Author Archives: Carlos Maningat

Duterte appoints Robredo to HUDCC

Monday, 11 July 2016 | Written by

President Rodrigo Duterte offered on Thursday (July 8) Vice President Leni Robredo to lead the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) through an impromptu phone call during a live Palace broadcast.

Robredo accepted the HUDCC post, saying steering the agency would enable her to fulfill her promise to help those in the fringes of society.

President Duterte’s phoned Robredo to offer a Cabinet post during government stattion PTV-4’s live broadcast amid “persistent” questions from the media.

“Ma’am Leni…good afternoon. Nandito ako sa opisina ngayon. Tinatanong ako ni Rocky Ignacio sa Malacanang Press kung bibigyan ko raw kayo ng pwesto sa Gabinete. ’Yon ang tanong n’ya. P’wede kong sagutin?” Duterte told Robredo during the live phone conversation.

Robredo apparently said yes, and was told that the “executive secretary will hand you the appointment.”

Duterte had met the Vice President only recently during the turnover rites of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Duterte’s decision to offer Robredo a position in the Cabinet contradicted his statement right after the May elections that he would not give any Cabinet position to Robredo because he does not want to hurt the feelings of Bongbong Marcos, Robredo’s closest rival in the VP race and Duterte’s friend.

“Reconciliation need not come from an appointment [for Robredo]. There is no compelling reason for me to accommodate the VP. I am sorry. Leni must understand that she belongs to the opposite side [of the political fence],” the President said last May 31.

Robredo ran for the vice presidential seat under the Liberal Party, former president Aquino’s political party.

With her appointment as housing czar, Robredo has been challenged by a militant group to prioritize affordable public housing to poor families and stop demolitions of communities.

“If we are truly to see change coming to the country, then housing as a service should be prioritized over the involvement of private developers in so called socialized housing. We lauded the late Jesse Robredo for his recognition of our rights to the city, for the city to be geared towards fulfilling the needs of all its inhabitants,” Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said in a statement.

Duterte names spox, chief legal counsel; Gina Lopez to head DENR

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 | Written by

Environment advocate Gina Lopez accepted on Tuesday, incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) a day after her courtesy call with Duterte in Davao City.

“After much introspection, I decided to accept it (environment portfolio). Let’s see what happens,” Lopez told the media at the sidelines of an awards event in Quezon City.

Lopez is the managing director of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Bayan Foundation and chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) since 2010.

She is noted for her active participation in the campaign against mining, particularly in Palawan and other eco-tourism sites. She had rallied hundreds of supporters to push the Save Palawan Movement.

Environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network and Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines have hailed Lopez as the right choice for the DENR top post.

But some are expressing reservations over her family’s business interests and “environmentally destructive projects” which include the forest-clearing in Mt. Talinis by the Lopez-led Energy Development Corporation.

Duterte had previously thought of offering the DENR to the progressive left led by the Communist Party of the Philippines but had since changed his mind due to the sensitive issue on mining.

Last week, the incoming President appointed his personal lawyer Salvador Panelo as

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chief presidential legal counsel and Ernesto Abella as spokesperson.

Panelo’s designation as Palace spokesperson is temporary though, according to incoming Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Panelo, who was known for being the counsel of the

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Ampatuan clan in the murder of journalists and members of the Mangudadatu family, was previously rumored to be Duterte’s spokesperson.

Abella, an educator and columnist, founded The Jesus Fellowship Inc. and Hope of Asia Inc. He was an instructor at Ateneo de Davao College.

“What I’d like to do is to have the office of the spokesman try to articulate as carefully and as clearly as possible the true intentions of the President,” he said in a video released to the media.

Abella credits Duterte, who was Davao City mayor at that time, for his release in 1996 from ethnic bandits who claimed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Gov’t, NDF panels agree to resume talks, release pol prisoners

Thursday, 16 June 2016 | Written by

The incoming members of the government’s peace panel signed late Wednesday a joint statement in Oslo, Norway with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF) that calls for the resumption of formal peace negotiations in the third week of July.

The Oslo joint statement, which was the product of the two-day talks, also calls for the immediate release of political prisoners on humanitarian grounds and of those included in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, as well as the affirmation of previous agreements and accelerated process for negotiations.

The exploratory talks were witnessed by representatives from the Norwegian government.

“We will recommend the release of all political prisoners to Duterte once he assumes the presidency and both sides will work for an interim ceasefire to boost the formal resumption of peace talks in the third week of July in Oslo,” incoming Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus “Jess” Dureza said.

For his part, NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the success of the exploratory talks “shows there is big hope and expectations that we can move forward to address the roots of the armed confict and to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.”

Aside from Dureza and Jalandoni, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, Fidel Agcaoli from NDFP, and incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Sison has expressed confidence that the renewed peace negotiations will reach a successful conclusion under the Duterte administration. “There should never be any problem in the peace process that we cannot discuss and fix promptly, directly or through emissaries. We have the necessary degree of rapport to exchange views and come to an agreement quickly in order to bring the peace process to a successful and happy conclusion,” he said.

The CCP founder was Duterte’s professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines.

President Aquino shelved the peace talks with the Maoists in 2013 as he accused the CPP-NPA-NDF of insicerity. But the NDFP said Aquino has been an obstacle to peace, condemining the arrest of its peace consultants under Aquino.


Transfer of Fabella hospital to push through despite protests

Tuesday, 14 June 2016 | Written by

fabellaThe planned modernization and transfer of Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital will push through amid intensified campaign to halt its supposed privatization.

Fabella hospital director Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem said the transfer of the hospital, which is dubbed as the “baby factory” for catering to many poor mothers, was finalized after around half of the 1,200 hospital employees said yes in a signature campaign.

The hospital management has insisted that the transfer of the 65-year-old hospital is necessary since the building’s structural integrity has been reduced over the years.

The go-to maternity of the poor located at Sta. Cruz, Manila will be closed and transferred to a six-story building inside the Department of Health (DOH) compound also in Manila.

“We are just waiting for the release of the License to Operate from the Quezon City government for us to be able to transfer to the Fabella building constructed in the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP). We will then transfer to the new building [in Manila] once the building there is ready for occupancy,” Dr. Ilem said.

Health groups however have expressed strong opposition to the closure of Fabella, which they said is another move to privatize health services in the country.

“Though the Aquino government and the DOH insist that this is not privatization, we believe that these projects are definitely under the general framework of the privatization policy in the guise of modernization, and would mean more expensive, unaffordable health services for the people,” the Save Fabella Hospital Movement said in a report.

The group said the closure was mainly due to commercial interests, as the government through the Home Guarantee Corporation (HGC) plans to develop the property where Fabella currently stands into a mixed housing and commercial area.

Health workers who are opposed to the Fabella modernization plan said the hospital’s management has used the structural integrity of the building since 2007 but no immediate action was done to address the safety issue.

Various groups are urging incoming President Duterte to stop the modernization of the Fabella hospital.

“We are urging President Duterte to stop the closure and, eventually, cancel the privatization of the almost century-old maternity hospital,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said, adding that Fabella is one of the 23 government hospitals targeted for privatization by the Aquino administration.

Robredo’s VP seat in limbo as LP fails to declare campaign expenses

Friday, 10 June 2016 | Written by

Vice President-elect Leni Robredo may not be able to assume her post as the Liberal Party (LP) failed to file its statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) which is required by law.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez said in its stated in the law “that if the political party was not able to file the SOCE, their candidates that won cannot assume their posts.”

The LP fielded a total of 12,296 candidates during the recently concluded elections.

Jimenez said LP is accountable to Robredo and other winning candidates for the failure to submit campaign expenses.

“If you are looking at it from the point of view of someone who ran for mayor, for example, the mayor who filed his SOCE is not at fault if the party failed to file its own SOCE. The party will have to be answerable to their candidates,” Jimenez said.

The poll body has deferred its decision on the LP non-filing of SOCE as Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, head of the Election Steering Committee, is on leave.

Robredo filed her SOCE on time but her running mate Mar Roxas failed to submit his campaign expenses on the last day due to “voluminous number of receipts that have to be scanned and attached to the document.”

Based on her SOCE, the Vice President-elect spent P418.66 million for her political campaign – the biggest among vice presidential candidates. She said most of her campaign funds came from LP.

Kris Aquino pitched the biggest contribution to Robredo’s campaign with P30.83 million in four tranches. Other big campaign contributors include Eduardo Borromeo Cu-Unjieng (P10 million) and Harvey Keh (P5 million).

The camp of Roxas requested the Comelec on Wednesday for a two-week extension on the filing of campaign expenses.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte meanwhile is third biggest spender in the presidential race with P371,461,480.23, of which P200,000 came from his own pocket. His biggest campaign contributor is newly elected Davao del Norte Rep.and banana magnate Antonio “Tonyboy” Floreindo Jr. who shelled out P75 million for Duterte’s presidential bid.

Poe is biggest spender among presidential bets with P510,845,262.56 followed by outgoing Vice President Jejomar Binay with P463,375,216.37.

House leaders block SSS pension hike during final session

Wednesday, 8 June 2016 | Written by

A final attempt to push the pension increase for Social Security System (SSS) retirees failed as House leaders blocked the proposal to override President Aquino’s veto on the measure.

Up to the final session of the 16th Congress last Monday (June 6), Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares urged his fellow lawmakers to approve the P2,000 SSS pension hike, which was vetoed by the President in February.

“This is our historic chance, Mister Speaker, to grasp this opportunity to alleviate the plight of our senior citizens. I move, Mister Speaker, that we reconsider HB (House Bill) 5842 and override the veto of President Aquino,” Colmenares said at final last plenary session on Monday.

Colmenares’ proposal was supported by Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, Manila 5th District Rep. Amado Bagatsing, and Buhay Party-lisy Rep. Lito Atienza – who took turns in urging fellow House members to override the President’s veto.

But House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao opposed Colmenares’ proposal, saying the Senate already adjourned its session and that voting on the matter would be futile.

Atienza, who had to raise his voice during the heated debate on the override resolution, slammed the House leaders’ move to block the measure as “grossly unfair, undemocratic and dictatorial.”

At least 193 votes were needed for the House of Representatives to overturn the veto on the SSS pension hike bill. Colmenares said they had mustered 128 signatures for the override resolution.

“We could have made a legislative intervention that will set a precedent against an unjust presidential veto, but we abdicated from that role castrating congressional power fearing the wrath of an outgoing president,” Colmenares said in a Bulatlat report, adding that it is not the job of Congress to spare the President from embarassment.

Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he will approve the P2,000 SSS pension increase once he assumes the presidency.

“All is not lost, however, because President-elect Duterte supports the P2000 SSS pension increase.  We hope he will immediately act on the increase once he takes office in July,” Colmenares said.

Duterte on hot seat over comments vs journalists

Friday, 3 June 2016 | Written by

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is facing mounting criticism over his stance on journalist killings and his catcall to a female reporter during a press conference.

On Thursday night, the tough-talking Duterte dared journalists to stop covering him in response to the call by Reporters Without Borders and local media groups to boycott his press conferences.

“Kill journalism in this country. Stop journalism in this country, if you are worth your salt. If not, then I will think lowly of you. [That would mean] that you are like cowards,” Duterte told reporters, clarifying later that he meant stop media coverages of him in Davao City.

“I was saying —– do not threaten me. I said I’m ready to lose the presidency, my honor or my life. Just do not f*** with me,” Duterte thundered.

Duterte had earned the ire of media groups for saying that there was justification for killing journalists in the country who took bribes or engaged in corrupt activities.

He was responding to a question on how he would address the issue of journalist killings in the Philippines, which is the second most dangerous in the world during the past 25 years.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Duterte’s statement was “appalling” and was a signal fire to an “open season to silence the media.”

The group reminded the President-elect of dozens of journalists who were slain in the line of duty for telling the truth.

“Let us just cite a few of the more prominent cases — the murders of Edgar Damalerio of Pagadian City, Marlene Esperat of Tacurong City, and Gerry Ortega of Puerto Princesa City, and, of course, the most heinous of all, the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, of which 32 of the 58 victims were media workers, making it not only the worst case of electoral violence in recent Philippine history but the single deadliest attack on journalists ever,” the NUJP said.

Reacting to the brewing firestorm against the President-elect, spokesperson Peter Lavina said Duterte’s statement was taken out of context by the media.

Duterte is also on the hot seat for catcalling GMA 7 reporter Mariz Umali on Tuesday night, drawing criticisms from journalists and women’s rights groups.

The President-elect reportedly interrupted a question from Umali with wolf whistling and a short serenade, an act described by Umali’s husband and reporter Raffy Tima as “wrong in so many levels.”

But Duterte defended his action. “Whistling is not a sexual thing… You can’t stop me, that’s my freedom of expression

Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the catcall to Umali was a form of compliment.

Asked for her comment on the issue, Umali said she is not expecting an apology from Duterte.

“It may have been improper from a President-elect. But, of course, we will continue to do our job. We are not expecting any apology from him personally,” Umali said.


Auroras explained: How the sky puts up a spectacular lights show

Monday, 30 May 2016 | Written by


auroras-1203288_640Beyond being a spectacle of glowing lights up in the sky, auroras are actually outcomes of atomic interaction somewhere in the Eath’s atmosphere.

Auroral light, which is visible to polar regions in the north as Aurora Borealis and to the south as Aurora Australis, has been a much awaited evening sky phenomenon for space enthusiasts and even ordinary folks on Earth’s opposite sides.

During the phenomenon, glowing, shifting curtains of green with a faint touch of red wrap the night sky, extending upward until the colorful brush strokes gently vanish into a stellar background. A NASA space observer said that “like snowflakes, each display is different from the last.”

Residents of Seattle were treated to an unusual sighting of Aurora Borealis in the first few hours of May 8, which was described by the National Weather Service in Seattle as “probably the best aurora display we’ve seen in a decade here.”

In April, the NASA posted a breakthtaking 4K video of Aurora Borealis on Youtube, the first video made available online by the space agency from its ultra high definition (UHD) television channel.

The phenomenon was documented using time-lapse shots from the International Space Station (ISS), a satellite at low Earth orbit approximately 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.


Solar wind meets Earth’s atoms

Perhaps unknown to many, auroral light begins with a solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted through space from the sun’s surface. During active parts of the solar cycle, solar flares packed with powerful energy and coronal mass ejections (CME) launch billions of tons of plasma into space. Some of these charged particles eventually reach the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The particle streams from the sun get deflected at first by the magnetoshpere and swirls past Earth, and then pushes in again at night side. These particles eventually “rain down into the upper atmosphere over the polar regions, the places where our protective magnetic envelope is most open to space.”

“Auroral light comes largely from electrons hitting oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, the same phenomenon that produces the glow in a neon lighting tube. But in the aurora the illumination can be 600 miles (965.6 kilometers) high, stretch for thousands of miles, and be linked to a magnetospheric power generator churning out three million megawatts or more—about four times the electricity the United States uses at peak summer demand,” a National Geographic article explained.

The color of auroral light depends on the atomic particles in contact, with red and green for oxygen and green and blue for nitrogen.


Beautiful but dangerous?

Auroras are essentially beautiful outcomes of particle interations over the Earth’s polar magnetic regions. The spectacle, while generally causing no harm on human activity, can be disruptive at times though.

It was in March 13, 1989 when auroras’ extreme reach was demonstrated, when a powerful explosion in the sun created a geomagnetic storm that resulted in spectacular northern lights. The amazing aurora borealis show could be seen as far south as Florida and Cuba. At the same time, electrical currents were created in the ground, which found weakness in the electrical grid of Quebec. The geomagnetic storm shut down Dorval Airport and Montreal Metro, and left people in office buildings and tunnels in the dark.

NASA astronomer Dr. Sten Odenwald described the phenomenon as “the day the Sun brought darkness” on Earth.

“The Quebec Blackout was by no means a local event. Some of the U.S. electrical utilities had their own cliffhanger problems to deal with. New York Power lost 150 megawatts the moment the Quebec power grid went down. The New England Power Pool lost 1,410 megawatts at about the same time,” Dr. Odenwald said.

In today’s digital era when people are heavily dependent on eletronic gadgets and when most vehicles from cars to tractors are mostly dependent on GPS, such powerful storm could cause serious trouble.

Thankfully, scientists have devised means to predict geomagnetic storms at least a day in advance.

A team led by Dr. Neel Savani at Imperial College London has produced a modelling tool that will forecast coronal mass ejections and solar flares more than 24 hours in advance.

The modelling tool projects the initial form of the coronal mass ejections and their evolution as they travel towards the Earth. With these, scientists can now determine the extent by which the storm will affect the Earth and the estimated time of the phenomenon.

For now, we can enjoy the dreamy Aurora show without worrying about another aurora-caused power disruption in the magnitude of the 1989 geomagnetic storm.

Images: Northern Lights, Auroras Camp and Aurora Astralis from


Over 700 feared dead in Mediterranean shipwrecks; Gang rape in Brazil sparks outrage

Sunday, 29 May 2016 | Written by

More than 700 migrant refugees, including 40 children, are feared dead in the latest series of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy.

Around 100 people are missing after a boat sank on Wednesday while authorities are still searching for more than 550 migrants aboard another boat, which capsized Thursday morning after leaving the western Libyan port of Sabratha.

“Sunday counting victims. Macabre exercise:will the world realize the over 700 pp would have deserved a safe passage?” UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Carlotta Sami posted in her Twitter account.

On Saturday, a flotilla of ships saved 668 people from boats in the Mediterranean Sea, bringing the total migrant refugees rescued to 14,000 within the past week.

A report said some of the wooden fishing boats that transport migrants from North Africa to Europe are peppered with “gaping gashes in their hulls and rotting wooden planks.” Many of these boats have landed in the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

Over 13,000 people have gambled on the deadly route to Europe to escape the volatile situation in many African countries. The figure include some 5,700 unaccompanied minors who set sail from ports in Libya and Egypt, according to Save the Children.

An account of a migrant survivor said there were “125 people squeezed into an inflatable plastic boat only 15 meters long.”

Gang rape in Brazil

A video of an alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in a poor neighborhood in Brazil has shocked the country, prompting a manhunt of the perpetrators and those who uploaded the video.

The Brazilian girl reportedly arrived at her 19-year-old boyfriend’s house in Rio de Janeiro around 1 a.m. last weekend only to wake up to a different house with more than 30 men, according to a Washington Post report. The girl said she lost consciousness before the assault happened.

To make matters worse, the perpetrators uploaded a 40-second video and pictures of her during the ordeal which had drawn likes and misogynistic comments.

“It’s the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying ‘it’s her fault. She was using scanty clothes.’ I want people to know that it is not the woman’s fault. You can’t blame a robbery

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victim, for being robbed,” the victim told the media.

Brazilian police have reportedly arrested the first suspect in the gang rape case, which has been condemned by hundreds of protesters in Rio as a sign of the “endemic culture of rape” in the country.

Four of the more than 30 suspects have already been identified by the police.


Left submits Cabinet nominees to Duterte

Saturday, 28 May 2016 | Written by

sisondutertePresident-elect Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that the Left has submitted its list of Cabinet nominees, four of which are women. Duterte said in a media briefing late Wednesday night that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili turned over the list last Tuesday, adding that the list was “impressive.” “I am inclined to give in. If we can talk smoothly when Jose Maria Sison [comes] home in July, I am willing to give lahat ng liderato para mapuwesto sa gobyerno (give all the leaders government posts),” Duterte said in an report. Duterte had previously offered the Left the top positions in the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Labor and Employment. Reports said the NDF has nominated generic viagra sildenafil University of the Philippines professor Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD head, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Rafael Mariano for the agrarian reform department. Taguiwalo confirmed the reports, saying she is honored to be nominated by the CPP/NDF as DSWD secretary. “That an incoming president of the Philippines is extending his hand to the Left and inviting the latter to be part of government is a historic act,” Taguiwalo, a Martial law political detainee, said in a Facebook post. President-elect Duterte however cialis for sale nz changed his mind in giving the DENR to the Left, due to alleged sensitive issues in mining operations in the country. “Mainit ako diyan kasi talagang sinira nila ang ating lupa,” Duterte said, referring to mining companies in the country. Communist rebels have been active in targeting big, abusive mining companies in their tactical raids, seizing weapons, burning equipment but sparing civilians. Duterte has confirmed that exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison will return to the country once he assumes the presidency. “Joma is coming home,” he said. “I (told him) I cannot give you the invitation now because I am not the president. And I cannot guarantee anything about the safety pass.” viagra sales rep “Maybe you can wait until the 30th of June, I will, by that time, I said, presidente ako, I can give you the letter to come over,” Duterte added. Reacting to reservations of some military officers on the possible peace deal with Communist rebels, Duterte advised them to just shut up. “You are military, supposed to shut up. Kapag sundalo ka, shut up. Lalo na kapag I’m the incoming commander-in-chief. I’m trying hard to find peace for my country tapos andiyan ka, napakababa,” an irked Duterte told the media.

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