The Inbox
  • The group was believed recruited by a human trafficking syndicate for work in Malaysia. Photo by Jake Soriano

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Bongao, Tawi-tawi—A team of Marines and policemen intercepted around noon Thursday 48 people, 12 of them minors, believed recruited by a human trafficking syndicate for work in Malaysia.

    The arrest constitutes what advocates called the biggest catch in the government’s anti-trafficking efforts here this year.

    Elements of the Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 5, Bongao Inter-agency Task force Against Trafficking in Persons (BIATFAT), and the Philippine National Police-Regional Maritime Unit apprehended the group as it disembarked from a commercial vessel at the Bongao port.

    “This is the biggest number of intercepted potential human trafficking victims we have seen this year,” said Rosabella Sulani, BIATFAT focal person.

    The sheer number of people attracted the attention of law enforcers, who proceeded to round them up. Members of the group had no travel papers but were on their way to Malaysia.

    They said they came from different parts of the Zamboanga

    Read More »from 48 nabbed in biggest anti-trafficking catch in Bongao
  • BIR Commissioner Kim Henares and officers of the Philippine Medical Association

    By Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena, VERA Files

    Leaders of the medical profession have made peace with their former adversary, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and joined forces in a campaign to get doctors to pay the right taxes.

    BIR Commissioner Kim Henares and officers of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said they would start with an information campaign to make doctors more aware of their tax obligations.

    Henares and PMA officers led by incoming president Dr. Minerva Calimag held a joint press conference to announce that talks are underway between the BIR and the medical profession to integrate good citizenship in the medical curriculum.

    “In retrospect, our curriculum is steep on science of medicine. It lacks education in terms of physicians coping with the real world,” she said.

    Just recently, the BIR earned the ire of doctors for its print advertisements urging people to pay their taxes right and to file their Income Tax Returns (ITRs) on April 15.

    One advertisement showed

    Read More »from Docs vow to pay right taxes, make peace with BIR
  • Poet Marne Kilates with Sen. TG Guingona and Gov. Joey Salceda.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Teofisto “TG” Guingona III found a short respite from hearings on pork barrel scams when he flew to Albay to address the awardees of this year’s Outstanding Albayano Award.

    He had ample time time to relax and swim at the city’s Oriental Hotel but was soon awed by the sight of Mayon Volcano and its perfect cone.

    “Mayon Volcano represents truth and beauty and where I work, I am regularly exposed to the ugliness of lies and corruption,” said the senator who heads a senate committee still unearthing more reports of corruption in high places including the senate. “Sad to say we are all witness to unbridled lying and corruption in unlikely places. The awardees who represent the art should do something to counteract the agents of ugliness in this world.”

    Guingona congratulated this year’s awardees in the arts including writer-poets Marne Kilates, Merlinda Bobis, cultural worker Ramona Raneses and Ricardo Dy who has climbed

    Read More »from Sen. TG on the beauty of Mayon and the ugliness of corruption
  • Holy Week in prison for Enrile, Estrada, Revilla?


    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    Juan Ponce EnrileNow that the Ombudsman has approved the resolution to file plunder charges against those involved in the malversation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, it looks like Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla would be observing their Holy Week in jail.

    It is reported that Revilla and his family are in Holy Land to seek for “divine intervention.” Let’s see if his wish would be granted.

    The accused will be given time to submit a motion for reconsideration, after which the Ombudsman will file the Information with the Sandiganbayan. The graft court will determine whether there’s a basis for the case to proceed.

    The Sandiganbayan has 10 days after receipt of the Information to issue a warrant of arrest.

    Jinggoy EstradaIn a briefing, Ombudsman Spokesperson Asryman Rafanan they “found probable cause to indict Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, as well as Janet Lim Napoles, and a number of government employees and

    Read More »from Holy Week in prison for Enrile, Estrada, Revilla?
  • Cagsawa ruins with Mayon Volcano at the background. From flickr.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay is in the news again with its official entry, Ivethe Maria Santiago, winning Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational.

    Another beauty with Albay roots, Bianca Guidotti, ended up Bb. Pilipinas International.

    Santiago did pretty well in the question-and-answer portion saying, “At a time when our country was suffering from man-made chaos and natural disasters, our queens kept our hopes up.”

    It was an apt answer for a province known for its comprehensive disaster-preparedness program.

    Indeed, Santiago put a human face in the ongoing Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden) Festival celebrating the 440th anniversary of Albay.

    However, the fact remains that Albay’s Mayon Volcano remains its number one tourism endorser with its constantly changing hues.

    Two Albay beauties -- Ivethe Maria Santiago and Bianca Guidotti, copped the Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational and Bb. Pilipinas International titles.The historic photos of the volcano from the 1800 to the present surely documented the dramatic transitions in the volcano country.

    Meanwhile, the province has posted 55% tourism growth last year with the Department of

    Read More »from Faith, love, time and Mayon Volcano
  • Is the Philippines ready for China’s retaliation?


    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    No ifs and buts about it: the Philippines and China are no longer friends.

    That’s a decision that the Philippines made when it hauled China to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal over the latter’s all -South -China -Sea-encompassing 9-dash line map. As former ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja said, “When we filed a case against China at the U.N. that was the end of diplomacy.”

    The submission of the Memorial on the case today at the U.N. Court’s headquarters at The Hague further reinforced the hostility.

    As a sovereign country, the Philippines has every right to choose who to be friends with and who to take on. The Aquino government has chosen to battle with China. It’s a move applauded by allies who are uncomfortable with the enormous strength of modern China but are hesitant to antagonize the world’s second largest economy.

    The Philippines can bask in that momentary applause but at the end of the day it has only itself to rely on when push

    Read More »from Is the Philippines ready for China’s retaliation?
  • NCCA writer's prize awardee Raffi Banzuela from Albay with NCCA chair Felipe Padilla de Leon, Jr. and National Artist Virgilio Almario.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay turns 440 years old on April 3 with a special homage to its outstanding citizens who made a name for the province, among others, in the arts.

    Two among the awardees, writer-poets Marne Kilates and Merlinda Bobis, are worthy of special mention because their body of work received national and international recognition with distinguished citations and several book awards. This doesn’t include their rightful place in the Palanca Awards hall of fame..

    In the same vein, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts recently conferred a Writer’s Prize for an Albayano poet, Raffi Banzuela, for his book, “Dios Makina” which probes into the heart and soul of the Albayano through the years.

    Indeed, the province is in the news not just for its writers but also for its Team Albay who was the first to come to the rescue of the Typhoon Yolanda victims in Tacloban.

    On top of this, this year’s top PMA graduate, Jheorge Llona , is from the province as well.

    Gov. Joey Salceda. Photo by George Tapan

    Read More »from Albay through the arts glass brightly
  • China's 9-dash line

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Despite Chinese requests to delay it, the Philippines is filing on March 30 its memorandum challenging before the United Nations China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea.

    The memorandum, called a Memorial in international law, will be filed with the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at The Hague in the Netherlands, contesting China’s 9-dash line territorial rule.

    Under the 9-dash line rule, China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea as part of its territory, but the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian nations are staking various claims to parts of the area.

    Sources said the Chinese government had asked President Aquino through back channels to wait a little longer before filing the Memorial.

    A delay in the filing would be seen as an indication of Philippine willingness to improve ties with China, a source quoted a Chinese official as saying.

    China has informed the

    Read More »from PH ignores China request to delay filing of Memorial vs 9-dash line
  • Camote doughnuts

    By Carlo Figueroa, VERA Files

    Davao City—Kalabasa (squash) pancakes, camote doughnuts, lemongrass and ginger juice.

    They sound like they’re part of a menu for adults on a special diet. But in reality, these recipes will soon be available for students, especially in public schools in this city.

    Thanks to its Food Revolution project, Davao City tries to follow the mantra of wellness by introducing healthy items such as these in school cafeterias and even in stores near schools.

    The project is an advocacy campaign promoting access to healthy food in schools and communities. Organized by the nongovernmental Mindanao Commission on Women’s (MCW) Mothers for Peace movement and the Davao City government, the campaign targets school children whose health can be compromised because of junk food.

    Patricia Ruivivar“Chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illnesses can lead to poor school performance that would consequently lead to children dropping out of school early,” said Mindanao

    Read More »from A new revolution simmers in Davao City
  • Guide Rickson Tividad walks the final meters to the Onoda Trail.

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    Where once no one dared venture into the jungle of Lubang island that sheltered the World War II holdout 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda, it is now a favorite tourist destination in Mindoro Occidental.

    Unaware that WWII had long ago ended, Onoda terrorized the islanders, fighting in the jungle for nearly three decades after the end of the Second World War. He grew into a near-mythical figure on Lubang island.

    Children were warned against going into the forest because of the hapon. Farmers lost cattle and let fruit trees go unpicked because they did not want any encounter with Onoda, whose presence was announced with a rifle shot, but remained unseen.

    His playground had been the mountain dividing the island’s Lubang and Looc municipalities in the northwest Philippines.

    Today, villagers and visitors are given the opportunity to retrace Onoda’s steps through an 8-kilometer trail that covers the eight caves he had sheltered in during the 29 years that he

    Read More »from Following Onoda’s trail


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