Senators plan to increase Defense Department’s intel fund

admin   •   September 14, 2017   •   3729


MANILA, Philippines — The proposed intelligence fund of the Department of National Defense (DND) for 2018 is 1.5 billion pesos.

Some senators noticed that the amount would not suffice for the Defense Department’s efforts to fight terrorism, insurgency, as well as in gathering information, and for the purchase of equipment.

“That’s not enough because we really need to buy more intelligence information. It would not really suffice,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the additional amount of 500 million pesos for Project Tokhang is even bigger than the P250-million additional budget allotted to the DND.

With this, the senators plan to increase the intelligence fund of the Defense Department.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said that last year, they asked for a P530-million increase in their budget, but that they were given P250-million only.

“I think in the amount allocated to us, we only have an interest of P250-million over last year is always sufficient for us that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will use. We are not asking them to realign the budget. But it’s up to them,” said Lorenzana.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año clarified that they have not monitored any threat of destabilization against the Duterte administration contrary to what Senator Antonio Trillanes claims.

Based on information gathered by Sen. Trillanes, a retired general is spreading a report on the alleged recruitment of soldiers of another former soldier and now a known politician. The recruitment, Trillanes claims, is for the conduct of a coup d’etat against the Duterte administration.

“Our armed forces are professional enough and we have constantly, so far Sir we have not monitored any destabilization move of any politician or personalities,” said the official. — Lea Ylagan | UNTV News & Rescue

Lacson advises DND, UP to set boundaries after pact abrogation

Robie de Guzman   •   January 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday advised the Department of National Defense (DND) and University of the Philippines (UP) administration to come up with an agreement on boundaries to be observed following the termination of the 1989 deal banning the entry of state troops without prior coordination.

In a statement, Lacson said this is to “prevent the move from negatively affecting the culture of academic freedom in the state university.”

“Once the pact is terminated, what will the security sector do? We don’t know that yet. Probably they could come to an agreement that there are boundaries to be observed,” Lacson said.

He also warned the security sector that it might be “overstepping its bounds if the move is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms enjoyed by the UP community.”

“If it is designed to muzzle the academic and other freedoms being enjoyed by UP in general, you can describe it as that — overstepping,” he said.

The Department of National Defense unilaterally ended the 31-year-old agreement with UP, citing information that the New People’s Army is recruiting students inside UP campuses.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana explained that the deal is ‘obsolete’ and that UP has become “a breeding ground” and “a safe haven for enemies of the state.”

Lacson noted that during the Senate hearings on red-tagging, it was established that students are being recruited to the NPA not only inside UP but in other universities, to the point they are being killed in encounters.

For Lacson, a former police chief and current chair of the Senate committee on national defense, the DND’s move made sense as universities such as UP and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines have become a “hotbed of recruitment.”

“To join the militant organizations, that’s fine. You can protest all you want. But when you bear arms against government and you are very young, you are vulnerable, you are easily radicalized, and the hotbed of recruitment would be UP, PUP and other universities, then I think the security sector has studied all the factors involved before they acted on the matter,” he said.

But he added the termination of the pact will affect the culture of academic freedom in UP, whose community is known to be independent and involved in political issues.

“UP is known to be independent and they are involved in so many political issues. They enjoy so much freedom. And then all of a sudden you take it away from them, that really hurts,” he said.

“Definitely there will be outcry, protests and disagreements. Let’s see how it shapes up in the future,” he added.

Lorenzana earlier called on the UP community to “work together to protect our students from extremism and destructive armed struggle.”

Senators express dismay over Roque’s vaccine remark

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Several Senators have expressed dismay over Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s remark on why Filipinos should not be picky with the COVID-19 vaccine brand they will receive.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, in a statement, said it is not fair for Filipinos to not be able to choose their vaccines made available by the government. Lacson added he would not pick a vaccine with 50% against other brands with 79% efficacy.

“Instead of building people’s confidence by starting with a higher efficacy vaccine and accomplish its intended purpose, to tell them they can’t be choosy is definitely not a smart information campaign to promote mass inoculation,” he said.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan also said the Palace should stop with the remarks since it can only lessen the trust of Filipinos on vaccines

Itong mga bitiw na salita ng spokesperson tungkol sa bakuna sa totoo lang ay nakakadagdag sa kawalan ng tiwala sa bakuna ng taumbayan. Hindi nakakatulong (The spokesperson’s words about the vaccine only adds to the distrust on vaccines. It is not helping),” Pangilinan said.

In a press briefing on Monday (January 11), Roque said the public should not be ‘choosy’ with the COVID-19 vaccines they would receive from the government.

Totoo po, mayroon tayong lahat na karapatan para sa mabuting kalusugan pero hindi naman po pwede na pihikan dahil napakaraming Pilipino na dapat turukan (It is true that we have the right for better health but we cannot be picky because a lot of Filipinos need to be vaccinated),” Roque said.

Senator Grace Poe reiterated that it is the Filipinos’ right to choose which vaccine brand they want to receive.

“The Filipino people have every right to choose which vaccine to take, it is their money the government is spending to procure the precious doses,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing Czar Vince Dizon said the government is not favoring a specific country for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

Wala po tayong policy na pinapaboran ang isang vaccine o isang bansa. Lahat po ng vaccines na safe and effective ay ipu-pursue ng national government, vaccine czar, at vaccine cluster (There is no policy that favors a vaccine or country. All safe and effective vaccines are being pusued by the national government, vaccine czar, and vaccine cluster),” he said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)


Palace expects criticism if gov’t execs get first COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   December 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Groups critical of the Duterte administration will likely blast the government should top officials get to be the first recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said government officials who are willing to get the vaccine first to serve as an example to the public are welcome, but stressed that it is up to the officials themselves.

“Tandaan ninyo, pag nangyari yan, ang oposisyon sasabihin, mayroong VIP treatment,” Roque said as he recalled allegations of preferential treatment for officials who were tested for COVID-19 despite the limited availability of test kits in the country.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go earlier challenged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and government vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to be the first ones to get inoculated to show the public that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

Duque earlier said he is willing to do it and even urged fellow Cabinet members to do the same.

Roque also said that even President Rodrigo Duterte is prepared to get injected once a COVID-19 vaccine have been approved for emergency use by local regulators.

The Philippine government is looking to roll out its COVID-19 immunization program in 2021 or 2022, and to administer it to at least 70 million Filipinos within three to five years.

Malacañang said that frontline health workers will be the first priority in the vaccine distribution followed by senior citizens, poor Filipinos and uniformed personnel.

Areas with high cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) such as Metro Manila, Davao, and Cebu will be prioritized in the distribution of the vaccines once it becomes available. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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