30 March 2015

President Aquino signs resolution raising daily allowance of uniformed personnel
President Benigno S. Aquino III signed last Friday a joint resolution with Congress, increasing the daily subsistence allowance of uniformed personnel from P90 to P150 per day, effective January 1, 2015, Malacañang has announced.

In a press briefing at the Palace on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the current allowance is “no longer adequate to meet the basic needs of Filipino military soldiers and uniformed personnel… in view of the increasing prices of commodities”.

The higher allowance is for all officers, enlisted personnel, candidate soldiers, probationary second lieutenants, cadets and civilian active auxiliaries of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, commissioned and non-commissioned personnel of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, cadets of the Philippine National Police Academy, Philippine Coast Guard, including candidate coast guard men, and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA).

“The amount necessary to implement the provisions of the resolution shall be charged against the savings of the DND (Department of National Defense), DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications), DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), and DENR-NAMRIA (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) for the current year and/or the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund,” Lacierda said.In the succeeding years, the amount shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act, he added. PND (ag)

MILF members will not be integrated into National Police, Armed Forces, says government peace panel chair
Chairperson of the government peace panel, Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, on Monday clarified that members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not be integrated into the Philippine National Police or the Armed Forces of the Philippines, once the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed.

“Again, we would like to clarify, wala pong integration ng MILF sa police force or sa Armed Forces of the Philippines, unlike in the peace agreement with the MNLF, that is not there; and the MILF will not become the police force for the Bangsamoro,” she said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

At the briefing, Professor Ferrer urged the people to “go back to the text” to correct wrong interpretations on the contents of the BBL.

“What we are stressing is go back to the text, go back to the original source, kasi ‘pag ang lumalabas ay ang mga parang general perceptions, then you miss out all of these very, very important provisions in the draft law that basically repeats what is written in the Constitution or upholds what are written in the Constitution and effectively delimits the powers of the Bangsamoro government,” she pointed out.

On the supposed creation of a Commission on Audit under the Bangsamoro government, she cited that according to Article 5, Section 2 of the BBL, the body that will be created in terms of performing some auditing functions in the Bangsamoro shall not in any way prejudice the powers, authority and duty of the national COA.

“What probably has created a lot of confusion is to call that body a Bangsamoro Commission on Audit. So if the idea is to allow for an internal audit system that is within the Bangsamoro government, perhaps, one of the revisions or cleaning up that could be done is to remove any reference to that particular name, which has created much of this confusion,” she explained.

Ferrer also denied that the Bangsamoro government will have its own Commission on Election, noting that the BBL’s Article 7, Section 9 refers to a Bangsamoro electoral office, which shall be part of the COMELEC.

“The only specialization that this COMELEC office in the Bangsamoro will have, is in relation to the fact that it will have a different kind of an electoral system,” she said.On the Commission on Human Rights, Ferrer said the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) already has such a commission.

“So what is provided for here is that the Commission on Human Rights in the Bangsamoro shall have a coordinative and complementary relationship with the national Commission on Human Rights in carrying out its mandate, which is exactly what we have now in the ARMM, and that has been facilitated by a memorandum of agreement between the national Commission on Human Rights and the newly created the two- or three-year-old ARMM Commission on Human Rights,” she said.

“Maybe what is a little bit controversial here is that in the proposed law, there is this provision that provides for prosecutorial powers for the Bangsamoro Commission on Human Rights, which the current National Commission on Human Rights does not have,” she added.

Amid the confusion, Ferrer said she hopes that Congress would be able to provide a better version of the BBL.

“We are not saying that the way the law is drafted now is the best language already that there is, and we look up to the wisdom of Congress to be able to come up with a much better language, precisely to be able to avoid these kinds of misinterpretation,” Ferrer said. PND (ag)

No ‘over financing’ in Muslim Mindanao, says government peace panel
The government peace panel on Monday clarified that the administration is not “over financing” the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the proposed Bangsamoro government.

In a press briefing in Malacañang, member of the Government Peace Panel, Senen Bacani, said to correct this misconception, there is a need to differentiate the existing budget for ARMM from the incremental funding that will be introduced once the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed.

“Tungkol sa financing, kailangan i-klaro dito kung ano ang existing at saka ano ang incremental. Pag-usapan muna natin ang incremental funding because of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Nakasaad diyan merong special development fund. First year, P7 billion and then for the next five years P2 billion each, that is a total of P17 billion. Tapos ang incremental fund na Bangsamoro Transition Authority, P1 billion. Iyan lang talaga ang karagdagang gastos [sa] pagpasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law because the other expenses, nandiyan na ‘yan,” Bacani explained.

The ARMM meanwhile has an existing budget of P24.3 billion, which will get an additional P900 million for pensions, for a total of P25.2 billion, he said, noting that in 2016, a “block grant” of P26.8 billion will replace the annual subsidy to ARMM.

“When you say ‘block grant’, it gives you the impression na bago but it is just a new term. It is to replace the annual subsidy to the ARMM, which exists in the General Appropriations Act. Makikita sa General Appropriations Act for 2015, P24.3 billion, magdagdag ka ng P900 million because of the pension fund, that’s P25.2 billion. Papalitan ‘yan ng block grant in 2016 ng P26.8 billion,” he said.

Under the BBL, he said, the block grant is four percent of 60 percent of the net internal revenue collections.

“Ang base year niyan 2013. 2013, the estimated net BIR internal revenue collection is about P1.1 trillion—2.4 percent of that is P26.8 billion. Kapalit lang ‘yan ‘nung 24.3 plus 900, so 25.2,” said Bacani. “This is not additional. Projected na ito.”

“The current ARMM budget today will be translated into a block grant. It does not mean an increase. Ito talagang karagdagan: Special Development Fund, P7 billion and then P2 billion a year for five years starting in 2017. A one-time transition fund of P1 billion in 2016,” Bacani said, denying what critics refer to as a P75 billion additional funding for the Bangsamoro.

He noted that the incremental funding will be “subject to proper accountability and normal checks and balances and safeguards”.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, for his part, explained the three components of the ARMM budget: the salary of government employees (42 percent), maintenance and operating expenses (12 percent), and capital outlay (46 percent).

“Tatlong pinupuntahan at hindi kalakihan ‘yan. With or without the BBL ay ibibigay ‘yan. Now, it is called the ARMM government but in the future, if the bill passes, then it becomes the Bangsamoro government. Just to stress those two points,” said Abad. PND (ag)

President Aquino urges Filipinos to think of general interest before themselves
President Benigno S. Aquino III, in his Lenten message on Monday, has urged Filipinos to think of the country’s general interest before themselves.

Citing a Bible verse from John 3:16, which reads “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” the President said this serves as his guide in governance.

“Ito nga po ang nagsisilbi nating gabay sa pagtataguyod ng bansang nakatuon hindi lang sa kapakanan ng mga Pilipino ngayon kundi maging ng mga susunod pang henerasyon. Tinatawag tayong gawin ang lahat ng ating makakaya, upang maipamana ang isang lipunan na inuuna ang interes ng nakakarami bago ang sarili,” he said.

Like the peace and compassion to the needy that Pope Francis preached during his recent visit to Manila, he said his administration will continue to uplift the lives of Filipinos.

“Makakaasa po kayo: Sa tuwid na daan, maigting nating sinusulong ang pagtatakwil sa anumang anyo ng katiwalian upang ihatid ang agarang benepisyo sa ating mga kababayan,” President Aquino added. PND (ag)