Faces of the News: Sept. 22, 2019
Senators were rattled last week upon learning that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was clueless about a military agreement with a China-linked telco that would allow it to build facilities inside military camps and installations.
It was presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo who told the media that he received a message from Lorenzana denying any knowledge of the signed memorandum of agreement between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Dito Telecommunity Corp., the country’s third telco that has the backing of state-run China Telecom.
Panelo said that Lorenzana told him he would investigate the deal signed on Aug. 13.
But senators were alarmed by Lorenzana’s ignorance of such a controversial deal, with Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto chiding the defense secretary that “maybe it’s time to install a radar system in his office.”
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the deal “raises fears of electronic espionage and interference given the record of some Chinese firms in engaging in this illegal activity.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros has already filed a bill to investigate the AFP-Dito agreement amid concerns that it poses risks to national security.
Veteran jail official Gerald Bantag has a lot of work on his hands in cleaning up the scandal-ridden Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Bantag, a former jail warden of five city jails in Metro Manila, was designated the BuCor director general by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The President expressed confidence in Bantag’s experience as a seasoned official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), despite Bantag’s facing a number of cases in the past, including one for the 2016 grenade explosion that killed 10 inmates in the Parañaque City Jail.
The President also jested that he will have Bantag crucified in the middle of the New Bilibid Prison if he fails in his duties.
Bantag will take over the helm of the BuCor, which has faced several scandals in past weeks such as anomalies related to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for inmates, smuggling of prostitutes and contraband, etc.
Prior to his appointment, Bantag was the regional director of the BJMP office in Mimaropa region.
Bantag took his oath as BuCor director before Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who instructed him to clean up the GCTA mess and stop the illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.
Paolo Duterte and Bernadette Romulo-Puyat
The President’s son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, surprised his colleagues on Thursday night when he went up to the podium to castigate Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in the middle of deliberations on the proposed 2020 budget of housing agencies.
His beef: She allegedly tattled on him to his father, President Rodrigo Duterte, after he raised “complaints and grievances” against her department.
The deputy speaker said he wanted to expose the Department of Tourism chief’s true colors, criticizing her character and management style with respect to certain contracts approved by the agency.
Duterte, however, gave no details. He said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano arranged a meeting between them, which he thought was fruitful.
“I thought that was the last of it … All along our discussion ended well and would bear fruit, but it turned out it would only result in someone tattling on me and making wrong accusations against me, and you know to whom,” he said.
Puyat had no comment on Duterte’s speech on Friday. But Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles defended her, saying she continued to enjoy the President’s confidence.
De La Salle University Psychology graduate Michelle Dee made history when she bested 39 other aspirants for the Miss World Philippines crown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sept. 15. As the daughter of 1979 Miss International Melanie Marquez, Dee became the first offspring of a Filipino international beauty queen to win a national crown.
Aside from that, 2017 Reina Hispanoamericana Teresita “Winwyn” Marquez is also her cousin.
Dee will represent the Philippines in the 2019 Miss World pageant in London in December, six years after Megan Young became the first Filipino woman to win the “blue crown.”
The 24-year-old Dee said she will head to London with the mission of helping improve women empowerment all over the world.
“The beauty of pageantry is that we’re not just doing this for external beauty. We’re doing this for a purpose, to make a change … If pageantry was shallow, I never would be here. Pageantry is about giving back, having a purpose and doing things for that purpose,” she said after winning the crown.
After tagging Iran for the attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and calling the assault an “act of war,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed on Thursday that Washington wanted a peaceful solution to the crisis.
“This was an Iranian attack … an act of war,” Pompeo said the day before, as he began a Gulf tour to discuss Washington’s response and form a coalition for peace.
However, after meeting US allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Pompeo announced that there was an “enormous consensus in the region” that Iran carried out the attacks.
That was despite Tehran’s denials and the Yemeni Houthi rebel’s claims that they were responsible for the bombardment.
While he stresses the peaceful nature of his Middle East mission, Pompeo has come across to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as an “agitator” fanning winds of “all-out war.”
Zarif sees Pompeo’s coalition of peace as a conspiracy to lure US President Donald Trump into war.
Now, whether peace reigns or war rules is beyond Pompeo’s pay grade. While he may drive the rhetoric, it will be his boss, Trump, who will decide what happens next.
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