President Rodrigo Duterte will take part in the virtual 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this Friday, his spokesman said.

Full schedule siya: Duterte to attend virtual ASEAN meet on Friday

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By Prince Golez

President Rodrigo Duterte will take part in the virtual 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this Friday, his spokesman said.

On Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it will be a “full schedule” for Duterte.

“Itong linggo po ay 36th ASEAN Summit, so ito po ay talagang a big event for all the countries of ASEAN, at magaganap po ito itong linggong ito. So busy po si Presidente sa ASEAN Summit, itong linggong ito,” Roque said during an online press briefing.

“Mayroon pong opening ceremony ng 36th ASEAN Summit; mayroon pong ASEAN Leaders Special Session on Women’s Empowerment; mayroong ASEAN Leaders Interface with the Representatives of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly; mayroong ASEAN Leaders Interface with Representatives of ASEAN Youth; ASEAN Leaders Interface with Representatives of ASEAN Business Advisory Council; tapos po magkakaroon po ng press conference ang Chair ng 36th ASEAN Summit,” he added.

When asked if the President will discuss issues concerning China, the Palace official said: “Walang special session sa pag-uulat on his chairmanship of China-related matters, siguro papasok sa meeting with heads of state.”

The Philippines is coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership from 2018 to 2021.

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Sinong sinungaling? Defensor says Yap has no Palace consent over P20B cut in military pension

Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor has refuted the claim of House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap that he secured the blessing of Malacañang before initiating the realignment of close to P20-billion worth of gratuity and pension funds of the country’s retired military and uniform personnel.

During Defensor’s privilege speech last Monday, the former Presidential chief-of-staff disapproved Yap’s pronouncement that he consulted the Executive branch as well as with members of the Senate and the Lower House before he re-channel the said funds to other government programs for COVID-19 response.

Yap earlier during his interpellation of Defensor’s privilege speech claimed that he secured the blessing of the Executive prior to the third reading approval of the 2021 national budget last October.

“Eto pong sinasabing P20 billion na tinanggal sa pension, eto po ay pinag-usapan ng Executive, ng Senate, at ng Kongreso. Yung P20-billion na iyon, ay hindi po inilagay sa Department of Public Works and Highways. It po ay inilagay para po sa ibang pangangailangan para sa COVID-19,” said Yap.

But Defensor was quick to refute Yap’s pronouncement, as he disclosed a latest statement coming from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which said that “upon submission of the national executive program to Congress, P172.9-billion was proposed under the Pension Gratuity Fund.”

The DBM under the submitted 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund but Congress only approved P152 billion, prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the ratified budget bill in January.

“Ang tanong po dito is, was this discussed? Kasi po ito po ang binabanggit with the Executive, the Senate, and Congress? I beg to disagree, Madam Speaker,” Defensor stressed.

According to Defensor, he recently talked with top DBM officials, adding that “they were surprised after that P20 billion was taken out.”

He further elaborated that if the matter will necessitate future investigations, it would be found out that the P20-billion budget cut was opposed by the executive contrary to Yap’s claim.

Yap later during his interpellation has admitted that he bypassed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco over the multi-billion realignment, saying that he has no choice but to unilaterally realigned portions of the military pension fund, since it may only prolong the process if he consulted the matter with other members of the House leadership.

“Hindi ko po tinanong kay Speaker Velasco kung pwede po bang tanggalin ito. Ako po ay nag desisyon base sa tingin ko kung ano ang makakabuti para sambayanan. Ngayon po, siguro kung na-bypass ko man si Speaker Velasco, pero I’m sure kaya ko ginawa ‘to para po sa ikabubuti. Dahil kulang na rin po ang oras,” said Yap.

According to Yap, he unilaterally bypassed Velasco—who assumed the Speakership during the final phase of deliberations of the 2021 NEP in October—since only wanted to avert any delay which may have resulted in another reenacted budget scenario.

Last December, Yap was among the nine incumbent lawmakers tagged by President Duterte who were allegedly involved in corruption in the implementation of infrastructure projects, based on a list provided by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). (CRD)

Yap admits bypassing Velasco over P20B budget cut in military pension fund

House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap has admitted that he bypassed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco over close to P20-billion worth of budget cuts in the military’s gratuity and pension funds under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

During his interpellation with Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, following the latter’s privilege speech, Yap revealed that he didn’t actually consult Velasco over the supposed slash budget being questioned by the former Environment secretary in this year’s national budget.

“Sa totoo lang po, eto po yung malaking… kaya po ako naku-kwestyon lagi dahil hindi ko po tinanong kay Speaker Velasco kung pwede po bang tanggalin ito. Ako po ay nag desisyon base sa tingin ko kung ano ang makakabuti para sambayanan,” said Yap, representative of ACT-CIS Party-list.

“Ngayon po, siguro kung na-bypass ko man si Speaker Velasco, pero I’m sure kaya ko ginawa ‘to para po sa ika-bubuti. Dahil kulang na rin po ang oras,” he added.

The DBM has proposed P172.9 billion for the pension and gratuity fund but Congress only approved P152 billion.

Yap stressed that he has no choice but to unilaterally realigned portions of the said pension funds for the country’s retired military and other uniform personnel, saying it may only prolong the process if he consulted the matter with other members of the House leadership, particularly with Velasco—who assumed the Speakership during the final phase of deliberations of the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“Mas minabuti ko pong hindi konsultahin si Speaker nung tinanggal ko ang gratuity at pension fund. Eto po yung sinasabi ko na may mga punto sa buhay na kailangan natin gumawa ng desisyon,” the neophyte solon explained.

For Yap, he only wanted to avert any delay which may have resulted in another reenacted budget scenario.

“Isa lang naman po ang gusto. Huwag tayo magkaroon ng reenacted budget kasi po two years na tayo nade-delay pagdating sa pagpirma ng Presidente,” he said.

Yap said most of the realigned funds were channeled to various government projects for the COVID pandemic.

But based on figures disclosed by Defensor during his speech, most of its chunks were reprogrammed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) prior to President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the budget bill last January. (CRD)

3 na patay! Makabayan bloc slams ‘tokhang style’ raids in Southern Luzon

By Billy Begas

Members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives condemned the tokhang-style simultaneous raids in the Southern Luzon region, which resulted in the death of three activists.

House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate it was supposed to be a Sabbath Day, but government troops made it a bloodbath day.

“Ito ang gustong mangyari palagi ng gobyernong Duterte sa ilalim ng terror law, na araw-araw ay may madugong raid at pagtatanim ng ebidensya laban sa oposisyon at kritiko ng gobyerno. They already did this in Mindanao, Negros, Manila, Tacloban, Capiz, and, now Southern Tagalog, where an obvious pattern or modus operandi of Tokhang emerges,” said Zarate.

He said that activists will be initially red tagged and put under surveillance and harassment. “Last, their homes or offices would be raided, evidence planted on them or they would be killed.

According to Karapatan-Southern Tagalog in Laguna two labor leaders and a human rights worker were arrested. They claimed that authorities planted firearms and explosives on them.

In Rizal, two were killed and the house of two peasant leaders were raided.

In Cavite, the office of the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmarinas was also raided, where BAYAN Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion was killed.

In Nasugbu, Batangas, a fisherfolk leader and two of his family members were arrested.

The house of Lino Baez of BAYAN-Batangas was peppered with bullets.

Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Ferdinand Gaite and Eufemia Cullamat also condemned the attacks.

Gaite said the incidents are the result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “kill, kill, kill” message.

“Just last Friday, Pres. Duterte in a speech in Cagayan de Oro told state forces to kill armed rebels. But, these forces do not distinguish between armed rebels or activists, they just kill then say ‘nanlaban’ then plant firearms and explosives,” said Gaite.

Cullamat urged Congress to investigate the rampant human rights violations under the Duterte administration.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said search warrants are being weaponized to crack down on activists, peasants, trade union organizers and human rights defenders.

“Walang katumbas na salita at galit ang sahol ng atake at inhustisya!” Elago added.

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