bureau of BOC based on “vetted and cross-matched” lists provided to his office.
According to Lacson, 40 percent of the total 15,000 to 16,000 containers that are transacted for release at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) and Port of Manila (POM) weekly or 6,000 to 6,400 containers are “with tara” or bribes.
The so-called “big players” include the Davao Group, which Customs fixer Mark Taguba earlier disclosed in the ongoing Senate probe on the P6.4-billion shabu shipment.
“Sila ang mga halos naghahari o namamayagpag sa pagpapalabas ng mga kargamento sa Customs,” Lacson said.
The other four big players are David Tan, Manny Santos, Teves Group, and Kimberly Gamboa.
Aside from Taguba, Lacson’s list of alleged bribe givers included 43 others.
Bagmen meanwhile included 21 names, like that of Hilario, and Nanie Koh of IAS, as well as Lorna Rosario, all of whom have faced the Senate inquiry.
For MICP and POM, several amounts are given as bribes from section heads, appraisers and examiners down to people who are in charge of scanning the shipments.
“The 'Tara' System, Mr. President, shows that there is a systemic corruption in the Bureau. In fact, with almost every office and official receiving their share of “Tara’, the Bureau can give the Mafia stiff competition,” Lacson said. — GMA News

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