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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Opinion: On VP Sarah Duterte; Sen Hontiveros; and UPAAA Reunion Next Month in New Jersey with Current UP President and former PHL VP Robredo By Manuel L Caballero




We will start this week’s “On My Watch” with corruption, and end with corruption, an unpleasant notorious issue of the day.

An old quote says that “corruption comes by degrees.” No, not in the native country. In the PH, it comes by millions of pesos. Hundreds of millions. The burning issue of VP Sara Duterte requesting the Office of BBM to transfer P125 million from the latter’s Confidential Funds to her office last December, less than six months after assuming office, and reportedly spent the whole amount in 11 days, can be discussed here. 

Making the said exercise worse, a congressman, a genuine one, pointed out that the transfer of P125 million was illegally done for it violated existing laws on such movement of funds. Worst, Ms. Duterte cannot explain convincingly how and where she spent the taxpayer’s monies in eleven days as reported by the Commission on Audit.

Thus, Senator Risa Hontiveros, who grilled the VP during a recent Congressional Budget Hearing, said “NAGHIHINTAY NG RESIBO AND BUONG PILIPINAS.” The  brave senator was obviously referring to convincing and believable explanations from Ms. Duterte as to how she spent the P125 million and why does the Office of the Vice President (OVP) is asking for hundreds of millions in Confidential Funds in its 2024 budget when her predecessor finished 6 years in office without Confidential Funds with many accomplishments?

Perhaps, like his father, the former mayor feels she is still in Davao where the Dutertes ruled as if they owned the place and that they were the law. This attitude, which was observed during the presidency of her father, is the reason why the old man is facing possible prosecution for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague because of his EJKs (Extra Judicial Killings).

These past two weeks, and still going on, VP Sara has been the object of embarrassing and insulting commentaries from Filipinos in social media. One of the numerous postings referred to the Vice President as a “Money-Eating Eagle.” There are demands for her to step down. Though no charge of corruption has been filed against the VP as yet, the bar of public opinion points toward corruption in their reactions and comments. 

In an article in the New York Times in December 1993 titled “Is Brazil Hopelessly Corrupt?” writer Roberto de Matta wrote, “Corruption is never an individual act. It always involves groups of people bound by one fundamental rule of association; an exchange of favors. This collective corruption is founded on traditional morality, well-established friendships and the opportunity at hand. It allows crimes to be practiced with impunity and is characterized by intolerable arrogance.”

Is the Philippines hopelessly corrupt?


After writing the above, the following story appeared in PhilStar (9/28/23):

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved on final reading on Wednesday the proposed P5.7-trillion national budget for next year, with House leaders agreeing to take away the confidential funds sought by Vice President Sara Duterte's two offices.

House committee on appropriations chairperson Rep. Elizaldy Co (Ako Bicol) said the confidential funds earmarked for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education, which total P650 million, would be realigned to agencies that focus on national security and the defense of the West Philippine Sea. 

The bar of public opinion was heeded, but only on the 2024 OVP budget, not the P125 million. Where is that money now? According to reports, it was all spent by the OVP in 11 days! Really?


In less than a month, (Oct. 19-22), Former Vice President Leni Robredo, the PH VP who finished her 6-year term without confidential funds, but accomplished many, and Angelo A. Jimenez, President of University of the Philippines, will come to New Jersey to speak before their fellow UP alumni. The UP Alumni Association in America (UPAAA) will hold its biennial Grand Reunion and Convention (GRC) at New Brunswick Hyatt Regency.

Calling UP Alumni in our area to attend. Please check the UPAAA in social media or Google on how to obtain attendance tickets.

As practiced during every GRC, UPAAA shall “grant awards to distinguished alumni and give special recognition to individuals who are embodiments of the Oblation, serving with pride, remaining strong and bold amid strife and challenges.”  

Due to space, we will name the honorees next issue.


English writer Samuel Johnson cannot be more correct when he said. “Praise and money, the two powerful corrupters of mankind.”


Thursday, September 28, 2023

Governor Hochul Signs Legislative Package to Extend Protections Against Human Trafficking in New York State

FY 2024 Budget Included $2.3 Million That Was Recently Awarded to Human Trafficking Victim Service Providers

Legislation S.4263/A.3227, S.5527/A.3720, S.6213/A.4264, S.6214/A.4265, S.5827/A.4586, S.4267/A.4669 Relate to Posting Information Regarding Human Trafficking Victim Services in Transportation Hubs Across the State

Legislation S.7451/A.7360 Extends the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking for Four Years

Legislation S.395/A.5505 Directs the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking to Investigate Connections Between Trafficking and Social Media

Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday, September 27, signed into law a legislative package that expands the New York State Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking in members and length of duty to ensure the work the task force does can continue uninhibited. The Governor also signed legislation that ensures transportation hubs across the state are displaying information that may be of use to victims of human trafficking, providing them information on services available. Additionally, Governor Hochul highlighted $2.3 million that was recently awarded to contractors that provide services to survivors and victims of human trafficking across the state.

“Human trafficking is a nightmare no one should have to experience - even one victim is too many,” Governor Hochul said. “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect the thousands of individuals who fall victim to human trafficking, and I want thank my partners in the legislature for their work in getting these bills through to the finish line.”

Human Trafficking Services Awareness
To expand on New York State’s commitment to support and protect victims of trafficking, Legislation S.4263/A.3227 requires Port Authority airports to provide information that may be useful for human trafficking victims in lactation rooms. Legislation S.5527/A.3720 requires MTA facilities to post information that may be of use to victims of human trafficking. Legislation S.6213/A.4264 requires truck stops to post information that may be useful to victims of human trafficking in lactation rooms. Legislation S.6214/A.4265 requires commercial service airports to post information for human trafficking services in lactation rooms. Legislation S.5827/A.4586 requires service areas maintained and operated by the New York State Thruway Authority provide information regarding services available to human trafficking victims in lactation rooms. Legislation S.4267/A.4669 requires Port Authority bus terminals to provide information regarding services available to human trafficking victims in lactation rooms.

Expanding the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking
Legislation S.7451/A.7360 adds the New York Secretary of State to the members of the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking. Currently, the State agency members of the task force are the commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, the commissioner of the Office of Mental Health, the commissioner of the Department of Labor, the commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, the commissioner of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, the director of the Office of Victim Services, the executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, and the superintendent of the New York State Police.

This legislation also extends the task force for an additional four years to ensure the work done by the task force to prevent, reduce and assist human trafficking survivors continues uninterrupted.

Legislation S.395/A.5505 directs the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking to investigate connections between social media and human trafficking.

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance operates the Response to Human Trafficking Program (RTHP), which supports service providers throughout the state to provide case management and services to confirmed victims of trafficking. Today, RHTP supports 11 service providers throughout New York State. Services are responsive to individual needs and goals, and can include emergency services such as shelter, transportation, food assistance and phone access, medical services, clothing, etc. Providers also work with trafficking survivors to identify and support longer-term goals, such as health care and mental health services, employment services, and transitional to longer-term housing.

Through RHTP, $2.3 Million has recently been awarded to the following providers statewide serving survivors of human trafficking:




Safe Horizon, Inc.



Sanctuary for Families



Restore NYC



My Sister's Place, Inc.



Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island Inc.



Catholic Charities of Long Island



International Institute of Buffalo



Safe Inc of Schenectady



People Against Trafficking Humans Incorporated



Unity House of Troy Inc.



Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Inc.



The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) works with law enforcement to ensure that all recruits receive human trafficking training as part of their basic training. In 2022, about 2,500 recruits received training on human trafficking as part of their basic course instruction, including training on how to make a referral for New York State confirmation. Since the beginning of 2023, DCJS, in consultation OTDA, has confirmed 240 trafficked persons in New York State, connecting them with essential services and resources. The state confirmed 249 trafficked persons in 2022, and 295 in 2021.

As of July 20, 2023, lodging facilities in New York State are required to provide training on identifying and reporting human trafficking to all staff who are likely to interact or come into contact with guests. DCJS has been in contact with important players in the hospitality industry—including Marriott, Hilton, and the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association—and has worked with our OTDA partners to draft appropriate state training materials.

The state Municipal Police Training Council, to which DCJS provides staff, was required by law to develop and issue a Human Trafficking Model Policy that law enforcement could use as a framework for their own policy. The policy was first adopted in 2016 and updated in 2021.


President Marcos: Gov’t Bringing its Services Closer to the People through Bagong Pilipinas Program

The administration is bringing government services closer to the people, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. declared on Saturday as he led the simultaneous launching of the Bagong Pilipinas Serbisyo Fair (BPSF), the country’s biggest service caravan.

The Serbisyo Caravan is aimed at providing major government services to underprivileged Filipinos in various communities across the country.

“Kaya’t ‘yan po ang inyong pamahalaan. Ang gobyerno po ang lumalapit na ngayon sa inyo. Hindi kayo namin inaantay pang pumunta sa gusali, sa opisina ng mga government offices. Kami na po ang lalapit,” President Marcos said during a rice distribution event in Iriga City, Camarines Sur.

“Iyan po ang Bagong Pilipinas na programa. Pagka gumagawa kami ng fair na ganyan, kasama lahat. Iyon na lang, isa lang ang pupuntahan niyo.”

The President led the simultaneously launching in Nabua, Camarines Sur as other similar launches were being done in Laoag, Ilocos Norte; Tolosa, Leyte; and Monkayo, Davao de Oro.

According to Camarines Sur Rep. Miguel Luis Villafuerte, 200,000 residents of the province are expected to benefit from the BPSF, which feature the flagship government program Kadiwa ng Pangulo, Passport on Wheels, Driver’s License registration/assistance, National I.D., Pag-IBIG Fund, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and police clearance applications.

Aside from the Serbisyo Fair, the President extended assistance to Camarines Sur farmers.

In Iriga City, the President distributed rice to the beneficiaries of the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

“At ngayon po, ito naman ay ang bigas para naman makatulong at makatiyak na hindi po naghihirap masyado ang ating mga kababayan na kahit papaano may nakakain, kahit papaano napapakain ang inyong mga pamilya,” Marcos told Iriga City residents receiving the assistance.

“At kung hindi talaga kaya, nandito po ang pamahalaan na tutulong sa inyo,” he said.

Accompanying the President were Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Prospero De Vera.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Philippine Embassy Conducts Back-to-Back Consular Outreach Missions in the Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands

Consular General Arribas (rightmost) conduct the oath taking ceremony for dual citizenship applicants. Inset - An overseas Filipino worker applies renews his passport during the consular outreach mission.

 – The Philippine Embassy Washington DC conducted back-to-back consular outreach missions for the Filipino community in the Bahamas, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A total of 90 passport applications were processed, 3 civil registration applications received, 12 documents notarized, and 4 dual citizenship oaths administered. 194 overseas Filipino voting registrants were also processed, indicating a strong interest among the Filipinos in these Caribbean nations to participate in the succeeding national elections in 2025 and 2028.

Consul General Iric Cruz Arribas led the Embassy team, and discussed with the community leaders various issues confronting the Filipinos in the Caribbean, most especially preparedness during hurricanes. The Caribbean is prone to hurricanes with an average of 12 to 15 storms moving through the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico each year. 

The Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands are both popular international tourist destinations. There are approximately 2,000 Filipinos working in the Bahamas in various fields such as household services, medical services, tourism and hospitality services, and accounting. Meanwhile, the U.S. Virgin Islands has a Filipino population of about 500, mostly employed as teachers.

Assisted by volunteers from the Filipino community, this back-to-back consular outreach mission is the first of two missions in the Caribbean this year. A consular team will shortly proceed to the Cayman Islands and to Jamaica this month.


President Marcos Reaps Foreign Trip Investment Pledges with Unilever Factory Inauguration

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. continues to reap the fruits of his foreign trips, particularly to Belgium during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-European Union (EU) Summit in December last year, as he led on Friday, September 22, the inauguration of a new factory of Unilever in Cavite.

“I would like to note that this major investment is amongst the pledges that we received during our trip to Belgium for the ASEAN-EU Summit last December,” President Marcos said in his speech during the inauguration of Unilever’s New Beauty, Well-Being, and Personal Care Factory (BWPC).

President Marcos met with the officials of the British multinational company, Unilever, in December 2022 during his visit to Brussels, Belgium, where Unilever committed PhP4.7 billion worth of investments.

The new plant will cater to both domestic and export demands of its products with a target of nearly 90,000 tons of various personal care products for hair and skin to be manufactured and distributed annually.

President Marcos said that the Philippines is now taking a step closer to the Filipino people’s collective vision of a more progressive, empowered, and sustainable new Philippines with the inauguration of the BWPC.

“To see this project come to fruition after just several months is not only encouraging, it also inspires me and the rest of the government to work even harder for the Filipino people,” the chief executive added.

The President commended Unilever Philippines for the establishment of its high-technology and sustainability-driven manufacturing facility for personal care products as he emphasized that it is a shared effort between the government and private sector in strengthening the country’s manufacturing industry.

President Marcos also emphasized that the strengthened ties between the government and the private sector will also create jobs and gainful opportunities for the Filipino people.

“It is also worth mentioning that this plant is one of Unilever’s largest personal care facilities in the world and is expected to generate over 5,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities for our countrymen,” President Marcos said.

“So, I extend my gratitude once again to Unilever for your continued trust and confidence in the Philippines and in the talent of the Filipino people… I also express my admiration for your commitment to expand your footprint and champion inclusivity and social responsibility by making products more accessible and affordable,” he added.

President Marcos also thanked Unilever for their continued trust and confidence in the Philippines and in the talent of the Filipinos as he hopes that the realization of the investment would also be a vote for the trust and confidence of other foreign firms to invest in the country.

“It is very important that this serve also as a vote of confidence, not only for Unilever, but also a vote of confidence for other investors who would like to come in when such an important facility such as this has been put up still here in the Philippines. I’m sure it will help to encourage other groups to come in and do the same,” President Marcos said.

Among attendees of the inauguration were Unilever’s Chairman and CEO Benjie Yap, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual, and officials and representatives from the local government unit.