22 Jan 2016

Government’s major thrust is to free Filipinos from hunger, says President Aquino
  Freeing Filipinos from hunger is the main focus of the present administration, as it is a basic freedom that everyone must have, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Thursday.

“When a man cannot even be assured of the most basic needs, his entire existence becomes solely focused on survival. Everything else—including reflecting on ideals such as democracy and dignity—is deemed an unattainable luxury, and therefore meaningless as he pursues his next meal,” the President said in his speech during the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Freedom Speech and Dinner, held in Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila.

“Freeing our people from hunger thus became one of the most vital imperatives of our administration. The task we set upon was two-fold: To address the immediate needs of the poorest of the population, while working to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that has prevented our people from harnessing their full potential,” he said.

This government strategy, he noted, is carried out through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which provides the poorest households cash grants to ensure that their most basic needs are met, on the condition that they send their kids to school, and vaccinate them against preventable diseases.

Starting from 786,523 household-beneficiaries, the number of CCT beneficiaries is expected to reach 4.6 million households by the end of this year, he said.

President Aquino further reported that a recent government assessment shows that almost 1.55 million families from the list of beneficiaries, or more than 7.7 million individuals, have crossed the poverty threshold.

“The power of the CCT is that it frees our people, not only from hunger and poverty today,” he noted.

“Along with our reforms to empower the education sector, the CCT is freeing our children from ignorance; it is freeing parents to dream of better futures for their kids; and it will free succeeding generations to take hold of the economic opportunities that are opening up at present.”

At the same time, the government is pursuing other initiatives that will allow even more freedoms to the people, he said, citing that the government is freeing Filipinos from vulnerability from disease, through the PhilHealth program, which at present covers 91 percent of the population.

“Freedom from hunger, coupled with increasing opportunities to advance in life, is the foundation upon which we are building a society that allows its citizens to enjoy all other freedoms: the freedom to participate in the market—as part of the labor force, as an owner of a small business, and as a consumer who avails of goods and services in a dynamic economy; the freedom to participate in our democracy, through engaging in the meaningful issues of the day, and through choosing true leaders,” he said.

The President also praised the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for coming to the Philippines at a time when the country was reeling from the effects of the Marcos dictatorship.

The foundation, which arrived in the country in 1986, has been a “vital partner in keeping the flames of freedom burning all over the globe”, he said, noting that it was among the first to demonstrate their commitment to assist the Filipino as they tried to make the most of their newfound freedom from tyranny.

President Aquino also witnessed on Thursday the presentation of the foundation’s Freedom Flame award to Concepcion Claravall Asis of the People Power Volunteer for Reform; Undersecretary Manolo Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office; Dr. Stella Luz Quimbo of the Philippine Economic Society; and Paulyn Sicam of the Philippine Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. PND (as)

President Aquino appoints Justice Secretary Alfredo Caguioa Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed on January 20 Justice Secretary Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa Associate Justice of the Supreme Court replacing Justice Martin Villarama Jr.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. has transmitted the appointment letter dated 22 January 2016 to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Villarama’s retirement became effective last January 16. He retired early for health reasons.

President Aquino appointed Caguioa as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel in January 2013. In October 2015, he was appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Caguioa obtained his degree in Economics (Honors Program) from the College of Arts and Sciences of Ateneo de Manila University in 1981 and graduated with honors from its College of Law in 1985 ranking fifth in his class.

He was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1986 after placing fifteenth in the 1985 Bar examinations.

He joined SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan in 1986 and was a partner there from 1994 until February 2007.

The newly appointed SC Associate Justice was a professor at the Colleges of Law of Ateneo de Manila University and San Sebastian College, where he taught Obligations and Contracts, Property, Statutory Construction, and Administrative Law.

President Aquino also appointed January 15 Isabel Dasalla-Agito as commissioner of the Commission on Audit replacing Heidi Mendoza.

Dasalla-Agito’s term expires February 2, 2018. PND (as)