Over $1B in laundered, dirty, and terrorist money entered PHL

MORE THAN $1 billion was brought into the country last year linked to money laundering schemes, terrorism, and illegal online gaming operations, according to Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, who also chairs the House ways and means committee.

“There’s consensus among the resource persons that it is laundering and possibly terrorism, and then illegal POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators), although there is no consensus on drugs,” he told reporters in an ambush interview on Tuesday.

“Most likely po ‘yung mga (those) escorted deposits, ‘yun po ang mga (those are the ones) undocumented. Undeclared,” he added.

Mr. Salceda said if the situation is not addressed, it could affect the country’s credit rating and threaten national security.

He said the committee on ways and means has created a technical working group to “remedy” the “policy gaps” in addressing money laundering schemes in the country.

He added that the panel is working on a measure “instituting procedures for bulk foreign currencies importation.” — Genshen L. Espedido

Leachon accuses Villafuerte of P6B pork barrel insertion

ORIENTAL MINDORO Representative Doy C. Leachon, who was recently ousted from chairmanship of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, has accused Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte, Jr. of having pork barrel insertions in the 2020 national budget amounting to almost P6 billion.

“It’s quite obvious that he was hit hard and then purposely evaded the issue about his pork barrel insertions of almost 6 Billion pesos in the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) including the Iconic Capitol Building Phase 1 worth (P)750M with the convention center at Pili, Camarines Sur,” Mr. Leachon said in a statement on Monday.

Mr. Villafuerte denied the allegation, calling it “not only preposterous; it is an insult to all lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, including himself.” — Genshen L. Espedido

Anti-terror law amendments face opposition

THE CONSOLIDATED bill amending the Human Security Act of 2007 is facing opposition from various fronts, citing the necessity or legality of the proposed changes.

“Why fix it if it ain’t broke?,” former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri J. Colmenares said in a hearing at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

He cited that proponents could not say that there have been members of terrorist groups who were not caught due to defects in the existing law.

Marawi civic leader Samira Ali Gutoc-Tamawis, for her part, said fighting radicalism should be about addressing the “underlying acts of terrorism.”

“Have we addressed the educational system that should deepen the democratic values of our co-Muslim Filipinos? Are we addressing deeply the roots of terrorism as we have always been questioning?” she said.

Former Dean of Ateneo School of Government Antonio Gabriel M. La Viña said there is a legal question on the consolidated bill as it “provides powers to the Executive branch” that properly belongs to the judiciary.

“You’ve done a good job and you have labored to produce this. The one thing you don’t want is for the Supreme Court to later on decide the provisions unconstitutional,” he said. — Genshen L. Espedido

Sotto asserts Senate independence after Dela Rosa remarks


SENATE PRESIDENT Vicente C. Sotto III on Tuesday asserted the chamber’s independence after a Duterte-backed Senator hit anew the move to clarify the Senate’s role in the abrogation of international agreements.

“Perhaps, later on he will realize that being a senator is different than being just a follower of the administration,” Mr. Sotto said in a briefing.

Neophyte Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa has maintained his position that the 1987 Constitution’s silence justifies the power of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to unilaterally terminate treaties.

Voting 12-0-7, the Senate on Monday adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to rule whether its concurrence is needed in the abrogation. Mr. Dela Rosa, among those who abstained, said Monday’s voting showed a division in the majority, to which he belongs.

He said he expected the other members of the majority bloc to join them. “But we are not able to get the majority votes. meaning kami na ang (we are now the) minority dito sa Senado (here at the Senate).”

The senator said this was not the first time he felt as if he were a member of the minority.

To recall, Mr. Dela Rosa also abstained from the voting on the resolution asking Mr. Duterte to reconsider the abrogation of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.

The resolution was passed by the chamber ahead of Mr. Duterte’s directive to begin the 180-day notification period before the termination officially takes effect. The cancelation of Mr. Dela Rosa’s visa to the United States triggered the termination. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Spies are dealt with through ‘discreet’ operations — Guevarra

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra on Tuesday said discreet operations are used in dealing with alleged spies entering the country, following the claim of a senator that Chinese spies have infiltrated the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).

“Everything is possible in espionage. And it’s neither discussed openly nor investigated by law enforcement agents. Discreet counter-intelligence operation is the usual way to deal with it,” Mr. Guevarra told reporters in a mobile-phone message.

His statement came after he was asked if he will order the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the matter.

Senator Richard J. Gordon earlier said there is a possibility that China is using POGO firms to spy on the Philippines.

“I’m saying everything is on the table nothing is exempted, it could be espionage, it could be economic sabotage,” Mr. Gordon told reporters on Monday.

He also noted that China has the “biggest number of intelligence operatives in the world.” — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

New anti-drug war committee co-chair vows to be a ‘team player’

NEWLY-APPOINTED Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) Co-Chair Dante L. Jimenez said the drug war of the Duterte administration is not a “massive failure,” contrary to the claim of his predecessor, Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo.

“Let us disprove the peddled yet unfounded claim that the government’s war on illegal drugs is a massive failure. In fact, it is the strong support for the war on illegal drugs that has been critical in the immense public support for the President,” Mr. Jimenez said during his formal acceptance of the post on Tuesday.

Mr. Jimenez also said that he is a “team player” and will work well alongside Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director general Aaron N. Aquino, who reportedly said he found it “uncomfortable” when Ms. Robredo was ICAD co-chair. — Gillian M. Cortez