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Rappler reports that COA finds Tacloban misspent Yolanda funds; ex-mayor Romualdez denies misspending    

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On July 29, Rappler posted an article about the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on how Tacloban City spent the millions of pesos of rehabilitation fund and how the said report found irregularities on the city’s spending. However, former Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez released a statement denying that funds were misspent.

Rappler wrote a story on the COA report released on July 27. The social news site noted the following COA findings:

  • Irregularities amounting to P907.65 million for infrastructure, aquaculture, and emergency shelter assistance projects
  • 31 incomplete infrastructure projects, such as construction or repair of mini-gyms and barangay halls as of February 3, 2016 and the need to impose penalties (as per the Government Procurement Reform Act) for the contractors handling P100.23 million worth of projects slated under the Recovery Assistance for Yolanda (RAY)

31 projects after Yolanda in Tacloban City

  • Suspension 19 projects amounting to P46.53 million due to reasons such as plan changes and construction in “no-build zones”

19 projects after Yolanda in Tacloban City

  • Missed deadlines and poor planning of the P32.55 million Mariculture Park Rehabilitation Program for fishermen

Tacloban Project after Yolanda

  • The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) did not follow the guidelines of the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program by awarding assistance to families that are not eligible beneficiaries of the program

Emergency Shelter Assistance in Tacloban City

For the ESA program, the CSWDO head told COA auditors that some families did not provide “true information” during their assessment. The COA report also noted that the same official said that the DSWD management should give assistance to all Tacloban residents “because the city was totally devastated and now almost all of the area is a no dwelling zone.”

COA, however, insisted on the city government sticking to the guidelines in choosing the eligible beneficiaries of ESA. The auditing agency also urged those who don’t pass the said guidelines to submit proof of eligibility after receiving assistance, or reimburse the amount that they received.

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No misspending, says Romualdez

On July 30, Romualdez denied that the Tacloban City government has misspent the Yolanda rehabilitation funds and called Rappler’s story as misleading in a statement found here.

“It is unfortunate that an online media agency such as Rappler would resort to such a misleading story that is far from what the actual audit report actually says,” Romualdez said in his statement.

The link to the COA report can be found here. Those who want to read it can easily click on the “View PDF” button for “Tacloban City.”

“We reiterate that the City Government of Tacloban has always and still continue to observe the standards of transparency and accountability over its funds including the Yolanda rehabilitation funds,” Romualdez said.

He also scored Rappler for concluding that COA’s report meant misspending on the part of Tacloban City.

“Ang malungkot pa po dito ay ang sinasabi pa ng Rappler ay kung hindi raw naming naiparating at naipararamdam ang ibinigay na pera para sa aming mga tao kasi winaldas daw ng City Government. Eh kung tutuusin kaya nga kami nasita eh kasi binigay po naming ang nararapat ang talaga na para sa kanila,” Romualdez said.

The former mayor also talked about the delay in the disbursement of the funds for the Yolanda victims and how hard it was for them to get the assistance intended for them.

“Katulad ng Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) na dapat naman talaga  ay ibigay sa mga taong nasiraan o nawalan ng bahay. Ang masakit pa po dito, ang tagal na nga bago pa nagrelease ng pondo para sa mga beneficiaries na mga biktima ng Yolanda sa Tacloban na umabot ng mahigit sa isang taon pa, ay mas pinapahirapan pa at pinadaan sa butas ng karayom para lang makatanggap ng perang inilaan naman talaga para sa kanila. Sa totoo lang, the guidelines were set by the national government and we merely implemented it and followed it as applicable under our circumstances,” he said.

“As a Mayor and an elected local government executive, my primary duty is to my constituents, the very people who elected me as Mayor,” Romualdez concluded.

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Netizens slam Duterte for saying women ‘could not stand threats and intimidation’

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President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for another controversial comment involving women after he remarked on May 24 that women “could not stand threats and intimidation.”

Duterte said that while he believed in women’s competence, it does not necessarily ring true in all aspects of life.

“I believe in the woman, the competence and capability, pero hindi lahat sa buhay dapat.Hindi ka, hindi, hindi. Dapat lang. It’s not appropriate when you cannot stand threats and intimidation,” he said in his May 24 speech.

He also said that women should be “prim and proper” and talked about his reservation in sending women police and soldiers to the field because unlike men, they did not grow up with a mindset that involves violence.

“Ang mga babae, sundalo pati pulis, ayaw ko ‘yan sa bukid. Unlike men kami, maliit pa lang, suntukan, bakbakan, barilan. And we grew up with a sort of a mindset na sometimes prone to violence. Itong mga babae, prim and proper man ‘yan, isang tingin lang sa nanay niyan, wala na tunaw na ‘yan. Tapos gawin mong pulis, ipaaway mo doon. Naku,” Duterte remarked.

Netizens then took to social media to react to Duterte’s most recent statements, making #BabaeAko trend again on Twitter.

“Mr. President, you just horrifyingly disrespected your own mother who bravely fought against the Marcos dictatorship. She withstood threats and intimidation. Siya ay babae! #BabaeAko,” a Twitter user remarked.

Forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun spoke out, too, saying “I am threatened and intimidated a lot. All my life. Don’t me. #BabaeAko.”

So did film and theater actress Chai Fonacier, who said, “Encouraging women — and I mean including those who identify as women — and our friends from the entire spectrum to share your #BabaeAko statements to fight the misogyny that the President and his ilk normalize through their behavior. Make them remember the feminine strength.”

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago also reacted, saying she refused to be stereotyped.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay urged other Filipinos to protest against Duterte’s misogynistic statements.

Other Twitter users weighed in on the issue.

Duterte’s previous misogynistic remarks

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His remarks in his speech on May 24 seemed to have sought to explain another controversial remark he made on May 16 when he said that he did not want a politician, especially a woman, to become the next Ombudsman.

“Mag-nominate sila, pero I choose, but gusto ko ‘yung bilib ang tao sa integrity niya. Of course it could not be a politician, lalo na hindi babae,” he said during a chance interview.

This gave birth to the launching of the #BabaeAko movement on social media on May 21 by women activists and other people who also want to protest Duterte’s misogynistic and sexist statements.

One of  the women who joined the #BabaeAko campaign was former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who said, “Akala ko taumbayan ang boss ni Duterte. Yun pala sina Marcos, Gloria, Trump at China. Para sa bayang makatarungan at malaya, lalaban ako.”

In February, he was also slammed for telling his audience of former NPA rebels that he told his soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

Sources: ( rappler.comphilstar.com )

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New DOT chief to ask Montano why he rushed official New York engagement to watch Broadway show

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Newly installed Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she plans on talking with Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) COO Cesar Montano to ask for his side on certain accusations that were hurled against him.

Among these accusations came from an Abante report where Montano was said to have rushed a speaking engagement staged by the DOT in New York to watch the Broadway musical show “Hamilton.”

DOT reportedly launched the Philippine Tourism Presentation and Dinner Reception on May 9 to showcase Philippine tourism and fashion at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Montano was introduced as the event’s keynote speaker, but he was said to have only spoken for a bit before hurriedly leaving the venue, disappointing the guests, which also included US officials.

Montano was said to have been invited to the event in behalf of the now-resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. He was also named as one of the two hosts, the other being Teo, of the said event.

In reaction to this report about Montano, Puyat said she would talk to Montano as well as the Tourism attache and other DOT officials who attended the event to verify the accusation in the report mentioned above.

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Puyat said that she would investigate into the “Buhay Carinderia” program that the TPB is set to implement. This was after Philippine Star Boo Chanco accused Montano of issuing P80-million worth of three checks to the event proponent and organizer.

“I still don’t have the papers. I will be asking [and] will be arranging a meeting with Mr. Cesar Montano to ask about ‘yung mga nabasa ko sa ‘Buhay Carinderia’ – kung totoo ba na walang bidding ‘yung P80 million na advance,” Puyat said on May 15.

“I’m planning to talk to him and ask his side. I want to ask all those who were there if it actually happened,” Puyat added.

In March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the agency. These include hiring friends and relatives, using TPB’s funds for personal trips, and showing incompetence in fulfilling his obligations as the agency’s COO.

Sources: ( tnt.abante.com.phphilstar.comrappler.com )

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Eldest Tulfo vows to help Wanda clear her name, berates ‘black sheep’ Ben over controversial P60-M DOT ad deal

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Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo spoke up about the controversy involving his siblings, now resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and hosts Ben and Erwin Tulfo, over the P60 million tourism ad deal.

The eldest Tulfo wrote in his Inquirer column on May 10 that while President Rodrigo Duterte himself advised the Tulfo family to avoid talking to the media, he took it upon himself as the family’s acting patriarch to tell the story behind the controversy.

First up, Ramon blamed Teo for not hiring smart staff members who could have advised her against inking a deal with PTV 4, where one of the Tulfo brothers, Ben, was a blocktimer.

As a blocktimer, Ben pays for his TV show’s airtime on the state-run channel.

According to Ramon, Wanda was only complying with President Duterte’s injunction for his Cabinet secretaries to support PTV 4, adding that she did not know Ben’s company would get most of the multimillion advertising contract with DOT.

He also hit Ben, whom he called a “black sheep” with a “middle child” syndrome as the fifth child out of 10 siblings, for signing the P60-million advertising contract with PTV 4 despite knowing that there would be a conflict of interest on Wanda’s part.

Ramon also said that Wanda still tried to save Ben, who insisted on his innocence amid the controversy, leading her to resign from her post. He also explained that Wanda seemed to have forgotten the fact that her husband was on the board of director of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), a part of DOT, when Duterte appointed her as tourism chief. He added that it should have been up to her husband to step down from his post upon his wife’s appointment.

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In the same column, he also slammed Wanda’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, whom he said did not even consult the Tulfo brothers on returning the P60-million funds from the ad deal. He also described the lawyer as “all talk,” a counsel who’s only focused on gaining publicity for himself.

Unlike what has been previously reported about Wanda resigning out of delicadeza amid the controversy, Ramon let it slip that he commended President Duterte for “sacking Wanda,” prompting some people to ask whether Wanda was fired instead of resigned.

Before he ended his column, he vowed to support “Wanda’s fight to clear her name, but not Ben’s.”
Wanda resigned on May 8 to show delicadeza and to spare everyone, especially Duterte, from the pain caused by the controversy, according to her lawyer.

The issue started with the Commission on Audit’s report showing the DOT paying P60 million worth of commercials to PTV 4, which in turn, tapped Ben’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. to air the tourism ads during Ben and Erwin’s show “Kilos Pronto.”

Malacañang said that Teo’s resignation does not mean that she is off the hook since the Ombudsman is still looking into her and other government officials involved in the controversial ad deal.

Sources: ( inquirer.netnews.abs-cbn.com , nnphilippines.com )

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