Perete resigns as DOJ undersecretary, cites ‘serious reasons’

Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Markk Perete is handing in his resignation today, Oct. 1.


“After much thought, I have decided to submit my resignation from the DOJ effective today due to serious reasons,” read the DOJ spokesman’s Viber message to reporters at around 5:40 a.m.

Prior this, there have been no hints that led to this decision to resign from the DOJ.

Perete was brought into the DOJ by Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra back in 2018 along with Undersecretaries Emmeline Aglipay-Villar and Adrian Sugay.

Prior to his stint at the DOJ, Perete was technical assistant with the rank of Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs at the Office of the President.

Executive committees

With recent media coverage on the tremendous powers of the executive committee of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) enabling it to control the financial transactions of said agency, my article today focuses on the structure and functions of executive committees.

By law and practice, executive committees have been constituted in corporations for reasons of expedience and necessity, whereby the board of directors delegates to a smaller group of directors some corporate powers to assure prompt and speedy action on important matters without the need for a board meeting, especially where such meetings cannot readily be held.  The more complex and sophisticated the corporate business is, the more there would be a demand for the creation of an executive committee.

Regular board meetings are often conducted only once a month.  There are occasions however where transactions require corporate approval but cannot wait for the board to meet, given the urgency or the need to make a prompt decision.  To address such situation, the bylaws may authorize the creation of an executive committee, which is an adjunct or extension of the board, that can act on matters falling within the board’s competence (Dean Nilo T. Divina, The Revised Corporation Code, p. 240).

If the bylaws so provide, the board may create an executive committee composed of at least three (3) directors.  Said committee may act, by majority vote of all its members, on such specific matters within the competence of the board, as may be delegated to it in the bylaws or by majority vote of the board, except with respect to the:  (a) approval of any action for which shareholders’ approval is also required:  (b) filling of vacancies in the board;  (c) amendment or repeal of bylaws or the adoption of new bylaws; (d) amendment of repeal of any resolution of the board which by its express terms is not amendable or repealable; and (e) distribution of cash dividends to the shareholders (Sec. 34, Revised Corporation Code).  It should be clear that the executive committee cannot also approve the declaration of stock dividends since said act requires stockholders’ approval (Dean Nilo T. Divina, ibid.).

What should be emphasized is that the executive committee is as powerful as the board, as it actually performs certain duties of the board, and, in effect, it is acting for the board itself.  And so, because of the nature of the functions of the executive committee, the authority to appoint such body should be expressly provided in the bylaws (De Leon, The Corporation Code of the Philippines, p. 305).  The executive committee should however be distinguished from other committees, which may be appropriately referred to as “management” committees, which are also within the competence of the board to create at any time and whose actions require confirmation by the board itself. 

It should also be clarified that the executive committee is not performing management functions and that its members should not be classified as officers of the corporation.  The executive committee is a creation and an extension of the board, performing functions which the board is authorized to perform.  In that sense, the executive committee is also performing board, and not management, functions.

In the same vein, foreigners who may not be allowed to hold officer positions in some nationalized enterprises, but who are allowed to sit in the board of directors in proportion to their stockholdings, are not prohibited from being appointed as members of the executive committee.  As discussed above, what the executive committee performs are board functions (De Leon, ibid., p308).

The above comments are the personal views of the writer. His email address is

The Emerging City Life in the New Normal

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. And with most of us entering day 187 and living through various types of community quarantines, which incidentally is the longest of its kind in the world, certain habits, routines, and aspects in people’s daily lives, have started to emerge.

Major changes in our way of living and thinking have developed, and being able to revert back to the way it was prior the pandemic, would most likely be a futile exercise. This seems especially true for those who are so used to a fast-paced lifestyle, the ‘hustle-and-bustle-filled’ city-life, but are now embracing the actual benefits of a work from home life.

This shift in mentality, coupled with newfound familiarity, has changed consumer demands and behaviors, significantly re-shaping the concept of “city living” of what it was then, and what it has become in the new normal.

A digital shift in traditional consumer habits

Before the pandemic, majority of Filipinos preferred shopping via brick-and-mortar stores—evident in the overwhelming number of malls and shopping stores in every city in the country with a sea of people consistently flooding these establishments.

But because of the pandemic which led to mall shutdowns and limited entrance capacity—so as to lessen the health risk of staying in an enclosed space with strangers, for extended periods of time—Filipinos have learned to welcome the convenience, ease, and safety of online shopping.

It seems that online shopping is here to stay for the long haul, which, from the looks of it, has a good chance of even crossing over to the next normal, in the post pandemic world, what with all the constant promos and offers, convenient modes of payment, and even installment plans exclusively offered by e-commerce retailers.

The rise of flexible work arrangements

While plenty of businesses and corporations already had plans to incorporate telecommuting in their work set-ups, the pandemic practically forced the business sector’s hand in initiating and committing to the ultimate work-from-home trial run. And while rocky at first, this extended experiment has actually presented more pros than cons.

Having seen the initial good results of this long drawn-out and unplanned experiment of working from home indefinitely, companies now have the viable option of possibly implementing a more balanced work arrangement in the next normal, one that will pave the way for a less stressfully-hectic life with a more flexible, healthy, and less commanding city-lifestyle.

A demand for safe and quality mobility

As some companies have already started rolling out a somewhat mixed arrangement prompted by the easing of nationwide quarantine restrictions, mobility has started to become a necessity, once more. The only obvious difference, this time around, is that more and more people now are opting to use their personal vehicles for safety reasons or deciding to purchase a vehicle altogether, given the significant price drop being offered by many car companies nowadays. And while commuting is still available, it is understandably not an option for many, at least till a safe and effective vaccine is finally made available.

Given this current stark reality, the next normal would most likely promote the owning of a vehicle as a necessary tool, especially by those who are required to work majority of their days in the field, going from one destination to another.

While this foreseeable setup may pose as a problem, primarily because of its cost implications, people will still see it as a good investment move, given the situation. And as they say, “Health is wealth,” now is as good a time as any to be investing in a car given the generous price drop being offered by car companies nowadays.

Let’s take for example a brand-new Honda City. It is now being sold with discounts of up to P120,000 and comes with a free Air Purifier which will provide clean air within the cabin—ensuring a safe drive during the new normal. That in itself, is already a very good deal, not to mention, it is a Honda, and its high-quality craftsmanship is unquestionable. Owning a car like a Honda City, with its overall reliability, low cost of ownership, and premium standing, makes a lot of practical sense.   

So, what can we expect in the next normal? Well, your guess is as good as ours, but one thing is certain though, whether we like it or not, the inevitable change is already here and we can either embrace it or reject it. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the choices each one of us will make to ensure our own survival, and make our day to day struggles, at the very least, more livable. 

What is your product’s value proposition?

The registration of online businesses in the Philippines skyrocketed to 75,876 as of September 2 from 1,753 recorded in January to March 15as more and more entrepreneurs conduct business via the internet due to strict lockdown restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to the Department of Trade and Industry.

These online businesses are primarily selling and trading essential goods, such as food and food stuff, and home supplies. Even celebrities and entrepreneurs jumped into the bandwagon of launching food delivery apps to take advantage of the quarantine and work-from-home setups.

But like my usual questions to any newbie entrepreneur seeking advice on opening a new business, I always ask –What is your value proposition? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? I sometimes get good answers, but majority of greenhorn businesspeople retort with such answers as ‘my pricing is competitive’, ‘my hamburger is more delicious’, or ‘we offer more selection’.

When you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, you are more often subjected to genitive biases that cloud your judgment about your new business venture. One is overconfidence bias which is the tendency people have to be more confident in their own abilities such as starting and growing a business. Another is optimism bias, a cognitive bias that causes someone to believe that they themselves are less likely to experience a negative event, such as business failure due to external factors.

These biases make inexperienced entrepreneurs ignore planning and preparation, and instead follow their instinct and experience, and adopt a ‘me-too’ strategy. This is why many startup businesses fail after a few years of operations – a testament to the often-cited statistic that 9 out of 10 new business fail. The business failures may even be larger.

Think of ‘me-too’ business ventures that people jumped into and failed – lechon manok (roast chicken), beauty parlor, internet shop, milk tea store, coffee shop, and now potentially online business.

One critical gate you have to pass through when starting a business is clearly identifying the value proposition and unique selling proposition of your offering. People confuse these two and often treat them as one and the same; and they’re not.

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged and a belief from the customer that value will be experienced. It is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services. It is what will make your target customer ‘consider’ your offering.

One great example of a value proposition statement is that of iPhone. It says, ‘Every iPhone we’ve made – and we mean every single one – was built on the same belief. That a phone should be more than a collection of features. That, above all, a phone should be absolutely simple, beautiful, and magical to use.”

Value proposition is based on the target customer’s needs, wants, and fears. Needs are the rational drivers of purchasing or using; Wantsare the emotional drivers of purchasing and using your product; and fears are the risks of the target customer for switching to your product or service.

These are then translated to the features and benefits of your product or service to your customers and the experience they will go through using the product.

A value proposition statement guide I use is this: “For [target customer] who [statement of need, want, or how to address fear], our

is ]product category] that [statement of benefit & experience].”

USP, on the other hand is a part of value proposition. It is what sets your offering apart from competition. It is what will make you customer decide to ‘buy’ your product. An example fo a great USP is that of Domino’s Pizza: “”You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less — or it’s free.” A USP statement includes the unique solution that your offering provides to a specific problem of customers. It involves identifying your competition, what they are known for, and identifying what your offering can do that’s unique from competition.

A USP statement guide that I use is this: “We at [Business name] help you[resolve the consumer’s need]by/with only/without [unique benefit].”

Once you have your value proposition and USP statements, then you can wordsmith them to make them more appealing. These are also your bases for crafting your elevator pitch or the primary message that you can use in promoting in social media and other communication channels.

Value proposition and USP are just the first gates toward a successful business venture. You also need a sound business plan that includes how to scale your business.

The author is CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is the Chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) He is the Country Representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia (ICTPA) and Fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation.He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at

SMC, TESDA launch livelihood training program for Bulacan residents

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has launched its free livelihood and skills training program for Bulacan residents in cooperation with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

This is in preparation for the construction of the diversified conglomerate’s P734 billion Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan.

SMC president and COO Ramon S. Ang

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said the massive training program that is open for all Bulacan residents is part of SMC’s job creation initiative.

This is aimed at helping Filipinos adapt to changing demands and benefit from opportunities that will emerge with the construction of the airport project in Bulacan.

“This airport project will be a game-changer, not only in terms of its effect on the economy of Bulacan and the entire Philippines. More importantly, this will change the lives of Bulacan residents even beyond the pandemic. These courses are for free and open to all residents of Bulacan who are willing to learn,” Ang said.

He added that, “By helping them develop new skills, we equip communities with the means to become resilient to rapid changes and future needs and empower them to be able to transform their lives for the better. We also want to make sure that the benefits of this project are shared equitably among our kababayans.”

San Miguel Corporation (SMC), in cooperation with the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), yesterday launched a massive skills and livelihood training program for residents of Bulacan.

SMC will pay for the tuition, assessment, trainor’s honoraria, meals, insurance, and transportation allowance of the initial participants, who are all former Barangay Taliptip residents.

The pilot batch consists of 60 participants will undergo 20 days of training in their chosen courses and 3 days of entrepreneurship training. 

Those who will opt for self-employment and set up their own business will be given toolkits like welding machines, sewing machines, and other equipment.

Courses include shielded metal arc welding, electrical installation and maintenance, and heavy equipment operations. Meanwhile, courses such as dressmaking and cookery are offered for residents who want to be self-employed. 

“We are inviting everyone to learn any of the TESDA courses being offered so they can be prepared for present and future opportunities. After our initial batch of 60 individuals, we will immediately expand the program to include all residents of Bulacan subject to government’s health protocols that include wearing of protective equipment and physical distancing,” Ang said.

He said the airport project will also benefit many residents from provinces in Central Luzon as well as those Overseas Filipino Workers who had to return to the country in droves due to uncertain global economic conditions.

“Local residents in Bulacan will be prioritized and we expect jobs and opportunities to be bountiful that we even see workers coming from all over Central Luzon, Metro Manila and as far as southern Luzon,” Ang said.

The MIA project, which is capable of handling up to 100 million passengers per year, is seen to create about 30 million tourism-related jobs, and generate more than a million direct jobs for host province Bulacan and nearby provinces.

This project will serve as impetus for the emergence of new local industries and boost existing businesses it will require suppliers, maintenance contractors, food providers, accommodations, and the like.

The Bulacan Airport City Economic Zone located near the MIA is also expected to attract business locators that will provide employment to local residents and boost local government revenues. 

Seen to solve perennial congestion problems at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the MIA will initially feature four parallel runways with a provision for two more; a world-class terminal, and an infrastructure network that includes a mass rail system.(James A. Loyola)

Buenos Aires’ TecPlata terminal starts receiving Far East imports

Despite the ongoing pandemic, TecPlata port terminal in Argentina has begun receiving imports from the Far East with the first shipment from China through a new Far East service provided by Evergreen Marine Corporation.

Tecplata receives first imports from the Far East

The all-purpose port terminal in the greater Buenos Aires area, is being operated by TecPlata S.A., a subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services Inc.

In a statement, ICTSI said the import was carried by the company Di Gilio Hnos de Ensenada which comprised auto parts from Ningbo, China.

In turn, on the same ship and on the same service, TecPlata’s first export for China were loaded.

The exports were refrigerated containers from Frigorífico Gorina, a leading company in the export of meat in Argentina from La Plata. Part of the reefer cargo is destined for the port of Shanghai, and the rest goes to the port of Xingang. 

The new Evergreen service broadens the range of options for cargo traffic from and to the Far East which, added to operational advantages and lower terminal costs, positions TecPlata as one of the best port alternatives for Argentine foreign trade.

TecPlata continues to strengthen this position by adding new services. Recently, the terminal received import cargo from Brazil that was later transported to the La Plata Free Trade Zone, located just 5 km from the terminal. 

Because of this, TecPlata seeks to develop and promote a logistics hub in the region, adding synergies with the La Plata Free Trade Zone, with the aim of reducing costs of Argentine logistics.

Within the framework of the economic challenge that Argentina is going through as a result of the global pandemic, TecPlata had already decided months ago to extend the term of free storage of cargo from 7 to 9 consecutive days and had updated its public tariff, reducing costs for exports. These measures were adopted to collaborate with Argentine importers and exporters, exemplifying TecPlata’s commitment to its clients of providing efficient, flexible, transparent and competitive solutions

Has all this talk of fake sand made you miss Boracay?

Now that the island is open to domestic tourists, more than just grains of sand, you can have hearts and stars and snowflakes between your toes

Photos by Jackie Tinsay

PALM PROMENADE Palm trees keep the white sand company as Boracay awaits beachgoers

If you are all sick of the sand “storm” over Manila Bay, why not plan to dip your toes into real sand?

Why not head over to Boracay?

The island paradise, which has been consistently recognized by international travel institutions as the World’s Best Island or Asia’s Best Island over the years, has been open to travelers from Western Visayas since June. But, beginning today, it is open to tourists from around the Philippines. Best of all, you can bring the entire family along, even those older than 60 and those younger than 21.

WALK ON THE BEACH With the most stringent health and safety measures in place, may Boracay remain Covid-free

That’s right. You and I and our lolos and lolas and the kids we love are now welcome in Boracay. As of today, Oct. 1, there are 202 hotels and resorts that the Department of Tourism (DOT) has issued with Certificates of Authority to Operate (CAO). That number represents over 4,400 rooms we can book right now.

The reopening was a decision carefully thought out by the principals of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), at the helm of which are Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu as chairperson and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat as co-vice chairpersons, in close coordination with Aklan governor Florencio Miraflores.

THE CHAIR Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, photo by Noel Pabalate

But is Boracay ready? 

More important, is it safe? 

“Although it’s been open to Western Visayas visitors since June, it’s worth noting that Boracay has remained Covid-free,” Berna tells me. “We have been studying what works and what can be done better, and have also applied our learnings from the best practices of other destinations in terms of reopening. The innovations in medicine and digital technology have also given us more assurances in the form of more accurate and timely testing, and contactless transactions.”

KEEP IT GREEN Coconut tree planting at Hennan Boracay

Travelers, for instance, are now required to provide negative RT-PCR results 48 to 72 hours prior to the trip. 

Also, all airlines servicing Boracay, such as Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines, have been advised to use the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan as the only airport of entry to the island.

THE SOUND OF SILENCE Waves and breeze and all the riches of solitude on the sand

We cannot be slaves, we cannot surrender to this pandemic. We have to find ways to live and thrive in it while protecting ourselves and other people. 

Berna Romulo Puyat

“Because of these interventions, age restrictions have been lifted,” adds Berna. “Our job is to make sure that hotels and resorts abide by our stringent health and hygiene protocols.”

Of course, these protocols, temperature checks, for instance, and social distancing, information sharing to enable contact tracing, as well as frequent disinfection of hands and things are strictly enforced, from the airport to the hotel reception.

LIKE POWDER Sand made by nature, not by heavy-duty machinery. Photo by the author

Where I am staying, at the relatively new Feliz Hotel, housed in a European-esque building reminiscent of colonial homes, nothing is touched during check-in or, if anything has to be touched at all, such as your IDs or credit cards by the receptionist or your suitcase by the bellhop, it is wiped down or sprayed with alcohol after it is taken from you and before it is returned. In-room fixtures, such as the telephone and the remote controls are sealed in cling wrap to assure you that they have all been disinfected.

UNDER THE BORACAY SUN A moment of quiet and stillness on White Beach

So yes, Boracay is ready, that is if we are prepared to follow the protocols diligently. What’s more, all the pleasures of Boracay’s acclaimed waters, crystal clear, soothingly warm, and soul refreshing, are now available to beach adventurers. Choose from a wide range of activities from jetskiing, parasailing, banana boat riding, and helmet diving to island hopping. Scuba diving is also available, but you will need to book in advance to give operators lead time to ready the boats and equipment.

Most ready of all, always ready, is the sand, real sand, real fine, real white depending on the time of day and the color of the sky or the season. So I don’t mind just sitting there, with my toes buried in the powdery grains.

SHAPED BY THE WIND The forces of nature are Boracay’s untold treasures

There’s more to this sand than you can see with your naked eyes. Under a microscope, the sand is chockful of shapes that should put your emojis to shame—hearts and stars and snowflakes, for example, into which the forces of waves and wind and water pressure have pulverized such things as boulders, rocks, calcium carbonate, and coral skeletons.

There’s nothing like a real vacation, with sea and sky and space in which to let your spirit free—free from Covid, free from Metro Manila’s war on sand and other “war, war stupid,” free at last, just three days and two nights out of life or from having been cooped up at home for way too long—but with hearts and stars and snowflakes between your toes to keep you on the ground.

TWILIGHT Sunset on the beach

Who knows how soon the other 7, 640 islands representing the various shapes, sizes, and feels of our many destinations can follow suit? And maybe travel—and getting away—will soon feel normal again.

Meanwhile, the sand beckons, real white, real fine, ground up by nature’s forces, and rolled out like a VIP carpet especially for you.

Why coffee brands are pushing sustainability and lokal in this pandemic

In the web series hosted by the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement, Pacita Juan, co-chair and president of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., shared her knowledge of coffee and how it was associated with the country. According to her timeline, the Philippines was first introduced to coffee in 1740, thanks to a Spanish Franciscan monk who brought it to Lipa, Batangas. In 1880, the country became the fourth largest coffee exporter, but that ended in 1889 due to coffee rust. The ’50s was when we saw the rise of instant coffee. 

She pointed out that our history was rich with coffee because of our colonizers. Both the Spaniards and the Americans preferred coffee over tea. But our current desire for coffee reached new heights when we adopted a 24/7 lifestyle, when the BPO industry dominated the country. The good thing is that the Philippines is in what is called the coffee belt—areas of the planet where the soil and temperature are just right to cultivatea coffee plant—to help answer Filipinos’ growing demand for more cups.

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Memorable Womens Month at the UN. #newyork #wep #womensmonth #trusteeshipcouncilchambers

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While many Filipinos still sip a hot cup of coffee every morning, this doesn’t mean that the industry has been spared from the pandemic’s repercussions.

“The supply chain has been shaken,” Pacita tells “We recently had a consultative meeting with major Philippine roasters and all of them had suffered a drop of about 80 percent in demand from all sectors—HoReCa (hotel, restaurant, and cafe), as well as supermarkets and groceries.”

To make the coffee scene lively again, brands have bravely taken new actions to reintroduce their products while in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.


For more than a decade, locally grown coffee has been at the center of Kick-Start Coffee. Led by its founder Mike Asuncion, the company is not a stranger to a crisis. In fact, it was born out of one.

“I started the brand at a turning point in my life where I pivoted careers after the 2008 financial crisis,” Asuncion says. “Much like today’s global pandemic shifted people’s plans, the world economic changes at that time rocked my world. I was an investment banker with Lehman Brothers abroad and came home to Manila to become a start-up coffee entrepreneur.”

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Kick-Start your day right with Philippine Barako prepared by a French Press! #kickstartcoffee #coffee #barakocoffee #philippinecoffee #proudlyfilipino

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Growing up in a family that made a living out of coffee, Mike wants to channel the positive impact coffee has on drinkers at home, reflecting the need among Filipinos to focus on sustainable partners in a time of constant adversity. 

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Your Daily Lift is a blend of Arabica and direct trade Cavite Robusta coffee perfect to Kick-Start your day right! .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ #kickstartcoffee #philippinecoffee #cavitecoffee #robustacoffee #arabica #coffee #coffeephilippines #proudlyfilipino #caffeinefix #slowbrew #pourovercoffee #coffeecommunity #espressoyourself #coffeehour #coffeescene #freshlyroasted #farmtocup #coffeefix #bestcoffeephotos #foryourdailyfix #coffeeforbreakfast #coffeelover #nothingfancyjustcoffee #qualitycoffee #baristaathome #supportlocal #addictedtocoffee #coldbrewcoffee #coffeetime #brewedcoffee

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With that, the brand comes up with a broader coffee variety for the modern Filipino. Also,the brand’s new design features the Philippine flag, with positive messages that mirror the company’s resiliency and dedication to better, positive days. 

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Brewed Awakening is 100% Arabica medium dark roasted coffee great for a pour over coffee!⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ .⁣ #kickstartcoffee #coffeelifestyle #espresso #coldbrew #arabica #freshlyroastedcoffee #latteart #coffee #coffeelover #barista #manualbrewonly #goodcoffee #coffeeroastery #baristalife #cafe #coffeeroaster #thirdwavecoffee #coffeebrewing #coffeegram #homebarista #coffeeaddict #coffeetime

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“It reflects the evolution of the brand and its entrepreneurial journey milestones,” Mike says. “We hired a firm from San Francisco to preserve the essence of the original design, while modernizing it with a global appeal to prepare Kick-Start Coffee for new markets abroad. I hope our story can serve as inspiration to Filipinos who are currently evaluating how to pivot in the new normal.”

Facebook and Instagram: @KickStartCoffee

The Philippines is in what is called the coffee belt, areas of the planet where the soil and temperature are just right to cultivate a coffee plant.


At a time when many chefs, food entrepreneurs, and restaurateurs are in deep doubts and worries about their physical stores, Nepresso took a bold step by opening a new boutique in Metro Manila. The international coffee chain brings its sustainability initiative to its new location at The Podium, featuring the upcycled works and designs of Universal Design Studio.

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Discover more on how Nespresso showcased its dedication to innovation and its stand on sustainability through a unique experience. Start your visit now and take a Virtual Tour at the newly opened Nespresso Boutique at The Podium:

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“From our beginnings more than 30 years ago, Nespresso has revolutionized the way millions of people enjoy their coffee every day. It is in our boutique, such as this one at The Podium, where you can experience what it is all about,” says regional business development manager Fabio De Gregorio. “The immersive experience provides deeper learning and coffee exploration to store visitors. Its specific elements and furniture stand to communicate the brand’s deep commitment to environmental conservation and adherence to circular economy.”

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Doing is everything. Today, we would like to share the new commitments Nespresso is taking to bring about a greater impact on the lives of coffee farmers and on the environment. ☕ Reducing, reusing, and recycling ☕ Supporting farmers’ livelihoods ☕ Making your cup fully carbon neutral by 2022 We are committed to creating a positive impact and to continuously produce some of the finest coffee that preserves the best of our world. #NespressoPH #Doingiseverything #NespressoSustainability

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Apart from its eco-friendly-themed atmosphere, the new boutique aims to bring back the joy of dining out and having coffee outside to its Filipino customers. 

“Every innovation (as well as) sustainability solution is a means to a greater end: to benefit the earth, improve lives in the community we belong to, and encourage others to do the same,” says Patrick Pesengco, managing director of Novateur Coffee Concepts.

Nespress Boutique at The Podium is located at Level 2.  For opening hours, visit

Hanggang sa muli: An unforgettable four years

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim

It is with a heavy but full heart that I bid farewell to the Philippines, my home for the last four years.  As I think back to my November, 2016, swearing in, I recall vividly the immense pride I felt at being appointed US Ambassador to our oldest ally in Asia.  Coming from Los Angeles, the US city home to the largest number of Filipino-Americans, I had experienced the unique generosity, warmth, and hospitality of the Filipino people.  But I could have never imagined the incredible journey ahead.  From our partnership to end the Marawi Siege, to the historic return of the Balangiga bells, to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic – time and time again I was amazed at what Americans and Filipinos could achieve together.  When I depart, I will take with me many indelible memories.

One of them was visiting Marawi City not long after the end of the siege.  While the massive destruction caused by the terrorists was heartbreaking, I saw the best of humanity in the strength and resilience of the Marawi people.  During a meeting with teachers and students, I was awestruck by their positive attitude, energy, and resolve to rebuild.  Since the onset of the conflict, we have provided more than P3.1 billion to support the recovery of their communities.  Philippine military leaders briefed me on the siege and recounted the critical assistance we provided to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines defeat the IS-inspired terrorists.  Testifying to the strength of the alliance, President Trump, like so many of his predecessors, visited the Philippines within the first year of taking office, and the Philippines continues to be the largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region.

This alliance did not happen overnight.  On the battlefields of World War II, American and Filipino servicemen forged bonds that laid the foundation of our alliance, a bedrock of peace and security for our nations and the region.  In recognition of our deep gratitude to those who fought so bravely for our freedom, in 2018, I had the honor of presiding over the first-ever Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the Philippines.  And this past year, we joined the Armed Forces of the Philippines and veterans groups to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, honoring the shared sacrifice and heroism of Filipinos and Americans, whether they defended Bataan, fought in Corregidor, or liberated Manila.  Their poignant stories will remain with me for the rest of my life.

In addition to our security alliance, we share a robust economic partnership that creates jobs, builds skills, and supports inclusive development.  US companies are the largest employers and electronic exporters, and among the largest taxpayers in the Philippines.  From Bohol, to Davao, to Cebu, I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact US companies are making by investing in their Filipino workforce.  In the face of the pandemic, US companies stood by their Philippine partners, providing medical supplies, IT support, and food for frontliners.  The US government has provided more than P1 billion to support Philippine government COVID-19 efforts, including the recent donation of state-of-the-art ventilators manufactured in the Unites States.

I depart optimistic about the future of the US-Philippines alliance in large part due to the outstanding Filipino youth I met throughout my tenure.  Alumni of our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative inspired through their dedication to community and country, while Filipino teams impressed with technological innovations in global NASA competitions.  Enthusiastic US-bound students I met at our EducationUSA fairs will spark new collaborations with American classmates.  As honorary chairperson with Fulbright Philippines, I learned from the best and brightest Filipino students and academics.  Recognizing the unlimited potential of these ties, our governments elevated higher education cooperation to a bilateral strategic priority.  This mutual investment reinforces our shared values as democracies and underscores that the Philippines’ greatest resource has, and always will be, its people.

Whether watching college basketball, meeting Filipino youth, or traveling to stunning destinations, I’ve been inspired and energized by the promise of this dynamic country and the depth of our special partnership.  The next time I wear a barong, enjoy lechon, crispy tilapia, or buko pandan with my wife and daughters, we will remember with fondness the wonderful friendships we made here.  It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the Philippines these past four years.  With profound gratitude I bid the Philippines and my Filipino friends farewell and say maraming, maraming, salamat, and until next time – hanggang sa muli!

No sabotage motive in suspending budget debates–Defensor

Suspending the plenary consideration of the P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 is in no way an act to sabotage its passage, according to Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor.

Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“This is not to stop or hindi naman po ito para i-sabotahe ang mga pagtatapos ng Committee on Appropriations (This is not to sabotage the work of the Committee on Appropriations),” Defensor said Wednesday afternoon as he justified his motion pertaining to House Bill (HB) No.7727.

“Bagkus, I would think na sana ho makatulong din itong paghinto sa pag-aayos sa budget…mabigyan tayo ng panahon na itama (Instead, I would think that this suspension might help in putting the budget in order…to give us time to correct it),” he said.

Filed by Appropriations panel chairman, ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap, HB No.7727 is the 2021 National Expenditure Program or NEP in bill form. The NEP emanated from the Executive via the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Earlier during the Wednesday session, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano delivered a privilege speech wherein he touched upon the “problems” of the proposed budget and how it affected his dynamics with Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with whom he has a term-sharing agreement.

Wednesday was only the third day of the plenary debates on HB No.7727 wherein the individual budgets of the government agencies were scrutinized and defended on the floor.

At the tail end of the session, Defensor stood up and echoed Cayetano’s concerns over the proposed budget.

“Alam ko marami tayong mga kasama na mayroong commitments sa kanilang mga distrito na sa ngayon ay nakabinbin under the ‘for later release’ funds. Ang ating mga kasamahan na mga programa na pangunahin para sa pangkalusugan…para po sa pagbibigay-buhay sa ekonomiya ng distrito natin (I know many of our colleagues have commitments in their districts that are in limbo because their funds have been classified as ‘for later release.’ These are our colleagues who mainly have health and economic stimulus programs in our districts),” he said.

“Yun pong Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), isa po yan sa mga patuloy kong tinutuligsa sa budget ng Department of Health (DOH). Sinasabi ko po, itama natin ang budget na ito. Ayusin natin na ang bawat distrito na kinasasakupan ng bawat miyembro ng Kongreso ay magkaroon talaga ng maayos na ospital (For example, the HFEP is one facet of the DOH budget that I’m assailing. What I’m saying is, let’s correct this budget. Let’s correct it so that every district represented here in Congress would get a decent hospital),” the Committee on Public Accounts chair further said.

“With that, I move to suspend the consideration of the budget until Friday of this week…with the colatilla that I will again move for the further suspension of the consideration if these concerns…of our colleagues, their commitments to their districts, the need to respond to the needs of the health sector, the need for them to push for the economic development of their districts (aren’t addressed),” Defensor said.

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte, the Deputy Speaker for Finance, manifested afterward: “I would like to reiterate that the swift passage of the budget be done despite all this talk about the Speakership. Gusto ko lang po i-emphasize (I just want to emphasize), people first, politics later.”

Villafuerte, who like Defensor is a staunch ally of Cayetano, ultimately supported the motion, which was then carried by the presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu.

The timely passage of the P4.506-trillion budget for next year is crucial in the government’s attempt to lift the economy from the dregs of the COVID pandemic-triggered slowdown.

Velasco accuses Cayetano of maneuvering to cling to power

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco  hit back at Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano last night as he accused the House leader of breaking his word to President Duterte by resorting Wednesday to “political maneuverings and theatrics” to cling to power.

Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In an Instagram message posted last night, Velasco chided the speaker for breaking his pledge to Duterte that he will publicly announce his intention to step down as House leader on October 14.
Instead, Cayetano declared his resignation effective September 30 – a move that was rejected by 184 congressmen for various reasons.
A number of solons said they want to follow to the letter the October 14 changing of the guard in the Lower House while many others simply wanted Cayetano to continue serving past the 15-month limit provided under the term-sharing pact with Velasco.
Referring to the results of a meeting with Duterte and leaders of the Lower House at Malacanang on Tuesday, Velasco said Cayetano had “promised to resign on October 14”, allegedly on orders of Duterte for him to honor the term-sharing agreement for the speakership.
“Ito ay usapang lalaki. (This is a gentleman’s agreement)”, stressed Velasco, who was supposed to take over the speakership post on October 14.
“Moreover, the President entrusted you with the task of announcing the date of the turnover. October 14 was chosen as the date for the turnover because we committed to pass the budget before October 14 and do nothing else that would disrupt or derail the process,” said Velasco.
The House leadership decided to cancel the budget deliberations scheduled Wednesday afternoon after the chamber voted to retain Cayetano.
“It is most unfortunate, therefore, that today, deliberations on the budget was suspended. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage,” stated Velasco.
Velasco was the center of Cayetano’s privilege speech delivered a few hours after they met Duterte to resolve the controversy surrounding compliance to the gentleman’s term sharing pact that the Chief Executive brokered last year.
The Speaker roundly criticized Velasco for various acts that Cayetano claimed were violations of the terms of the agreement.
“These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” Velasco responded.
He said: I call on my colleagues to continue our work and pass the budget on or before October 14. This is the commitment we’ve made before the President, and this is our responsibility to our constituents, to deliver to them a fair and equitable budget.”
Velasco also expressed his thanks to Duterte for calling the caucus that supposedly ironed out kinks in the observance of the term-sharing agreement. 

As we begin the second ‘ber’ month today

Today is the start of the last quarter of the year. Government economists and business managers generally expect improved figures in these final three months, making up for any losses in the middle of the year, so that the year-end figures stand out, reflecting progress in the national economy or in the business enterprise.

To most Filipinos, however, today is better known as the start of the second “ber” month. Filipinos cherish the Christmas season so much that they celebrate it longer than other people, starting in September when we start hearing “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” on radio and other Filipino songs heralding the holiday season. Some streets in Metro Manila already have the traditional Christmas “parol.”

There is still one other important holiday before the spirit of the season takes hold – Undas, when Filipinos traditionally troop to cemeteries all over the land to light candles and say prayers at the graves of departed loved ones. That would be at the start of the third “ber” month – on November 1, All Saints’ Day.

This year, however, after Manila closed all its cemeteries from October 29 to November 4, other towns and cities have followed suit. The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us and it is best to avoid crowds. Thus people will have to carry on with the Undas tradition spread out in the two months of October and November, before or after the banned week.

This is indeed a holiday season like no other. Everything is muted. Many offices, restaurants, and factories remain closed or have partly opened, but only up to 50 percent of capacity, under the rules of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila. In any case, most people remain uncertain about going to public places like malls.

We were not able to observe Holy Week last March as we used to. Graduating students were not able to experience receiving their diplomas in April. The month of May passed without the usual fiestas and Santacruzans. Independence Day on June 12 came and went with hardly anyone noticing. July, August, September used to be busy months for going around the country. And now, it is October and the pall of gloom that has hung over the country for the last seven months continues.

But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal in the human breast. And so we look forward to these coming days of October, November, and December. We hope to see soon the giant Christmas trees in front of malls and hear the music of Christmas in churches, schools, and music halls. Our hopes remain that the pandemic will soon run its course, that when the first day of the fourth “ber” month – December – comes, we will all feel free to step out of our homes and feel the wonder of Christmas after all these months.

Turning 50 as Speaker was part of term-sharing deal, says Cayetano

What’s wrong with celebrating your 50th birth anniversary as Speaker of the House?

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano bared in his privilege speech Wednesday that the matter of birthdays became a sticking point in his meeting with rival Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Alan Velasco the previous night in Malacañang.

According to Cayetano, it was part of the original details of his term-sharing agreement with Velasco that he cede his post after October 28, 2020–his 50th birthday.

However, he said Velasco was insistent during the meeting that Cayetano step down on October 14. Or else the “15-21” term-split will not have been honored, Velasco allegedly told President Duterte who was mediating the meeting.

“Very clear ang usapan: I have two budgets na ipapasa, and magbi-birthday ako na ako ang Speaker. Sabi niya (Velasco), ‘E birthday ko rin e!’ (The deal was very clear: I have two budgets to pass, and I will celebrate my birthday as Speaker. He said, ‘It’s also my birthday!’)” Cayetano recalled the meeting.

The Marinduque lawmaker will turn 43 on November 9.

“Sabi ko, ‘Pare 50th birthday ko, sentimental lang sa ’kin.’ Sabi n’ya, ‘Ang babaw mo naman.’ Sabi ko, ‘Oo mababaw talaga ako.’ Mababaw talaga ako e, sentimental—e sino ba naman ang nagfi-fifty years old sa atin na hindi sentimental? (I said, ‘Compadre, it’s my 50th birthday, it’s sentimental for me.’ He said, ‘You’re shallow.’ I said, ‘Yes I’m really shallow.’ I really am shallow and sentimental. Who among us turns fifty without being sentimental?)” Cayetano said.

The Taguig-Pateros solon further told Velasco: “Pare ang dami mo pang birthday, ang bata mo pa e (You’ll have more birthdays to come, compadre, you’re very young).”

Apparently it was Velasco who got his way in the end, with Duterte approving the October 14 turnover date. Cayetano claimed that the President left it to him to announce the upcoming change, so as to keep things orderly.

However, the October 14 turnover date began popping up in social media and within the solons’ Viber threads that same evening. This irked the incumbent Speaker.

Cayetano and Velasco have a term-sharing agreement for the Speakership–the country’s fourth most powerful position.

Under this unprecedented deal, which Duterte himself brokered last year, Cayetano will serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco will finish the remaining 21 months at the chamber’s helm.

Garin airs misgivings on gov’t funds to be spent on WHO Solidarity trials

Instead of spending P89 million for the development of an anti-COVID 19 vaccine, the Philippines should insist on contributing the expertise and industry of its scientists and medical experts for the effort being undertaken under the Solidarity trials of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Iloilo 1st District Rep. and former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Janette Garin (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, a former health secretary, said that if this is not possible, the country should convert the P89 million into discounts for the country’s orders for anti-COVID-19 vaccine that will be approved for public use.     

During the plenary presentation of the 2021 proposed budget for the Departmetn of Science and Technology, Garin,  aired serious misgivings over the allocation of the amount to  finance the conduct of public trials for vaccines being developed under the WHO solidarity trial.     

Garin, the senior minority leader of the House of Representatives, said this is the first time that government will be allocating funds for vaccines being developed for profit by private companies.      

Responding to Garin’s objection to the allocation of government funds for the development of COVID-19 vaccine, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the Philippines is bound to follow the conditions set under the WHO Solidarity trials.       

This is a commitment of the government in exchange for the opportunity of the country to be prioritized as soon as the vaccine experimented on has been found potent enough to protect people against COVID 19. 

She noted that the Philippines has experienced hosting a number of vaccines for private pharmaceuticals, usually multinational firms, in the past.  However, firms requesting for public clinical trials are the ones volunteering to shoulder expenses. 

Garin stressed that firms experimenting on the vaccines pay for the fees of subjects volunteering to try the new formulas.     

“The fact that we are offering our country as venue for the Phase 3 of the trial is already a big contribution by our country,” she stressed,

According to her the expertise of  DOST scientists who will be tapped to help in the conduct of the vaccine trials should also be considered a huge contribution for the development of a vaccine.

“My appeal is that DOST would put a rider or provisions that in the conduct of this COVID-19 trials, any peso spent by government should redound as a discount once a vaccine is made available,” said Garin.

This proposal should be included as a special provision of the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act, she said.

Customs, PDEA arrest suspected marijuana smuggler in Cebu City

Elements of the Bureau of Customs-Ninoy Aquino International Airport and  Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 7 have arrested  the claimant of more than 1,000 grams of kush marijuana worth P1.5 million in Cebu City on Tuesday, September 29.

(photo from Ariel Fernandez)

The authorities conducted a controlled delivery operation which resulted in the apprehension of Jan Robert Pareles at Asmara Urban Resort, 1 Paseo Saturnino St., Barangay Banilad, Cebu City.

Records showed that the subject cargo was declared as “shisha”, and shipped by Richard Mrozek of Spain and consigned to a certain Mateo Abato of Cebu City.

The parceI arrived at the FedEx warehouse on Sept. 18.

The BoC-NAIA personnel found out that the cargo contined kush marijuana, and they immediately coordinated with PDEA for appropriate chemical laboratory analysis.

The suspect will be charged with violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 in relation to Section 1401 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

Julia Barretto leaves Star Magic, joins Viva Artists Agency

Actress Julia Barretto is now a certified Viva artist!

This after Barretto left Star Magic to join the Viva Artists Agency. She made the announcement on Instagram Sept. 30.

Barretto also thanked Star Magic which managed her career for several years. Her full post on IG:


“I am now officially being represented by @vivaartistsagency. Thank you for the warmest welcome, I am truly looking forward to this new journey.

“Thank you to my Star Magic Family, especially Tita Cris, Mr. M and Ms. Mariole for all the guidance, protection and support; every step of the way.

“Thank you for your continuous mentorship and supervision.

“Star Magic is what it is today because of the two of you. Thank you for everything ♥️” Barretto said.


Among the notable stars under Viva Artists Agency include Anne Curtis-Smith, Sarah Geronimo, Bela Padilla, Vice Ganda, etc.

Tea and gin pair well together. Here’s how

Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin is potpourri liquid

I just learned how to make an exceptional gin-based cocktail and I want to share it with you. A few days ago I got to join an online tasting session with Hendrick’s Gin regional brand ambassador Charmaine Thio

I’ve been a fan of the cucumber-forward Hendrick’s, but the evening turned floral with the local release of the Midsummer Solstice limited run bottle. It’s quite the opposite tangent from the usual savory Hendrick’s with this one being a bouquet of flowers you could drink. It smells strong of potpourri and really reminds me of the ’80s when I used to do these homemade science experiments with ternate flower petals and lemon juice.

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Getting psyched for tonight's virtual launch of Hendrick's Midsummer Solstice in Manila! So excited to talk about this deeply floral expression from our Cabinet of Curiosities and to make some tantalizing tipples to celebrate the weekend! 💐 💐 💐 💐 #hendricksgin #hendricks #gin #hendricksmidsummer #midsummersolstice #gintonic #ginandtonic #happyhour #ginlover #ginlovers #gindrinks #gincocktails #gincocktail #brandambassador #imbibe #ginstagram

A post shared by Charmaine Thio Hendrick’s Gin (@crazycocktailcat) on

Hendrick’s traditionally goes well as a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber and perhaps a dash of cucumber bitters to bring out that savory veggie flavor. Charmaine showed us how to maximize the flavor profile of the Mindsummer Solstice by steeping chamomile tea and mixing it with equal parts sugar to create a chamomile-infused simple syrup. You can add about 15ml to 30ml of that with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and 30ml of gin and voila,  you have a refreshing summer drink that would normally cost you above P500 in Poblacion.

The Midsummer Solstice is available for a limited run in all SnR branches.

Leftist solons square up with NICA chief at budget hearing

Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) confirmed Tuesday that he had shared Facebook posts allegedly falsely accusing Makabayan lawmakers of committing graft and openly aiding communists, adamantly declaring that what he did was correct based on his own personal belief.

Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)

Through Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon, Monteagudo claimed sharing the Facebook items that were posted by anonymous on-line news agencies and other bloggers was his personal choice and had nothing to do with his being an official of the government.

Biazon added that the intelligence chief shared the posts to his personnel since sharing intelligence information  is part of NICA’s mandate.

During the plenary deliberations for NICA’s 2021 budget at the House of Representatives, Monteagudo may have added insult to injury by claiming that he did not personally know who were behind the social media posts that Makabayan lawmakers described as utterly false and pure canard.

The deliberations for the NICA budget and that of the National Security Council were later deferred following a motion by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.

Brosas noted that the agency failed to submit a national peace framework which is needed to justify the operation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The social media pages that Monteagudo shared have recently been taken down by Facebook for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” aside from being fake accounts.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate chided Monteagudo for re-posting a social media page that accused him of “stealing public funds to finance terrorism.”

“I take strong exception to that, wala po akong ninanakaw kahit isang sentimo,” he stated.

 Demanding that Monteagudo must take down the controversial social media shares, Zarate reminded Monteagudo that irresponsibly sharing false information and unfounded accusation is a violation of Republic Act 6713 which provides that public officials are expected to act with professionalism and highest degree of integrity.

“What is your proof na nagnakaw kami? Your followers will certainly believe that that is true because you are the director general of NICA. And we are already branded as terrorists,” said the opposition lawmaker.

He stated: “These postings are a direct affront to us, to members of this Congress.”

Biazon, who sponsored and defended the budget proposals for NICA and NSA, said Monteagudo stood strongly to the post as reflecting  his personal opinion against the aggrieved lawmakers.

“If the NICA director general will stand to that position with regards to the Facebook share or like, this sponsor cannot impose on him,” he said.