People's Journal

People's Journal

PH gets $25M to fight wildlife smuggling

THE United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided the Philippines $25million (P1.333 billion) to stop illegal trade of wildlife in the Philippines.

This project is being implemented with the participation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Conservation International and other law enforcement agencies.

The USAID, the US Embassy said, convened partners from law enforcement agencies and environmental organizations for a forum on stamping out illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines.

The Philippines is a transit hub for illegal trade routes, particularly for ivory and pangolin.

Hunting and poaching upsets the ecology of forest grounds and agricultural lands, the Embassy said.

It added wildlife trafficking also fuels corruption and crime, undermining opportunities for sustainable and inclusive growth.

At the forum, USAID Philippines General Development Officer Robert Pierce called for a united front to counter poaching, trafficking, and illegal trade of wildlife species and their byproducts.

“USAID sees illegal wildlife trade not only as a threat to the environment, but also as a threat to sustainable development,” Pierce said.

“While the fight to end wildlife trafficking may prove to be challenging, our partnership with the national and local governments has made significant gains to enforce environmental and wildlife laws.”

Through a five-year, $25-million Protect Wildlife project, USAID has been working with the DENR and enforcement partners in trafficking hotspots to boost the knowledge and skills of environmental and wildlife law enforcement officials.

Through this project, USAID has trained over 400 men and women, including forest guards, fish wardens, and indigenous people, to identify and address environmental and wildlife crimes through a stronger and more coordinated response.

The project has also been working to curb the demand for wildlife projects by educating communities about biodiversity.

“We have to think ahead and act together because illegal wildlife traffickers have also been evolving and adapting innovative and creative ways to elude and escape detection, arrest and prosecution,” concluded DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu.

USAID is the lead U.S. government agency for international development and disaster assistance.

In the Philippines, USAID partners with the national government to build a more stable, prosperous, and well-governed nation.

Can he get away?

Is he the one bound to evade doing time behind bars.

We pose the question because we sent two previous Presidents behind bars for high crimes and other major offenses.

Historically, retired Presidents enjoy pensioned lifestyle after serving there full terms.

They just make regular speeches.

Attend occasional state functions, and write their memoirs.

However our immediate past two Presidents spent some time in detention before getting out to seek and win elective positions.

But what fate awaits former president Benigno Aquino?

While agreeing with the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to indict former President and former Budget Secretary Butch Abad for alleged usurpation of powers in connection with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) controversy, Senator Richard J. Gordon said they could have been indicted for malversation and graft and corruption.

"As chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I agree with the Ombudsman that there was usurpation. But, though I don't know all the facts yet, I would have chosen the more stringent offenses which are graft and corruption and malversation. They were even guilty of malversation, technical malversation. Yung sa malversation, absorbed na ang usurpation doon e. In order to commit malversation, they usurped the powers of Congress," he said when asked in an interview over the radio.

Gordon explained that it amounts to technical malversation because Aquino and Abad tampered with the appropriations by declaring it as savings so they could spend the fund somewhere else, deliberately substituting their judgement for the judgement of Congress.

"Eto ang purpose ng Kongreso, co-equal branch of government, and then they cavalierly declare savings so they can spend the money for a purpose for which it was not intended for. Imagine, declaring savings in the middle of the year. In any language, savings can only be declared at the end of the year. They thought nobody could question them. Nakikita mo, nilulusot talaga nila. They thought they could get away with it," he said.

The lawmaker, who is also the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, likewise pointed out that the fact that they have committed such act repeatedly - in the procurement of P3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine and misuse of P10.6-billion PhilHealth funds allotted for senior citizens, constitute an aggravating circumstance.

"It goes into habit, which is why they should file a bigger case. Because in Dengvaxia they did the same, they transferred money. Then in the PhilHealth case, again they transferred money for purposes other than what it was intended for. So may habit. Pag may habit, that's considered aggravating," he said.

In procuring the dengue vaccine, the Aquino administration ostensibly augmented the budget for the Department of Health's Expanded Program for Immunization from the department's supposed savings from its Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund. But the amount for the supposed augmentation, which was an exception under the DAP law, was bigger than the total budget for all the 11 diseases under the EPI.

In the misuse of PhilHealth funds, on the other hand, former PhilHealth chief Alexander Padilla wrote to the Department of Budget to allow them to use P10.6-B unprogrammed appropriations for the construction of barangay health stations.

Digong to ex-mayor: ‘I will really kill you!’

“PATAYIN talaga kita.”

President Rodrigo Duterte thus reiterated his threat to kill former Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog if he would return to the country even after getting implicated in the illegal drug trade.

Duterte repeated the threat while in Iloilo City, his first visit to the Western Visayas city since he assumed the presidency in June 2016.

“Saan na ‘yung pinalitan mo mayor? Saan ba si mayor? Hanapin ko sa kanila. Magbalik ka dito, ‘t— ina, patayin talaga kita,” Duterte said in a speech before a gathering of the country’s councilors.

Duterte warned mayors with ties to illegal drugs to “better shape up.”

“Huwag mong patayin ‘yung mga pulis na ayaw sumama sa raket mo kasi ‘pag ginalaw mo ‘yung pulis ginagawa mong military, individually, they are helpless,” Duterte said.

“Pero kung ang gobyerno na ang kalaban mo p— ina patay ka talaga,” he added,

Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, in March said the President’s words against Mabilog should not be taken literally.

Roque said the President only wanted to emphasize that all those who committed crimes should be punished.

Mabilog was one of the local officials Duterte has linked to illegal drugs, an accusation the mayor has repeatedly denied.

He left the country on August 30 last year for an official trip to Japan and Malaysia, and filed for sick leave to seek medical treatment abroad in September.

A month later, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed him from the service over allegations of unexplained wealth.

Church, priests reassured

“HINDI ko kayang magpatay ng pari. I respect the Church,” President Rodrigo Duterte said as he refuted allegations that his government has been inciting violence on priests, who he has roundly criticized for alleged misdeeds.

Duterte, in a rare conciliatory tone towards the Catholic church, said he had not adopted a policy of hatred against members of the clergy.

“Wala kaming policy na galit kami sa pari. Nothing of that sort. As a matter of fact nirerespeto ko ‘yung Simbahan. Ang akin lang mahinto lang itong a few bishops na medyo ‘yung sabi na nili-link nila ang gobyerno [to the killings of priests],” the President told a gathering of the Philippine Councilors League in Iloilo City.

“Sa totoo lang, hindi ko kayang magpatay ng pari, pati babae, bata,” he added.

Critics said Duterte’s harsh words directed at priests may have emboldened the killers of clergymen, three of them gunned down in the last six months.

Duterte denied persecuting priests and did not discount the possibility that some of them were killed for their advocacy.

The President also repeated his remark that he did not release details of the death of Fr. Mark Ventura because it would not look good for the Catholic Church.

Duterte earlier presented to the public a matrix to show that Ventura, an anti-mining advocate, could have been killed because of his alleged illicit affairs with women.

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