DITO threat of cyber attacks raised anew

DITO threat of cyber attacks raised anew | Senator Grace Poe | Juan Manila

MANILA Despite an agreement between PLDT, Inc. and DITO Telecommunity Corporation, senators are still wary of cyber threats and attacks against the country’s internet infrastructure, including those posed by state-sponsored hacking groups.

Even National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. acknowledges cyber threats against the country.

“We are aware of possible threats. We know that in cyberspace there are third-party operators or unknown hackers who could always disturb our systems,” Esperon admits before the Senate public services committee when it tackled the franchise renewal of China-backed DITO telecom company in December last year.

But Senator Grace Poe laments over an apparent lack of a proper plan to protect the country from cyberattacks.

“This is the problem we’re talking about. The franchise of Dito Telecommunity. One of the issues being brought forth is how do we protect ourselves knowing that a certain percentage of ownership is owned by a foreign national,” Poe asks.

She goes on: “How can the Government assure us that they’ve given a fair assessment of the safety to our sovereignty if we don’t even have a proper cybersecurity group that does the assessment?”

Critics have pointed out that China Telecom Corp. Ltd., one of the listed companies of state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation, has a 40-percent stake at DITO, a conglomerate led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy. In 2018, it was selected to become the country’s third telecommunications player.

Security concerns were raised over DITO after the country’s defense department inked a deal allowing the company to build cell sites inside Philippine military camps. (JSM/JuanManila)

PNP: 19,086 motorcycle-related crimes for 2016-2020

Gordon blasts LTO's glaring failure | Senator Dick Gordon


  • LTO’s failure to fast track the production of license plates and processing of vehicle registrations “is abetting motorcycle-riding criminals,” brought up in the Senate hearing
  • Implementation of the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, which mandates larger, readable and color-coded license plates is stalled because of the failure of the LTO and other government agencies
  • Senator Dick Gordon alleges Des Marketing Inc., Des Strong Motors, Du Ek Sam Inc. and Premio Corp. as well as other motorcycle importers have contributed to the rising crimes in the country
  • PNP has 52 percent unresolved crimes cases related to motorcycle-riding assailants for lack of license plates or proper documentation to track down the suspects

MANILA — During the Senate hearing, PNP records show that from 2016 to 2020, motorcycle-related crimes reached 19,086. Of the number, only 9,040 or 48 percent were resolved.


Gordon blasts LTO’s glaring failure

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee which looks into the failure of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and other government agencies to implement the Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, which mandates larger, readable and color-coded license plates, says is abetting motorcycle-riding criminals.

Gordon, author of Republic Act No. 11235, pointed out that the number of people being killed by riding-in-tandem assassins in the Philippines continues to rise, hence, there is an urgent need for the implementation of the measure.

The failure of the LTO to fast track the production of license plates and processing of vehicle registrations, coupled with the alleged illegal practices of top motorcycle dealers had caused thousand of unsolved cases attributed to motorcycle-riding assailants because of lack of license plates or proper documentation to track down the suspects.

His office has monitored 147 victims of motorcycle-riding gunmen reported in the news from 1 January to 31 December 2020, while there have been eight victims from 1 to 16 January this year.

“These assassins continue to terrorize the country and people are being murdered just like that even at this time of a pandemic. The continuous and unabated killings are increasingly alarming. Masyado nang talamak ang mga patayan (Killings are rampant),” Gordon said in news reports.


Criminal activities on the road, in the bureau

“If motorcycles are not registered or not assigned plates, they can easily be used for criminal activities, to kill people,” Gordon said.

“Your registration process must be unsullied, and you must not connive with anybody,” he added, referring to the motorcycle dealers.

From 1 January to February alone, Gordon said, 59 people, including police officers and local officials, were victimized by motorcycle-riding suspects. Of this figure, 50 were killed, citing data collated by Gordon’s staff.


Importers summoned

Also summoned to the hearing were representatives from Des Marketing Inc., Des Strong Motors, Du Ek Sam Inc. and Premio Corp. as well as other motorcycle importers that Gordon alleged have contributed to the rising crimes in the country.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told the panel that the agency’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has received some 3,060 complaints from consumers who have purchased motorcycles from these dealers.


PNP shows record on crimes involving motorcycle 

PNP records show that of 9,040 or 48 percent of cases involving motorcycles were resolved. From 2016 to 2020, motorcycle-related crimes reached 19,086.

Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the PNP has deployed tactical motorcycle-riding units (TMRUs) to go after criminals.

There are over 2,000 trained PNP personnel that form part of TMRUs, with eight teams assigned per urbanized area.


Where are the license plates, LTO?

Meanwhile, LTO chief Edgar Galvante said the agency was rushing the production of license plates, with 1.4 million pieces produced so far.

R.A. 11235 mandates the use of bigger, readable, and color-coded plates so that motorcycles used in crimes can be easily identified and the use of stolen number plates can be prevented, as well.

The new plate measures 235mm in width and 135mm in height. The old plate is 200mm x 225mm.

The law also requires the LTO to maintain a registry of motorcycles to facilitate information retrieval for official investigation and law enforcement purposes. (JSM/JuanManila)

Featured image: Senator Dick Gordon, chair of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, during a Senate hearing on the rising crimes related to motorcycle-riding assailants. (via PNA)

Eruption threat heightens in Taal

Phivolcs HQ


MANILA The increasing threat of steam blast eruption in Taal Volcano prompts Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) director Renato Solidum Jr to issue a warning for everyone within the vicinity that the Taal Volcano Island is a permanent danger zone and is therefore a “No Entry” zone.

Already in the past 24 hours, Phivolcs has recorded more than 69 tremor events lasting five minutes.

“We also see the likelihood of hydrothermal activity, wherein gas from the magma rises, causing the waters beneath the Taal Volcano Island (TVI) to become hotter.

“This is also probably the reason why the main crater lake has become hotter and acidic,” says Solidum in a public briefing.


A number of earthquake occurrences recorded

Seismic activities (earthquake occurrences) and changes in Taal Volcano’s main crater lake have been observed as early as Monday. About 50 weak tremor episodes were recorded from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.

“There is an increasing possibility of a phreatic eruption, like what initially happened on January 12, 2020. The threat remains for the TVI, thus we remind that no one shall be allowed entry into the PDZ (permanent danger zone), which is the whole island,” he says.

Solidum warns that people are not allowed to return to the island, being a permanent danger zone.

“Phreatic eruption is fast, sudden. So if people are residing there (in the TVI) or they are asleep especially at night, it would be harder for them to respond,” he explains.

“So as a precaution, no one should reside there,” Solidum says.


Alert Level 1

The volcano is still under alert level 1 (abnormal).

Also, Solidum reminds the public to only rely on proper information sources, such as the official social media accounts of the DOST-Phivolcs and other concerned government agencies.

“There are file photos and should not be circulated or believed right away,” he said.

At present, around 18 families with 64 individuals have been evacuated. They were transported to evacuation centers in Barangays Tumaway and Aya, Talisay, Batangas. (JSM/JuanManila)

Lt. Gen. Sobejana to Filipinos: The military serves and protects, not threatens

AFP COS Lt. Gen. Ciirilito Sobejana

MANILA — Following claims of a fisherman who was harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) wants him to “shut up” and stop airing his complaints against China, AFP chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana underscored the fact that the military is instituted to secure the country and serve its people, and not threaten anyone.

“The reason for our existence is serving the people and securing the land, not threatening among our constituents,” Sobejana pointed out.

Paano kami magiging effective public servant if we threaten them unless they are identified as enemies of the state,” he added.

Critics smarting from alleged harassment from the military in the past are urging the fisherman who was reportedly threatened by Chinese vessels last week to continue voicing out his claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is intimidating him to keep quiet about the matter.

According to fisherman Larry Hugo, following his revelation about the threats he experienced from the Chinese vessels that blocked him from entering a sandbar near Kalayaan island, several men had been trying to prevent him from airing his complaints.

Hugo lamented that aside from being threatened by the Chinese Coast Guard, Philippine forces were also preventing him from speaking out.

Tiyak ko po, magagalit na naman ‘yan sila sa akin. Kasi binabawalan nila ako magsalita, ay hindi rin ako makapigil minasn. Nagagalit na rin ako minsan sa kanila, na may takot din na kahit papaano,” the lackless fisherman enthused.

However, Sobejana’s assurance that the military is firm in its mandated to secure the country and not threaten people, was not made in reply to Hugo’s claims but was in fact in connection to the possible lawsuit that National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade plans to file against a reporter.

Still, the AFP chief-of-staff said that whatever Parlade says as spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC also reflects the stand of the armed forces as Parlade cannot be denied as an officer of the military.

“We will discuss this matter together. He is part of the armed forces pero for now, na-designate siya as spokesperson, reflective pa rin sa organization. That’s why we need to discuss all these things para ma-thresh out natin lahat,” Sobejana said.

The issue stemmed from a Facebook post of Parlade accusing Inquirer.net journalist Tech Torres-Tupas of being a propagandist when the latter featured a story involving a petition in the Supreme Court that was filed by an Aeta tribe against the military for allegedly torturing them.

In the said post, Parlade denied the incident and threatened to charge the journalist in court for supporting the terrorists by spreading false information. 

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana distinctly salutes with his left hand to render respect, because of severe injuries to his right-hand from the January 1995 encounter with the ASG in Basilan, where he earned his Medal of Valor. Sobejana was appointed the 55th Chief of Staff of the AFP by President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army

Chinese coast guard vessel harassed fisher, claims “AFP wants me to shut up”

Fisher claims harassed by China vessel

Critics smarting from alleged harassment from the military in the past are urging the fisherman who was reportedly threatened by Chinese vessels last week to continue voicing out his claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is intimidating him to keep quiet about the matter.

According to fisherman Larry Hugo, following his revelation about the threats he experienced from the Chinese vessels that blocked him from entering a sandbar near Kalayaan island, several men had been trying to prevent him from airing his complaints.

Hugo lamented that aside from being threatened by the Chinese Coast Guard, Philippine forces were also preventing him from speaking out.

Tiyak ko po, magagalit na naman ‘yan sila sa akin. Kasi binabawalan nila ako magsalita, ay hindi rin ako makapigil minsan. Nagagalit na rin ako minsan sa kanila, na may takot din na kahit papaano,” the lackless fisherman enthused.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, meanwhile, denied Hugo’s claims, saying “there are always fake news spreading in a society.”

Just like a few days ago, there was fake news about China harassing the fishermen. There was no such thing,” Huang stated.

In response, Hugo maintained the credibility of his videos and accused the Chinese Embassy of being blind to the truth.

Bulag sila sa mga picture na pinadala ko saka video. Pakiparating na lang doon sa nagsasabi niyan na bulag sila sa katotohanan. Papaanong nagkaroon ng barko at mga ano diyan,” he said.

To prove the truth in his claims, Hugo also said that the Chinese vessel he saw bore the number 5103.

Reports of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative in March 2020 show that the Chinese Coast Guard vessel numbered 5103 is a Shuwu-class boat that was involved in the standoff at Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

On Wednesday, Hugo said he saw the Philippine Navy patrol near Pag-Asa Island in Palawan, where 14 vessels of the Chinese Coast Guard were monitoring the area. 

Nag-patrol iyong Philippine Navy natin kasi siguro nga nahihiya na rin sila na ganyan nakabalita na hindi sila nagpa-patrol. Nag-pull out po iyong 11 na barko, tatlo po iyong natira,” he said.

The fisherman also said that state forces cut off the signal in the area to prevent fishermen from sharing their complaints. This was, however, denied by the AFP Western Command.

Ang atin pong (AFP) ay ginagalang po iyong karapatan na siya ay ano, ang bawat Pilipino ay magpahayag ng freedom of speech,” Colonel Stephen Penetrante of the AFP Western Command stressed.

Ginagalang ho iyan ng ating mga kasundaluhan. Alam po nila ‘yan,” Penetrante added.

The AFP Western Command also denied that it is cutting the cellphone signal in Pag-Asa Island to silence fishermen.

Ang personnel po natin na naka-assign diyan sa island ay wala pong kakayahan o capability na putulin upang i-distrupt ang communication, cellphone signal diyan,” he said.

Featured image: Chinese Coast Guard vessel seen within the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal.

Hontiveros: DITO Telecom poses cybersecurity issues on its rollout

Honyiveros: DITO Telecom poses cybersecurity threat to country | Dito Telecom poster

MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel expressed her fear on the possible security threat posed by DITO Telecom’s entry into the country because the firm is actually 40 percent owned by China. With barely a month left before its expected rollout as the third telecommunications company to operate in the archipelago,  more scrutiny into the nitty-gritty on privacy and security issues are yet to come.

In a recent statement, Hontiveros disclosed that since DITO is Chinese-owned and it has already signed a contract with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) it is allowed to install cell towers inside military camps, and, thus, further compounding the problem since this would open our defenses to the threat of hostile intelligence gathering.


PH’s readiness for potential cyber threats questioned

“With China having a 40 percent stake in DITO, our unpreparedness for potential cyber threats does not inspire confidence in the telco’s rollout this March, especially since it continues to harass our fisherfolk and refuses to have its vessels boarded within our territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea,” the lady senator emphasized.

Regarding preparedness, Hontiveros revealed that the National Security Council (NSC) has yet to submit a plan to combat cybersecurity threats.

“The National Security Council admitted that it had not yet—as of our last hearing on DITO telco’s franchise—established a cyber defense doctrine to guide our intelligence community in combating cybersecurity threats,” she said.


China’s consistent invasive operations need to be dealt with

Hontiveros did not cite specific instances of harassment from China, but several reports have shown invasive operations of the Chinese military in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea area, including the plight of fisherfolk Larry Hugo who filmed Chinese vessels blocking Filipino fishing boats from reaching the Scarborough Shoal.

The area is a rich fishing ground located within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles from territorial sea exclusive economic zone and considered a common fishing ground by the July 2016 ruling of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian denied Hugo’s claims, saying there was no such a thing.

Hugo, however, stood by his story and even said that the Philippine military has been preventing him from talking to journalists about Chinese harassment—a claim the military denies.

With this in mind, Hontiveros expressed hope that before DITO’s rollout next month, the government would be able to scrutinize the potential national risks.


DITO-AFP MOA contains provisions on national security

Sought for comment, DITO Telecommunity chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said the memorandum of agreement signed by DITO and the AFP “contained the very same provisions signed by the other two telcos.”

“Unlike the agreements with these other telcos, ours contained additional provisions pertaining to the commitments of DITO to national security. DITO Telecommunity guaranteed that its devices, equipment, and structures shall not be used to obtain classified information from the Armed Forces,” Tamano said.

DITO is expected to roll out this March. Its technical audit—a process which will determine its committed level of service—started last January 7.


DITO is all set to go

DITO chose R.G. Manabat & Company, an affiliate of KPMG, an international audit firm, to test its connectivity and internet speeds in various areas to ensure that DITO complies with its requirement to cover 37 percent of the population and provide a minimum average internet speed of 27 megabits per second (Mbps).

“May we further state that, as part of the new major player selection process, we submitted our cybersecurity plan during the bidding process to prove that the DITO network and facilities will not compromise national security and shall abide with the National Cybersecurity Plan. This plan has been accepted by no less than the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) and the National Security Advisor,” Tamano said.

“Moreover, as the final item on the list of requirements for compliance with the National Cybersecurity Plan, DITO established its Network and Security Operations Center. We respectfully extend our invitation to Senator Hontiveros and members of the Senate committee to schedule a visit to our Network and Security Operations Center for a live demonstration of our capabilities,” the DITO admin officer concluded.

US spurns China’s maritime claim, stands by SEA claimants

US dismisses China maritime claims | Rimpac 2020 exercises off the coast of Hawaii

The United States spurns China’s maritime claim and stands with Southeast Asian countries against the pressure from China. Words U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during a call with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Wednesday.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, illegal fishermen should only post bail, and cannot be arrested, much less fired at.

The United States has accused China of taking advantage of the distraction of the coronavirus pandemic to advance its presence in the South China Sea.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines (the West Philippine Sea), Vietnam and Taiwan.

In 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, in the Netherlands invalidated its claim over the South China Sea but China continues to ignore the ruling.

US relations with China weakened under former U.S. President Donald Trump over issues including the pandemic, Chinese policies in Hong Kong, Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority and trade. Before the end of his term, Trump administration imposed sanctions on Chinese officials and companies for alleged misdeeds in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Philippines will “assert all its rights,” as evidenced by its diplomatic protest against a new China law that allows its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and tear down structures that other countries built on contested waters, Malacañan said on Thursday. 

The Palace welcomes the foreign affairs department’s diplomatic protest against the new China law, said President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque. “This will prove that the Philippines is fully committed to the rule of law, and will assert all its rights available under existing principles of international law to defend its interests ,” he told reporters in an online briefing.

“We will protect and secure the Philippines’ national interest.” The details will be coordinated with the Departments of National Defense, and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Philippine Coast Guard, he added.

Featured image: Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020 exercises off the coast of Hawaii

Opposition using ‘culture of impunity in PNP’ narrative for public to hate Duterte — Dela Rosa

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa denied anew the existence of the culture of impunity in the Philippine National Police (PNP) and has accused the opposition of pushing this belief to discredit the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dela Rosa, who served as a former PNP chief under Duterte, said that the opposition is making “stories” of impunity to draw hate towards the president.

“Kung totoo iyan na may impunity, bakit umabot ng 93% ang approval rating ng pangulo,” the senator said, noting that no one is giving a command to “kill, kill, kill” in the police force.

“From the President down to the lowest level of command, sino bang nagsasabi na patayin, patayin, patayin? Wala naman nagsasabi. You engage using your firearms kung the situation calls na kailangang gumamit ka ng armas,” he added.

Netizens are quick to point out, however, that Duterte himself has been repeatedly quoted promising policemen protection if they kill in the line of duty or in case their lives are in danger.

“Do your duty and if in the process you kill 1,000 persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you,” the president said in 2016.

Jonel Nuezca, the policeman who killed an unarmed mother and her son in Tarlac on December 20, 2020 was nowhere near danger when he drew his gun and fired at the victims.

Nuezca was also “off duty” but had his gun with him as Duterte issued a directive for cops to still carry firearms even when they’re not working.

Wrong poster boy? PNP’s ‘good cop’ tale backfires

The attempt of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to restore public trust in the police following the bloody shooting in Tarlac backfired after it chose the wrong poster boy for its ‘good cop’ story.

Earlier this week, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) lauded Police Staff Sgt. Franklin Kho of the Manila Police District (MPD) for dedicating his month’s worth of salary to help the honor guards of the Black Nazarene image of the Quiapo church called the “Hijos del Nazareno.”

The NCRPO said that Kho’s salary, amounting to P32,114 was donated to the “hijos” in the form of 15 boxes of canned goods and nine sacks of rice. It added that the recipients were “very thankful for the good deed of Kho especially now that there’s a pandemic.”

NCRPO Chief Police Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao, Jr. said that Kho is “another proof that not all police officers stray from the path.”

But some questioned Kho being the “face” of the “model cop,” noting that it was him who ran over a group of protesters using a police van in front of the US embassy on October 19, 2016, resulting in potentially fatal injuries.

Following the said incident, Kho and eight other officials of the MPD were removed from their posts and placed under restrictive custody at the NCRPO personnel holding and accounting unit at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City pending an investigation.

Kho previously defended himself saying that he had to drive the police vehicle away from the demonstrators and they were hit by accident, claiming that some of the protesters threatened his life and were trying to take the police van.

In 2010, Kho was involved in another incident where he also used a police vehicle to ram into a barricade put up by “kuliglig” drivers near the Manila City Hall while they were protesting an order of former Mayor Alfredo Lim banning three-wheeled vehicles on the main roads of Manila.

Altermidya slammed the feel-good story of the PNP, saying that Kho is “not a good cop” and “might be one of the worst.”

“He pretends to be good but will kill you in the blink of an eye. Is it still an isolated incident if it involved a repeat offender? Seems to me that the only thing ‘isolated’ here is the Philippine National Police; isolated as the [No.1] criminal gang in the country,” said Adrian Puse, a member of the said media network that covered police violence in 2016, on Twitter.

The mentioned ‘good cop’ post was now deleted from the NCRPO’s Facebook page following the backlash.