Philippine economy expands by 6.7% in 2017; 3rd fastest in Asia

In a report released yesterday, the PSA said growth in the fourth quarter was slower than the revised seven percent expansion in the third quarter and flat from the fourth quarter of 2016, the tail end of an election year. Economic expansion for full year 2016 registered at 6.9 percent. File
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine economy expanded by 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter to close 2017 with a full year growth rate of 6.7 percent, falling within market expectations and still among the fastest in Asia, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

In a report released yesterday, the PSA said growth in the fourth quarter was slower than the revised seven percent expansion in the third quarter and flat from the fourth quarter of 2016, the tail end of an election year. Economic expansion for full year 2016 registered at 6.9 percent.

The economic growth in 2017 trailed China’s 6.9 percent and Vietnam’s 6.8 percent expansion during the same period.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Ernesto Pernia said the fourth quarter growth is still considered a solid economic performance considering there is a traditional slowdown in expansion after an election year that sets a high base for growth.

“To me this is a good performance, given the fact that it is already normal for post-election years to witness a decline in economic growth,” he said in a briefing yesterday.

On the supply side, a turnaround was seen in the agriculture and fisheries sector which registered a growth rate of 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter of the year, reversing a negative 1.3 percent growth in the same period the prior year.

Industry rose at a steady although slower pace of 7.3 percent in the last quarter of 2017 compared with a growth of 7.9 percent in the comparative period the previous year. Growth was steady in subsectors such as mining and quarrying and manufacturing.

The services sector likewise grew at a slightly slower pace of 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter from 7.2 percent the previous year, mostly supported by transport and communication, trade, as well as public administration, defense and social security.

On the demand side, growth was driven by government spending which rose 14.3 percent in the last quarter of 2017 from 4.3 percent the previous year as greater resources were spent for hiring new state employees and provision of bonuses. Expenditure in relief works and operations in Marawi and payment of completed ASEAN-related events contributed to the expansion.

“This is very much in line with the government’s commitment to timely delivery of public services and social protection programs, including assistance to victims of typhoons as well as in the Marawi conflict, public scholarship programs and health expenditure programs,” Pernia said.

“Government consumption is also set to expand, following higher salaries of government personnel in line with the third tranche of the Salary Standardization Law,” he added.

Household consumption rose slightly slower at 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter from 6.2 percent in the same period in 2016. Growth was faster in housing, water, electricity, gas, as well as household furnishing and equipment. Slower consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, meanwhile, were seen during the period.

Construction activities carried out by the private sector, meanwhile, grew significantly slower in the fourth quarter of 2017 at 2.9 percent compared with 9.3 percent in the comparative period the previous year.

NEDA officials attributed the slowdown in private construction activities to a mixture of factors such as near saturation of the market for office spaces, smaller floor area of residential units built, and the natural business cycle for the industry.

“It’s possible that it reflects the impending glut of office space for BPOs for example,” Pernia said.

NEDA Undersecretary for policy and planning Rosemarie Edillon said private construction activities may be following the natural course of business cycle in which it undergoes normalization after hot activity.

“We have observed that private construction usually follows a cycle and it’s been very, very strong particularly last year and early this year and so it’s actually part of a normalization of the business cycle,” she said.

National Statistician Lisa Grace Bersales said it may also have to do with the fact that smaller office and residential units are now being built compared with before.

Public construction spending, on the other hand, registered a steep growth of 25.1 percent, from 19.2 percent growth in 2016.

“This keeps the overall construction growth in positive territory, which is a boost in line with our Build Build Build program,” said Pernia.

Also on the expenditure side, external demand improved with growth in exports of goods rising 20.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 from 12.8 percent in 2016. This offset the slowdown in the exports of services which registered a slower growth of 12.6 percent from 15.7 percent the prior year.

Pernia attributed the slowdown in the exports of services to the weakening of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry which continues to churn out lower value services.

“We must note that a major contributing factor to this decline was miscellaneous services, which includes the BPO industry – business processing outsourcing. We can take this as an indication that the current market profile of the BPO sector is ripe to move into higher value added services,” he said.

Pernia said government expenditure would continue to be a key driver of the economy in line with its Build Build Build program.

“The Build Build Build program, of course, will continue its momentum in providing more opportunities to our country such as investments, job creation, connectivity, and dependable delivery of public services,” he said.

“At the core of the program are 75 high-impact infrastructure flagship projects that represent the major capital undertakings of the government, which will be implemented within the medium-term. This includes transport, energy, irrigation and water supply projects to promote growth centers outside the urban-industrial region centered around Metro Manila,” he added.

He expressed confidence that growth this year would range between seven to eight percent as domestic demand picks up as more take home pay is placed in the hands of workers.

“In the next quarter, we see the domestic demand picking up as household consumption will likely improve, following the recently approved tax reform package, which will result in higher take home pay for 99 percent of Filipino taxpayers. Household consumption is also seen to benefit from expanded employment opportunities from the Build Build Build program,” Pernia said.


Church appeals for aid to Mayon evacuees

CROWDED People fleeing Mayon volcano’s fury find temporary shelter at Guinobatan East Central School in Guinobatan, Albay. —MARCALVIC ESPLANA

Social action arms of the Catholic Church appealed to the faithful to pray and extend assistance to those affected by the eruptions of Mt. Mayon in Albay province.

In a statement, Caritas Manila said the most needed items were sleeping mats, mosquito nets, blankets, face masks, hygiene kits, firewood, food, water, toilets and communal kitchens.

In a separate appeal, Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon said food and warm clothing for the evacuees were most welcome.

Donations can be made online via or by bank deposit to Caritas Manila’s saving accounts.

These are at Banco de Oro through Savings Account No. 5600-45905 and account name Caritas Manila; Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) through Savings Account No. 3063-5357-01; and Metrobank through Savings Account No. 175-3-175069543.

Dollar donations can be deposited at BPI through Savings Account No. 3064-0033-5 and account name Caritas Manila, with swift code: BOPIPHMM; and Philippine National Bank through Savings Account No. 108566600025 and swift code: PNBMPHMM.

Donations can also be made through Cebuana Lhuillier free of charge; the Caritas Manila office at 2002 Jesus St., Pandacan, Manila; or at Radio Veritas on West Avenue and Edsa, Quezon City. —Julie M. Aurelio



SolGen Calida asks CA to rearrest Joel Reyes

REARREST. Solicitor General Jose Calida joins the motions asking for the rearrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes. File photo from PNP Public Information Office

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to reverse its decision freeing former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and to order his immediate rearrest.

In a motion for reconsideration submitted to the CA's former Special 11th Division on Monday, January 22, and released to media on Tuesday, January 23, Calida said the CA should reconsider giving weight to the testimony of witness "Bomar" Edrad.

In nullifying the lower court's finding of probable cause in the murder charge against Reyes for the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, the majority of the CA's Special 11th Division had said Edrad's testimony falls under the rule called res inter alios acta.

It means the statement of an accused cannot be taken against another co-accused. The CA ruled that Edrad's admission to a conspiracy pointing to Reyes is his liability alone, and not Reyes'.

Citing a past Supreme Court (SC) ruling, Calida said Edrad's testimony is already considered "a judicial admission" that is "admissible in evidence against those it implicates."

"It was grave error for this Honorable Court to dismiss the present case. It made the brazen declaration 'no evidence, no conviction' in its January 4, 2018 decision, among others," the Solicitor General said.

Echoing the justices who dissented in the CA decision, Calida added: "This conclusion is clearly premature. It bears repeating that the absence or presence of conspiracy is factual in nature and involves evidentiary matters appropriate for trial. It is also wrong."

For the Solicitor General, the CA should have considered Reyes' flight as "determining evidence of his guilt as part of probable cause." The former Palawan governor went into hiding before he was arrested in Thailand in 2015.

In a separate case, Reyes was convicted of one count of graft by the Sandiganbayan, but his appeal of that conviction allows him to stay free. Ombudsman prosecutors have asked the anti-graft court to order his imprisonment, also saying he is a flight risk. The Sandiganbayan has yet to resolve that issue.

Calida said the CA decision "stinks" and vowed to find "where the stench is coming from."

He has the backing of Malacañang as Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque used to be the lawyer for the Ortega family.

"No doubt, the CA decision has eroded the faith and trust the people of the Philippines reposed in it to render a decision in this petition that is just and fair," Calida said. –


Lacson says House members to ‘look pathetic, ridiculous’ if con-ass forced

Members of the House of Representatives are risking to “look pathetic and worse, ridiculous” if it pushes through in convening a constituent assembly (con-ass) to amend the 1987 Constitution even without the participation of the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.

“For their own sake, they should not allow themselves to look pathetic and worse, ridiculous. Having said that, they should read the 1987 Constitution in its entirety,” Lacson said.

Lacson specifically cited Article VI, Section 1, which states that “the legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives…”

Lacson said that to interpret Article XVII of the Constitution to refer to one chamber is “at best, self-serving.”

Article XVII, Section 1 states that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or (2) A constitutional convention.”

“They pride themselves as lawyers in good standing but it only takes a layman who knows how to read and understand simple words and literature in order to appreciate what is right and wrong,” Lacson said.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has repeatedly said that it will push through with amending the Constitution through a con-ass even without the participation of the Senate, which has insisted on separate voting.

Lacson is the author of a resolution that would convene the Senate as a con-ass, separate from the House of Representatives. Senators have argued that their numbers would be rendered irrelevant in a joint con-ass.

Lacson said the Senate does not intend to question the House’s move before the Supreme Court (SC).

“They (House) can propose amendments or revision all they want but at the end of the day, a plebiscite would necessitate an item in the General Appropriations Act to be appropriated for the Commission on Elections to conduct such plebiscite,” Lacson said.

“Without the Senate, how can such appropriation materialize?” he pointed out.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III earlier said that he expects the House of Representatives to “wait” for the decision of the Senate. This, after the House formally informed the Senate that it has approved the resolution constituting a con-ass and that it requests for the “concurrence” of the upper chamber.

Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, for his part, said the House of Representatives cannot dance the Cha-cha alone.

Drilon said the Constitution is “crystal clear” on the composition of Congress.

“The House of Representatives alone cannot constitute themselves as a constituent assembly and by its own three fourths vote, cannot amend the Constitution. They cannot do it without the other house which is the Senate. The participation of the Senate is required by the Constitution and therefore necessary,” Drilon said. — RSJ, GMA News


Maria Ressa faces NBI: 'We have nothing to hide'

Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa arrives at the NBI headquarters in Manila yesterday. Edd Gumban
MANILA, Philippines — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday after being summoned over an alleged violation of the anti-cybercrime law in connection to an article in 2012.

The NBI summoned Ressa, former Rappler reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr., and businessman Benjamin Bitanga over a complaint filed by Century Peak president Wilfredo Keng.

Ressa appeared with her lawyer Jose Jesus Disini Jr., but Santos and Bitanga were not present.

Bitanga is the owner of Dolphin Fire, reportedly a major shareholder in Rappler Holdings Corp.

In an article released in May 2012, Rappler named Keng as the owner of the black Chevrolet Suburban vehicle allegedly used by the late chief justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in the same year.

The online news website also reported that one of Keng’s companies had a pending case in a lower court, and that Keng was allegedly involved in human trafficking and smuggling.

Keng refuted Rappler’s story, and charged the respondents for violation of the cybercrime law.

Manuel Eduarte, NBI Cybercrime Division head agent, earlier said that the subpoenas were sent to give Ressa a chance to explain.

Ressa has maintained that Rappler has “nothing to hide.”

“I’m right here. We don’t have a copy of the complaint, so I don’t know what kind of questions they will ask, but we’re not afraid,” Ressa said before proceeding with her lawyers to meet with Eduarte.

She received a copy of the complaint when she met Eduarte.

The NBI gave Ressa, Santos, and Bitanga 10 days to submit comment on the complaint, after which the NBI will evaluate whether to pursue charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Eduarte said Santos’ article is still covered by the anti-cybercrime law even if published in May 2012. The law was enacted in September 2012.

He also said the theory of continuous publication can be applied, meaning Keng could be presumed to have seen the report only after enactment.

But lawyer Marnie Tonson of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance does not agree “because criminal cases are not retroactive.”

The NBI is also looking into Rappler’s possible criminal liabilities after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked its incorporation papers for supposedly violating the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of mass media.

In a decision dated Jan. 11, the SEC revoked Rappler’s license for allegedly violating SEC rules by engaging in a fraudulent transaction and circumventing constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership.

The SEC accused Rappler of violating the Constitution when it allowed Omidyar Network, one of the Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) holders of Rappler, to exercise control over its corporate affairs as provided for in their internal agreement in exchange for a fund infusion of $1 million.

The NBI said there is no link between the cybercrime case and the SEC’s decision to revoke Rappler’s license. – Emmanuel Tupas


Award for Mocha elates Malacañang

SCREENGRAB from The Varsitarian Twitter account
It was the award that kicked up a firestorm.

But Malacañang couldn’t care less, saying on Monday that it was happy for Presidential Communications Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson after she received the Gawad Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service from the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc. (USTAAI).

No sooner had the award been handed on Sunday night to Uson, a UST graduate who became a sexy dancer and blogger whom President Duterte rewarded with a post at the PCOO for her avid support, than her fellow graduates stormed social media, denouncing the choice as “disgusting” and a “shame,” expressing regret about their association with UST and demanding withdrawal of the award.

Fake nationalism
The vehement disapproval wasn’t so much over Uson’s sexy dancing than for her use of her blog to defend Mr. Duterte and attack his critics.
Condemning the USTAAI choice, the UST Central Student Council said Uson was “known to [use] her following to initiate blatant personal attacks against her critics and the government’s, including students and members of the press, all under the guise of fake nationalism and freedom of speech.”
Uson, the student council said, “does not in any way embody the ideals of a real Thomasian.”
Palace downplays uproar
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque played down the uproar on Monday, saying the award was an honor for Uson.
“Well, we’re happy for [Assistant Secretary] Uson and I suppose that validates that her appointment was for good reason,” Roque said.
“To be given this recognition must be really a source of honor for Uson,” he added.

Roque declined to comment on the outrage on social media.
“Mocha Uson can respond to them. The Palace does not have to,” he said.
‘Bitter lemons’
Uson did not seem to feel the heat.
She thanked the USTAAI for the award. “And like what they said, we will continue to strive to serve the Filipino people,” she said.
“I admire your stance of not aligning yourself to the political affiliation of your alumnus,” she added.
Uson said she was offering the award to her mother and to ordinary Filipinos.
To her bashers on social media, she said their rage showed there was freedom of expression in the Philippines. “A reminder: bitter lemons are eaten and not made a habit,” she said.
Denunciation of the USTAAI’s choice continued on Monday.
Revoke the award
The UST Student Council for the Arts and Letters urged the USTAAI to revoke the award. “We condemn any form of false information given by individuals such as herself,” it said.
The UST Journalism Society said Uson did not represent the university’s core values.
“Uson, who has been using her blog to peddle inaccurate information, malign critics of the Duterte administration, and discredit media practitioners who are performing their role as independent monitors of power, does not in any way represent the Thomasian core values of compassion, competence and commitment,” the group said in a statement. —WITH REPORTS FROM TISHA RAMIREZ, AIE BALAGTAS SEE AND FAYE ORELLANA



Nearly 36,000 flee Mayon Volcano's fury

Almost 36,000 people have fled to temporary shelters as of Tuesday morning, following eruptions of the restive Mayon Volcano that rained dark ash over a large part of Albay and lit up the night sky with fiery lava display.

Part of the 35,895 individuals were returning to evacuation centers days after they were sent home, following a recommendation from authorities that only those living within the six- to seven-kilometer danger zone needed to leave their residences.

The danger zone was extended to eight kilometers on Monday afternoon, after Alert Level 4 was raised over the volcano following magma eruptions that emitted a 10-kilometer high ash cloud.

A report by GMA News' Saleema Refran on Unang Balita said mandatory evacuation of residents within the eight-kilometer danger zone continues.

Alert Level 4 means a hazardous eruption is possible in a matter of hours or days.

At least 11,000 people sheltered at the Bagumbayan Central School, which sits within the eight-kilometer extended danger zone, returned home last week. They returned to the evacuation center after Monday's eruptions.


Albay Governor Al Bichara said in an interview on Unang Balita that it was the recommendation of the Department of Education to send children back to schools, which serve as evacuation centers, hence the decamping order last week.

Among those who had been evacuated was 84-year-old Soledad Alarzar, who died of old age on January 19. A fellow evacuee said the senior was made nervous and subsequently weakened by the volcano’s activity.

Evacuee Rudy Fernandez also reportedly has difficulty living in a shelter because of his chronic kidney disease and needs to undergo dialysis.

Some residents were displeased with having had to go back and forth from their homes to evacuation centers.

Close to 2 a.m. Tuesday, the restive Mayon again spewed out lava, molten rock, and burning ash, accompanied by thunder-like rumbling. Nearly all sides of its crater were aflame. Ash produced by the lava drifted to the southwest quadrant of the volcano.

Bichara said the national government assistance he had earlier sought has been “settled.” The health, social welfare, and education departments and the local government have downloaded quick response funds to reach out to displaced residents, he said.

Residents are advised to wear face masks, or drape damp cloth over their nose and mouth, and to stay indoors. —Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/ALG, GMA News


Disaster officials facing fund depletion for Mayon evacuees

Legazpi City, Albay — Disaster management officials here have already sent a notice of fund depletion to the national government in anticipation of a prolonged stay of displaced families in evacuation centers after Mayon Volcano again showed increased activity like lava flow.

Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said they have already forwarded the letter to the national government in order to expedite the downloading of funds from the national to the local government units.

Not enough – Army soldiers prepare relief goods at Guinobatan City for distribution to people in areas in Albay who were displaced by the continuous activity of Mount Mayon. Some officials are concerned that the relief funds may run out soon. (Ali Vicoy|Manila Bulletin)
“We have already sent the letter and we were told that the Office of Civil Defense has already made an advance notice about our financial situation to the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council),” Daep told The Manila Bulletin yesterday.

But Daep said they also made an advanced notice even that what the local government units (LGUs) could shoulder is only the 10-day period of the evacuation.

The evacuation started the night of January 13 and the LGUs have started funding the relief items the following day.

Based on the data, the Provincial Government of Albay has been spending P200 a day for every family. There are currently more than 7,000 families still staying in more than 30 evacuation centers in Ligao City, Tabaco City, Guinobatan, Daraga, Sto. Domingo, Camalig, and Malilipot.

“We are actually spending more than P1.4 million a day just for the food of the evacuees. If the Mayon activities continue for weeks or even months, imagine the fund that we need just for the food,” said Daep.

The 10-day fund of the local government units comes from the savings from the Internal Revenue Allotments last year.

Once the notice of depletion is made, it is the time that the national government must come in to take over the funding on the needs of the evacuees.

Leni calls for aid

Meanwhile, Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo made a call yesterday for donations for relief efforts intended for her fellow Bicolanos forced to evacuate because of Mayon Volcano.

Robredo, who was born and raised in Bicol, appealed for help from Filipinos listening to her weekly radio program, “BISErbisyong Leni,” on RMN-dzXL 558.

“Dapat alalahanin din natin ‘yung hirap na pinagdadaanan ng apektado ngayon. Araw-araw dumadagdag ‘yung evacuees. Kasi tumitindi ‘yung danger zones, kaya talagang my forced evacuation (Let us remember the hardships of the affected individuals have been going through. Everyday there are more evacuees. Because of the worsening activity in danger zones so there is forced evacuation),” she said.

Alert Level 3 remains in effect over Mayon Volcano as it continues to be in a high level of unrest.

Almost 40,000 individuals had been displaced since January 18. The number had been reduced to 27,643 evacuees, who are temporarily staying in classrooms that served as evacuation sites in Albay.

Aside from the food items, other basic needs include medicine, repairs of toilets and other basic items for shelter.

“This is also the time that other non-government agencies such as Red Cross would come in to help,” said Daep.

Foreign assistance

Compared with past eruptions when foreign aid poured in for the evacuees, there has not been that kind of help coming in yet.

The reason, according to Daep, is that they have not formally asked for assistance from their usual donors.

“We told them that we can still shoulder the expenses,” said Daep.

But he said they expect that the assistance would come in the coming days, especially that they have already sent a notice of fund depletion.

As of yesterday, he said at least two foreign aid groups have already coordinated with them to check on the needs of the evacuees.

“We have not formally asked for their help because we told them that we have funds for 10 days. But once we made the request, I am sure that they will be there to help,” said Daep.

Right now, he said the regional office of the Department of Social Works and Development has already prepositioned food items for the evacuees. (With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)


Fil-Am novelist and UST alumnus calls award to Mocha Uson ‘an insult’ to alumni

A University of Santo Tomas (UST) alumnus and Filipino-American novelist-poet called the awarding of the Thomasian Alumni Award for Government Service to Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson "an insult" to all alumni of the university.

"The recent Thomasian Alumni Award recognition of Mocha Uson, a known propagandist and “purveyor of fake news” at a time when Freedom of the Press is under attack in the Philippines is an insult to all UST Alumni who believe in upholding one of the pillars of strong democracies—VERITAS," US-based Bino A. Realuyo, author of the novel "The Umbrella Country", said in a statement.

Uson was given the award by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association Inc. (USTAAI) on Sunday during the grand alumni homecoming.

Realuyo is a UST alumnus and was one of 75 UST High School alumni who received the 75th Founding Anniversary Award in 2003. He was cited for his outstanding achievements in literature.

Uson's efforts to evoke her idea of change, which she said UST recognized in giving her the award, "resulted in the death of many Filipinos" and ignored other alumnae and alumnus worthy of the award, Realuyo said.

"I am sure there are many unsung and worthy alumni of UST whom you can honor and recognize. Mocha Uson is certainly not one of them," Realuyo said.

The recognition of Uson, whom Realuyo branded a political propagandist, ran opposite to the respect of the truth that UST teachers and staff instilled in him.

The move was demoralizing enough for Realuyo, a former contributor to GMA News Online, to return the award he received from the university.

"I am demoralized by your recognition of Mocha Uson. As a protest of your decision to support a political propagandist who thrives in attacking the highest ideals of Philippine democracy, I am returning the award given to me," he said.

Within two hours of Realuyo's post, Uson on her wall shared a picture of her Gawad Thomasian Alumni in Government Service certificate and medal with the caption "PAALALA: Ang amplaya ay kinakain hindi inuugali."

Prior to this, the assistant secretary reposted a video of herself receiving the award with a paragraph commending the USTAAI for their supposed impartiality on the political affiliation of UST alumni.

Uson, an avid social media user prior to being appointed to her government post, also addressed her bashers on Twitter and called their continued tweets a proof of the continued "freedom of expression" in the country.

"Ako po ay lubos na nagpapasalamat sa UST Alumni Association. At tulad nga ng sinabi nila tayo po ay patuloy na magsusumikap pagsilbihan pa ang mamayang Pilipino," she said.

The University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council (UST-CSC) on Sunday also condemned the awarding of Uson for her role in spreading "politically-motivated propaganda against known members of the government's opposition."

"We express dismay over this event as Mocha Uson does not, in any way, embody the ideals of a real Thomasian, and with all due respect, Ms. Esther Margaux "Mocha" Justiniano Uson does not deserve an award that was supposed to be meant solely for outstanding alumni," the UST-CSC added.

The USTAAI defended its bestowing the award on Uson, saying the sole criteria for the award is "to be a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas and in government service." 

It added that the award "is envisioned to inspire and challenge the recipients to lead the Thomasian core values of Compassion, Competence, and Commitment." —Rie Takumi/KG, GMA News


PH authorities nab overstaying Hamas-linked Iraqi ‘bomb expert’ in Pampanga

PNP Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa talks to Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri, a suspected Iraqi bomb expert connected to the Palestine Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Authorities have arrested Al-Jabouri for overstaying in the country. Dela Rosa presented the suspect to the media during the press briefing at the PNP headquarters on January 22, 2018. (Photo by Noy Morcoso/
An Iraqi national, who was believed to be a bomb expert connected to the Palestine Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), has been arrested by Philippine authorities.

Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri reportedly arrived in Manila from Istanbul, Turkey in August 27, 2017.

It was found out from his travel documents that Al-Jabouri’s 90-day visa was only valid from August 10, 2017 to November 9, 2017.

“The PNP-IG (intelligence group) is coordinating closely with the Bureau of Immigration and the Iraqi embassy for further disposition of Mr. Al-Jabouri,” said Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who presented the suspect in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Monday.
The suspect was described by the Iraq Embassy as “a chemist with knowledge on explosives and is known to have close ties with militant extremist movements in the Middle East.”
The police received reports on January 20 that a suspicious-looking person with Middle Eastern features, resembling the description and photographs provided by the Iraq Embassy in Brgy. Malabanias in Angeles City, Pampanga.
“A few hours later upon receipt of the report, operatives of the PNP Intelligence Group under Police Chief Supt. Norberto D. Solomon, conducted follow-up operations at 3 a.m. on Sunday, January 21, to verify the information from the BIN and found Mr. Al Jabouri in the area toting a large black luggage,” Dela Rosa said.
During interrogation, the suspect revealed that he served as a consultant for the Hamas in Damascus, Syria before he moved to Istanbul, Turkey in 2012.
He said he was in Manila to meet a Chinese business group that hired him as a consultant. /kga


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