9 January 2020
MASSIVE REPATRIATION NOT NECESSARY AS US, IRAN STEP BACK FROM WAR: EX-LABOR
MANILA - A massive repatriation of Filipino migrant workers in Iraq may not
be needed as the US pulled back from the brink of war with Iran early
Thursday, a former labor official said.
The Philippines, however, needs to update its contingency plans in areas of
unrest in the Middle East, particularly Iraq, according to Susan Ople, a
former labor undersecretary and head of non-profit overseas Filipino workers
advocate group Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
"A massive repatriation may not be necessary but it’s also good for the
crisis committee of the Palace, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment),
DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to keep abreast of what’s going on," she
told ANC's Early Edition.
"This can be a good opportunity... to update existing contingency plans,
develop a network of influencers in the community that embassies can tap in
case a crisis does erupt, and for our crisis managers to touch base with the
leaders of these host government."
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq earlier raised the highest crisis alert level
there, which mandates the evacuation of some 1,600 Filipinos.
The military said it would send its "biggest aircraft and ships" to help in
Sending these, however, may not be necessary as it would not be "efficient"
because Iraq's airport is still functioning, according to Ople.
"Second, if it's deemed as military operation, maybe this can also put our
embassy there in a dilemma of sorts. I would defer to the charge d’affaires
in Baghdad on how to explain this to the host government," she said.
"But yes, we do need precision decision planning, invaluable inputs of our
military in putting together contingency plans. But perhaps on the actual
repatriation, we would have to rely still on our embassy personnel."
Authorities will consult Filipinos on whether they want to come home to the
Philippines or evacuate in neighboring Middle East states as some might have
families that they cannot uproot or jobs they wish to return to, according
to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
Ople said this would be "a more convenient way" of keeping OFWs safe but it
would depend on their skills and the willingness of employers to accept
"That may be a more attractive option for some of these workers," she said.
MILLIONS THRONG BLACK NAZARENE AS 'TRASLACION' OFF TO 'FASTEST' START
MANILA — Throngs of barefoot devotees carried an image of a black Jesus
Christ in downtown Manila on Thursday, in what is shaping up to be the
fastest edition of the annual procession that is among the world's most
spectacular displays of Catholic zeal, authorities said.
Police led the "Traslacion" for the first time and as of early Thursday
morning the 400-year-old Black Nazarene was at Ayala Bridge in 4 hours, when
last year, it reached a nearby area past noon, said Brig. Gen. Bernard
Banac, spokesman of the Philippine National Police.
The Catholic faithful, waving white handkerchiefs and shouting "viva!" (long
live), lined the streets of Manila from the Quirino Grandstand along Manila
Bay to Quiapo Church hoping to touch or catch a glimpse of the image.
Some 2.3 million people were following the procession as of 9:27 a.m.,
according to the office of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.
"More than the fastest, we wanted it to be the safest," Moreno told ABS-CBN
The faster start to the procession was "unprecedented," Banac said in a
separate interview with ABS-CBN News.
Many devotees wept in joy as the Black Nazarene left the Quirino Grandstand,
said Quiapo Church vicar Fr. Douglas Badong. Some devotees, however, shoved
policemen who barred them from approaching the procession head-on, ABS-CBN
News footage showed.
"Ito iyong isang kultura ng pagpapahayag ng pananampalataya ng mga deboto.
Sa tingin ko, hindi naman iyong maapektuhan... Hindi sukatan iyong bilis
niya," he said.
As of 8 a.m., some 300 devotees required blood pressure monitoring, 3
fainted and 2 were brought to the hospital, said the Philippine Red Cross.
Organizers hope the Black Nazarene can be brought back to Quiapo Church by 6
p.m., before more devotees get off work, Badong said.
"Hopefully, ito na nga ang magiging template sa mga susunod na taon," said
the PNP's Banac.
Moreno said there was "order and discipline" in this year's Traslacion.
"It has to be that way kasi hindi naman kailangan sarili natin ang iisipin
natin... Sana isipin din natin ang bilin ni Jesus, pagmalasakitan mo ang
kapwa mo kasi yun naman ay para sa kapakanan ng pangkalahatan," he said.
Cellphone signals jammed for the event will be restored after a security
assessment, said Banac.
VATICAN-BOUND CARDINAL TAGLE PRAYS FOR PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST
MANILA — Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle called on the
faithful to pray for peace in the Middle East and for the safety of
Filipinos in the region as tensions escalate between the United States and
At a midnight mass for this year’s feast of the Black Nazarene, Tagle
expressed hope that the brewing conflict in the Gulf region would not lead
“Ating alalahanin na sa ilang bahagi ng mundo ay nakaamba ang panganib ng
karahasan. Harinawa, huwag itong umuwi sa giyera, sa digmaan,” Tagle began
He added: “Ipanalangin natin na maging ligtas ang ating mga kapwa sa Middle
East, humupa ang mga pagnanais na sirain ang kapwa, humupa ang mga hangarin
na maghiganti, at ipanalangin ang mga kapwa Pilipino at kanilang mga pamilya
dito na nangangamba.”
Tagle then asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence.
Over 1.2 million Filipinos work in the Middle East, who are at risk of being
affected by the escalating conflict. This, after a US airstrike killed top
Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.
Thursday’s mass was seen as Tagle’s last as Manila top prelate, a post he
has held for eight years. He is set to move to Vatican as prefect of the
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Feast of the Black Nazarene, which culminates in the annual procession
called Traslacion, is expected to draw millions of Catholic faithful.
DUTERTE SWEARS IN NEW SC JUSTICE
MANILA — President Duterte yesterday swore in Court of Appeals Justice
Samuel Gaerlan as a member of the Supreme Court (SC).
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Gaerlan completes the 15-member
A graduate of San Beda College of Law and a professor at the Pamantasan ng
Lungsod ng Maynila, Gaerlan replaces Diosdado Peralta who was named Chief
Justice in October, Malacañang said.
Gaerlan is the sixth Bedan to be appointed by Duterte to the SC.
He will turn 70 years old on Dec. 19, 2028. The mandatory retirement age for
a justice is 70.Duterte, who also finished his law studies in San Beda,
swore in several other government officials yesterday, where he emphasized
his policy against corruption.
“I am not threatening, I am just saying to avoid corruption,” he said,
adding that he has the wherewithals to know if one is into corrupt
“My God, do (things) legally,” the President said. “I mean well, I trust
you. I am thanking you for joining the government, lending your expertise...
to the people.”
The Chief Executive said he only wants to do what is best for the Filipino
people while he still can.
ROBREDO DOWNPLAYS DUTERTE’S REMARK ON HER DRUG WAR ASSESSMENT
MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo shrugged off yesterday President
Duterte’s remark that she is a “colossal blunder” after she called the
government’s anti-illegal drug campaign a “massive failure.”
“Ever since, I don’t respond to insults. I only respond if their facts are
fake and have no basis. But if it’s about an impression on me, it’s his
(Duterte’s) right to think of me like that. I won’t defend myself because
the media that followed me in my 18 days in ICAD will prove that I do my
work,” she said at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum.
Robredo also defended her report and insisted that all the data related to
the drug war came from government agencies, including the Philippine
“We didn’t invent our data,” Robredo stressed.
Robredo said she was not surprised by the barrage of criticisms from
administration officials and Duterte’s allies following the release of her
report on the government’s drug war.
On Wednesday, Duterde said Robredo was a “colossal blunder” and should
revisit her report.
“I knew that once I release the report they will gang up on me, and the
attacks will be personal,” she said. “But I have to report even if they
don’t want to hear it,” she added.
The Vice President also disagreed that the country is on the verge of
becoming a narco state.
“It’s (illegal drugs) a big problem but not insurmountable. We’re not a
narco state yet. If you say narco state, the country is run by illegal
drugs,” she said.
PNP DARED TO REFUTE ROBREDO’S DRUG WAR ASSESSMENT
MANILA — Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday
challenged policemen to keep pressing forward in the war on illegal drugs to
refute Vice President’s Leni Robredo’s assessment that the anti-drug
campaign is a failure.
According to Año, police officers should not be affected by Robredo’s
findings on the drug war, which he said defies logic.
“I think it’s more of a challenge to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to
refute that particular comment and statement of Vice President Robredo,” he
told reporters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
He enumerated the accomplishments of the PNP to prove that the anti-drug
campaign is not a failure, among these are the arrest of 300,000 drug
pushers and surrender of about 1.5 million peddlers and users since July
The government said at least 5,552 drug suspects were killed in alleged
shootouts with lawmen in the past three years.
PHILIPPINES SEEKS NEW HOSTS FOR MIDEAST OFWS IN CASE OF REPATRIATION
MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday it would
"accelerate" negotiations with countries that could serve as alternative
destinations for Filipino workers in the Middle East in case they are forced
to return home.
Overseas Filipino workers, in case of repatriation, will be profiled to
match their skills with available jobs in Japan, China, Russia, Canada and
Israel, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told ANC’s Headstart.
"We just have to accelerate our negotiations with those countries. In the
meantime we are profiling the OFWs na marerepatriate natin para alam natin
kung saan natin sila dadalahin (so that we will know where to send them),”
A P100 million budget allotted for food and medicine for OFWs in the Middle
East was set for the evacuation, Bello said.
The Department of Labor and Employment is working with the Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI) in arranging livelihood programs to returning OFWs
who wish to stay in the country for good, he said.
There are over 1,000 OFWs in Iran, 2,291 in Iraq and 33,234 in Lebanon, DOLE
data showed. Some 2,174,000 Filipinos are currently in the Middle East,
DFA HIRES TOP-NOTCH LAWYER FOR SLAIN OFW IN KUWAIT
MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs has commissioned a top-notch
criminal lawyer in Kuwait to pursue a case against the employers of Filipina
household worker Jeanelyn Villavende.
"An eye for an eye, a life for a life," the DFA said in a statement.
The remains of the slain Filipina worker arrived in the country Wednesday
Villavende's employer and his wife, the alleged killers of the Filipina
worker, are currently detained in Kuwait.
Aside from providing aid in the repatriation of the remains of Villavende,
the DFA has also provided financial assistance worth P100,000 to her
The additional financial assistance would be for funeral expenses.
"The DFA will continue to provide legal and other appropriate assistance on
this until justice is served and perpetrators are punished," the agency
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier summoned Kuwaiti
Ambassador Saleh Ahmad to convey the Philippines' outrage over the lack of
protection of Filipino workers in the Gulf nation.
In a tweet last week, the country's top diplomat said he had asked for the
life of Villavende's killer.
"All I asked for is the life of the taker for the life taken. And I don't
care whose life that is," he said.
‘IF YOU WANT TO GET RICH, PLANT ONIONS’
BAYAMBANG, Pangasinan — Farmers in this province’s onion capital are
benefiting from the high price of the produce due to low supply in the
Onion farmers here are now “millionaires” because of the price spike, as red
onions, with a farmgate price of P120 a kilo, are sold in the market at
P200, Artemio Buezon, municipal agriculturist, told The STAR yesterday.
Buezon said this has been going on for a month and is expected to extend up
to next month.
“They say if you want to get rich, plant onions,” he said, adding those who
benefit from the high price are the farmers who planted early, or from
September to October last year.
Bayambang produces about 23 metric tons of red onions yearly.
Meanwhile, the farmgate price of white onions is P60 per kilo and sold in
the market at P120.
The volume of production for white onions is almost the same as red onions,
About 1,500 hectares of property in the town are planted with red onions and
80 hectares with white onions.
One hectare of onion produces 15,000 kilos.
Among the villages in Bayambang with the highest onion production are
Manambong Sur, Manambong Norte, Manambong Parte, Amancosiling Sur,
Amancosiling Norte, San Gabriel and Buayaen.
The town has about 1,000 onion farmers.
Buezon said that unlike previous years, this year’s produce was not infested
with army worms.
He said the government should not import red onions yet as local supply is
The government is planning to import about 35,000 metric tons of red onions
following the price hike of the commodity due to low supply in the market.
Onion farmers store their extra produce in cold storage when price is low in
order not to affect their profit.
The local government provides onion seeds to farmers, especially during pest
infestation or calamities. It also provides farmers with proper training to
upgrade theirknowledge on crop production.
HOW POWERFUL IS THE PHILIPPINE PASSPORT IN 2020?
MANILA — As we step into the 2020s, the Philippine passport has moved one
spot higher but remains in the lower half of the index that measures the
world’s most travel friendly passports.
Philippine passport holders can now visit 67 destinations visa-free, making
the Philippine passport 76th “most powerful” in the world out of 199
countries on the latest Henley & Partners Passport Index.
The Philippines shares the spot with Azerbaijan.
Henley Passport Index ranks world’s passports according to the number of
destinations their holders can access without prior visa. It ranks passports
based on data from the International Air Transport Association.
Behind SEA peers
While the country moved up one notch, the Philippines still lagged behind
some of its ASEAN neighbors.
Singapore placed second in the leaderboard, offering visa-free or
visa-on-arrival access to 190 destinations around the globe.
Malaysia (13th), Brunei (23rd), Thailand (65th) and Indonesia (72nd) fared
better on the rankings.
Asian countries get top spots
While the United States and the United Kingdom continued their downward
trajectory on the passport index in 2020, Asian countries showed their
dominance when it comes to passport power.
Japan secured the top spot on the rankings for the third consecutive year.
Japan passport holders are able to access 191 destinations without having to
obtain a visa in advance.
South Korea tied with Germany in third place, giving their passport holders
visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 189 destinations worldwide.
“Asian countries’ dominance of the top spots is a clear argument for the
benefits of open-door policies and the introduction of mutually beneficial
trade agreements,” Christian Kaenlin, Henley & Partners chair, said.
Afghanistan remains at the bottom of the index, with its citizens only able
to visit a mere 26 destinations visa-free.
P955 MILLION: MMFF 2019 RELEASES OFFICIAL GROSS, BOX-OFFICE WINNERS
MANILA — The 2019 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) grossed nearly a billion
after its two-week run since Christmas Day, its executive committee
announced on Wednesday.
The 45th edition of the annual festival reached P955 million in total ticket
sales, 4.5% short of the P1-billion target.
A bulk of the earnings were from four of the eight official entries that led
the box-office race.
They are, in no particular order: Viva Films’ “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” Star
Cinema and Viva Films’ “The Mall, the Merrier,” CCM Productions’ “3pol
Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon!”, and APT Entertainment’s “Mission Unstapabol: The
With the exception of “Miracle” lead actor Aga Muhlach, the stars of the
those four films — Vice Ganda, Coco Martin, and Vic Sotto, respectively —
are MMFF staples.
Runaway winner “Mindanao,” starring Judy Ann Santos and directed by
Brillante Mendoza, was a notable exception from the top four grossers.
The rankings of the other participating entries — the horror film “Sunod,”
the romance flick “Write About Love,” and the historical drama “Culion” —
were also not detailed.
The 2018 MMFF remains its most successful edition in terms of box-office
gross with P1.060 billion.
The committee pointed out the closure of cinemas in Visayas and Mindanao due
to Typhoon Ursula and the recent earthquake, in explaining the festival
falling short of reaching the P1-billion mark in 2019.
NBA SCORES JAN 7
1 2 3 4 T
team logo Trail Blazers 16-22 15 31 23 32 101
team logo Raptors 24-13 24 32 22 21 99
SCORING LEADERSC. Anthony POR
28 PTS, 7 REB, 1 AST
K. Lowry TOR
24 PTS, 4 REB, 10 AST
1 2 3 4 T
team logo Pistons 14-24 27 27 30 31 115
team logo Cavaliers 10-27 29 38 28 18 113
SCORING LEADERSD. Rose DET
24 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST
K. Love CLE
30 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST
1 2 3 4 OT T
team logo Thunder 21-16 27 22 25 27 10 111
team logo Nets 16-20 23 25 29 24 2 103
SCORING LEADERSC. Paul OKC
28 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST
T. Waller-Prince BKN
21 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST
1 2 3 4 T
team logo Timberwolves 14-22 32 24 28 28 112
team logo Grizzlies 16-22 27 24 31 37 119
J. Culver MIN
24 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST
D. Brooks MEM
28 PTS, 3 REB, 0 AST
1 2 3 4 T
team logo Kings 15-23 26 27 25 36 114
team logo Suns 14-23 29 24 34 16 103
D. Fox SAC
27 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST
D. Booker PHO
34 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST
1 2 3 4 T
team logo Knicks 10-27 21 24 25 17 87
team logo Lakers 30-7 26 36 23 32 117
SCORING LEADERSR. Barrett NY
19 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST
L. James LAL
31 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST