Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“Time to act fast and vigorously on family planning” – Ben de Leon, The Forum

 “Time to act fast and vigorously on family planning” – Ben de Leon, The Forum

The Forum for Family Planning and Development, Inc. (The Forum) supports the aggressive stance of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte in implementing the country’s reproductive health and family planning law that is also anchored on his new government’s economic agenda of eliminating inequality and poverty. The Forum commended President Duterte for his appointment of Dr. Ernesto Pernia as Secretary of Socio Economic Planning and Director General, NEDA. He will be a strong pillar to his Administration as he will craft economic policies that will benefit the country especially the poor. Pernia is a member of the Board of Trustee of The Forum.

Benjamin De Leon, president of The Forum, said he welcomes the fresh pronouncements of the incoming government as “sensible and well-timed especially now that the Philippines is experiencing a slowing population growth rate and Filipinos recognize the importance of family planning.”

“Enabling couples to phase the births and plan the number of children they want to have, to afford and to provide for by giving them free family planning methods that they want to use and educating them about the benefits of a well-planned family is an opportune moment to grasp,” said De Leon.

“The RPRH Law allows public health centers to provide family planning methods and contraceptives such as condoms and pills to couples and individuals who need them,” said De Leon. “The Law also allows the teaching of sex education in schools to make children and young people understand about sex, sexuality and reproductive health in a responsible manner that in the long term would influence them to make intelligent decisions later in life.”

He added that enabling the country’s enormous youth population of making more sensible life decisions will have longstanding effects on the country’s social and economic development.

De Leon said it is an opportune time to increase the momentum of the country’s family planning and reproductive health program by providing education and services to a wider segment of the population.

“From the very start, the welfare of Filipinos, whatever beliefs they have and faiths that they practice, is foremost in the goals of the country’s family planning and reproductive health program,” he said.

Court sends fraudulent SSS claimant to jail for faking tuberculosis

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has sentenced a Social Security System (SSS) claimant to imprisonment of about seven years and eight months up to ten years and nine months for attempting to defraud SSS of disability benefits for pulmonary tuberculosis using spurious documents.

SSS Chief Legal Counsel and Senior Vice President for Legal Services Division Voltaire P. Agas said that Julieta S. Panganiban was convicted for two criminal cases – one for false statement or misrepresentation when she submitted fake documents, and another for receipt of the P42,953.99 disability benefit even if she wasn’t qualified.
"The court ordered Panganiban to serve a jail term one year, eight months and 21 days as minimum to four years, nine months and 10 days as maximum and to pay a fine of P5,000 for violation of Section 28 (a) of the Social Security Law. She would also serve another jail term of six years and one day and pay a fine of P5,000 for violation of Section 28 (b)," Agas said.
According to the joint decision by Judge Madonna C. Echiverri of RTC Branch 81, the medical certificate signed by a certain Dr. James Bernard Wong and the X-ray report issued by St. Joseph Diagnostic Center submitted by Panganiban did not come from any legitimate doctor or diagnostic center.
The SSS Medical Program Department discovered the fraudulent claim when it conducted an audit of medical benefits filed with the pension fund. Panganiban’s case was immediately referred to the SSS Anti-Fraud Department for proper investigation.
Panganiban admitted during the trial that the medical certificate and other documents she submitted to SSS were from a certain "Rocky." The entries in her disability claim application were also prepared by “Rocky,” who afterwards gave her instructions on how to proceed with her SSS application.
Prior to filing the fraudulent claim, Panganiban applied for a disability benefit on the basis of her asthma which was denied by SSS. After receiving SSS’ denial of her claim, she resorted to accepting the offer made by "Rocky."
The court noted that even if Panganiban acted in good faith when she accepted the offer of "Rocky," it is not a valid defense for escaping criminal responsibility. In cases such as this, the only inquiry is whether the law has been breached, the decision said.
"Panganiban cannot claim that she only accepted Rocky's offer in good faith, thinking that that he only wanted to help facilitate her application. Her full knowledge and involvement in submitting the falsified documents and making untruthful statements were enough for the court to find her guilty," Agas said.
Under the law, the SSS can only file a complaint against the filer or the individual who signed the application forms and directly submitted the claims with SSS. Those who have been victimized by persons such as “Rocky” can file a separate case against these fixers.
"We strongly advise members not to accept any help from people they don't know personally. If they need assistance with their benefit claims, they can always approach any of our employees or visit the nearest SSS branch. Engaging the services of fixers may lead to granting of their claims which would result in stiffer penalties once discovered by SSS," said Agas.
At present, Panganiban has not appealed the decision of the lower court and has already started serving her sentence. Atty. Franco E. Bustamante, the SSS lawyer handling the Panganiban case, scored a court conviction last year against Orlando P. Tabadero, who filed a fraudulent disability claim for pulmonary tuberculosis allegedly also with the help of a man named "Rocky."

Upgraded Pag-IBIG savings for Deped RO V

Teachers and non-teaching staff of the Department of Education Regional Office No. 5 (DepEd-RO V) may now conveniently increase their savings with Pag-IBIG Fund through salary deduction. This was made possible through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on March 1, 2016 at The Concourse Convention Center in Legazpi City, by DepEd-RO V Regional Director Ramon Fiel G. Abcede, and Pag-IBIG Fund Legazpi Branch Head Mr. Roberto A. Salvosa and Area Head Ms. Ma. Luisa P. Barcebal. The increase in savings may be done through the Fund's Upgraded Savings Program, which allows PagIBIG members to save over and above the mandatory monthly savings of P100, or through savings in the Modified Pag-IBIG II (MP2) Program of the Fund – an additional savings facility which yields higher annual dividends than Pag-IBIG 1 savings and has a fixed maturity period of five years. "We are happy to enter into this partnership with DepEd-RO V as this will enable our teachers and other DepEd personnel in the Bicol Region to save for their future," Ms. Barcebal said. Under the MOA, availment of the programs will allow employees to effect the increase of their savings through salary deduction. Director Abcede lauded the said undertaking, saying "this would re-awaken and re-integrate the culture of savings amongst its personnel." He immediately issued Regional Memorandum Circular No. 29 (s.2016), instructing all DepEd divisions under the Bicol Region to allow the conduct of Benefits Orientation by Pag-IBIG Fund during Management Committee Meetings of Division officials. DepEd Bicol Region has, at present, under its employ more than 50,000 personnel including teachers. In response, Pag-IBIG Fund Legazpi committed to conduct financial literacy briefings highlighting the savings products of Pag-IBIG. Pag-IBIG Fund President & CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe congratulated both parties for their efforts in promoting saving for the DepEd personnel and teachers, who are all Pag-IBIG members. "The savings program of the Fund is designed to help Pag-IBIG members prepare for their future. PagIBIG savings are government guaranteed, have higher yield than other savings instruments, and the yield is tax free" Atty. Berberabe said. In 2015, Pag-IBIG declared its highest-ever dividends amounting to P14.24 Billion, with a dividend rate of 4.83%. In the past five years, the annual dividend rate of the Fund has not gone down below the 4% level. Meanwhile, Pag-IBIG records show that from 2013 to 2015, 457 DepEd personnel in the Bicol Region availed of Pag-IBIG housing loans worth P253.043 Million. Over the same period, 11,449 DepEd personnel nationwide availed of housing loans with a loan value of P7.58 Billion

Pag-IBIG Fund housing for NBI employees

Pag-IBIG Fund housing for NBI employees Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe (third from left) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Atty. Virgilio L. Mendez (fourth from left) signed an understanding to cater to NBI employees’ housing needs. Joining them are (from left): PagIBIG Fund Manager Nanette Gerarda T. Abilay and Senior Vice President Engr. Juanito V. Eje; NBI Assistant Director Atty. Medardo G. de Lemos; NBI Employees Association (NBIEA) President Arch. Domingo LL. Tablizo, Jr., and NBIEA Vice President Rolando M. Alimboyong. Pag-IBIG Fund and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recently sealed their partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will assist NBI employees in their housing needs. Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO Atty. Darlene Marie B. Berberabe, NBI Director Atty. Virgilio L. Mendez, and NBI Employees Association (NBIEA) President Arch. Domingo LL. Tablizo, Jr.led the signing event. “Atty. Chito Cruz, Chairman of the Housing and Urban

Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and Pag-IBIG Chairman of the Board of Trustees, has directed for our proactive coordination with National Government Agencies (NGAs) to bring Pag-IBIG programs and services closer to government employees. Since we launched our Institutional Housing Program in 2013, Pag-IBIG has touched base with various NGAs to offer our housing programs and services. We are now looking into two housing projects in Cavite for NBI employees, one in Bacoor and the other one in Tanza,” Atty. Berberabe said. Through the MOU, home ownership will be made more accessible to the NBI employees wishing to avail of housing units from the bureau’s proposed housing projects. Atty. Berberabe also mentioned that NBI employees can also be assisted in acquiring their preferred housing unit outside the proposed housing projects or be home-matched if they wish to avail of a house from the inventories of accredited developers. NBIEA President Arch. Tablizo was grateful that the forged partnership with Pag-IBIG has finally turned into reality. “When I assumed office as the President of NBIEA, I dreamed that someday, NBI would have its own shelter program, particularly for rank and file employees. With high hopes, inspiration, and ultimate goal to help our colleagues in the bureau to provide decent and affordable housing, we met with people and entities that are willing to help us in this endeavor. The rest was history,” he said. NBI Director Melendez thanked Pag-IBIG Fund for this opportunity, saying, “We are so happy and joyful that in the near future, the employees of NBI will have a house of their own through Pag-IBIG Fund.” To date, Pag-IBIG Fund has forged partnerships with 11 NGAs nationwide.

PhilHealth Regional Office V’s Music for Unity Caravan

OFW spared from death row returns to PH

Raoul Esperas

FREE AT LAST. OFW Jonard Langamin is reunited with his parents upon arrival at NAIA Terminal 2 after serving 8 years in prison for killing a fellow OFW. His parents were accompanied by Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. Photo by Raoul Esperas
MANILA –After being spared from the death sentence and serving eight years in prison, overseas Filipino worker Jonard Langamin is now reunited with his family in Manila.
Langamin, 32-years old, arrived Wednesday morning on board a Philippine Airlines flight PR 683 from Damman, Saudi Arabia.
Langamin was met at the airport by his parents Edith and Clemente Langamin who were accompanied by Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. His parents had not seen him for 10 years.
The Ople Center said the OFW was meted the death penalty by the Saudi Government in 2008 after being found guilty of killing fellow Pinoy Robertson Mendoza.
FREE AT LAST. OFW Jonard Langamin is reunited with his parents upon arrival at NAIA Terminal 2 after serving 8 years in prison for killing a fellow OFW. His parents were accompanied by Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. Photo by Raoul Esperas
He was spared from beheadings in 2012 after the family of Mendoza signed a "tanazul" or affidavit of forgiveness.
Langamin extended his gratitude to all who personally assisted him in his case until he was pardoned.
Ople said Vice President Jejomar Binay helped process the financial assistance in raising the blood money, as required under the Sharia law.

Art gallery explores domestic workers' plight in HK

HONG KONG – Some works of Filipino artists are featured in an exhibit exploring issues of race, labor, discrimination and migrant domestic workers here.
Among them was a video presentation of Poklong Anading, whose mother worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 11 years and who died of cancer shortly after she returned to the Philippines.
According to Cosmin Costinas, executive director and curator of Para Site, which is running the exhibition "Afterwork," when Anading first went to Hong Kong, he chose to go to the places in the photographs of his mother when she was here.
"Afterwork," which started in March, will run until May 9 in Quarry Bay in Hong Kong island. So far, the exhibit, Costinas said, has attracted some 6,000 to 7,000 visitors, including two lawmakers.

On Sunday, Hong Kong lawmaker Emily Lau brought with her to the exhibit 15 domestic helpers from Enrich and Helpers for Domestic Helpers on a tour guided by Costinas.
The group visited the exhibition ahead of the May 24 debate on the new Draft Code of Practice for Employment Agencies by the Panel on Manpower of the Legislative Council.
In an open discussion after the tour, Lau said the Hong Kong government must be more pro-active in fostering a safer work environment for migrant domestic workers in the city.
"The government needs to set up a mechanism to handle complaints," said Lau. "They need to improve the existing system to handle disputes between the employees, employers and agencies. Employers also need better education on labour code compliance. 
‘We must also continue to push the Philippines and Indonesian governments to do more for their people, and to defend the rights of domestic helpers," Lau said.
Another lawmaker, Fernando Cheung, who also joined the tour, said he believes the young people of Hong Kong will pave the way for a city that would be friendlier to domestic workers.
"More cultural exchange is needed to help improve communication. This exhibit helps us understand each other as human beings and not just as domestic helpers or employers," he said. —KBK, GMA News

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