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Senate to review rules on tardy members

MANILA, Philippines -  Unlike in the House of Representatives, the leadership of the Senate does not see the need to impose drastic measures to ensure prompt attendance in plenary sessions, but is nevertheless willing to review the rules on tardy senators.

 

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said yesterday the chamber does have a problem with tardiness of senators and mustering a quorum during session sometimes, although many arrive on time.

“We’re supposed to start (session) at 3 p.m. but we start at around 3:15 p.m. It’s not much but it’s still late. We’ll go back to our rules and see what we can do to improve further,” Pimentel said in a telephone interview.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas over the weekend warned that congressmen arriving late for their 4 p.m. sessions will be locked out of the plenary hall during the roll call.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson also said the Senate is conducting business normally.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson pointed out the Senate now only has 22 members with Sen. Leila de Lima detained and former senator Alan Peter Cayetano appointed as foreign affairs secretary.

Meanwhile, congressmen supported the proposal of their majority leader to lock out their colleagues who are late for the roll call for the Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday sessions.

Batangas Rep. and Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu said Fariñas “has done it on a smaller scale in the committee on rules,” which Fariñas chairs.

“He’s proven that it works effectively. Sometimes we need somebody to take that role as a parent with a stick to instill discipline and order in the institution. We have a lot of work to accomplish and we need all hands on deck,” he said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said it is the responsibility of lawmakers to attend their session on time.

“Drastic situation calls for drastic solution. Now is the time to be true to our oath,” he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said he hopes there would be no problem with the plan to close the plenary hall to tardy members at the start of session.

Fariñas said starting July 24 when Congress opens its second regular session, the roll of members would be called at the start of session at 4 p.m.

Those who do not respond to the call would be marked absent, he said.

This would allow the House to do more work, he said.

Since the convening of the 17th Congress in July, the House has recorded the presence of a quorum in its three-day-a-week sessions.

It was an unprecedented feat, Fariñas said.

However, on most days, the chamber had to wait for 30 minutes to more than an hour to have enough members for the roll call.

Some members said the attendance record Fariñas is bragging about could be broken if roll call is made at exactly 4 p.m. 

If the majority leader can enforce his plan, no congressman would be happier than Lito Atienza of party-list Buhay, who is known as Mr. Quorum among his colleagues.

Atienza has consistently reminded the House leadership to ensure the presence of enough members at the start of every session.

He would question the quorum whenever attendance dwindles.

(The Philippine Star)

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Rody wants Russian precision bombs

DAVAO CITY , Philippines  – If there is one thing that President Duterte wants when he leaves today for an official visit to Russia, it is to obtain precision-guided munitions for use against Islamic State-inspired terrorist groups.

 

The President lamented that bombs of the Armed Forces are not as accurate as the ones guided by laser or satellites like those of Russia.

“It is difficult for us. So we have this ISIS thing. I’ve been scouting around for (a weapon to finish them off)… I’m going to Russia. Same purpose. If they can spare us the precision-guided (bombs)… we have so many smart bombs but not as accurate as the ones guided by laser or satellite,” Duterte told participants in the Philippine Coast Guard Auxillary national convention held here over the weekend.

Duterte will leave for Russia for a four-day landmark visit in line with his commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy.

Agreements on security, legal assistance and trade are expected to be signed during the May 23 to 26 visit, which officials said, would mark a new chapter in ties between Manila and Moscow.

The strengthening of defense cooperation between the Philippines and Russia is among the primary agenda of Duterte’s visit to Moscow.

Duterte will also meet with Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin on May 24 and 25 to discuss key issues and ways to strengthen political, military and economic cooperation.

Dumb getting smarter

Duterte lamented the bombs being used by the military against extremist groups in Mindanao are not as accurate, causing collateral damage in the deaths of civilians and non-combatants.

The President was referring to the iron or “dumb” bombs dropped from an aircraft and guided merely by gravity as against the “smart” bombs guided by laser or satellite to its target.

“We have the dumb bombs which will just… leave unintended consequences such as killing of civilians, which we are really trying to not to use because it could cause so many collateral damage,” he said.

Duterte took notice of the surgical strikes by Russia against the IS militants in Syria.

The Russians use bombs that are guided by a weapon system operator, or the pilot, to hone in on a target with less probable damage to civilians and non-combatants in the area.

The weapon used by the Russians against the IS in Syria is the KAB guided bomb, which comes with the variants KAB-250 and KAB-500.

The Russians use the KAB-500 that drops from a Sukhoi fighter/bomber from an altitude of 5,000 meters. Even from that altitude, the bomb is guided to its target through its Global Satellite Navigation System (GLONASS).

The state-sponsored Russia Today (RT) described the bomb as weighing 500 kilograms and measures three meters in length. Its payload has 380 kilograms of high explosive.

The Russian guided bombs, however, must be fitted to an aircraft designed to accommodate the bomb on its bay to allow the weapon to drop precisely on target.

Experts said using precision-guided munitions is more expensive than the traditional gravity bombs.

Some analysts said Russia has been trying to show to the world that it is more practical and economical to use laser-guided bombs, such as in its campaign against IS in Syria.

Military experts however believe Russia’s intervention in Syria is getting expensive to maintain.

Duterte has repeatedly talked about the offer of Russia to supply the Philippines with high-powered weapons at a cheaper price and even on a “buy one, take one” basis.

He stressed the Philippines would explore possible cooperation in defense with Russia although it would not necessarily mean the forging of a defense treaty with Moscow.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad said there would be several agreements signed during the visit, including at the meeting between Duterte and Putin.

The two leaders will witness the signing of agreements related to defense cooperation, military and technical cooperation, the treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, treaty on extradition, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of security between respective national security councils.

Natividad said the agreement on military technical cooperation would pave the way for the Philippines to explore possible military procurement from Russia.

It would also be a way for Russia to participate in the defense modernization program of the Philippines.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who visited Moscow last December, had said the Philippines is looking for partnerships with countries it can get the best deals with and also ones most compatible with the defense needs of the military.

Natividad added the defense cooperation with Russia would cover greater opportunities for consultation and cooperation in security-related matters, both traditional and non-traditional.

“And for defense cooperation, we look forward to having greater exchanges in terms of views on how to approach security challenges and we also look forward to strengthening our presence in terms of the defense offices both in Moscow and here in Manila,” Natividad said.

She said the Philippines is looking forward to the opening of an Office of Defense Attaché in Moscow while the Russian government will also be opening a defense office in Manila.

Natividad said the opening of defense attaché offices in Manila and Moscow is aimed at further strengthening the partnership in approaching both traditional and non-traditional security matters such as terrorism, cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts, cooperation against illegal drugs and trafficking.

The increasing interest in the defense cooperation has been shown with the visits of Russian warships to the Philippines twice this year.

“So it is more into that aspect of becoming more familiar with each other’s competence that we are looking at and there is no discussion at the moment in terms of, you know, joint exercises, our status in the visiting forces,” Natividad said.

She said the Philippines welcomes Russia’s greater participation and involvement in the Asia-Pacific region. After all they are already very much engaged in the region through their participation in ASEAN and in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Aside from the discussions on defense cooperation with Moscow, Duterte will also make a pitch before Russian businessmen to invest in the country and boost economic and trade cooperation.

Duterte will also work on luring Russian tourists to the Philippines.

There have only been about 38,000 Russian tourists who visited the country last year.

Diplomatic ties between the Philippines and the Russia actually span almost 41 years but Natividad described it to be still at a “nascent” stage.

Linchpin

The visit will not be the first time the Philippine President will meet with the Russian leaders.

Duterte had a bilateral meeting with Medvedev on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Laos last September. He also met with Putin during the APEC meet in Peru last November.

During his meeting with Putin, Duterte slammed what he called the “hypocrisy” of the US and other western countries and their supposed bullying of smaller nations. Duterte then claimed that he and Putin have become “fast friends.”

Some experts believe the relationship between the Philippines, which has veered away from excessive dependence on the US, and Russia has the potential to grow.

In an address delivered in Moscow in 2014, Carlos Sorreta, then director of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute, said Russia is now seeking cooperation and active participation in East Asia. The strategy was highlighted by Russia’s hosting of APEC in Vladivostok in 2012, he added.

Sorreta noted members of the ASEAN, which he described as a “child of the Cold War, born and bred with the objective of halting the spread of communism,” had stood on opposite sides during the Cold War.

“This time around, Russia is not attempting to assert itself in the region through power and ideology. The preferred path is cooperation and active participation in the vibrant markets of East Asia,” he said.

In an article published on the website The Diplomat, journalist Samuel Ramani said Russian policymakers have started to view the Philippines as a “linchpin in their strategy to economically engage the ASEAN bloc.” The change in perspective has been triggered by the Philippines’ economic vibrancy in recent years, Ramani added.

Citing Russian analysts, Ramani said the Philippines could be key in Moscow’s ambition to forge a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and ASEAN.

In an article posted on Russia Beyond the Headlines, New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst Rakesh Simha said Filipinos appreciate that Russia is building its relations with Southeast Asia on an ideology-free basis.

Simha noted Russia is not taking sides in the South China Sea dispute and that it is not antagonistic in nature.

“Russia is applying pressure in the Pacific in order to offset Western pressure in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. But in the ASEAN region, Russia is more interested in commerce and influence rather than geopolitical maneuvers. So Moscow will not side with China against the others in Southeast Asia,” Simha said.

Officials are hopeful that Duterte’s visit could lead to stronger ties with Russia, which one official described as “cordial albeit modest in scope and depth.”

“We consider this visit as a landmark that will send a strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners such as Russia,” Natividad said in a press briefing last Friday.

 

 (The Philippine Star)With Alexis Romero

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Cebu road rage suspect allowed to travel abroad

MANILA -- A Cebu court has allowed road rage suspect David Lim Jr. to travel abroad as there is no standing hold departure order on him.
GMA News "Unang Balita" reported Wednesday, May 17, that the court approved Lim's petition to be with his family in a cruise trip to Vancouver, Canada and Alaska in the United States.
In favoring Lim's petition, the court said that the case leveled against him is not a threat to the national security, public safety, and public health.
Last March, Lim shot nurse Ephraim Nuñal in the feet and leg during a heated argument stemming from a traffic altercation in Cebu.
Lim has been given temporary freedom since late March after posting a P300,000 bail bond.
According to the report, the court's order allowing Lim to travel abroad dismayed Nuñal's family, especially  that the victim is still recuperating in a hospital nearly two months after the shooting incident.
The court's travel order also stated that Lim needs to report to court three days after his return to the Philippines.
In the road rage case, Lim insisted that Nuñal was the aggressor during the heated argument on the road, prompting him to shoot the victim in the feet and leg.
But the victim's lawyer Atty. Mundlyn Misal Martin contended that Lim showed aggression by punching her client, taking a gun from his car, and shooting the victim.
The road altercation started when Lim got annoyed by Nuñal's honking behind him.
Martin claimed that Lim was swerving left and right and did not allow the vehicles behind his car to pull ahead.
Provoked by Nuñal's honking, Lim stopped his car and engage the victim in a heated argument that ended up in the shooting incident.
Lim had been temporarily detained at the headquarters of the Police Regional Office 7 but was later released on bail.  — GMA News
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4 Koreans wanted for internet fraud nabbed in Paranaque

MANILA -- The Bureau of Immigration arrested four South Koreans wanted by authorities in Seoul for engaging in internet fraud operations that have victimized many of their compatriots in Paranaque City.
Ryu Sunggon, 43; Park Kyeol, 29; Kim Myung Ryun, 27; and Song Jungrak, 26 were apperehended by the bureau’s fugitive search unit in their workplaces at BF Homes last May 15.
In a statement, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the foreigners have been issued arrest warrants by a South Korean court where they have been charged with fraud and voice phishing.
He added the suspects will be deported for being undocumented aliens and for posing risk to public safety and security due to their being fugitives from justice since their passports have been cancelled.
Voice phishing refers to the criminal practice of using social engineering over the telephone system to gain access to private personal and financial information from the public for the purpose of financial reward.
It was learned that those arrested were among seven Koreans suspected of operating the syndicate and whose arrest was sought by the South Korean embassy in Manila.
Embassy officials said the syndicate has victimized hundreds of South Koreans in the country who lost money after being duped to reveal their private information to callers impersonating legitimate companies. 
On the other hand, Atty. Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson said the three South Korean suspects who remain at large are subjects of a continuing manhunt by the bureau.
She noted those arrested will be sent back to South Korea as soon as the BI board of commissioners issues the order for their summary deportation. -- PNA  
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DOH chief Ubial's confirmation deferred

MANILA -- The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, May 17, deferred the confirmation of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial to allow two more oppositors to air their sentiments against her confirmation.
Ubial, who is aware that she had oppositors, remains hopeful that she would be confirmed and vowed to lead the Department of Health (DOH) the best way she can.
“Rest assured that the DOH will be an agency that practices full transparency and proficiency. We will accomplish to the best we can to fulfill the department’s mandate. I respectfully submit myself and my desire to be confirmed by this honorable body,” Ubial said in her opening statement.
"I shall not back down nor be disheartened in my commitment to the President and to the Filipino people and my DOH family. He has placed his trust and confidence in me and I will not fail him,” she added.
There have been three individuals who have expressed opposition against Ubial’s confirmation -- Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque and ACTS OFW Partylist Rep. Aniceto Bertiz and lawyer Restituto Mendoza.
Roque, the first to present his opposition, cited “incompetence, lying, waste of government resources, corruption” among others as reasons to oppose her confirmation.
He claimed that Ubial could not be trusted since she previously lied about the Philippines being “Zika-free” in September 2016. However, two days later, the congressman said that she was contradicted by her undersecretaries.
The congressman also claimed that Ubial was involved in corrupt practices for disallowing the implementation of dengue vaccines and for reported fraud within PhilHealth, the Department of Health’s attached agency.
Ubial, for her part, explained that she was not contradicted by her undersecretaries. In fact, she said that it was she who instructed them to clarify her earlier statement after new Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) results were released.
She also said that it was not she who ordered the stop of dengue vaccine implementation but an “expert panel.”
“I was the one who instructed my asst. Dr. Eric Tayag and Gerardo Bayugo two days after when the RITM results came out,” Ubial said.
“It is not the Secretary of Health that decides on whether to continue or not, there was an expert panel created in July and their recommendation was not to expand to other areas the immunization of the dengue vaccine so that was what I told congress and the media,” she added.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, clarified that oppositions were not filed due to the Reproductive Health (RH) law.
He also clarified that although he was previously against the RH bill, he supported it after it was amended to remove abortion and abortifacients, among others. -- PNA
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Napoles can be witness in new PDAF cases

MANILA -- Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles can be a witness of the government on new cases to be filed but not on the pending cases before the Sandiganbayan.
This was bared by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday, May 17.
“I am not referring to those cases. (The cases already pending before the Sandiganbayan) will not be affected if she will become a state witness,” Aguirre said.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales earlier said she will block Napoles from being a state witness.
Aguirre said the Ombudsman can oppose a move to make Napoles a government witness only on pending cases.
He maintained that it is up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to determine who can or cannot be admitted to the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
”But since the DOJ has the exclusive right to put a witness under the Witness Protection Program, we will exercise it if need be,” Aguirre noted.
Aguirre said that Napoles will remain in detention even if she becomes a state witness on the reinvestigation on the planned review of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) cases.
Aguirre said this will not affect her pending plunder cases, which are non-bailable, before before the Sandiganbayan.
Asked if Napoles could qualify as state witness in the possible cases that could emanate from the reinvestigation, Aguirre stressed that it would depend on what she has to say.
The DOJ Secretary believes that Napoles could be a credible government witness if she would be able to substantiate her testimonies with evidence.
Depende sa sasabihin niyan (It depends on what she says). If coupled with documents then there is no reason why she should not be credible,” he pointed out.
The DOJ chief said that while several camps are pushing for Napoles to be state witness, she would have to meet the qualifications set by law - that she should not be the most guilty of the crime and that her testimony must be indispensable for the cases to stand.
He said he could only make an assessment of her eligibility once he reads her sworn statement.
”As far I know wala pang gingawa affidavit ang amin lang po dito function sa DOJ tatanggapin lang naming kung may bagong complaint siya imbestigahan under Preliminary investigation,” he noted.
Aguirre further pointed out that in cases of plunder or corruption involving a government official and a private individual, the former is considered the most guilty as per the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC).
"Based on a Supreme Court decision, it will be the government official who will be considered as the most guilty, because he is taking advantage of his public position," he explained.
Earlier, the Court of Appeals reversed a Makati City court decision which convicted Napoles and her brother Jojo Lim for serious illegal detention. -- PNA
 
 
 
 
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Young Fil-Am making a name for herself in US indie rock scene

Penny-pinching, ambiguous relationships, and depression are three things that young Filipino adults tend to complain about on social media or live through on a day-to-day basis.
But rarely has these anxieties been coupled with "grander themes of artistic ambition, identity and independence," as NPR Music termed it, and successfully channeled into a work like Everybody Works, the debut album of Filipino-American songwriter Melina Duterte.
Praised by NPR, Spin, New York Times, and Past, the intimate and emphatic album was written, arranged, played, and produced in a span of three weeks by Duterte and released under her moniker of Jay Som in March.
Sites lauded the album's uncomplicated but emotionally complex lyrics, intricate soundscapes, and showcasing of Duterte's ability to transition from mellowness to sharp, spiraling aural and lyrical peaks.
Her songs — most notably The Bus Song, Take It, and the title track Everybody Works — also jolts listeners with its relatable dilemmas: figuring out if friendships mean something more, taking power from depression, and living paycheck to paycheck, among others.
Apart from her musically diverse sound, Jay Som's presence has been noted as diversifying a "white-male dominated" — as she described it in an NBC News article — indie rock scene as a queer-identifying female Asian-American.
In interviews with PitchforkKQED, and She Shreds, Duterte said growing up with the musically-inclined environment her Filipino immigrant parents raised her in influenced her sound.
She told She Shreds in particular that her parents' hardworking lifestyle "tied into" her views of music, while her father's old DJ-ing days and mother's penchant for singing karaoke every day allowed her to pick up singing.
"If you have someone in a household who is always singing and who’s always doing karaoke, you’re gonna pick that up," Duterte said.
Jay Som will tour the UK, the Netherlands, US, and Canada from May until October this year. — GMA News
 
 
 
 
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Pornhub: Virtual reality porn popular among Filipinos

Filipinos are among those who watch virtual reality (VR) porn the most, according to figures from Pornhub. 

The porn site ranked the Philippines third among the areas where virtual reality is popular, just behind Thailand and Hong Kong. 

 

Exact data on how many Pinoy users watch VR porn daily was not revealed, but Pornhub said that its VR porn videos now average 500,000 views each day -- more than doubling the numbers it had when it first launched the service a year ago. 

The rise has been attributed to the increase in accessibility of VR headsets. In the Philippines, one can be bought for as low as P250. 

Pornhub

Additional figures showed that men are more likely to subscribe to VR content than women, and that most are from the 25 to 34 year old age group. 

Pornhub added that it experienced a 250 percent growth in VR porn viewing in Ireland and the United Kingdom over the past 12 months--the most worldwide. 

VR visitors also watch 2 more videos than the average Pornhub user, but their actual time spent remains about the same at just under 10 minutes. 

This isn't the first time the Philippines ranked high in a Pornhub chart. Last year, Filipinos were said to have spent the longest average time on the site at 12 minutes and 45 seconds. 

Many attributed it to "enviable stamina", but some say that it's because of the country's relatively slow internet speeds. 

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