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PH fears 'incident' with China after 'standoff' in Pag-asa

MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday, November 8, expressed concern over possible "incidents" with China in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as he revealed a two-month-old "standoff" with Beijing in Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.
Lorenzana made the statement while addressing the ASEAN Leadership Forum in Makati on Wednesday, which was attended by representatives of country ambassadors and representatives of think tanks and the academe.
Lorenzana the regional maritime dispute in the South China Sea is "one of the most serious issues" that affects ASEAN and pushes for the immediate completion of a binding Code of Conduct that will rule country engagements.
"I foresee that there could be some incidents. The presence of their Coast Guard, the fishermen who are actually militias of their Coast Guard and the PLA Navy could [result in] encounters with our fishermen as well as our Coast Guard," Lorenzana said.
He expressed this concern after he told the participants about a "standoff" in Philippine-occupied Pag-asa (Thitu) Island about two months ago, although he would later downplay this incident in an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the forum.
"There was a standoff in Pag-asa a couple of months back," he said in his speech. Lorenzana said it happened when the Philippines attempted to put structures on one of the sandbars near Pag-asa Island, where about a hundred Filipinos are residing.
"We tried to put some structures in one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted.....The President said, 'Let's pull out,'" the defense chief said.
When asked about the incident after his speech, Lorenzana told reporters the "standoff" referred to diplomatic exchanges between Manila and Beijing. He denied that an actual incident happened in the island.
Lorenzana said the tension eased, apparently after the President's order was carried out. Lorenzana said China also assured the Philippine government that it will not occupy new features in the South China Sea.
China reportedly argued the sandbars are considered "new features" covered by the "modus vivendi" between Manila and Beijing, where they cannot have new construction.
It is the subject of debate. There are those who argue that the sandbars are traditional fishing grounds of Filipino fishermen from nearby Pag-asa Island.
Lorenzana's revelation also comes a day after President Rodrigo Duterte promised to discuss the situation in the West Philippine Sea with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Duterte said he hopes China will honor its commitment not to build in the disputed maritime territories. –


Trillanes files plunder complaint vs Gordon over P193M pork to Red Cross

SENATOR VS SENATOR. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV arrives at the Office of the Ombudsman to file a plunder complaint against fellow senator Richard Gordon on November 8, 2017. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Antonio Trillanes IV filed a plunder complaint against Senator Richard Gordon on Wednesday, November 8, before the Office of the Ombudsman over anomalies in the P193-million worth of pork barrel allocated to the Philippine Red Cross.

Trillanes’ 22-page complaint accuses Gordon of committing plunder, graft, malversation, ethical violation and violation of Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution.

Trillanes also rehashed the accusation that Gordon used Red Cross funds for the latter’s presidential campaign in 2010 and senatorial campaign in 2013.

Trillanes cited different internal investigations within the Red Cross which were terminated, and which led to the firing of two officials who pushed for the probes.

Gordon’s pork

Gordon served as senator from 2004 to 2010. He also served as the Red Cross chairman at the same time throughout those years. He remains the chairman now, a position he has held on to without gaps since 2004.

Citing a 2012 report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Trillanes said that from 2004 to 2010, Gordon allocated P193 million worth of his pork barrel as senator to the Red Cross.

This, Trillanes said, violates the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Officials and Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution, both of which prohibit members of Congress from having interests in any transactions that involve their office.

From the pork-sourced funds that the Red Cross received during that period, almost all came from Gordon. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, also a senator at that time, allocated P1.5 million in 2004.

When interviewed by PCIJ in 2012, Gordon said that if there was any conflict of interest, he would be “on the losing end” because he’s only a volunteer of the Red Cross.

Rappler is still trying to obtain comment from Gordon’s office as of posting.

Red Cross funds for election campaign?

Trillanes rehashed earlier reports that P200 million worth of Red Cross funds were disbursed by then Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang without the approval of the Board of Governors.

The accusations then came in the form of an anonymous email with attached receipts that purportedly showed the funds were spent to buy plastic whistles, karaokes, baller IDs with Gordon’s name on them, and media placements, all being linked to Gordon’s campaigns in 2010 and 2013.

Trillanes said that then Red Cross Governor Jan Elvest Bo admitted to sending the email if only to trigger an internal investigation.

Bo would eventually be fired from Red Cross and Pang would be absolved. Trillanes said the panel that did the investigation was composed of governors handpicked by Gordon.

Another investigation ensued in 2013 led by then Red Cross chief accountant Jeric Sian. Sian recommended further audit to be conducted by an outside independent firm.

Trillanes said nothing happened to that investigatoon and Sian was eventually removed as accountant of Red Cross “through legal maneuverings.”


Trillanes wants the Ombudsman to investigate whether the P200 million was indeed used to fund Gordon’s campaign. He also wants the Ombudsman to find out whether part of the P200 million came from Gordon’s pork barrel.

Then he wants the Ombudsman to establish a conspiracy between Pang and Gordon. All that plus the threshold of P50 million would amount to plunder, Trillanes said.

“The existence of a conspiracy between respondents Gordon and Pang in the commission of the violations subject of this Complaint is shown by their concurrence of wills and unity to action and purpose, with respondent Pang entering into the anomalous transactions for the benefit of respondent Gordon, and respondent Gordon acting to cover up and/or gloss over the transgressions of respondent Pang, thus, showing a tacit, spontaneous coordination between them,” Trillanes said.

Trillanes also cited the PCIJ report in saying that as of 2012, the Red Cross had P90 million worth in outstanding unliquidated cash advances from pork barrel.

“Under the circumstances, even if assuming for the sake of argument that only PhP90 million of the public funds allocated by Sen. Gordon from his own Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the ultimate use of the Philippine Red Cross cannot be accounted for, and/or was ultimately used by Ms. Pang for the campaign of Sen. Gordon, the said amount of unliquidated PDAF would still qualify and meet the threshold,” Trillanes said in his complaint.

Trillanes, citing Sian’s recommendation report, also said that some of the questionable projects did not undergo public bidding.

Those alone are grounds for graft, Trillanes said.

Trillanes also said he would submit letters to the Commission on Audit and the International Federation of the Red Cross, requesting both to conduct separate audits on the Philippine Red Cross.

“Ito na ngayon ang ilalabas ko sa mga colleagues ko sa Senado that we would have a chairman ng blue ribbon committee na tasked primarily to investigate acts of corruption by public officials, pero siya mismo ay may plunder at kung anu-ano pang mga anomalous na nagawa,” he added.

(I will reveal this to my colleagues at the Senate, that we would have a chairman of the blue ribbom committee tasked primarily to investigate acts of corruption by public officials, but he himself committed plunder and other anomalous acts.)

The disgreements between Trillanes and Gordon turned from just a word war to a serious feud when they filed ethics complaints against each other. This was all set off by Gordon's blue ribbon committee investigation into the P6.4 billion shabu shipment that tagged Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

Gordon fought hard to shield Paolo Duterte from being summoned to the Senate investigation citing lack of evidence, for which Trillanes called the committee a "committee de absuwelto." Gordon is poised to clear Duterte in the issue, and will instead order a lifestyle check on the presidential son, according to a draft report. –


Suspect in killing of model Grab driver surrenders to police

MANILA – The suspected killer of model Grab driver Gerardo Maquidato Jr, has surrendered to the police on Tuesday, November 7.
Southern Police District head Chief Superintendent Tomas Apolinario Jr, confirmed to Rappler in a text message on Wednesday, November 8, that Narc Delemios has surrendered to authorities.
Apolinario refused to divulge details of Delemios' surrender but said the suspect will be presented to the media Wednesday morning. (READ: Model Grab driver killed by thieves disguised as passengers)
The vehicle of Maquidato was brought to Camp Crame Wednesday morning.
Police earlier revealed that Delemios was identified by his live-in partner, who admitted to police that her cellphone was used to book the Grab trip.
Another witness had identified Delemios as a suspect in another killing, that of 19-year-old Gino Balbuena in 2014.
Police also earlier said that Delemios did not act alone in killing Maquidato and stealing the victim's. The other suspects are still being hunted down by authorities. -


Indonesian linked to Maute group nabbed in Marawi

An Indonesian national who was allegedly with the pro-ISIS Maute group has been arrested in Marawi City, a television report said Wednesday.
GMA News TV’s Balitanghali reported that the Indonesian, who can speak Filipino, first introduced himself as a resident of Cagayan de Oro and part of the military intelligence.
The report said the suspect was with the Maute during its training in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur, where the terror group recruited child warriors and other fighters.
It further said the suspect claimed that he was able to escape after he killed his two colleagues.
Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Restitutio Padilla said based on initial information, the suspect was trying to escape when he was intercepted and arrested by members of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), who then turned him over to the police and military.
Marawi City had been under siege by the Maute group for five months until it was liberated by the government earlier this month. —GMA News


Pinay stabbed by fellow Pinoy outside home in Guam

A Filipina was stabbed by another Filipino expatriate outside her home along Texas Road in Chalan Kanoa, Guam on Sunday, the Saipan Tribune reported.
Josefina Pineda, 52, a former Xtreme Marine Sports operations manager, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Commonwealth Health Center after she was stabbed multiple times by Alfonso Parongan.
Her husband Tony Barit remains at the intensive care unit of the hospital due to head and arm injuries.
Parongan attempted to evade arrest by hiding in the jungle area near Pineda's home but was eventually taken in by police.
Initial probing by police showed that the two had an argument about the suspect's power bill in front of the room Parongan was renting in the victims' compound.
The argument led to Parongan stabbing Pineda to death before causing grievous injuries to Barit. He fled the scene after witnesses stopped his attack on Barit.
A witness managed to take a video on his cellphone of the incident. —GMA News

Two SSS execs in stock trading mess have already resigned –SSS chairman

Two of the four Social Security System (SSS) officials being linked to the alleged profiteering in stock market trading have resigned, SSS chairman Amado Valdez said Wednesday.
In a television interview, Valdez identified the officials who have rendered their resignation as Equities Investment Division chief Reginald Candelaria and Chief Actuary George Ongkeko Jr.
"Mr. Candelaria has already rendered his resignation... I think that is last week," Valdez said. "Mr. Ongkeko rendered his resignation I think a month ago."
Valdez took note that the SSS Commission has approved the resignation of Candelaria but the resignation of Ongkeko was put on hold as he "has to complete the advisory work in connection to the change of charter."
In a separate interview, Valdez told GMA News Online that he sees no connection with the two official's resignation on the ongoing probe in relation to stock trading controversy.
"Wala akong nakikitang relasyon, maybe they just want to have a career change or change in employment. Maaaring nagkataon lang na may nag-file ng complaint," he said.
SSS commissioner Jose Gabriel La Viña has filed an administrative complaint against Executive Vice President Rizaldy Capulong, Equities Product Development head Ernesto Francisco Jr., Candelaria, and Ongkeko for allegedly profiting from trading their own stocks with the same stockbrokers who manage the portfolio of the government-run pension fund.
"Kahit nag-file sila ng resignation, they will still be subject to investigation kasi may mga post-termination clearances pang gagawin," Valdez said. "If may unfavorable findings sa investigation then maapektuhan 'yung kanilang separation benefits."
The SSS chairman also clarified that there was no misuse of funds involved in the anomaly but only "conflict of interest."
Asked if SSS officials are prohibited from trading in the stock market, Valdez said, "Hindi naman bawal pero hindi puwede 'yung gagamitin mo 'yung impormasyon na nakuha mo dahil sa trabaho for your personal gain."
Valdez clarified that he is not pre-judging the case pending the results of the investigation. He said the two other officials involved were already suspended from their positions as a standard measure in conducting an investigation.
He also said La Viña, being the complainant, has to inhibit from the probe to give way for an impartial investigation. — GMA News


'Motorcycle tourism' seen to link riders in Calabarzon-proposed routes

STA ROSA, Laguna -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) plans to link bike riders all over Luzon in its proposed route loops in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas. Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon) as it partnered with several motorcycle clubs in the Philippines.
At the Breakfast Ride Season 2 event in Sta Rosa, Laguna on Sunday, DOT Region 4-A Director Rebecca Villanueva-Labit bared one of their ride loops for Calabarzon, which will start from Manila to Antipolo, going to Tanay, Morong, San Mateo, Pililia (all in Rizal), Quezon and Batangas.
Labit said there would be a series of meeting with the Breakfast Ride community to ink a deal, not only for tourism but also for volunteerism.
"There are three routes but there will be more," she said. "Very soon, we will be having a meeting, probably (sign agreement) early next year."
Raymon Gabriel, founder of Together We Ride, the group that organized the Breakfast Ride said they have more than 2,000 members in their community.
Gabriel noted that motorcycle tourism is a "growing industry" which aims to promote a sustainable way of traveling the whole country.
"Kung mapapasigla natin ito, bakit ka pa mage-eroplano, kung kaya mo naman mag-motor? Bakit ka pa sasakay ng bus, kaya mo namang mag-motor? Dito, nationwide, lumalaki na yung industry," he said.
"By doing this, since we travel nationwide, we are able to showcase the culture and heritage of a certain landmark we visit," he added.
Gabriel said the DOT has been eyeing motorcycle tourism through Breakfast Ride for almost a year.
"Region 4-A, particularly Ms. Labit wants to execute a good motorcycle tourism campaign here. Gagawa na kami ng ride to show na hindi lang kami puro kain, this time ipapakita namin iba't ibang lugar with all the riders."
“We've done this in Mindanao, marami ring um-attend, now (it) will happen around the Philippines, that's one thing for sure," he said.(PNA)


Persistent threats fuel urgency to save migratory species

MANILA -- An expert has raised the urgency for stronger international cooperation on conserving migratory species worldwide.
There must be better synergy on the matter as habitat destruction, pollution, live catching and other dangers continue to threaten the survival of these species, noted Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Executive Secretary Dr. Bradnee Chambers.
"This is critical for species that migrate through international borders," he said at the CMS' 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) in Metro Manila.
Further raising public awareness on migratory species' benefits and the threats they face will complement the international cooperation that countries are doing through CMS, Chambers said.
With increased public awareness and understanding of the matter, he said there's more potential for people to help conserve migratory species.
Migratory species are animals that cyclically and predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundaries in response to seasons, availability of food or need to reproduce, said the Philippines' Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).
"Animal migration can be found in all major animal groups," BMB added.
Experts cited food, pollination and pest control as among migratory species' benefits.
Such species also have potential as medicinal sources and eco-tourism draws, they said.
Countries must elevate conservation efforts through CMS to continue benefiting from services that migratory species provide, Dr. Chambers said.
CMS is an inter-governmental treaty under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) that provides the global platform for conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.
Parties to CMS have agreed to protect and conserve migratory species, particularly those at high risk of extinction.
"We have a great deal to do before saying migratory species are thriving," said Chambers, adding that he has not yet seen the return of some organisms' population.
“Their future is our future -- sustainable development for wildlife and people” is the CMS COP 12's theme and highlights the link between migratory species' conservation and sustainable development.
The COP 12, CMS' first in Asia, began last October 23.
The Philippines is seeking international collaboration on better protection for two migratory birds under threat that pass through this country while traveling along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
The population of the Christmas Island frigatebird (scientific name 'Fregata andrewsi') and Yellow bunting (scientific name 'Emberiza sulphurata') is declining due to habitat loss and other factors, said chief science research specialist Dr. Simplicia Pasicolan of the Philippine environment department's Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau.
Both birds are among migratory species the Philippines has proposed for inclusion in CMS' appendices to boost their protection, she noted.
Pasicolan said the Philippines aims to collaborate with Australia as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other range countries where substantial numbers of Christmas Island frigatebird occur.
She noted the Philippines also aims to collaborate with Japan on a concerted action plan to protect the Yellow bunting.
Yellow buntings breed in Japan and winter mainly in the Philippines, she said.
The Christmas Island frigatebird and Yellow bunting are already considered critically endangered and vulnerable, respectively, under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
IUCN's Red List is recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. (PNA)

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