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National newsbits for February 16, 2014

Cold Weather

Cold weather will persist over Luzon and Visayas as the northeast monsoon or hanging amihan continues to bring moderate to strong winds in these areas, the government weather bureau said yesterday. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the effects of the northeast monsoon will still prevail over Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, Southern Leyte, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ilocos Norte, and Aurora. (Ellalyn B. De Vera)

D.F.A. APPEAL

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday renewed its appeal to Filipinos in Syria to seek immediate repatriation. Thirty-eight Filipinos arrived from Syria Friday afternoon on board Emirates Airlines flight EK 332. “The DFA continues to appeal all Filipinos who are still in Syria to seek immediate repatriation. For assistance they may call the Embassy at 00963-11-6132626, 0963-949155557, and 00963-934957926 or send an email to damascuspe@gmail.com,” the DFA said. Filipinos repatriated from war-torn Syria has reached 5,212 with the repatriation of the 38 Filipinos last Friday. Of that number, 2,185 were repatriated via Lebanon. (Madel Sabater – Namit)

PARTY-LIST SYSTEM

Party-list lawmakers are calling on the House leadership to prioritize the “overhaul” of the Party-List System Act of 1995 to bar the entry of party-lists and nominees from “powerful economic and political interests.” AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, NARS party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz and MAGDALO party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley “Ace” Acedillo cited the need to cleanse the party-list system as earlier sought by Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. AKO Bicol party-list was among the groups disqualified by the Comelec from participating in the 2013 elections because its members allegedly did not represent the marginalized sector. (Charissa M. Luci)

RIGHTS CHIEF

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares asked yesterday President Benigno S. Aquino III to withdraw the appointment of General Lina Castillo-Sarmiento as chairperson of the nine-man Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, saying it was “an insult to martial law victims.” He said a human rights victim should be appointed as chairperson of the board and not Sarmiento, who was the former Director of the Philippine National Police -Human Rights Affairs Office (HRAO) who allegedly denied human rights violations committed by the PNP. (Charissa M. Luci)

O.F.W.’S FATE

The chances of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joselito Zapanta being spared the death penalty in Saudi Arabia are getting better, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said as donations for his blood money have reached 3 million Saudi Arabian riyals (SAR). Binay, the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, said an emir in the oil-rich kingdom was the latest to make a generous donation for Zapanta’s blood money. (JC Bello Ruiz)