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The National Bureau of Investigation would handle the probe into the decoupling incident of the coaches of the Metro Rail Transit last Thursday. File
MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez on Sunday said the National Bureau of Investigation would handle the probe into the decoupling incident of the coaches of the MRT-3 last Thursday.
In a statement, Chavez said he had a two-hour meeting with the NBI's Special Action Unit, which would lead the MRT investigation. He said he already conveyed the message of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade that the Department of Transportation and the MRT-3 would fully cooperate in the investigation.
“We thank the NBI for immediately forming a team of investigators,” Chavez said.
“DOTr and MRT will no longer make any statement regarding the investigation. Hawak na po ito ng NBI. Kung may statement man, sila na po ang magbibigay sa mga susunod na araw, (It is already being handled by the NBI. If there will be any statement in the coming days, it will be coming from them),” he added.
According to Chavez, the investigation would cover the decoupling incident and the missing messma card, commonly referred to as the black box of the light rail vehicle.
Chavez also met with MRT-3 Director for Operations Engr. Mike Capati, MRT Safety and Security Unit chief retired Major Willy Serano, his assistant Jess Duque and lawyer Dona Samson from the DOTr Office of the Undersecretary for Legal.
BURI denies sabotage plot
Meanwhile, the former maintenance provider of the MRT-3, Busan Universal Rail Inc., denied sabotaging the train and being involved in the decoupling of coaches last Thursday.
BURI spokesperson Charles Mendoza said they do not think they are among the persons of interest mentioned by Chavez.
“Wala kaming responsibilidad o involvement sa mga nangyari. Alam niyo naman, sila na ang nagpapatakbo ngayon, (We have no responsibility or involvement in the incident. You know that the government already manages the MRT,” Mercado said in a radio interview with dzMM.
The MRT-3 decoupling incident occurred a week after the government terminated the contract of BURI as its maintenance provider.
On Saturday, Chavez said there were several persons of interest in the MRT-3 incident but he refused to identify these persons pending the NBI probe.
The MRT-3 decoupling incident at the Ayala Station last Thursday disrupted train operations and forced hundreds of commuters to walk to the next station.
MANILA, Philippines — A former official of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Zamboanga peninsula has been sentenced to a maximum of 18 years in prison for the anomalous purchase of information technology (IT) materials.
Former regional director Jesus Nieves was meted a maximum prison term of 10 years for graft and another eight years for falsification of public documents.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division issued the ruling on Friday.
Nieves was slapped with the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, payment of P4,776,786 in damage to DepEd and a fine of P2,000.
Court records showed Nieves purchased IT materials amounting to P4,776,786 in April 2006 from Felta Multi-Media Inc. through direct contracting instead of public bidding as required under the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The court said a resolution of the bids and awards committee was falsified to make it appear that the BAC recommended the purchase of the materials through direct contracting.
While there was no direct evidence showing that Nieves was the one who falsified the BAC resolution, the Sandiganbayan said “case law teaches that he who stands to benefit from such falsified document is legally presumed to be the author thereof.”
The court said a Commission on Audit (COA) report in 2007 showed the DepEd regional office received P4,776,786 from the Department of Budget and Management, but the amount was not recorded in its book of accounts.
The COA said there were no disbursement vouchers and other supporting documents to prove that the purchase was above board.
The Sandiganbayan said the purchase was initiated despite a moratorium in the procurement of supplementary and reference materials to ensure that available funds are used to address the backlog in textbooks and teachers’ manuals.
“What made the matter worse is...that the accused was not able to come up with any reliable proof to show that the procured items had...been delivered...Neither did the defense present any of the supposed beneficiaries of the said items to debunk...the audit report,” the court ruling read.
MANILA, Philippines – Detained Senator Leila de Lima called on her former subordinate, Rafael Ragos and another co-accused, former boyfriend Ronnie Dayan, to “listen to their conscience” and “not allow themselves to be used by Duterte’s minions.”
De Lima made the statement on Saturday, November 18, days after the Department of Justice dropped the charges against Ragos, former officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). Ragos will now turn witness against De Lima and Dayan.
Ragos and Dayan allegedly collected grease money from convicts inside the New Bilibid Prison to fund De Lima’s senatorial campaign. The BuCor and Bilibid are both under the DOJ, which De Lima headed for over 5 years under the previous administration.
In a statement, De Lima said Ragos turning witness is “suspicious and fishy,” as if there was a “done deal…for more lies.”
“Alam ko na alam nila [Ragos and Dayan] na inosente ako, at gawa-gawa lang ang mga kaso laban sa akin. Pakinggan sana nila ang kanilang konsensiya. Magpakatotoo sila. Magpakalalaki sila. Huwag na silang magsinungaling. Huwag silang magpagamit sa mga kampon ni Duterte,” said the senator.
(I know that Ragos and Dayan know I am innocent, that these cases against me are all made up. I hope they listen to their conscience. They should be true to themselves. They should man up. They should not lie. They shouldn't let themselves be used by Duterte’s minions.)
De Lima is in jail for illegal drug charges filed before a Muntinlupa court.
Ragos and other witnesses for the prosecution, some of them Bilibid convicts, had earlier claimed that they gave and collected money for De Lima in 2012, allegedly to fund her senatorial bid. De Lima’s camp had rejected this claim.
De Lima was – and continues to be – among Duterte’s loudest critics. She and her allies have repeatedly said that the the allegations against her are all false, and intended to silence her. (READ: The public trial of Leila de Lima)
A neophyte senator, De Lima led a Senate probe into allegations of extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s bloody drug war. She was kicked out as chairman of the Senate justice committee. Senator Richard Gordon later took on the post and released a report saying that neither Duterte not the state had a hand in apparent summary killings in the drug war. – Rappler.com
MANILA, Philippine – A year after former president Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, minority senators honored the "true heroes" who expressed outrage against the hero’s burial of the late dictator.
“On this day, let us choose to remember not the burial but the people who rose to the call: protesters who showed a strong sense of hope, pride, and solidarity,” the senators said in a statement on Saturday, November 18. (READ: TIMELINE: The Marcos burial controversy)
They are Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Leila de Lima, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, and Antonio Trillanes IV.
Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on November 18, 2016, a week after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of his hero's burial. The private burial rites were done in secret, as requested by the family, sparking condemnation from groups and personalities opposed to the hero's burial. (READ: Marcos a thief till the end, say senators)
The secret burial triggered nationwide protests where "true heroes" converged, the minority senators said on Saturday. (IN PHOTOS, VIDEOS: A night of rage, camaraderie, purpose)
"While a false hero was being buried at the Heroes' Cemetery, true heroes were rising to the challenge and making their voices heard. All across the country, we saw the power of a people who never forgot the truth about this dictator. Crowds numbering in the thousands gathered to condemn the disrespect and utter shamelessness of the secret funeral," they said. – Rappler.com
NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Classes were suspended in La Castellana town here on Friday, November 17, after Mount Kanlaon emitted sulfur fumes.
Mount Kanlaon remained on Alert Level 2, or in “moderate level of unrest.”
On November 15, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised the alert status of Mount Kanlaon from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2 after it recorded 279 volcanic earthquakes in the last 24 hours.
The following day, on Thursday, Phivolcs recorded 210 volcanic earthquakes for 24 hours.
Phivolcs, in its Friday advisory, said it only monitored 10 volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours.
However, residents in La Castellana town complained about the odor coming from the active volcano.
This prompted La Castellana Mayor Rhumyla Mangilimutan to order the suspension of classes in the 6 barangays, which were in the danger zones. These are Barangays Sag-ang, Mansalanao, Cabagnaan, Biaknabato, Masulog, and Puso.
The mayor said classes suspension in other barangays were up to the discretion of the principal.
She added the odor was gone Friday afternoon.
Mangilimutan said the residents, especially in the danger zones, were already informed about the situation.
The barangay leaders and the community-based disaster councils were also told to prepare and be on alert, she added.
She said school officials were also advised to be ready as their institutions will be utilized as evacuation centers.
The mayor also said that food packs were being readied.
For his part, Zeaphard Gerhart Caelian, head of Negros Occidental Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Division, said Phivolcs has checked the area, but has yet to release its findings.
Caelian said even if the volcano's activities have dropped, it remained under Alert Level 2.
He explained only Phivolcs can lower its alert status, "until such time the volcano is stabilized based on their own parameters."
Moreover, he said they coordinated with the Mount Kanlaon National Park superintendent for monitoring of the volcano’s activities.
"We strengthen our communication. Whatever problems they encounter on the ground, we ask them to relay the information right away because they are within the proximity of the volcano," he said.
He also appealed to the public to be careful when sharing information especially online about Mount Kanlaon as not to cause panic.
He reminded the public to always verify with the right agencies or authorities whatever information they receive.
Local government units in the province had already prepared a comprehensive contingency plan in case there will be major eruption.
Mount Kanlaon is the highest point in the Visayas at 2,465 meters (8,087 feet) above sea level. It straddles the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. – Rappler.com
Maria Isabel Lopez arrives at the Land Transportation Office in Quezon City yesterday. Boy Santos
MANILA, Philippines — Movie actress Maria Isabel Lopez yesterday admitted that her driving along a lane of EDSA designated for delegates of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit was a lapse of judgment on her part.
Lopez said she is ready to face the consequences of her actions as the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has yet to decide whether to revoke her driver’s license.
Lopez appeared at the LTO-Law Enforcement Traffic Adjudication Service (LETAS) office yesterday morning and explained a video showing herself driving along the ASEAN lane.
She said she did not intend to breach the security, noting she talked to a traffic constable of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) before she decided to take out the traffic cones marking the ASEAN lane.
“If there was a breach of security, I wouldn’t have talked to him and just gone ahead,” Lopez said, referring to the MMDA constable.
The actress drew flak after she posted a video of herself driving along the ASEAN lane over the weekend.
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She apologized to the public and appealed to the LTO to consider the whole picture before it decides what sanctions to impose against her.
Lopez is facing charges of disregarding traffic signs, reckless driving, violation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act and a breach of protocols, LTO-LETAS director Francis Ray Almora said.
He said Lopez could appeal to Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade and President Duterte whatever decision the LTO would make on the matter.
Aside from suspension or revocation of license, Lopez is facing a fine of up to P5,000 for traffic violation.
Jail Officer 3 Allan Alburo, 46, had just boarded his Mazda pick-up in front of his house in Barangay Matagangtang at about 7:20 a.m. when two men approached and shot him several times. File
MANILA, Philippines — Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels shot dead a jail guard in Placer, Masbate on Wednesday.
Jail Officer 3 Allan Alburo, 46, had just boarded his Mazda pick-up in front of his house in Barangay Matagangtang at about 7:20 a.m. when two men approached and shot him several times.
Five bullet shells for a caliber .45 pistol were recovered at the scene.
Witnesses said around 30 rebels served as lookouts during the shooting.
Meanwhile, Pfc. Ryan Belga, 23, died in an encounter with rebels in Barangay Balanac, Ligao, Albay on Tuesday.
Soldiers of the 83rd Infantry Battalion were conducting combat operations when the clash occurred.
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In Iloilo also on Tuesday, NPA rebels poured gasoline and set on fire two delivery trucks in Barangay Agdum, Miagao.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs office head, said sporadic fighting since Marawi was declared liberated from terrorists last month, has stopped. AFP/Ferdinandh Cabrera, File
MANILA, Philippines — Marawi has been cleared of both local and foreign terrorist stragglers, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared yesterday.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs office head, said sporadic fighting since Marawi was declared liberated from terrorists last month, has stopped.
“There is no more fighting. It is a clear indication that we have neutralized the remaining stragglers,” Arevalo said.
He said soldiers did not find a single enemy in the main battle area in the last two weeks.
Arevalo said ground forces are now focused on clearing the area of debris, unexploded bombs as well as booby traps left by the terrorists in preparation for reconstruction and rehabilitation works.
Twelve foreign-looking terrorists were recently killed during a military “sweep” of the main battle zone.
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At least 30 high-powered firearms submerged in Lake Lanao in front of buildings that Maute militants had occupied in Barangay Marinaut were also recovered last weekend.
Arevalo said the AFP leadership believes that among the slain foreign terrorists was Malaysian bomber Amin Baku.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said Baku assumed leadership of the Maute group following the death of Isnilon Hapilon.
“Based on our observation, all the stragglers have been neutralized,” Arevalo said.
Leni, Sara visit battle zone
As this developed, Vice President Leni Robredo and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio visited the main battle area yesterday morning. They also both prayed and lighted candles at St. Mary’s church, but their paths did not cross.
Zia Alonto Adiong, Task Force Bangon Marawi spokesman, said Robredo also visited the Amay Pakpak Hospital and donated medicine and relief packs.
Carpio, who came with Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, distributed relief goods in Barangay Basak Malutlut.
Carpio handed the P5 million assistance from the Davao City government while Cayetano gave another P5 million from Taguig.
“The main battle area is a neutral ground…Political differences should be set aside…We can actually work together to...help the people because this is a crisis,” Adiong said.
In a post on Facebook, Robredo said it was ”overwhelming to see the extent of the damage left by the siege.”
”While the setback is disheartening, I believe it is high time for us to unite in making rehabilitation faster...The ruins left by the clashes remind us that we must take the voices of the locals into consideration...Convergence is necessary to cover as much ground as possible in extending assistance to affected communities,” she said.
Power supplier gets P150-M loan
Meanwhile, to speed up power restoration in Marawi, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) is extending a loan of P150 million to the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. (Lasureco).
NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong said the amount would be used to procure construction materials to rehabilitate distribution lines in the city.
“There are 34 electric cooperatives all over Mindanao that we are mobilizing to help Lasureco,” Masongsong said.
Lasureco is Marawi’s major power supplier.
NEA said it expects to complete power restoration and rehabilitation works in Marawi in 15 to 30 days. – With Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado, Danessa Rivera
The Gabriela Women’s Party used this photograph to show a Philippine National Police vehicle that allegedly carried a Long Range Acoustic Device to attack protesters on Monday. PHOTO/Gabriela Women’s Party
Two progressive lawmakers have called on the House of Representatives to investigate the police’s alleged use of a sonic weapon to attack protesters during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Monday.
In a statement, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus said the party-list group would file a resolution in the House of Representatives next week to investigate the incident.
The feminist lawmakers said the alleged deployment of a Long Range Acoustic Device showed an “intent to harm” protesters along Taft Avenue, three kilometers away from the Asean summit venue at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Activists were protesting the exploitation of the poor as a result of Asean economic policies, as well as the visit of United States President Donald Trump, whom they criticized for warmongering and depicted with a Nazi swastika.
Brosas raised health concerns, such as hearing trauma, permanent hearing loss and lingering headaches. She added the PNP should disclose how much it spent on the alleged sonic weapons.
“The latest anti-people weapon of the [Philippine National Police] must be probed and opposed. They cannot just play with it every time there’s a mobilization to cover up the rage of the people,” Brosas said.
“Its effect on the hearing and the health of protesters and even the police is no joke,” she added.
Meanwhile, De Jesus said: “PNP’s use of the sonic weapon brings the Duterte regime’s violence to a whole new level, and highlights the country’s puppetry, with LRAD manufactured in America for the defense of US President Trump, the most notorious face of sexism and militarism right now.”
In a separate statement, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate echoed the call for the House to inquire into the incident, describing the effect of the sonic weapon as “inhumane” because of long-lasting damage to the protesters’ health.
“”Based on a study, more than 1 second of exposure to a 121 decibel noise could cause ringing in the ears, headaches and even vertigo. But the LRAD is said to generate 137-140 decibels and it was used for several minutes during the rally,” Zarate said.
He added that the police did not even consider the damage not only to the policemen and the rallyists, but also the bystanders and the patients of the nearby state-run Philippine General Hospital.
MRT-3 / FILE PHOTO
A 24-year-old woman lost an arm when she fell off the platform at the Metro Rail Transit-3 Ayala station on Tuesday afternoon.
According to Cesar Chavez, transport undersecretary for rails, Angeline Fernando had just alighted from a train on the northbound lane when she felt dizzy.
As the train was leaving the station, she fell into the space between the first and second cars. Her arm, however, got caught in the coupler linking the two train cars together.
Authorities rushed Fernando to the Makati Medical Center at 2:35 p.m.
Based on a report from MRT Ayala station supervisor Raffy Robles, Chavez said that Fernando was already out of danger. Her hospital bills would be shouldered by the MRT-3, he added.
When asked if Fernando could have been pushed by other passengers, Robles told Chavez that this was unlikely because there were few riders at that time, Tuesday being a holiday. Chavez, however, said the Makati police was investigating the incident.
The MRT-3 shortened its run as a result, operating only between North Edsa and Shaw stations at 3:06 p.m. Operations normalized at 3:39 p.m. /pdi