Dela Rosa 'elated' by ranking in Senate race surveys

RUNNING? Dela Rosa's spokesperson says he will focus first on finishing his job in the PNP. File photo by Albert Cain/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa is "elated" that Filipinos find him trustworthy enough for the Senate.
PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos relayed Dela Rosa's response to the results of separate surveys conducted by independent pollsters on possible contenders for the Senate in 2019.

"The CPNP (Chief PNP) is elated with the trust of the people as reflected in the latest surveys," Carlos told Rappler in a text message.

Based on documents obtained by Rappler, the top cop placed 10th to 12th in the Laylo survey held in November 2017, and was part of the top 20 in a Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll on potential senatorial candidates for the 2019 elections.

Carlos noted, however, that 2019 was still far off. (READ: PNP to add new drug war rules before resuming Tokhang)

"The CPNP is focused on the job, especially that his service has been extended by the CIC (Commander-in-chief). He will do his best in leading the organization until he officially retires from the police service in April 2018," the PNP spokesperson said.

Months before the surveys were conducted, Dela Rosa had already expressed openness to run for senator in 2019. He had repeatedly joked about it and even pretending to be a senator in a press conference, while a few senators had publicly toyed with the idea of having him as a colleague.

Dela Rosa was originally due to retire on January 21, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56, but President Rodrigo Duterte extended his term by "two to 3 months" before appointing him as Bureau of Corrections chief.

The top cop had been under fire for the bloody PNP-led drug war, but his personal assessment was that he managed to restore public trust to the police. –


Transport groups demand P6 per liter fuel discount

TRANSPORTATION. A jeep carrying goods and passengers speeds through one of the highways in Coron, Palawan in December 2013. File photo by Pat Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Transport groups are demanding a P6 per liter fuel discount for public utility vehicles (PUVs) due to the implementation of the tax reform law.

On Thursday, January 4, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) pointed out that excise tax on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law would lead to more expensive fuel.

"Piston is against the TRAIN law which would lead to a higher increase in oil prices including diesel, which in turn would result in an additional hike because of the 12% value added tax (VAT)," Piston president George San Mateo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

"We are demanding to President [Rodrigo] Duterte, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to give PUVs, especially jeepneys, a fuel discount of P6 per liter across the board nationwide," he added.

San Mateo also said commuters would likely be spared from a fare hike if PUVs are given the P6 per liter fuel discount.

TRAIN was implemented last Monday, January 1. (READ: EXPLAINER: What's inside the bicam-approved tax reform bill?)

But the DOE clarified that higher oil prices do not apply to existing or old stocks of petroleum products. The impact is expected to be felt mid-January.

Under the tax reform law, diesel, which is not taxed at present, will be imposed P2.50 per liter tax in 2018, P4.50 in 2019, and P6 in 2020.

Gasoline, from the current tax of P4.35 per liter, would be imposed a levy of P7 per liter in 2018, P9 in 2019, and P10 in 2020.

In the coming days, Piston and the No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition plan to hold protests to seek the suspension of the TRAIN implementation. –


BIR files tax evasion complaints vs Mark Taguba, Kenneth Dong

TAX EVADERS?. Customs broker and middleman Mark Taguba (right) and Kenneth Dong (left) face tax evasion charges based on their testimonies in the Senate hearing into the P6.4-billion shabu shipment.

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday, January 4, filed tax evasion complaints against customs fixer Mark Taguba and businessman Kenneth Dong, personalities implicated in the P6.4-billion shabu shipment from China last year.

BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay said in a press conference on Thursday that the complaints were filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

He said Taguba, the whistleblower in the shabu shipment incident, faces an P850-million tax evasion case which the BIR calculated from Taguba's own testimonies in the Senate probe into the multibillion-peso smuggled shabu.

“As a consequence of his acts and omissions, respondent Taguba evaded the payment of taxes for taxable year 2016 in the aggregate amount of P850,574,228.77, inclusive of surcharges and interests," the BIR said in a statement.

Of the amount, P660,758,572.33 represents the income tax Taguba allegedly owed the govenrment, while the P189,815,656.44 is for valued added tax.

During the congressional hearings, Taguba admitted that he brokered shipments for his clients and pulled strings at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for smoother transactions. Taguba mentioned dealing with a so-called "Davao Group," said to be influential within the BOC.

The BIR’s computation was based on Taguba’’s testimony that he charges between P170,000 to P190,000 per container van, and a trucking fee of P10,000 per container van.

“Based on the congressional inquiries and data obtained from the BOC, a total of 7,458 and 7,694 container vans were brought in by Taguba’s consignees for 2016 and 2017, respectively. For 2016 alone, Taguba earned P1,267,860,000.00 (at PhP170,000.00 per container van),” the BIR said.

The Senate blue ribbon committee report on the shabu shipment probe had tagged Taguba as the "central" figure in the corruption chain in the BOC, but cleared Customs officials who failed to keep the illegal drugs shipment from entering the port of Manila.

P11.4-M tax evasion case vs Kenneth Dong

The BIR filed an P11.4-million tax evasion complaint against Dong, based on his testimonies at the Senate hearing on the income he earned, and other documents collated by the BIR.

Dong is described as a middleman in the drug shipment issue. He is supposedly the point man of Richard Tan or Richard Chen, chairman and general manager of Philippine Hongfei Logistics Group of Companies Incorporated, the supposed importer of the shabu shipment.

Aside from his income from acting as middleman the BIR said Dong “had received compensation income in the years 2013 and 2015 from Asuki Weighing System, Inc amounting to P19,650.00 and P148,122.00, respectively."

According to the BIR, Dong did not file any Income Tax Return, Value Added Tax Return, or Percentage Tax Return from 2003 to 2017.

The BIR also said it uncovered documents that would show that Dong “gave P3 million in 2013 and P8 million in 2016 to support the election campaign of two lawmakers.”

Dong had been portrayed as a close friend of Paolo Duterte, based on their photos posted on Dong's social media account, but Dong later clarified that they were just "acquaintances."

Paolo Duterte and presidential son-in-law Manases Carpio, the husband of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, had been linked to the Davao Group but both denied the allegation. The Senate panel chaired by Senator Richard Grodon had cleared both in the shabu-smuggling incident.

The DOJ had earlier filed a drug importation case against Taguba, Dong, and other personalities before a Valenzuela court, but dismissed the cases against Customs officials, including former commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, who were included in a list of alleged corrupt officials in the BOC.

Faeldon resigned as customs chief but was later appointed as a deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense. –


Junjun Binay asks court to drop charges in Makati parking cases

MAKATI PARKING. Former Makati mayor Junjun Binay files a motion to quash to seek the dismissal of his malversation and graft charges over the allegedly overpriced Makati City parking building.

MANILA, Philippines – Former Makati city mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr filed a motion to quash before the 3rd Division of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, asking for a dismissal of his malversation and graft cases that stemmed from the allegedly overpriced Makati Parking Building.

There is already probable cause to hold Binay and his father, former vice president Jejomar Binay Sr. They are scheduled for arraignment on January 12, not considering any readjustments that may arise due to the new pleading.

In the motion filed on Wednesday, January 3, the younger Binay said his approval of payments to the architecture and design firms in Makati City’s ‘world-class’ parking building was not an unlawful act.

“All he did was pay the obligation already incurred by the City of Makati under a contract that was entered into even before he became Mayor, which was valid and subsisting during his term,” Binay Jr’s motion said. (READ: INVESTIGATIVE: 'World-class' prices for Binay's parking building)

Binay Jr said that by approving the release of payments to the firm, he was only fulfilling his obligation to a private contractor.

“Had he not honored the payment of a valid and subsisting obligation, he would have exposed Makati City to liability for damages,” the motion said.

'Institutionalized bid-rigging'

It was Junjun’s father, the former vice president, who entered into the contracts in 2007 when he was the mayor of Makati City.

But Binay Jr said there can be no conspiracy alleged in this case due to the lack of "showing of both knowledge and intentional participation in the supposed criminal acts."

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation in 2015 said that the P2.28 billion worth parking building was overpriced by over a billion. The Senate called it ‘institutionalized bid-rigging.’

It involves construction firm Hilmarc’s which, according to records, has Makati City as its regular client. From 199 to 2004 alone, Hilmarc’s won Makati’s projects worth P2 billion.

Rappler’s investigation into records show the bidding for the parking building was won by Hilmarc’s by close margins.

Procurement experts say that close bidding suggests a possible simulated bidding, where the favored bidder taps other firms to bid for the project.

The favored bidder arranges everything to create the illusion of a competitive bidding. Once the favored bidder wins, they get their conspirators as subcontractors.

The two Binay men have also been indicted for graft and falsification of documents over the allegedly overpriced P1.3 billion Makati Science High School. A plunder complaint into the overpricing issue is still being threshed out in the Ombudsman level. –


Duterte fires MARINA administrator for foreign 'junkets'

ONE WHIFF. President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the 20th Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañang Palace on December 5, 2017. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro III for frequent travels abroad, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced on Thursday, January 4.

During a press conference in Davao City, Roque said Duterte had decided to "terminate the services" of Amaro for "excessive" trips abroad.

Amaro was the subject of a complaint supposedly sent by the Alliance of MARINA Employees to the Office of the President.

The group accused Amaro of going on 11 foreign junkets in 2017, making him an "absentee administrator." But Roque said Department of Transportation documents showed Amaro went on 18 trips last year and 6 trips in 2016, for a total of 24 trips.

"The point of the President is we have to be selective in the trips we have to undertake. Definitely, 24 trips is excessive," said Duterte's spokesman.

Of the 24 trips Amaro made, one was not an official trip while 3 were sponsored by another body. Thus, of these travels, 21 were paid for using government funds.

Roque also said Amaro received an "honorarium" from "almost all" of these visits.

Roque was supposed to have announced Duterte's decision to fire Amaro on Wednesday, January 3, during a Malacañang press briefing.

But on Wednesday morning, he said he had received instructions from the President to defer the announcement.

Roque was told Duterte was still reviewing MARINA's legislative charter.

Presidential Decree No 474, which created MARINA, states that the President "may remove the Administrator or Deputy Administrators from office for cause upon recommendation of the Board."

Roque earlier said Duterte wanted Amaro's sacking to be made public as early as January 1 but the spokesman had asked the President to postpone the announcement to January 3 so the official could enjoy their New Year holiday.

In fulfillment of his "one whiff, you're out" policy, Duterte has axed several other high-ranking government officials, inclusing Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno, National Irrigation Administration chief Peter Laviña, Budget Undersecretary Gertrudo De Leon, Dangerous Drugs Board chief Dionisio Santiago, and Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chairman Terry Ridon and all of its commissioners.

Just last month, Duterte asked Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) president Elba Cruz to vacate her post as her term already expired in June 2017.

DAP employees accused Cruz of unauthorized organizational restructuring of the DAP, violations of Civil Service Commission (CSC) rules, continuous threats of mass termination against employees, and frequent foreign travels.

Roque had also said Duterte intends to fire several police officers. This comes over a month after he ordered the return of the Philippine National Police to his controversial drug war. –


Pricier goods under TRAIN Law mean better basic services, says Andanar

TAX TALKS. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar defends the TRAIN Law. File photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Communications Secretary Martin Andanar defended the new set of tax hikes that will come as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law takes effect this year.

In an interview on Monday, January 1, Andanar acknowledged that while the TRAIN Law will increase taxpayers take-home pay for most employees, it would also lead to pricier cars, fuel, tobacco, and sugar-sweetened beverages. (READ: How lawmakers gifted themselves with tax cuts on luxury cars)

But Andanar told dzRH that the price increase will return to the public in the form of improved basic services and more infrastructure projects under President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program.

“Eh mas lumalaki po iyong pakinabang, mas malaki po. It outweighs – the positive – the pros outweigh vis-à-vis the TRAIN Law pagka’t ‘pag mayroon pong malilikom na mas malaking buwis ang ating gobyerno, ito po ay mapupunta rin sa iba’t ibang investments ng ating gobyerno at iba’t ibang mga proyekto,” said Andanar.

(There will be a lot of benefits. The positive effects outweigh the cons of the TRAIN Law because the when government collects more taxes, it will go to different investments and different government projects.)

He added more government programs mean more jobs for Filipinos, too.

“Of course, iyong trabaho na malilikha po nito, iyon po iyong mahalaga kasi marami pong nagrereklamo na walang trabaho, etcetera… So ngayon ho, ay makakaasa ho kayo na madadagdagan talaga ang trabaho ng ating mga kababayan,” he said.

(Of course, the jobs this will create is important because so many people complain they do not have work etcetera… So now, the public can expect that there will be more jobs available for them.)

Andanar previously told motorists to fill up their tanks before the tax hike on fuel is fully implemented. –


No compromise deal with Marcoses yet, Malacañang says

NO DEAL YET. Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo says the draft compromise deal with the Marcoses circulating in social media is a mere submission from lawyer Oliver Lozano.

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday, January 1, clarified there is no compromise deal yet with the Marcoses and the draft agreement circulating online is a mere submission to the Palace by lawyer Oliver Lozano.

“He wrote our office and attached that draft. He has been submitting a lot of proposals and suggestions. Our office just acknowledges receipt of the same and thanks him for his suggestions,” Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in his response to reporters on Monday.

Civic leader Gang Badoy Capati posted on her Facebook page copies of a supposed compromise agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Marcos family, where some of their ill-gotten will be returned to government.

The post shows that Panelo responded to Lozano in July 2017 saying “we shall further study your suggestions.”

PAnelo said it was a matter of courtesy.

"The document was sent to the office by Atty Oliver Lozano. Our office as a matter of courtesy and policy acknowledges receipt of any letter coming from any citizen. No action has been taken on Atty. Lozano's proposal,” he said.

Lozano, Marcoses and Duterte

The document was sent to Panelo’s office by lawyer Oliver Lozano, known in the legal and media circles for filing multitude of cases against high-profile personalities. In 2017 alone, he filed impeachment cases against Vice President Leni Robredo and former elections chairman Andres Bautista, as well as an administrative complaint against Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano for seeking the impeachment of Duterte.

Lozano is also a known Marcos loyalist.

It was Duterte who first brought up the possibility of striking a deal with the Marcoses, saying he has met with an emissary of the family.

The President said he would need the approval of the Congress to begin the talks.

The government has civil suits against the Marcoses amounting to around P32 billion, excluding other efforts to go after assets like the coco levy funds.

The current leadership of the Presidential Commission on Good Government is open to withdrawing the suits, depending on the agreement between the family and Duterte.

"This will be premature but again if it will be used in the fast recovery of ill-gotten wealth at magagamit 'yan ng ordinaryong mamamayan ng Pilipino...because the recovery of the PCGG will go to 2 recipients, either for agrarian reform program or human rights victims, imagine niyo kung may magagamit na pera para sa repormang agraryo at para sa mga biktima ng human rights violations, ay maganda yan para sa bansa," PCGG Acting Chair Reynold Munsayac said in August.

(This will be premature but again if it will be used in the fast recovery of ill-gotten wealth and it will be used by the ordinary Filipinos...because the recovery of the PCGG will go to 2 recipients, either for agrarian reform program or human rights victims, imagine if you have the money which you can use for agrarian reform and human rights victims, that's good for the country.) –


Sea travel from Cebu banned as ‘Agaton’ lashes province

This forecast track of tropical depression ‘Agaton’ shows the storm passing over the province of Cebu. PAGASA IMAGE

CEBU CITY — Sea vessels in Cebu have been barred from leaving after the province was placed under Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1 due to tropical depression “Agaton.”

Agaton was crossing the Bohol Sea and was about 95 kilometers east of Tagbilaran City, Bohol, at about 4 a.m., according to the 5 a.m. bulletin of the weather bureau.

It had maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometer per hour (kph) with gustiness of 90 kph.


In Cebu City, wind velocity was estimated at 25 to 30 kph with gustiness of 45 to 60 kph, said Councilor Dave Tumulak.

It has been raining in Cebu since Sunday night.

A minor landslide was reported near Mt. View in Barangay Busay. Soil covered a portion of the barangay road but it remained passable.

A fallen tree was also reported in Sitio Hoyohoy in Busay, said Councilor Kevin Sanchez.

In Mandaue City, water at the Butuanon River and Mahiga Creek had reached the critical level, said Felix Suico, head of the city’s disaster office.

Suico said water at the Mahiga Creek in Barangay Subangdaku started to overflow at 5:12 a.m.

“We are now evacuating the residents along the riverbanks,” he said.

In Alcoy town, two fallen trees obstructed the flow of traffic along the national highway near the boundary of Dalaguete town. The obstruction was cleared after an hour. /cbb



2,000 stranded in Visayas, Mindanao ports due to storm


Storm clouds brought by tropical depression ‘Agaton’ can be seen over the Visayas in this satellite photo released by the Pagasa on Tuesday morning, Jan. 2, 2017. PAGASA PHOTO

More than 2,000 people were barred from traveling by sea as Tropical Depression “Agaton” prevailed over much of the country.

As of 4 a.m. of Tuesday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported that 2,308 passengers were stranded in ports in the Visayas and Mindanao due to bad weather.

The ports located in Northern Mindanao and southeastern Mindanao had 1,910 affected passengers while ports in Central and Eastern Visayas had 398, the PCG reported.

The Nasipit port in Butuan in Northen Mindanao had the highest number with 781 affected sea travelers. Mae Wess port in Davao and the Macabalan port in Cagayan de Oro followed with 370 and 310 affected passengers, respectively.

Meanwhile, 34 sea vessels and 66 rolling cargoes were also stranded because of rough seas.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, earlier warned sea travelers of risky travel over the eastern and western seaboards of the Visayas.

The weather bureau has raised cyclone warning signal number 1 in 14 provinces due to Agaton.



Agnes Callamard backs two Filipino UN experts hit by Malacañang

UN EXPERT. In this photo dated October 20, 2016, UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard addresses an event on the death penalty and terrorism-related offenses. File photo by Kim Haughton/UN Photo

MANILA, Philippines – “We will not be silenced by lies nor intimidated by anyone’s bully pulpit."

United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard released this statement following Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s remarks against her two fellow UN experts who are Filipinos.

Roque earlier warned UN special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary not to “use their positions to embarrass the Philippine government.”

He was reacting to the women's joint statement urging the government to observe international obligations and protect the rights of indigenous people amid the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

“Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed. We fear the situation could deteriorate further if the extension of martial law until the end of 2018 results in even greater militarization,” said a portion of their statement dated December 27.

Roque said that Tauli-Corpuz and Jimenez-Damary should be more careful of their statements because they are “elected to the post upon the behest the former administration” that their opinions will be viewed as tainted.

Callamard corrected Roque, however, explaining that UN special rapporteurs are not elected but rather appointed.

“We are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as independent experts on the basis of our proven expertise and experience. We are NOT United Nations staff. We are volunteers who serve in our personal capacity and receive no remuneration. We do NOT take on our roles at the ‘behest’ of any government,” she said.

Callamard continued, “When public officials choose fiction over fact, you can be sure they have much to hide. I commend my fellow Special Rapporteurs, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, for implementing their mandates independently, impartially, accurately, and courageously.”

Callamard’s recent statement is just the latest in her tirade with the Duterte administration.

She has since drawn the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for criticizing the deaths caused by his anti-drugs campaign. Duterte has recently threatened to slap Callamard should she investigate the drug war deaths. –

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