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Ted Tuvera

US envoy summoned to Palace over report

Saturday, 24 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim was summoned to Malacañang yesterday to explain a “US Intelligence Community” report that cited President Duterte in a portion that discussed “threats” to Southeast Asian democracy.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters that, in behalf of the President, Executive Salvador Medialdea met with Kim regarding the matter.
Roque, however, did not discuss details of discussions between Medialdea and Kim.
The US Intelligence Community in its Worldwide Threat Assessment released on February 13, included Mr. Duterte in its “regional threats” which also tagged Cambodian leader Hun Sen, Myanmar officials over its treatment of the Rohingya crisis and the Thai government’s militarization woes.
“In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption, and crime,” it said.
“Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government,’ and impose nationwide martial law. His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended through the end of 2018,” it added.
However, Roque said that Medialdea instructed Philippine Embassy officials in Washington to seek to correct perceptions contained in the US assessment.

“Executive Secretary Medialdea likewise instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through our Philippine embassy in Washington D.C., to coordinate and engage with the US agencies involved in the writing of the assessment,” Roque said.
“The Executive Secretary further directed our embassy officials and staff in the US to provide the latter accurate information on the realities happening on the ground in the Philippines,” he added.
Roque said that instead of reporting negatively about the Duterte administration, Philippine Embassy officials in the US should promote the Duterte administration’s positive policies.
Among those that Roque said he wanted pointed out are “[the promotion of] socioeconomic development for the country and provide a safe and secure environment for all Filipinos, respecting at all times the rule of law.”
US says source was annual report
The United States Embassy said Kim explained the nature of the report as an annual assessment on conditions in each of the world’s various regions based on widely available information.
”Their discussion focused on the references to the Philippines in the report, including clarifying that the information about the Philippines had been previously reported by media sources,” the embassy said in a statement.
According to Molly Koscina, press attache of the embassy, the meeting was requested by Medialdea.
For its part, the embassy underscored the US government’s commitment to continue cooperation with the government of the Philippines.
Additionally, it bared “shared interests and possibilities for expanding” partnership was even discussed.
”The meeting ended with both Executive Secretary Medialdea and Ambassador Kim reaffirming the strength of the broad and deep bilateral relationship,” it said.
The report merely provided an overview and assessment of conditions in all regions, and added the two countries remain “friends, partners, and allies”, according to the statement.
Koscina pointed out that the United States and the Philippines are “longstanding friends, partners, and allies.”
“We have a range of shared interests and continue to work with the Government of the Philippines and look forward to expanding our relationship across numerous fields, from defense cooperation to development aid, over the coming year,” she said.
As the United States is committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights, Koscina said the US also reiterates calls on other governments to do the same.
Last Thursday, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against the US, saying this reflects meddling in the country’s domestic affairs.
The DFA has not yet given a statement.
Far from reality on ground
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, dismissed the US report, saying that it seemed to be merely based on the headlines of international media outfits.
Gatchalian pointed out, that most of what was written in the report missed the point and was far from the reality on the ground.
“I read that report. My analysis is that sentence is based on headlines that they read in international papers or international media outfits,” he said.
“That analysis (report) is based on the things that they read in the headlines. But if you go deeper into details, especially on the actions of the President, this is not what he does,” Gatchalian said.
While President Duterte did say in the past that he might be “tempted” to suspend the Constitution and impose nationwide martial law, Gatchalian noted the Chief Executive’s penchant for exaggeration and said that the Filipino people “are all used to that exaggeration.”
He said that for him, “actions speak louder than words” and the President’s actions were far from what the US intelligence report was implying.
“The report said there will be a suspension of the Constitution but there is no way to suspend the Constitution because we have a Senate that will prevent that from happening,” he said.
“It was stated there that the President will expand martial law but the President went to Congress to seek advice and to seek permission to expand martial law in Mindanao, and it was affirmed by the Supreme Court. So as we can see, we have a mechanism in place to prevent that from happening,” Gatchalian stressed.
Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under martial law after Islamic State-inspired terrorists attacked Marawi last May 23, 2017.
On his request, lawmakers extended martial law until December 31, 2017.
Due to the continued threat of terrorism, Congress approved anew Duterte’s request to further extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, or until the end of 2018.
On all counts, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of martial law in the region.


Yellows, LP allies call for Leila’s freedom

Friday, 23 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Minority senators, made up of Liberal Party members and their allies have a different set of standards, especially when it comes to calling for the release of a colleague.
Minority senators called late Wednesday for the “immediate release” of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.
She made sure that the nation would be made aware that by this Saturday, she is to mark her first year of what she calls as her “illegal arrest” and “unjust detention.”
The minority senators, composed of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Bam Aquino, and Risa Hontiveros, were quoted as saying in a statement that reads: “As her colleagues at the Senate, we are pained by the reality that a member of this chamber is locked up in jail on trumped-up charges when she should be here with us, engaging in productive discussions, legislating laws, and serving her constituents and our country,” they said. They have seen no evidence yet they term her arrest and detention as “unjust.”
It will be recalled that more or less the same LP senators, led by Senator Drilon, did not bother to defend their colleagues in the Senate when three then opposition senators were charged with plunder and ordered detained. They stayed in detention for years and there never was a call from these same senators to free their colleagues.
It is fact that despite the Constitution vesting the Senate with the sole right to suspend a member of the Senate, it was Drilon who actually claimed that the three opposition senators, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla had to be suspended, as he had to follow the orders of the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales, who has no authority and power to suspend any member of Congress.
The same minority senators filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 645 calling for the freedom of de Lima, whom they claim is a political prisoner under the Duterte regime.
They never made a similar resolution calling for the freedom of the three opposition senators, nor did they mention that they were the first three prominent political prisoners of then President Benigno Aquino.

Aquino and de Lima, it should be recalled, came up with trumped up charges of electoral sabotage against former President Gloria Arroyo and de Lima, in her time as justice chief, was even violating the law and the rights of the political foes of her yellow president.
And when Arroyo was granted bail by the courts, there went Aquino again, having her charged with plunder to ensure that she stays detained for six years.
Not one of the human rights group, such as the HRW and Amnesty Internation defended the former president and the three then opposition senators. Arroyo stayed in detention for six years. Estrada spent 3 years in detention until granted bail. Revilla continues to be detained.
The minority senators said de Lima’s continued unjust detention was instigated by her investigation of the Davao Death Squad as then chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and later investigation of the spate of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in the country as a senator — which earned the ire of then Davao Mayor and now President Duterte.
De Lima’s colleagues nevertheless lauded her spirit, which remains unbroken despite Duterte’s effort to tarnish her reputation and oppress her.
“Only a tenacious person with an unshakable resolve like Senator de Lima can withstand all these, unbowed, unbent, and unbroken,” they added.
The five senators acknowledged the increasing number of organizations and human rights advocates who have launched petitions seeking her freedom from incarceration.
They cited a March 2017 resolution by the European Parliament in Strasbourg calling for “the immediate release of Senator de Lima” and the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union’s call for her freedom in a report prepared by its human rights committee, among others.
The same senators filed SR No. 505 in September 2017 asking the Senate leadership to allow de Lima to participate in the sessions and deliberations of important legislative measures. There has been no action on this resolution.
Palace to Minority senators: Stop politicizing the courts
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. in response to the lodged resolution, urged the detained neophyte lawmaker’s allies to stop making appeals to release her because they tend to make it more of a political issue rather than from being a criminal, legal one.
The Palace official also insisted that President Duterte will not have any hand in the legal proceedings hounding de Lima.
“As to the call of the senators, that’s up to the Courts. I hope the senators will not politicize our Courts,” Roque told reporters.
“Let our Courts function as they should, free from political interference. I’m appealing to the opposition senators, do not influence the judges,” he added.
Roque in response to a question from the press on de Lima’s first year anniversary in detention, said sarcastically: “Happy first anniversary in detention, Sen. Leila de Lima.”
De Lima was arrested on February 24 last year over alleged links with drug syndicates inside the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) during her stint as Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary.
De Lima’s case is viewed by administration critics, domestic and foreign, as politically motivated given her critical stance against the administration’s war on illegal drugs.
Leila: Justice will come
A year after being jailed on charges she insists were concocted to silence her, a top critic of President Duterte says she believes justice is coming, banking perhaps on the complaint against President Duterte lodged before the International Criminal Court.
Senator de Lima has been pursuing Duterte for almost a decade, beginning with allegations he directed a death squad against suspected criminals while mayor of the southern city of Davao.
But now that the International Criminal Court has opened an initial probe into the deadly anti-drug war Duterte launched after becoming president 20 months ago, she says she has new reason to hope.
“I see the day justice will come. I hope for that day. The preliminary examination will eventually get to an indictment,” de Lima told AFP at national police headquarters in Manila, where she is being held.
“I feel this is the start of my vindication, but true vindication comes when I am absolved of the charges,” added de Lima.
De Lima says the allegations were cooked up to stifle her criticism of Duterte, and she has earned the support of international legislators as well as rights watchdogs.
“I have to keep fighting,” she said, smoothing her floral print shirt.
“If I keep quiet and fade away into oblivion, people will think I deserve this.”

Sison hints desire to resume talks

Friday, 23 February 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

President Duterte’s move to know from state security forces whether or not his government should proceed with peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) shows his lack of political will, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison said as he telegraphs an apparent desire to resume negotiations.

Sison, 79, said in a statement that it would be natural for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Department of National Defense (DND) to reject continued negotiations with the revolutionary movement.

“It is unbelievable that Duterte has abdicated his role as political leader and commander in chief and has become the subordinate of his military subordinates on the crucial question of peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Sison pointed out that the Commander in Chief could pass the blame to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana if talks with the NDF fails.
Lorenzana, the communist leader assailed, is taking orders from the United States.
“It is obvious that Duterte is evading responsibility for sabotaging and terminating the peace negotiations,” he said.
“Duterte is probably insinuating that Lorenzana can overrule him anytime because his Department of National Defense (DND) secretary takes orders directly from the US,” he added.
Sison, Mr. Duterte’s college professor in the mid 1960s, warned his former student to watch out for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) elements which he claimed are cooking up plots against him.
“What should worry Duterte most is the existence of at least two key groups of active and retired AFP officers at the level of generals and colonels who are trying to persuade and mobilize other officers to withdraw support from Duterte for betraying national sovereignty, adopting policies inimical to the people and committing outright crimes of great proportions,” Sison claimed.
Meanwhile, talking to the second batch of supposedly surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) combatants hosted in Malacañang, the President stressed that those who adhere to their dream to overthrow government have not earned anything from Sison’s leadership.
Rody: What did you get
from Joma?
“So what have you gotten from Sison then? Sison is a millionaire who is living abroad. The son of a bitch has been there for so many years,” Mr. Duterte said.
“The money that he is spending is the money that you worked hard for. What’s your capital? Your blood and the lives of your fellow human beings. How much do they collect? How much do they collect from the mining companies? The mining companies would give 30, 40, 50 million [pesos]. How about the banana plantations? How much? You think it’s just 5 million? You’ve been lied to,” he elaborated.
With regard to his resolve to provide free housing to the former rebels, the Chief Executive said there are 1,000 housing units in Talomo and Bangkal in Mindanao.
“There are around 1,000 units, some are in Talomo and some are in Bangkal. It’s almost done. It’s supposed to be given to the military and police, but I’ll give them to you instead,” Mr. Duterte said.
“Get yourselves enlisted now because I’ll give the 1,000 units to you. You will have a house that comes complete with everything. There is a school as well. College education is free. So I will just give you your allowance,” he added.
Terrorist tag important — AFP
There is an urgent need for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), to be declared as terrorist groups as they are no different from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin said.
“It is important to declare the NPA as terrorist group, for their pretentious image of fighting for the people to stop. For being terrorists, they are now in the same rank of Abu Sayyaf and Maute,” he added.
Also, in the past few months, Datuin said the entire country had witnessed terror acts committed by the rebels that included kidnapping, killing of innocent civilians and torching and destruction of numerous properties, both private and public, and extortion activities.
And should the CPP-NPA be declared terrorist groups, the AFP said that all of their supporters would be made liable to the government under Republic Act 10168 (The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012).
In the same vein, Datuin said the entire AFP is urging the remaining NPAs in the mountains to cease their armed struggle and reintegrate themselves back to society.
“That is why the Armed Forces of the Philippines is calling on the remaining NPAs in the mountains that it is time to end the armed conflict and return to the fold of the law. The government is ready to help them start new lives),” he added.


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