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People's Journal

People's Journal

Foreigners in pro-gov’t rallies will be deported

MALACAÑANG yesterday made it clear foreigners who will join pro-government rallies will also be deported but denied there is a crackdown on foreign activists like Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox who was briefly detained by the Bureau of Immigration.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Bureau of Immigration (BI) order banning partisan political activity by foreigners does not distinguish whether one is a supporter or a critic.

“That would still be applied [to foreigners joining pro-government rallies] because it does not distinguish. The law does not distinguish [and] enforcement agencies should not. As I said it might seem harsh but such is the law,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“Wala pong crackdown. ‘Yan lang po ang batas,” he said.

On Monday, immigration agents arrested the 71-year-old Fox at her home in Quezon City for alleged “illegal political activities” in the country. She was released after her lawyer presented a valid missionary visa and her passport.

On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that it was he who ordered Fox investigated for supposedly disorderly conduct.

Fox has been in the country for 26 years, working with groups looking after the interests of peasants and indigenous peoples.

Duterte said that it was up to him—not Congress nor the Supreme Court—who would be allowed into the country and who would be made to leave.

Elevating CHR

Who says the Duterte administration does not put a premium on human rights?

The fact is, it is placing HR on a higher policy plane than any other administration before it.

A presidential Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked to draft amendments to the constitution has proposed that the Commission on Human Rights be elevated to a constitutionally independent body to vest it with a stronger mantle of protection.

The proposal should put to rest accusations that the administration is not protective of HR while being relentless in its war on illegal drugs

The ConCom tasked by President Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution voted to raise the CHR to the status of an independent constitutional commission sans prosecutorial powers.

Sixteen ConCom members voted in favor of raising the proposal with only one member, lawyer and retired general Ferdinand Bocobo, voting against.

Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. abstained because he has a relative who is a member of the CHR.

The voting came after the ConCom proposed to expand the coverage of the CHR's mandate and jurisdiction to include not just state actors but also non-state or private actors.

In a statement sent to the media, the ConCom said that raising the CHR to the level of a constitutional body would involve strengthening its investigative powers and expanding membership to include representatives from the marginalized sector, indigenous peoples, and environmental advocates, among others.

Former Chief Justice and ConCom chairperson Reynato Puno said that this move is consistent with the body’s desire to expand its coverage to include the environmental and socioeconomic rights, which are to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and to include non-state actors as well in its jurisdiction.

This development is also intended to enhance the CHR’s fiscal autonomy.

However, it does not include the grant of prosecutorial powers, which the CHR is not keen on having.

Last April 3, CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, in his presentation before the ConCom body, explained that giving the CHR prosecutorial powers may create complication as the CHR is not an executive body.

Prosecution is one of the primordial executive functions.

“To give the CHR that function may create a complication because if it were to serve as a watchdog on the state duty with respect to human rights and it is given powers to prosecute human rights violations, then the question is who will watch the watchdog,” Gascon was quoted as saying.

Gascon, however, said that the CHR was "supportive of any measure that will ensure that the CHR has a mandate to also look into the violations made by non-state actors.

In a radio interview last April 7, Puno said that the expansion of the mandate of the CHR is expected to correct the misconception that only state actors violate human rights.

WB sees Ph sustaining 6.7% growth

The World Bank expects the Philippines to sustain stable economic growth this year and the next, noting the country should invest more in infrastructure and human capital to achieve further growth.

In its East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released on Thursday, the Bank said the Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to maintain its growth rate at 6.7 percent in 2018 and 2019.

“The country is expected to benefit from the global recovery during 2018,” it said.

However, the Bank said export growth is expected to level off this year compared to its strong expansion in 2017, while imports are projected to remain elevated due to a high demand for intermediate and capital goods.

The outlook report noted that medium-term growth prospects depend on the sustained pick up in both public and private investment.

“Investment growth hinges on the government’s ability to effectively and timely implement the Build, Build, Build public investment program,” it said.

The Duterte administration has earmarked PHP8-trillion infrastructure investment until 2022 to boost economic growth.

Apart from infrastructure, the Bank said sustained investment in human capital such as in education, skills and health, can also “push the economy beyond its current potential output.”

“The sustained overall growth would support the continuous poverty reduction,” it added.

2018 internal revenue goal within reach

Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay is optimistic the agency will hit its Php2.039 trillion 2018 collections target due to the adoption of several reforms like the easier filing of Income Tax Returns (ITR).

On Monday, Dulay personally went to various revenue offices in Metro Manila, beginning with the Revenue Region No. 7 office located at the top floor of Fisher Mall at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.

BIR has extended until Monday this week the deadline for ITR filing after April 15 fell on a Sunday. Dulay said it is easier to file ITR now after the agency has improved the protocol for electronic filing (e-filing) and made this available 24/7.

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