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92 AFP personnel test positive for illegal drugs, dismissed from service

At least 92 uniformed and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who tested positive for illegal drug use have been discharged or dismissed from the service since the start of the Duterte administration, the Department of National Defense said Tuesday.

In a statement, the DND said that among those removed from the service in 2016 were a military officer, 64 enlisted personnel, 14 civilian active auxiliaries (CAAs), and four civilian employees while nine enlisted personnel were discharged in 2017.

It said that a total of 30,974 military officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees of the AFP were subjected to drug testing in 2016 and an additional 1,821 were tested in 2017. 

The DND monitors the AFP in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations in support to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police. It also supports the Inter-Agency Task Force for the establishment of Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers with the setting up of rehabilitation centers in certain military reservations.

To ensure that the DND is at the forefront of the administration’s thrust against the proliferation of illegal drugs, it conducted Tuesday a department-wide orientation seminar workshop for a drug-free workplace with the theme, “A Drug-Free Defense is a Credible Defense,” at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. 

Resource speakers from PDEA, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Department of Health (DOH), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) discussed the Global and National Drug Situation; Government Efforts, Programs and Activities on Drug Prevention and Control; Treatment and Rehabilitation; Guidelines for a Drug-Free Workplace; and the Reintegration and Transformation Program of the National Government.

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana signed a memorandum with DND-Proper and its bureaus directing the implementation of the guidelines for a drug-free workplace as part of the DND-Wide Implementing Plan for Calendar Year 2017.

The memorandum includes the conduct of mandatory drug test as a pre-employment requirement; random drug test for personnel; advocacy, education and training programs and activities; display of messages for a drug-free workplace; and physical fitness programs.  Amita Legaspi/RSJ, GMA News


Russians won’t interfere in PHL affairs, Pinoy envoy says

Russians do not want to impose their will on another country like the Philippines just as much as they don't want others to meddle in their own affairs, Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.

Sorreta briefed the media after President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in the Russian capital to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and for an official visit.

The comments were also made in the wake of the Duterte administration's decision not to accept grants from the European Union due to supposed conditions imposed by the EU.

“They basically respect a country’s decision on what to do. For example, on human rights, which is a big issue for Western countries, we have had our ambassadors there summoned and given the views of the host country," Sorreta said.

"Let me tell you I’ve never been summoned about that,” he added.

The EU was one of the foreign groups that expressed concern over the thousands of extrajudicial killings blamed on Duterte's war on drugs.

“So, they don’t want to interfere, just as they don’t like and hate it when other countries interfere in Russia’s affairs," Sorreta said.

"They think that sovereign states are capable of making decisions for themselves and will benefit or suffer by those decisions. But never should an external state interfere in the sovereign affairs of the Philippines or Russia,” he added.

Sorreta said Russians followed a policy of non-interference.

“They just want to be friends with us. They don’t want to make enemies for us or tell us who not to be friends with, unlike other countries. So, they just want a good relationship, a very respectful one," Sorreta said.

"Right now, they want to start heavily on the economic then eventually on security but not on strategic security, just defense cooperation,” he added.

The President arrived at the Vnukovo-2 Airport in Moscow on late Monday evening (early Tuesday morning in Manila).

His official events will begin on Wednesday. He was joined not only by Cabinet officials but also by his family: partner Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña and their daughter Veronica or Kitty as well as his youngest son Sebastian or Baste. —NB, GMA News


Maute group takes over Marawi hospital; cop killed, 5 soldiers hurt in firefight

At least five soldiers were hurt in a firefight in Marawi City after alleged armed members of the Maute group took over a government hospital there.

Before that, the military launched an operation following information from residents that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was holed up with members of the Maute group in an apartment in the area.

"We checked it and it turned out that this is the core group of Maute. We launched a surgical operation to neutralize the group who is planning terrorism in Marawi City," said Lt. Col. Joar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army's 1st Infantry Division.

Herrera said five soldiers were hurt in the encounter.

PO1 Hadji Ismael, duty officer at the Lanao Provincial Police Office, said the incident on the hospital started around 2:30 p.m. when armed men attacked the Amai Pakpak Medical Center.

"Kinuha nila yung ospital dito," he said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said a policeman, Senior Inspector Freddie Solar, was killed in the clash.

"Diversionary attacks"

Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Western Mindanao Command, said the sympathizers of the armed group launched diversionary attacks to ease pressure on the core group.

Petinglay said the diversionary attacks included the firing of firearms near a hospital "though these are already contained."

"These are sympathizers who conducted the diversionary attacks to ease the pressure on the target area which is Barangay Basak where the high-value targets from Maute are situated," she said.

The Maute and Abu Sayyaf have an alliance and are both linked with Islamic State, a source of growing concern for President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned of the expanding influence of the militants in the Philippines.

Senior Supt. Oscar Nantes, provincial police director of Lanao del Sur, confirmed the firefight but was not able to give details yet.

A separate account from Ret. Col. Tatar Boriongan, Lanao Del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer (PDRMMO), said the clash erupted around 2 p.m. at the lower portion of the Mindanao State University Compound in Marawi City's Basak Malulut village as the Maute group engaged elements of the Philippine Army's First Tabak Division.

Boriongan added that even his own PDRRMO team could not mobilize itself because of reports that the Maute group has put up check points in the area.

Herrera, also the spokesperson of the First Tabak Division, said the army was conducting joint law enforcement operations with local police following reports that Hapilon was conducting community organization work in the town.

"But upon our arrival, we were welcomed with gunfire,” Herrera said.

Boriongan said the PDRRMO still working to get accurate information on any possible civilian casualties. 

Security officials believe Hapilon and a handful of his men left Basilan for Lanao del Sur to get in touch with the Maute Group as part of an effort to establish a caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Both groups, as well as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), have pledged allegiance to ISIS. 


— with a report from Ferdh Cabrera and Reuters/RSJ/TJD/KBK, GMA News


Senate OKs work-from-home bill on final reading

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a measure to allow companies to offer a telecommuting program to its employees in efforts to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban cities.

With 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention, Senate Bill No. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act of 2017 was passed on Monday, May 22. Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar are authors of the measure. 

Telecommuting is defined by the bill as the partial or total substitution of computers or telecommunication technologies or both for the commute to work by employees.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of SBN 1363, said the measure is also meant to ensure that home-based workers would have equal pay, leave benefits, and promotion as their counterparts in the office.

It also seeks to lessen the feelings of isolation of home-based workers from their office mates.

The neophyte senator pointed out that while telecommuting had started in the 1980s, especially in the fields of communication and architecture, only a few companies in the Philippines had adopted telecommuting.

He said his committee had looked into the “best practices” in telecommuting to ensure that more employers would adopt the program in their workplace.

Moreover, the proposed law would not be mandatory and instead give the employers the discretion on whether to offer telecommuting to their workers or not.

He, however, clarified that the bill would guarantee that any telecommuting program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law. He said that under the bill, employers would ensure that its home-based workers be given the same treatment as their peers in the office. 

Meanwhile, the Senate also passed on third and final reading a bill meant to bring 92 new areas, including six internationally-recognized natural sites, under the protection and management of the country’s landmark National Integrated and Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

Also with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and zero abstention, Senate Bill No. 1444, or the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017 was passed. The measure was authored by senators Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Nancy Binay, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Joel Villanueva,

According to Villar, sponsor of SBN 1444 and chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the bill seeks to amend Republic Act 7586 or the NIPAS Act of 1992, in order “to include more areas and to ensure greater protection for all protected areas.”

She pointed out that the NIPAS Act, first enacted in 1992, provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the country.

The senator noted that among the 92 new protected areas, six sites were internationally recognized and classified as ASEAN Heritage Sites: Mount Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok and Mount Iglit-Baco; Malaysia-Philippines Heritage Parks, Turtles Islands Heritage Protected Area; and Ramsar Sites Agusan Marsh, Olango Island and the Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).

Provisions of the bill include the creation of ‘Protected Area Management Office’ for each of the protected areas, and the rationalization of the existing Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB), which will now include local government officials, indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, academic institutions and women.

The bill also seeks to uphold the recognition of Indigenous Community Conserved Areas. It would also allow the development of renewable energy resources of protected areas, as long as these are “subject to adoption of reduced impact technologies, Environmental Impact Assessment and such development is not detrimental to ecosystem functions and biodiversity.”

She said that the bill was meant to address the worsening cases of habitat loss, destruction and deterioration of many protected areas in the country.

The Philippines has been known as one of the 35 world’s biodiversity hotspots or “regions containing exceptional concentrations of plant endemism, but experiencing high rates of habitat loss”, Villar said.


Azer N. Parrocha, Philippine News Agency



6 inmates escape San Pedro City police lockup

MANILA, Philippines — Six inmates — five facing drug charges, one for illegal possession of firearms — escaped from the police detention cell of San Pedro City, Laguna early Tuesday morning.

Benjo Gayod Lopena, Mark Joseph Varias Alviar, Jordan Mahusap Ibanez, Ed Nino Edwardo Lozada Hernandez, Arvin Lizarda Basilan — the drug suspects — and Rey Erenia Rodrigo fled by sawing off the steel bars of the jail.

At the time of the jailbreak, the detention facility held 59 persons but none joined the escapees.

City police chief Senior Superintendent Harold Depositar has relieved Police Officer 2 Jovencio Piodo Jr., who was on duty at the time of the jailbreak, and ordered his investigation.



Dick Garay, News5


Lawmakers give up bid to lower age of criminal responsibility to 9

MANILA, Philippines — Bowing to stiff opposition, the authors of a bill that would lower the age of criminal liability to nine years old have backed down, opting to strengthen the Juvenile Welfare Act of 2006 instead and retain the current age of 15.

The substitute bill was approved on Tuesday by a sub-committee of the House of Representatives’ justice committee.

Kabayan party-list representative Ron Salo called the substitute bill a more acceptable version, saying it took into consideration all views, including the opposition of various groups to lowering the age of criminal responsibility.

“What we have tried to do is to remove the stigma of being criminal, but all the interventions are there and being strengthened further,” Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano said.

The bill will give the state the right to “take responsibility” of a child in conflict with the law if the parents cannot do so.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate and Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop raised the same concern about funding and capacitating the agencies tasked to implement the measure.

“The weakness of the (Senator Francis) Pangilinan law (author of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act), is the funding. The current bill proposes a number of measures to be undertaken by national agencies, but how much appropriation will be given,” Zarate said.

Kung walang pondosiguradong walang mangyayari diyan (Without funding, nothing will happen),” added Zarate, who abstained during the voting.

Acop said there was nothing in the bill that says how the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would be strengthened given that it bears the burden of rehabilitating children in conflict with the law.

Below are among the pertinent provisions of the proposed “Act expanding the scope of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System and strengthening the social reintegration programs for children in conflict with the law, amending for the purpose Republic Act. No. 9344, as amended, otherwise known as the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006”:

  • Establishment of Bahay Pag-asa, a 24-hour child-caring institution to be established, funded and managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which will provide short-tern residential care for children in conflict with the law, who are nine years of age to 17 years old who are committed for rehabilitation or awaiting court disposition.
  • If the child taken into custody is 15 years old or below, the child will be turned over to the local social welfare development officer and shall immediately inform the child’s parents or guardian, or the child’s nearest relative that the child has been taken into custody.
  • The local social welfare officer will assess if the child needs to be placed under foster care or in a youth care facility or Bahay Pag-asa.
  • Any person who induces or coerces a child to commit a crime shall be punished by reclusion temporal if the crime committed is punishable by imprisonment of six years or less, and by reclusion perpetua if the crime committed is punishable by imprisonment of more than six years.
  • Parents of children who commit serious crimes or who are repeat offenders shall undergo mandatory intervention programs such as parenting seminars and counseling. Failure to undergo this process shall be a ground for imprisonment for at least 30 days but not more than six months.
  • The court shall impose a penalty two degrees lower than that provided for in law for crimes committed by children in conflict with the law. In cases where the law provides for a fixed period of imprisonment, the period shall be reduced in half. For crimes punishable by life imprisonment, the penalty to be imposed shall be imprisonment of up to 12 years.
  • If the child in conflict with the law reaches 18 years of age while under suspended sentence, the court shall determine whether to discharge the child, to order execution of sentence, or to extend the suspended sentence until the child reaches 25 years.
  • The DSWD shall be responsible for building, funding and operating Bahay Pag-asa in provinces and cities to be identified by the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council.
  • All Bahay Pag-asa that are currently operated and maintained by local government units shall continue to be operated, maintained and funded by the respective LGUs.
  • The Bureau of Corrections shall establish at least two agricultural camps each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority shall also establish at least two training centers each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon


Distracted drivers or implementors? ‘OA’ Agencies hit for over-stretching ADDA law, IRR review sought

MANILA – What are deemed ‘manifestly prejudicial to safe driving’? An ambiguous provision worded thus, in a joint order by three transport agencies several years ahgo has worked havoc on the enforcement of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act (ADDA), a law originally designed mainly to prevent road accidents as a result of motorists calling or texting while driving.

Lawmakers have thus called for a review of the implementing rules and regulations of the ADDA as commuter safety advocates warned against “over-stretching” the law with the numerous controversial bans imposed on motorists by transport agencies.

The advocates for commuter safety warned that, even as the transport agencies have already over-interpreted the law and its intent, traffic enforcers on the ground are bound to compound the situation by adding their own interpretations to what the ADDA bans. This, analysts had said earlier, could open up avenues for extortion or corruption, while hardly denting the real enemy: risks to road safety.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III even urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to hold implementation of the ADDA while the Senate Committee on Public Services reviews the IRR, which he said exceeded the intent of the law.

In effect, the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board and the Land Transportation Office are legislating on their own, warned Sotto, who said he was familiar with the deliberations and the intent of the authors of the law passed many years ago. Sotto recalled the deliberations then centered mainly on the flagrant use of mobile phones for calling and texting by motorists, a bad practice blamed for many road accidents.

Sotto was supported in his call for a suspension of the implementation and IRR review by Sen. JV Ejercito, who issued a separate statement.

“Looks like their officials (DOTr) did not understand the essence of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. They have made matters complicated, when it is basically just about banning the use of cellphones while driving,” Ejercito said as Public Services Committee Vice Chairman.

Ejercito said that cellphones when used for navigational purposes should be permitted to aid motorists from steering clear of heavy traffic. 

“It is counter-intuitive when using Waze or other navigation apps since the use of cellphone is less dangerous if it is within the line of sight. Every second that the driver’s eyes are on the road counts. Mas delikado pa yumuko!” he explained.

Ejercito said that the DOTr should reconsider the strict provisions regarding the placement of cellphones within the line of sight of drivers.

“We rarely hear of road accidents that result from the use of navigational apps. Definitely, texting and tinkering with a mobile phone while driving is a no-no. But when it is used as a navigational aid and it is properly placed, it is okay,” he said. 

Joint order also over-interpreted – Inton

Meanwhile, Atty. Ariel Inton, president of the Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection (LCSP), said
“It is clear that the coverage of the law is only for gadgets” that distract drivers. 

In a statement, speaking mostly in Filipino, Inton noted that valid questions have been raised as to the propriety of the implementors’ coverage of what “distractions” are meant by the law, when even rosaries that usually hang from or wrapped around rear view mirrors have been banned, “even though they are not cellphones or headphones and are not covered by law.”

Inton took issue the implementors’ explanation that these items are covered by an Aquino-era Joint Administrative Order (JAO) of LTO, LTFRB and the DOTr’s predecessor, the DOTC. “However, there is nothing in the JAO that says items like the rosary are banned,” he pointed out.

This was just lifted, Inton said, from a provision in the JAO that broadly prohibits any item “manifestly prejudicial to safe driving.” This, Inton said, should not be allowed to be the basis of over-interpretation by over-zealous agencies and, subsequently, by traffic enforcers on the ground who may have their own ideas about what constitutes something “manifestly prejudicial to road safety.” 

In truth, Inton pointed out, “there are so many things that distract a driver but have become ordinary or routine.” This, he said, has thus opened wide the debates on whether these, too shouldn’t be banned: for instance, a jeepney driver stretching his hand backward to receive money and give change to passengers. Already, some people are saying drinking coffee or water are distractions, but public transport drivers complain they need to have coffee for early morning duty, and water to rehydrate or prevent hypertension at midday when the heat in traffic could be unbearable.

“Meanwhile, I believe the first priority is to ensure traffic law enforcers have a clear idea of what the law is about in order to prevent confusion and arguments on the streets,” said Inton, speaking in Filipino.

The LCSP is calling for an all-out dry-run of the ADDA before full-scale implementation, and a review of the ground rules. Any interpretation on the ground by the enforcers should be rooted firmly in the provisions of the law, and not just born out of individual opinions or interpretations, which could vary, said Inton’s group.

‘IRR authors legislated own law’

In seeking a review of the IRR by the Senate committee on public services, Sotto said that panel, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, can use its oversight functions.

One provision that Sotto wants clarified is the description of line of sight, which became the implementors’ basis for saying the rosary is distracting to the driver.

Sotto, who drives his own car, said even he is now confused by the “line of sight” description and prohibitions. For instance, he said, some cars like his has what is called a “heads up display” that reflects on the windshield the RPM and speed.

Does this mean he should have this feature taken out even though it was part of the vehicle when he bought it?

Sotto said the DOTr can motu propio suspend implementation of the ADDA temporarily pending the IRR review, stressing, “we did not intend the law to be that way.” 

The senator said he will push his proposal in plenary. 

The problem, Sotto said, is rooted in the fact that the original authors of the law had a different, specific goal in mind, but the authors of the IRR have tended to legislate their own law.

Sotto said if DOTr refuses to heed the Senate’s suggestion, senators could also play hardball with the DOTr’s budget.


InterAksyon | Mae Ann Los Baños, News5



Bill promoting ‘work from home’ hurdles Senate

The Senate on Monday approved a bill that encourages “work from home” arrangements in a bid to ease traffic in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

Senate Bill No. 1363  or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, was approved on third and final reading with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention.

The proposed law, authored by Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar, defines telecommuting as the partial or total substitution of computers or  telecommunication technologies, or both, for the commute to work by employees.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and sponsor of SBN 1363, said the measure also seeks to protect the rights of home-based workers by making certain that they had equal pay, leave benefits and promotion as their counterparts in the office.

In a  statement he said while telecommuting had started in the 1980s, especially in the fields of communication and architecture,  only a few companies in the Philippines had adopted telecommuting.

Villanueva explained that in 2014 the US Software company VM Ware Inc. conducted a study involving corporations with more than 500 employees in the Philippines. He said the study showed that 70 percent of their respondents who worked “on the go” claimed they were more productive and creative. Around 93 percent said that they used their Smartphones for work while 73 percent said that working-from-home was an ideal work.

A report from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines showed that there was a growing acceptance of telecommuting in workplaces such as Meralco, SGS Philippines, Inc., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Villanueva added. In 2016, the Department of Labor and Employment also reported that there were 261 companies with employees who were under voluntary flexible arrangements.

In a Gallup study on 1,011 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia showed American companies were more receptible to telecommuting and revealed 37 percent of the employees said had worked remotely at one point in their career in 2015 as compared to 30 percent in 2006 and nine percent in 1995.

The study demonstrated 58 percent believed those who worked remotely were just as productive as those who worked in an office, up from 47 percent who said the same in 1995. Only 20 percent of them thought telecommuters were less effective on a daily basis than their peers who worked in the office each day.

Villanueva said his committee had looked into the “best practices” in telecommuting to ensure that more employers would adopt the program in their workplace. He said the proposed law would not be mandatory and instead give the employers the discretion on whether to offer telecommuting to their workers or not.

However, Villanueva said, the bill would guarantee that telecommuting program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law. He said employers would ensure that its home-based workers be given the same treatment as their peers in the office under the bill.


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