24 February 2015

President Aquino meets with House Representatives to discuss Mamasapano incident, Bangsamoro Basic Law
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday met with leaders of the House of Representatives in Malacañang Palace to discuss the Mamasapano incident and its implications on the peace process in Mindanao, particularly on the enactment of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Communications Secretary Hermino Coloma, Jr. said the President met with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and other leaders of the House.

Secretary Coloma said the President briefed them on the background of the operations to capture high-value terrorist suspects Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman, and discussed the instructions he had given then commander of the Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), Director Getulio Napeñas, who was accompanied by then suspended PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima.

The President had given Napeñas specific instructions on the need to coordinate the operation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and for Purisima to inform PNP Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Coloma said, adding that the President however found out later that these instructions had not been followed.

President Aquino also shared with the legislators the exchange of text messages he had with Purisima on January 25.

The same exchange of text messages was released by the Senate.

During the meeting, the President reiterated his statement during his televised message last February 6 regarding the instances that would have clearly called for the mission to be aborted, but which was not done, Coloma said.

For their part, the House representatives gave their views on how the killing of the SAF troopers has given rise to a clamor among their constituents that justice be pursued, as part of rebuilding public confidence on the viability of the peace process.

Some of the representatives also brought up the need for “leveling off” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on the parameters of their partnership with the government in the peace process, including the containment of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF); as well as their active cooperation in bringing those responsible for the death of the SAF troopers to justice.

In response, the President said the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation have begun gathering information and evidence so that appropriate charges could be filed in court.

President Aquino also emphasized the importance of the timely approval of the measure, “so as to pave the way for the holding of a plebiscite and if the people will approve the same, to give the members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority sufficient time to demonstrate its capabilities,” said Coloma.

Present during the meeting were House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II; House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora; and chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the draft BBL Rufus Rodriguez.

Also in attendance were former senior military and PNP officers who are now House members: Samuel Pagdilao, Romeo Acop, Leopoldo Bataoil, Gary Alejano, and Ashley Acedillo.

Also present were the chairpersons of the House committees that conducted hearings last week: Jeffrey Ferrer of the committee on public order and safety, and Jim Hataman Salliman of the committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.

During the meeting, the President was joined by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Presidential Management Staff Secretary Julia Abad and Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. PND (ag)

President Aquino honors youth organizations in 12th TAYO Awards
President Benigno S. Aquino III led the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) Awards ceremony held in Malacañang Palace on Tuesday to recognize the contributions of youth organizations to nation building.

In his speech, President Aquino said that as head of the country for the past four-and-a-half years, he has always known that he could not do much without the support of the people and other sectors.

“Sa nakalipas na mahigit apat at kalahating taon ng ating pamamahala, pinatunayan nating kapag mas marami tayong kumikilos, mas mabilis nating nakakamit ang ating hangarin,” he said.

“Dito ko nga naalala ang kaisipang ibinahagi sa akin: Kapag daw ang dunong ng mas nakakatanda at ang lakas ng kabataan ay nagsanib, talagang malayo ang ating mararating.”

After congratulating the winners of the TAYO awards, the President outlined the administration’s efforts to empower the youth to become more effective nation builders amid a strong economy.

He cited the Conditional Cash Transfer for High School Expansion program, which supports children of poor families until they reach 18 years old.

He reported that some 1.2 million students, aged 15 years old to 18 years old, are receiving assistance from the government so they could complete their high school education.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is also actively helping the youth, he added.

From July 2010 to December 2014, some 774,532 people graduated under TESDA’s Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), the President said, noting that their employment rate from April to September last year was registered at 96 percent.

“Ginagawa natin ang lahat ng ito upang iangat ang antas ng pamumuhay ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga naghihikahos sa buhay. Sinasagad natin ang pagkakataon upang bigyan sila ng kakayahang tulungan ang mga sariling umasenso,” President Aquino said.

According to the Chief Executive, the real challenge is for the country to sustain the gains and developments it has been enjoying.

“Paigtingin pa natin ang pagkakapit-bisig, at patibayin ang pundasyon ng isinusulong nating Pilipinas; isang bansa kung saan ang bawat isa ay may kakayahang tuparin ang inaasam niyang kinabukasan,” he said.

The winners of this year’s TAYO Awards were the Phi Lambda Delta Sorority; Kanlungan Pilipinas Movement; Rescue Assistance Peacekeeping Intelligence Detail (RAPID); the Cauayan City National High School-Red Cross Youth and Junior Rescue Team; Katipunan ng mga Kabataang Santiagueňo; ACCESS-PYLP Alumni Association; Move This World-Pilipinas; Youth for Environment in School Organization; Indigenous Youth Servant Leaders Association of the Philippines; and the University of San Agustin Little Theater.

Apart from recognition, the winning organizations receive a specially commissioned trophy sculpted by Toym de Leon Imao, and a grant of P50,000 to fund new projects or continue their long-term programs.

The TAYO Awards was organized by the National Youth Commission, the TAYO Awards Foundation Inc., the EDSA People Power Commission, Coca-Cola Foundation, and Senator Bam Aquino.

Since its establishment in 2002, the TAYO Awards Foundation has recognized and supported the outstanding contributions of youth organizations to national development.

To date, more than a thousand youth organizations have joined the search and have become part of the foundation’s growing youth network.

This year’s awarding ceremony is part of the celebration of the 29th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution that will be commemorated on Wednesday, February 25. PND (as)

President Aquino would be open to meet senators regarding Bangsamoro Basic Law, Palace official says
Following his meeting with leaders of the House of Representatives on the Mamasapano incident and the proposed Bangasamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Monday, President Benigno S. Aquino III would be open to a similar meeting with members of the Senate, a Palace official has said.

“Hindi naman maipapasa ang batas (BBL) ng iisang House of Congress lamang; dalawang Houses ito dapat. Mahalagang stakeholders din po ang ating mga senador at sa aspetong ito, sa pakiwari ko naman ay bukas ang Pangulo sa pakikipag-usap sa kanila kung ito ring paksang ito ang tatalakayin,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during Tuesday’s press briefing in Malacañang.

President Aquino met with House members, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and other representatives, on Monday morning to brief them on the background of the operations to capture high-value terrorist suspects Zulkifli bin Hir, also known as Marwan, and Abdul Basit Usman.

According to Coloma, who was present at the meeting, the President also emphasized the importance of the timely approval of the BBL “to pave the way for the holding of a plebiscite and if the people will approve the same, to give the members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority sufficient time to demonstrate their capabilities.”

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have suspended deliberations on the proposed BBL, until the completion of the investigation on the Mamasapano incident. PND (ag)

Malacañang still trusts MILF as government partner in peace process
The Palace said it remains hopeful that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would stick to its commitment to peace, despite the bloody Mamasapano clash and as time is running out in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Congress has to complete the deliberations on the BBL at the committee level before adjourning on March 20, and resume deliberations at the plenary level when sessions resume on May 4.

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said President Benigno S. Aquino III and his administration still consider the MILF as a government partner in achieving peace.

“Lahat po ng pahayag ng Pangulo at lahat ng kanyang pagsasalita hinggil dito ay nandoon sa aspeto na itinuturing ang MILF ng pamahalaan na partner o katuwang dito sa prosesong pangkapayapaan,” he said.

“At binanggit na rin ng Pangulo sa kanyang mga nakaraang talumpati na simula noong nagkasundo hinggil doon sa FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) at CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) ay napanatili ng MILF ang katahimikan.”

During those periods, there was no violent clash between government and MILF combatants, according to Coloma.

The government will stick to that position, but in case there are groups that will sow instability, the country’s security forces are ready to act to maintain order, he added.

“Ang ating Sandatahang Lakas ay nahahandang harapin ang anumang banta na manggagaling sa anumang sektor dahil tungkulin ng pamahalaan na tiyakin ang kaligtasan at kapanatagan ng ating mga mamamayan,” Coloma said.

It can be recalled that after the Supreme Court declared the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) unconstitutional in 2008, the MILF attacked several communities in Mindanao.

Coloma said it is up to legislators to follow the initial timetable for the approval of the proposed BBL, considering the narrowing window of opportunity for its passage. PND (as)

Government has resources to prevent entry of infectious diseases, Palace says
Government measures are in place to fend off the entry of such contagious diseases as avian flu and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the country, the Palace said on Tuesday.

“Nasa heightened alertness at preparedness ang ating Department of Health (DOH), simula pa noong halos isang taon na ang nakararaan, noong hinarap itong MERS Coronavirus,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during the daily press briefing in Malacañang.

The government, he said, has been successful in preventing the entry of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the country in the past and is capable of implementing similar preventive measures at present.

“Kaya batay sa mga binanggit ko, meron namang sapat na track record ang ating pamahalaan hanggang sa kasalukuyan na gawin ang nararapat para mapanatiling malusog at ligtas ang ating mga mamamayan laban sa mga kinatatakutang sakit,” he said, adding that the Health Department has enough budget and resources to do its job.

A Filipino who came from China has died after showing symptoms of bird flu, the DOH reported on Monday. The department did not conduct an autopsy on the victim as he was cremated.

A few weeks ago, a Filipino nurse from Saudi Arabia was hospitalized due to MERS-CoV infection. She has since recovered from her illness after treatment. PND (as)