Today's Headlines in the Philippines

Joseph Scott PembertonAFP steps up security at Pemberton detention facility
MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has increased security around the US-controlled facility where Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is detained for the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude. More Filipino soldiers are guarding the two gated entrances leading to the compound of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) at Camp Aguinaldo, where the refurbished 20-foot shipping container housing Pemberton is located. Another team of soldiers, apparently acting as reserve security force, is also manning their post in a nearby shaded area in the facility. Since Thursday night, there were monitored activities of Filipino and US military personnel inside and outside the JUSMAG facility.

House fails to vote on Noy’s impeachment raps
MANILA, Philippines - The moves to impeach President Aquino are still hanging in the air, with the House of Representatives adjourning its session last Wednesday without finally dismissing the three complaints against him. The House failed to vote on the justice committee recommendation to throw out the complaints filed by Aquino’s critics and endorsed by militant party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc. The same group doggedly tried to remove then President Arroyo through the only legal means to do so by filing annual impeachment cases against her. Arroyo’s allies consistently threw out the complaints. Last Sept. 2, the justice committee, chaired by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who belongs to the ruling Liberal Party, voted overwhelmingly to dismiss the three complaints against Aquino.

Panfilo LacsonPanfilo Lacson to resign as rehab czar by Feb. 2015
Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery chief Panfilo Lacson is set to resign from his Cabinet post by February next year, as soon as his office completes the transfer of its post-Yolanda reconstruction and rehabilitation duties to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. In an interview on Sunday over dzBB, Lacson said he feels OPARR has already done its job of coordinating with other agencies regarding reconstruction efforts in areas hit by super Typhoon Yolanda. Also, he said he has submitted his letter of irrevocable resignation, which may take effect either on February 10 or mid-February at the latest, and a proposal for the transfer of OPARR’s duties to President Benigno Aquino III. But he admitted he has yet to talk to the President about his plan to quit.

Palace welcomes PHL inclusion in EU tariff preferences list
Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the Philippines’ admission to the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), as it could add 611.8 million euros in exports to the EU and could create over 200,000 jobs. The Philippines' inclusion would allow the country to export about 6,274 tariff lines under zero duties, starting at least by Christmas Day, a Palace statement said. "We thank the EU for allowing us to have a greater opportunity for trade and exchange with them. And we see this as a positive development and, again, an affirmation of the changes that have been happening in the country,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on government-run dzRB radio. The Philippines was the 14th country, and the only one in Southeast Asia, to be admitted to the GSP+.

Lee ChulwonSouth Koreans leaving behind a grateful nation
PALO, Leyte—A few days before Christmas last year, Col. Lee Chulwon was preparing for the holidays with his family in his native Seoul. But instead of spending the holidays with his family, Lee, on orders from his government, embarked on South Korea’s largest peacetime humanitarian mission ever: help its close ally the Philippines recover from the destruction brought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan). Like the good soldier that he is, Lee bid his family goodbye, packed his bags and found himself surveying the near apocalyptic wasteland that was Tacloban City, this town and nearby Tanauan town where more than 7,000 perished during the storm. As Filipinos faced their bleakest Christmas in years, 540 South Korean troops led by Lee who arrived in two six-month deployments prepared for South Korea’s biggest and longest international campaign that came in the wake of history’s strongest storm ever to hit land.

After 6 deferments, decision on Chuang kidnap-slay case set on Monday
MANILA, Philippines—Will justice finally be served for the families of a five-year-old girl and her nanny who were killed in a kidnapping case 14 years ago? After being reset six times, the promulgation of judgment is set Monday, December 22, on the kidnapping and double homicide case against two men accused of killing Eunice Kaye Chuang and her then 27-year-old nanny Jovita Montecino. Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 5 Judge Emily San Gaspar-Gito is expected to issue the decision on the kidnap-slay case that happened in 2000. Last Friday, the promulgation of judgment on the Chuang case was postponed after Manila RTC Branch 21 Acting Presiding Judge Mona Lisa Tiongson-Tabora rescheduled it on Monday in order to attend to court duties in Makati City. The promulgation was postponed six times: October 2012, January 2013, May 20, May 30 and June 27 in 2014.

Janette GarinJanette Garin stays as acting DOH chief
MANILA, Philippines - Acting Secretary Janette Garin will remain at the helm of the Department of Health with the resignation of Enrique Ona, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said over radio dzRB President Aquino would continue to assess the reports involving Ona’s cases. But Lacierda refused to give details, including why exactly the health chief resigned and why the Chief Executive readily accepted his resignation. Aquino has also not yet decided on the permanent replacement for Ona, he said. “What happens is we keep the status quo,” Lacierda said. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said it was Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. who informed Ona of the President’s acceptance of his resignation on Friday.

What’s with ‘Huwag kang magnakaw’ shirts?
It’s not just a shirt; it’s a way to help reform a culture that tolerates stealing as part of life. That is the aim of a shirt with the words “VII. Huwag kang magnakaw,” which was cited by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at the first “Simbang Gabi” mass last week. A group of young parishioners wearing the shirts were asked to go around the church “as a way to remind mass-goers not to steal.” The shirt, which can be viewed in social networking sites, was launched by the Adamson University (AdU) last September. Fr. Atilano “Nonong” Fajardo, AdU Integrated Community and Extension Services (ICES) director and Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) head of the Ministry for Public Affairs, told the Manila Bulletin that the shirt is a campaign based on the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shall not steal.”

Leila de LimaBring NBP to way it should be—De Lima
MANILA, Philippines—Keep the prisons the way they are supposed to be. This was Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s marching orders to the newly appointed officers in charge (OIC) at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the country’s main prison facility which last week yielded a shocking haul of contraband, from drugs, firearms and cash to sex dolls and luxury comforts. De Lima, who led two successive raids into the Muntinlupa facility’s maximum security compound last week, yesterday ordered the new NBP leadership to enforce stricter security and to watch their people to make sure they did their jobs. “Strictly enforce prison rules and regulations to avert the entry of any and all contraband and the commission of prison-based anomalies,” De Lima said in texted instructions to the new officials which she showed to the Inquirer.

Bob Arum: Manny Pacquiao to judge the Miss Universe pageant
It looks like Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao is headed for Miami, Florida next month not to defend another boxing title but to sit as one of the judges in the 63rd Miss Universe pageant, according to his promoter Bob Arum. Asked about “Pacman’s” plan for 2015, Arum told The Telegraph Friday: “The only thing we’re planning with Pacquiao (early in 2015) is that he’s going to be a judge at one of these beauty contests – Miss World or Miss Universe, the one in Miami, in January.” Obviously, Arum was referring to the Miss Universe beauty pageant which will be held in Miami, Florida on January 25, 2015. It could not be the 2014 Miss World beauty contest which already crowned its ambassador last December 14, 2014. The Philippine bet, Mary Jean Lastimosa of North Cotabato will be competing against 87 other candidates in the prestigious beauty contest.

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