Items filtered by date: Monday, 08 January 2018

Washington Gun Dealers Report 1,200 Denied Purchases In First 5 Months Of New Law

Since July, more than 1,200 would-be gun buyers have failed background checks under Washington state's new law.
Originally published on January 8, 2018 9:09 am

Early numbers on a new Washington state law designed to crack down on felons, domestic abusers and others who try to buy a gun show that since July, more than 1,200 would-be gun buyers have failed background checks.

Of those 1,200, 49 people made multiple attempts to purchase a firearm. And 71 of them had a court order requiring them to stay away from their victims.

Alliance for Gun Responsibility CEO Renee Hopkins said the law is working because domestic violence victims are now getting notification if their abuser tries to buy a gun.

“The information that their abuser is trying to buy a firearm could literally save their lives,” Hopkins said. “It gives them the power to be able to plan for their safety and in most situations their children’s safety as well.”

An investigation by public radio and KING 5 News last year found that prohibited gun buyers are rarely, if ever, investigated and prosecuted in Washington. So far under the new law, 152 attempts to purchase have been referred to police resulting in criminal charges in at least one case.

Listen to the podcast here:


  • Published in U.S.

Sean Spicer says Oprah Winfrey doesn't have the political experience to be president

This would be the clash of titans
– Sean Spicer gives his verdict on a possible Trump vs Oprah presidency scenario
Following claims that Oprah Winfrey should run for President, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer clashed with Good Morning Britain's Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid this morning after suggesting she doesn’t have enough political experience to win.

Spicer said: “She doesn’t have the political infrastructure and we’ve seen this before in our history where people who have tried to pop in that are not in politics who have had a difficult time adjusting…”.

Interrupted by flabbergasted GMB host Piers Morgan, who reminded Spicer of Trump’s own past lack of political experience, Spicer continued: "Clearly President Donald Trump proves there is an appetite for outsiders and you don’t necessarily have to have that. The question is was that an anomaly or is that the new norm?"
He later added: “I think if an Oprah Winfrey jumped in, I think it would be on the other side of the political aisle, that would be the test of that.

“She’s extremely impressive… I think that you can’t make this stuff up. This would be the clash of titans. Hands down Donald Trump [would win] but I think Oprah would give him a run for his money.”

  • Published in U.S.

Curry leads Warriors over Denver despite injury scare

WINNING STREAK. Curry still continues to star for the Warriors since his comeback from an injury. File photo by Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

LOS ANGELES, USA – Reigning champion Golden State Warriors shook off an injury scare for superstar Stephen Curry to beat the Denver Nuggets 124-114 in Oakland, California.

Curry left the game briefly after a hard fall in the first quarter, but returned with his left knee taped to finish the game with 32 points on a 5-of-10 shooting from the 3-point range and 9-of-17 overall.

The hot shooting stalwart helped the Warriors rebuild their double-digit lead in the third quarter. The Warriors offense started to cool down midway in the fourth that saw Denver make 18-6 run to cut the lead back down to single digits with a minute and a half left in the game.

The Warriors still managed to close out the game in the final minute to seal the win.

Warriors forward Draymond Green scored 23 points with 10 assists and 5 rebounds and guard Klay Thompson chipped in 19 points as Golden State again coped admirably with the absence of Kevin Durant, who missed his 3rd straight game with a strained right calf.

Denver's Nikola Jokic notched a triple-double of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. –

  • Published in Sports

Martin Diño appointed DILG undersecretary

MANILA, Philippines – Three months after he said he had been offered the post, former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman Martin Diño was finally officially appointed as interior undersecretary, Malacañang announced on Tuesday, January 9.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Diño's appointment papers on Monday, January 8.


In September 2017, Diño said Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told him of Duterte’s plan to appoint him to the Department of the Interior and Local Government as "Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs." the time, however, then Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella denied the appointment.

Duterte appointed Diño to the DILG after he designated its former officer-in-charge, Catalino Cuy, as Dangerous Drugs Board chairman; and Undersecretary Eduardo Año as the new OIC.

The President plans to name Año as DILG chief after one-year ban on appointing military chiefs to secretary-level positions, or after October 26, 2018.

Diño faced controversy in his previous post in the SBMA where he locked horns with other officials. Diño later filed a complaint before the office of the Ombudsman against 13 SBMA officials for alleged malversation, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and grave abuse of authority over unaccounted assets.

Diño clashed with SBMA administrator Wilma Eisma, a supposed protege of Senator Richard Gordon. Eisma had accused Diño of encroaching on her functions.

Duterte appointed Eisma as chairman and administrator in September, after he issued an executive order fusing the two functions.

Diño's last-minute filing of candidacy for president during the 2016 elections had allowed Duterte to substitute him and thus join the presidential race. –


SolGen Calida: CA decision ordering release of ex-Palawan governor Joel Reyes stinks

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday bared plans of asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse the Court of Appeals (CA) decision ordering the release of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes who was accused of murdering broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

“As the People’s Tribune, I cannot sustain the Court of Appeals as they are clearly in the wrong,” Calida said. “We are ready and raring to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no miscarriage of justice under my watch."

Calida said the CA decision, which was made public over the weekend, "stinks."

"As to where the stench came from, we will investigate it,” he said.

Voting 3 to 2 on January 4, the CA Former Eleventh Division voided the warrant of arrest issued by the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court Branch 52 against Reyes, citing lack of sufficient evidence for a finding of probable cause for the former governor's indictment.

The CA also ordered the local court to discontinue the trial against the former governor.

However, Calida said the presence or absence of the elements of the crime is evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense that may be passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits.

According to Calida, a trial could yield more evidence favorable to either side after interrogations of the witnesses either on direct examination or on cross-examination.

“What is important is that there is some rational basis for going ahead with judicial inquiry into the case. In this case, from the perspective of a reasonably discreet and prudent man, there is sufficient ground to order the arrest of Joel Reyes,” Calida said.

In voting for Reyes' release, the CA said there was no evidence against the former governor aside from the testimony of Rodolfo Edrad alias Bumar.

The appellate court, however, found Edrad's testimony riddled with inconsistencies, thus it cannot be "validly used as evidence against Reyes."

Calida said the issues on credibility of a witness and admissibility of evidence are matters to be scrutinized "in great detail" during trial proper.

“An exhaustive debate on the credibility of a witness is not within the province of the determination of probable cause," he said.

Malacañang earlier deplored the ruling by the appellate court with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a former lawyer of the Ortega family in the case, calling it a "very sad development" for the freedom of the press in the country.

Ortega was slain on January 24, 2011 while shopping in a used clothes store in Puerto Princesa.

He was allegedly silenced for his radio commentaries about the Reyes' supposed misuse of the share of the provincial government in the proceeds from the operation of the Malampaya natural gas plant off Palawan. —KG, GMA News


Tax amnesty pushed

A massive tax amnesty is being pushed for legislation this year to raise P26 billion in revenues for the government and augment the P969.2 billion to be generated from the first tax reform package in the next five years, the Department of Finance said.
“We can’t really say how many will avail [themselves of tax amnesty]. What we did was look at past amnesties and how much they collected. In 2008, P13 billion was collected. Using the same estimate, we may collect P26 billion,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said, citing that the gross domestic product (GDP) had doubled in the past 10 years.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier said that under its comprehensive tax reform program, the government was planning an amnesty for taxpayers with deficiencies in payments of property taxes, estate taxes, regular taxes such as income taxes and value-added tax (VAT) as well as an amnesty on pending tax cases in court.

Dominguez also said the DOF was looking at settlements through the payment of a minimum of 40-percent basic tax as amnesty tax.
According to Dominguez, the amnesty program would be legislated “to clear up all tax cases.”
Dominguez told reporters last month that the general tax amnesty program would be part of package “1B,” which would also involve estate tax amnesty and higher motor vehicle user’s charge among other tax administration measures such as lifting bank secrecy in criminal cases and automatic exchange of information.
Chua said the plan to legislate a final amnesty would be “absolute” in the sense that availment would clear all tax dockets in the Bureaus of Internal Revenue and of Customs as well as in the courts.
It would, however, exclude criminal cases, Chua said.
Once legislated, there would no longer be any tax amnesty for the next 25 years, according to Chua.
The DOF had plans to impose a higher amount for delayed amnesty payments while also planning to allow compromise for cases pending at the Court of Tax Appeals that have assessments, while those without assessments would have to pay a 5-percent tax on net worth.
Dominguez said that Congress already committed to pass package 1B in the first quarter of 2018 as these measures were only removed by legislators from the original first tax reform package proposed by the DOF.

Dominguez said on Monday that “package 1B was crucial to keep the 3-percent-of-GDP deficit target” for 2018.
Last Dec. 19, President Duterte signed into law package 1A of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act under Republic Act No. 10963, which, beginning Jan. 1 this year, slashed and restructured personal income tax rates that stayed the same for two decades and jacked up or slapped new taxes on the consumption of oil, cigarettes, sugary drinks and vehicles.
Based on the DOF’s estimates, packages 1A and 1B will generate a total of P969.2 billion in revenues, of which P786.4 billion will come from RA 10963 and P182.7 billion from package 1B.
Taking into account the five items vetoed by the President from RA 10963, package 1A is expected to raise P89.9 billion in net revenues this year—P63.3 billion from tax policy measures on top of P26.6 billion from legislated tax administration measures.
Once package 1B is passed, it will add another P38.9 billion in revenues this year, bringing the total net revenue of the first tax reform package as a whole to P128.8 billion.
This year, the government stands to lose P146.6 billion in foregone revenues from the lower personal income tax rates as well as donors’ and estate taxes, which will be offset by higher taxes on various goods to be shouldered by consumers.
In 2019, packages 1A and 1B will result in a revenue gain of P175.1 billion; P221.7 billion in 2020; P224.3 billion in 2021, and P219.2 billion in 2022.
“The tax reform can fund the following over the next five years: 629,120 public school classrooms; or 2,685,101 public school teachers; or 60,483 rural health units; or 484,326 barangay health stations; or 1,324 provincial hospitals; or 35,745 kilometers of paved roads; or 786,400 kilometers of temporary bridge upgrades; or 2,665,763 hectares of irrigated land,” Dominguez said.
Part of the proceeds of the TRAIN law will also fund the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
Under “Build, Build, Build,” the government plans to roll out 75 flagship, game-changing projects, with about half targeted to be finished within President Duterte’s term, alongside spending a total of up to P9 trillion on hard and modern infrastructure until 2022 to usher in “the golden age of infrastructure.”



Duterte suspends logging operations in Zamboanga Peninsula

LOGGING IN MINDANAO. President Duterte is shown a video of a deforested area in a Zamboanga mountain range. Photo from Manny Piñol Facebook

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to suspend two logging concessions in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

He gave the order to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu during the 21st Cabinet meeting on Monday, January 8, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"The President also ordered several logging concessions in Zamboanga Peninsula to be suspended," Roque said in a news briefing on Tuesday, January 9.

He said Duterte made the decision after he was told of concerns of indigenous peoples displaced by the logging activities. He was also shown a 5-minute video presentation showing flashfloods in a deforested area.

"He also observed that it is widespread logging that is responsible for the flashfloods that Mindanao experienced only this month of December with two typhoons," said Roque, referring to storms Vinta and Urduja.

Following the President’s order, the DENR said on Tuesday that it stopped the operations of two big companies for alleged violation of their Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs).

DENR Region director Felix Mirasol Jr. confirmed that the DENR had suspended the operations of the Dacon Group of Companies (DGC), which is operating in the province through the Sodaco Agricultural Company, Incorporated, and the Sirawai Plywood and Lumber Corporation in Sibuco town.

Cimatu said that DENR investigators will conduct “an exhaustive probe…to see if there have been violations in their permits.”

He said he created a 12-member team composed of local DENR officers from the forestry, mines and environment bureaus to conduct the investigation.

Under their IFMA terms, SPLC and Sodaco “are allowed to establish industrial tree plantations which they can harvest, but are not allowed to cut residual trees unless authorized by the Office of the DENR Secretary under very strict conditions such as for site development and plantation establishment,” the DENR said.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Agiculture Secretary Manny Piñol said "am angry President Rody Duterte tonight directed Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to immediately issue a closure order on the logging operations of the Sodaco Agricultural Corporation in the Zamboanga Peninsula."

Sodaco, formerly known as the South Davao Development Company, Incorporated, is supposedly owned by the Consunji family.

Piñol quoted the President as saying, "Roy, ipasara mo 'yan. Hindi naman maghihirap 'yan si Consunji kasi oligarch na 'yan (Roy, close it down. Consunji won't suffer because they he is an oligarch)."

Duterte gave his suspension order verbally after he was shown a video of a deforested part of a mountain in Zamboanga during the meeting.

Piñol visited Sibuco town, which was affected by flashfloods during Typhoon Vinta, on January 4.

The agricultural chief said got a 60,000-hectare concession from the DENR as part of its Integrated Social Forestry program in 2006.

Since then, he alleged, Sodaco had been felling trees "on the pretext of clearing the area for an oil palm plantation." –


Editorial: Still salivating for the Marcos fortune

They’re at it again, it seems.
“They,” in this case, are the assorted parties who seek to play a role in the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. In doing so, they hope to earn their fair share.
Call it a commission, a reward, a percentage, a finder’s fee, or simply a cut of the stolen wealth, there will always be those who have delusions of having the wherewithal to seal the deal, for no other reason than their own perceived closeness to the Marcoses or by virtue of their having a position in the national government.
This week, the latest word on the search for the legendary loot was in the form of a draft compromise agreement sent by lawyer Oliver Lozano to Malacanan Palace way back in July of last year, but which was made public only this week.
If his name sounds familiar, this is because Lozano has been trying to ingratiate himself with the Marcos family since the 1970s. Too bad for him that the Marcoses want nothing to do with him.
Specifically, a spokesman for the late dictator’s family said Lozano “does not represent any member of the Marcos family or the estate of the late President Marcos.”
Former senator Bongbong Marcos said pretty much the same thing.
From what little information has been officially released, it appears that Lozano was attempting to broker a deal by approaching a Cabinet secretary who many legal luminaries find difficult to take seriously, Salvador Panelo.
He may be the chief legal counsel of President Duterte, but his weird attire and “colorful” personality has made him a laughing stock back home. It is no wonder then why Lozano would approach Panelo to work out some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement.
Perhaps Panelo was merely being polite when he accommodated his fellow laywer’s proposed compromise agreement. Perhaps not. That agreement seeks to lift the sequestration of the assets of the Marcoses in exchange for a return of an unspecified amount to the government.
Had a more credible lawyer submitted the proposal, perhaps the Duterte administration might have taken it more seriously. But because Lozano is a known “serial filer” of impeachment cases that few lawmakers have ever taken seriously, his credibility is shot.
If any progress is to be made in the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth, the only person who can make it so is none other than President Duterte, who stated last year that he had spoken to Imee Marcos and the two had discussed the possibility of some kind of settlement.
Such a settlement will have to pass through Congress, however. And since the lower house is under the near absolute control of the president, there will be no shortage of congressmen willing and able to work out a compromise deal that will be acceptable to both the president and the Marcoses.
Even the senate may ride along on the deal, since the hunt for the missing treasure has been going on for far too long now, with not enough of the true wealth being returned to the Filipino people.


It’s H-1b Season, but an O-1 is an Alternative

Question: I know that around 300,000 people will apply for only 65,000 H-1B’s. Are there any alternatives as I was also rejected last year?

Answer: It may be possible to apply for the O-1 Visa of which there are no caps and no maximum amount which can be given.

Question: OK. What is an O-1 Visa?

Answer: The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. The O nonimmigrant classification is commonly referred to as: O-1A: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry); O-1B: individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry; O-2: individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1 and O-3: individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1’s and O-2’s.

Question: What is the general criteria of an O-1?

Answer: To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability.

Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who has risen to the very top of the field of endeavor.

Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the motion picture or television industry, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary achievement evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition significantly above that ordinarily encountered to the extent the person is recognized as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.

There are several criteria or levels of qualification depending on what type of field you are going to apply for with the O-1. However, the time to apply would be the present (prior to when the H-1B Rush will occur).


Train to nowhere

The Duterte administration says the recently-passed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (AKA Train) law should do the Filipino people a world of good.
At first glance, it may accomplish something that taxpayers will welcome since it relieves them of the burden of excessively high income taxes. What the government does not talk about is the sudden rise in the prices of many goods and services that will result because of Duterte’s Train.
One personal example may well be a sign of what consumers can expect in the next few weeks and months. In this case, however, it was felt by yours truly a few days after the bill was signed into law, the effects of which should not have taken effect until this first quarter of 2018.
As I am sometimes wont to do, I had a fastfood dinner in that odd period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Like most everybody else, I had gotten tired of too much of the grand (AKA unhealthy) food served everywhere during the holiday season.
One particular good-for-two meals that my partner and I sometimes order is from KFC. It went for about P250 or $5 throughout most of 2017. So what happened last week?
That very same meal was now selling for something like P320.
We were not only surprised, but stunned. That was a whopping increase, where usually most such places would hike their retail prices by a tolerable five percent per year, on the average.
She pointed out to the staff that the increase was pretty dramatic, and the reply she got was a stunner. It was because of that Train law, she was told.
My partner wanted to argue that the Train law would not affect prices until the first quarter of 2018 at the earliest, but she decided not to spoil the holiday mood. I could only shake my head in disgust.
What the fastfood joint did was not unexpected. A lot of companies big and small like to commit these little crimes against consumers if they think they can get away with it. Their argument goes something like this: Since everybody has a lot more money during the Christmas season, it’s perfectly all right to jack up their prices.
Yes, most employees would have gotten their legally-mandated 13th month pay, but this was a little too much. And the signing of the Train law gave them the perfect opportunity to pull a fast one over consumers.
This was just the beginning, of course. The government did say that the prices of certain goods will definitely go up because of the Train law. What the government appears unable to do is to prevent the big players from victimizing the lowly and generally powerless consumers.
One news story this week said that the Department of Energy was making sure that those big, bad oil companies would not jack up their prices this early, seeing that they were still selling stocks that they had prior to the signing of the Train law.
Why such a step needed to be done speaks volumes of private companies who enjoy nothing more than to profiteer from a new law.
Eventually, gas and diesel prices will have to go up. Or should I say skyrocket?
The transport industry is already preparing to ask for an increase in the fares paid by the riding public, and their request is sure to be granted.
Very incidentally, the prices of cars are among those that will increase dramatically in the coming weeks. The only good thing – if you can call it that – is that the increases will be higher for the more expensive vehicles. So it would be better for a consumer to buy one of those small cars rather than an SUV, which is infinitely safer.
I don’t know how the administration will justify the coming higher prices of nearly everything, which will automatically have an inflationary effect and dampen the country’s economic growth.
We all know that old saying that the only certainties in life are taxes and death. This Train tax, however, will prove to be extremely painful, and could just hasten the demise of the millions of Filipinos who are still struggling to make end meet.
This tax is supposed to be inclusive?
No it most certainly is not. It will only prove to be a backbreaking burden that the majority of Filipinos will have no choice but to bear.
Thanks for nothing, Mr. Duterte.

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