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Ombudsman finds ex-NFA administrator, 2 customs officials guilty of rice smuggling

May 2, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MDN Digital, May 1) - A former top-ranking official of National Food Authority (NFA) and two officials of the Bureau of Customs were ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman as they were found guilty of rice smuggling. In its decision, those found guilty of administrative charges of grave misconduct were Jason Aquino, former NFA administrator; former Cagayan de Oro district collector Tomas Alcid and Genifelle Lagmay, former customs liaison officer to the NFA.  It was Ombudsman Samuel Martires and Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval who approved the decision. Others penalties meted to them include “cancellation of civil service eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and from taking civil service examination.”  On September 2017, Senator Panfilo Lacson filed a complaint in the Ombudsman for economic sabotage, graft as well as grave misconduct against former BOC commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and three other officials in relation with the reported rice smuggling involving two shipments of rice to Cebu Lite Trading Inc. Based on investigations, the first shipment of imported rice from Vietnam containing 21,800 bags valued at $370,600 arrived in Cagayan de Oro port  on March 9, 2017. Another shipment of smuggled rice with 18,800 of the same type and were valued at $309,400 also entered Cagayan de Oro port after a week.   Lacson claimed the two importations were already declared abandoned and seized in favor of the government based on two rulings issued by Alcid on April 26 because it lacks the pertinent importation permits as well as payment dues. It was learned that impor entry on said smuggled rice from Vietnam was March 31, although the shipments arrived in on March 9 and 16. Aquino then issued a certification on May 7 which stated the validity of the importation permits, saying it would retroact to cover the said actual dates of arrival. Alcid then asked for Faeldon's clearance on June 7 to release the rice despite of the expired import permits, it was learned. Faeldon, investigation revealed, allowed the release of the two shipments. “Under these circumstances, respondents Aquino, Alcid and Lagmay are blameworthy for having dealt with CLTI whose business was favored directly with the functions of their office,” the Ombudsman claimed in its decision. The Ombudsman also said “Their separate acts evidence the elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law of flagrant disregard of established rule. Hence, they should be held administratively liable for grave misconduct.”  The special investigating panel created by the Ombudsman has recommended to charge Faeldon, Aquino, Alcid and Lagmay on the reported rice smuggling shipments. A special investigating panel from the Ombudsman has already recommended the filing of graft charges against Faeldon, Aquino, Alcid, and Lagmay over the rice shipments. The panel found probable cause to charge those accused of the appropriate charges under section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The fact-finding panel found probable cause to charge the four individuals for Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

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Political unrest in Venezuela turns violent

May 2, 2019

MDN WORLD, May 1 - Political unrest in Venezuela turns violent as protesters and the military are starting to hit each other. A priest was oozing with blood after he was hit by a rubber bullet when protesters were shot by the armed supporters of the president.  As tensions developed, President Nicolas Maduro also threatened to prosecute those leaders that were behind the movement to oust him from power. On Tuesday, Juan Guaido, the opposition leader has called on the army to side with the protesters and oust Maduro. But during the day of the violent protests of thousands of people, Guiado was in hiding while a number of his supporters were injured in a bloody dispersal made by the army and the police.    The president started his second term on January 10, after a highly boycotted election in 2018, in which a lot of foreigners have refused to recognize his administration.  The opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has appealed and asked protesters to remain in the streets and not be afraid by Maduro's army. Guaido said "We have to remain in the streets"  "If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine."We have to remain in the streets." He told the media that he is now considering a proposal of work stoppage from public workers to pressure Maduro to step down.  Maria Ciares, 55, also a resident of the place told reporters "I go out because I want to live in democracy, I want to live in freedom. We need to support these politicians that are trying to find an alternative."

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NBI raided house and arrested 'Bikoy' videos uploader  

May 2, 2019

* Bikoy videos are videos attacking President Duterte and his family's alleged  involvement into the illegal drug trade CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines (MDN Digital, May 2) - The house of the alleged uploader of the controversial 'Bikoy' videos was raided Thursday by the operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and reportedly arrested the uploader himself.  This was confirmed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) but the identity of the alleged uploader was still kept by the NBI pending follow up operations, it was learned. The DOJ official did not elaborate.     DOJ undersecretary Markk Perete told reporters it was indeed the person who uploaded the video who was arrested for a cybercrime offense specifically libel. 'Bikoy' videos are series of videos uploaded on social networking sites like Youtube and Facebook that reportedly linked President Rodrigo Duterte, his family and close friends like senatoriable Bong Go, into the illegal drug trade.   Manhunt is now launched by the DOJ and the police for Bikoy, the alias of the person in said videos maligning the president and his family of their alleged involvement in drugs. One of the videos was entitled "Ang Totoong Narcolist." Menardo Guevarra, the Justice Secretary also confirmed to reporters regarding the reported arrest."Yes, arrest incidental to the service of a search warrant."

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NGCP gets nod for 29 Energy Projects of National Significance

May 1, 2019

The Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) declared 29 of NGCP’s projects as Energy Projects of National Significance (EPNS). An EPNS under Executive Order Number 30 will be given expedited issuance of all regulatory and documentary requirements from local and national government agencies. This includes the action of application of permits and requirements within 30 days, and the immediate and automatic approval of all applications within five working days if no action of the said agency has been made after 30 days. The 29 approved projects, with  a total ERC approved cost of PhP90.291 Billlion, include the following: Hermosa-San Jose 500kV Transmission Line, Western Luzon 500kV Backbone, Pagbilao-Tayabas 500kV Transmission Line, San Jose-Quezon 230kV Transmission Line, Bataan 230kV Grid Reinforcement, Ambuklao-Binga-San Manuel 230kV Transmission Line, San Manuel-Nagsaag 230kV Transmission Line, Pinili 230kV Substation, Tuguegarao-Magapit 230kV Transmission Line, Navotas-Dona Imelda 230kV Transmission Line, Taguig-Taytay 230kV Transmission Line, San Manuel-Nagsaag 230kV Transmission Line, Calaca-Dasmarinas 230kV Transmission Line, and the San Simon 230kV Substation. Among the projects crucial for the development of the grid are the Hermosa-San Jose 500kV Transmission Line, which will add a new 500kV corridor for new and old bulk generation capacities in the Bataan and Zambales areas, while the San Manuel-Nagsaag 230kV Transmission Line aims to improve the transmission corridor of central Luzon. The Navotas(Manila)-Dona Imelda 230kV Transmission Line, which includes the construction of a new Navotas 230kV Substation, will help secure the integrity of the grid serving Metro Manila and surrounding provinces. The Pagbilao 500kV Substation and the Pagbilao-Tayabas 500kV Transmission Line project is intended to cater to around 3,370 MegaWatts (MW) of additional power from incoming power plants in the Quezon province such as the San Buenaventura Coal, AOE Coal Fired Power Plant, and the Pagbilao CCGT Power Plant. “The issuance of EPNS by the EICC is critical for the on-time completion of these projects. This will enable us to expedite our plans and programs and efficiently cater to the needs of our stakeholders to provide a more resilient power grid,” NGCP stated. In May 2018, NGCP was also issued an EPNS for its Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP), which will see the realization of one Philippine grid in 2020. The MVIP was the first project to be declared an EPNS.  “We continually appeal to our stakeholders to help us ensure the smooth and on-time implementation of our projects, as these are for the benefit of our communities across the country,” said NGCP. NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately-owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid, and is led by majority shareholders Henry Sy, Jr. and Robert Coyiuto, Jr.

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Maternity leave law giving more benefits to working women set to take effect 

May 1, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MDN Digital, May 1) - This is good news to all working women in the Philippines! The expanded maternity leave law principally-authored by Senator Risa Hontiveros is set to take effect as its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were signed on Labor Day.    In a statement relayed to MDN Digital, Sen Hontiveros said she is happy that the implementing rules and regulations of this law were signed during the observance of Labor Day on May 1. “I am happy that the implementing rules and regulations of the measure were signed and released today. “I welcome this development as this ensures the full implementation of the law and that all women will benefit from the measure. “This is certainly good news to all women workers and their families who have patiently waited for the law's IRR," the senator pointed out. It was President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who signed the expanded maternity leave law last February which will expand the maternity leave of working women up to 105 days. Working mothers are also allowed by the new law to even extend their leave to 30 days, regardless of civil status but the 30-day leave extension will no longer be paid. The law also extends an additional of 15-day paid leave for single mothers. Another exciting feature of the expanded maternity leave is that seven days of the 105-day paid leave benefits are transferrable to the fathers. It says that said privilege maybe claimed under the 1996 Paternity Leave Act. It can be recalled that the previous paid maternity leave benefit was only 60 days for women of normal delivery and 78 days for deliveries under caesarian section. The author of the previous bill who was Senator Nancy Binay said the new expanded paid maternity leave benefit is a welcome development. “best gift” for mothers on Labor Day, the senator said, adding that "bilang mga magulang at bilang isang bansa na may malasakit sa kapwa, wag nating isantabi ang kontribusyon ng kababaihan. Let us start creating a work environment where women are not discriminated for wanting to be parents.”

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Filinvest assist local students overcome reading difficulties

May 1, 2019

Filinvest’s FDC Misamis Power Corporation (FDC Misamis), owner and operator of the biggest baseload plant in Mindanao, has partnered with Mohon Elementary School (MES) in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental to improve the reading proficiency of local students.       The collaboration was made possible through MES’ Active Stakeholders Participation in Reading Engagement (ASPIRE) Program.       ASPIRE, which was conceptualized by the MES’ General Parents-Teachers Association (GPTA) and is in partnership with the Barangay Council of Mohon, is a tutorial program intended for poor reader and non-reader students of MES.       Launched last year, the program aims to improve the literacy rate of MES students through the active participation of teachers, parents and other community stakeholders within the area such as private entities like FDC Misamis. The management of FDC Misamis welcomed the opportunity and allowed employees to tutor students based on their available schedules.       FDC Misamis is the pioneering private institution who welcomes this partnership according to school principal, Dr. Carnila Simacon.       This, as FDC Misamis wants to contribute something positive to the Department of Education’s (DepEd) flagship initiative dubbed as “Every Child A Reader Program.” For its initial participation, FDC Misamis employee-volunteers took under their wings five poor-reader six grader pupils earlier last month.       The beneficiaries are graduating students who are under conditional status and must improve their reading skills in the next two months for them to move up to seventh grade. “It’s sad to note that our five beneficiaries have great difficulty knowing the (basic) sounding of the letters in our alphabet,” shared Analiza Miso, FDC Misamis’ Community Relations Specialist, who’s acting as one of the tutors.       “But the kids are showing enthusiasm learning how to identify letters, its sounding, and of course, the proper pronunciation, through our help and encouragement,” Miso added. Five weeks into the program, the students are showing a lot of improvements in their reading skills. One volunteer, Kim Orquillas, FDC Misamis’ Assistant Community Relations Specialist, narrates the changes he observed from the students. “I am very happy and most of all, there is a feeling of fulfillment that after four consecutive Mondays of teaching the kids, I realized that the time and effort I spent with them were never wasted, because I can see that they can now identify letters, phonics and words they have difficulty reading before,” said Orquillas.      MES and other community partners are happy for the developments of the students. They are hopeful that the program will yield positive results in eliminating illiteracy in the community. “What a great help! We’re blessed. And we’re thankful, indeed that FDC Misamis is here to help us teach our non-readers,” said Simacon. Simple but very helpful, was how Francis Jerson Sabio, punong barangay of Mohon in Tagoloan tagged the program.      “Hoping then that FDC Misamis is one among those who can help cure an ‘appalling’ joke that Philippines is a nation of poor-readers,” said Sabio.       FDC Misamis then disclosed plans to continue the tutorial program in the coming years and will be under its Corporate Social Responsibility’s (CSR) “Education for Empowerment” pillar. The program will be replicated to other public elementary schools situated in Tagoloan and Villanueva and will accommodate non-readers and poor-readers from grades one to six.

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