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Newly installed PNP chief vows to pursue drug war

Saturday, 21 April 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The newly named top police commander of the Philippines yesterday pledged to keep up President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-drug war despite fresh international condemnation over the killings.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, who was sworn in Thursday, will now lead the narcotics crackdown that has killed thousands since Duterte came to power just under two years ago.
“How to sustain the drug war? In order to sustain it, we will not change anything,” Albayalde told reporters at his first press conference as commander.
He took over Ronaldo de la Rosa, who retired with hero’s honors this week after helping Duterte launch the bloody crackdown.
“Why would we stop a program that is very effective?” Albayalde added, citing “very good momentum and gains” since the alleged police killing last year of a teenage boy wrongly accused of drug crimes that sparked street protests.

Police on Friday announced another 13 alleged drug suspects were killed in a sweep that also led to the arrest of 58 people.
Albayalde’s comments came as the Philippines pushed back against a European Union Parliament resolution voted on Thursday that criticized the crackdown, the latest international condemnation of it.
The EU lawmakers called “on the government of the Philippines to put an immediate end to the extrajudicial killings in the pretext of a ‘war on drugs’”.
It also expressed “grave concern over credible reports to the effect that the Philippine police force is falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings”.
While police say the campaign has killed around 4,100 people, rights groups allege the true toll is triple that number and amounts to state-sponsored murder.
Duterte began the crackdown in July 2016 after pledging during the presidential election campaign to kill 100,000 criminals to rid society of the scourge of narcotics.
Duterte last month pulled his country from the International Criminal Court after The Hague-based body’s chief prosecutor launched an initial examination into allegations lodged against the president over his drug war.
He also threatened to arrest the chief ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, if she tried to enter the Philippines to pursue her investigation.
On Sunday the Philippines deported EU politician Giacomo Filibeck, who has previously criticized Duterte’s crackdown, and on Monday briefly detained an elderly Australian nun who has been critical of alleged human rights violations by Philippine soldiers. 

Erdogan’s snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate?

Saturday, 21 April 2018 00:00 Published in Commentary

Ankara, Turkey — With his stunning call for elections in just over two months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to wrong-foot an unprepared opposition and capitalize on surging nationalist sentiment after his operation in Syria, analysts say.
Erdogan and his party will be the strong favourites to win the simultaneous presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24 but may still be taking a risk against the background of a deteriorating economy.
The polls are significant because after the elections a new executive presidency — which critics worry will give the head of state authoritarian powers — will come into force.
And if he wins a new five-year mandate then Erdogan — who has already been in power as premier and then president for 15 years — will be able to enter a third decade in office.
“(Erdogan) wants to show he is the absolute master of the political agenda,” said Dorothee Schmid, head of the French Institute of International Relations’ (IFRI) Turkey Program.
The polls had originally been due to be held on November 3, 2019.
“The effect of surprise is part of his tactics to control the opposition, both inside and out, thus restoring the balance of power in his favor,” said Schmid.
‘Clear favourite to win’
The main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) has yet to even name its presidential candidate while the breakaway nationalist formation of ex-interior minister Meral Aksener, the Iyi (Good) Party, was only set up in October.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), meanwhile, has been weakened by the arrests of its most prominent figures and will prioritize making the 10 percent threshold to win seats in parliament.
“Checkmate”, read the headline in pro-government daily Yeni Safak on its front page Thursday.
Berk Esen, assistant professor at the department of international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, said the timing reduced the chance of any opposition alliance that could rattle Erdogan.
“Erdogan may have wanted to go for elections before opposition parties could strike a deal on an electoral coalition.”
Esen said Erdogan was the “clear favorite to win” as the opposition lacked a game plan and, except Aksener’s party, did not even have its candidates ready.
‘Economic pressures’
There has been a surge of nationalist sentiment in Turkey after the army prised control of the Afrin region of northern Syria from Kurdish militia after an operation ordered by Erdogan.
His Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will fight the election in alliance with the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Erdogan’s rhetoric has become more nationalist-tinged in recent years.
But in the forefront of the mind of Erdogan — a proven election fighter who has won every poll since the AKP came to power in 2002 — the economy was likely to have loomed large.
While growth in Turkey was 7.4 percent in 2017, double-digit inflation, a wide current account deficit and the need for debt restructuring at top companies could be harbingers of trouble ahead.
“There is no doubt the decision was made in large part because of economic pressures and the related concern that the AKP’s and Erdogan’s popularity will slip over the course of 2018 and 2019,” said Anthony Skinner, MENA director at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
‘Grown disillusioned’
The government has appeared on an election footing since the start of the year with rallies hosted by Erdogan or Prime Minister Binali Yildirim almost every weekend.
And in a situation already angrily denounced by the opposition, the election will take place under the state of emergency in place since the July 2016 attempted coup, which was renewed for a seventh time on Wednesday.
“I see the decision as a calculated move, for which the costs and benefits have been carefully weighed up,” said Skinner, noting that the AKP has an “effective” public opinion polling machine.
But it will not all be smooth sailing for the AKP in a highly polarized country roughly split between supporters and opponents of Erdogan.
The executive presidency was only approved in the April 2017 referendum with 51.4 percent of the vote, despite the ‘yes’ vote enjoying disproportionately favorable media coverage.
This also is the first time that Erdogan has felt the need to call snap polls, although he did order an election re-run in November 2015 after the party lost its overall majority in June 2015 polls.
“There are voters who have been seduced by Erdogan at one point and who may have grown disillusioned because of growing authoritarianism,” said Didier Billion, deputy director of the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations.
“He may lose their voice,” he told AFP.

Matthysse says Pacquiao a dimming star

Friday, 20 April 2018 00:00 Published in Sports

World champion Lucas Matthysse on Wednesday vowed a fight "to the death" in his July title defense against Manny Pacquiao, describing the Philippine boxing legend a diminished star.
But the 35-year-old Argentine -- who took the vacant World Boxing Association welterweight title in January -- said it was still a "dream-come-true" and "an honour" to face Pacquiao, winner of eight unprecedented world titles in different weight classes.
"Obviously he is still a very great fighter but since the knockout of Marquez, I think he is not the same fighter anymore," Matthysse said at a joint news conference in Manila, referring to the Filipino's sensational 2012 knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.
"He is not in his prime anymore," the Argentine added.
Pacquiao, 39, will fight Matthysse for the WBA welterweight belt on July 15 in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Filipino has 59 wins with 38 knockouts in his career, and is currently a senator in the Philippine parliament.
Many in the country believe he will one day run for president, but Pacquiao has insisted that he is happier in the ring than in politics.
But Matthysse -- who has 39 wins with 36 knockouts in 43 matches -- said he was not fazed by the status of his opponent.
"Sure, Manny has won so many titles... I (have) only won one title. I am not going to give it up. I will die for it if I have to," he said.
"I will defend this title to the death."
Pacquiao has not fought since he lost his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown in a shock points defeat to Australia's Jeff Horn last year, and has not knocked out an opponent in nearly nine years.
He insisted, however, that he was far from finished.
"That is what I am trying to prove this coming July 15 that Manny Pacquiao is not done yet in boxing," he said.
"I keep on fighting because boxing is my passion and I love raising the flag of the Philippines."
- Roach out? -
In a separate interview with AFP, Pacqiao described Matthysse as an "aggressive fighter".
"He keeps on coming, which is good for me".
He said he plans to improve his footwork, head movement and work on more combinations to counter the champion.
Matthysse for his part told AFP Pacquiao "changed his style a little bit" after the Marquez KO, though he is not guaranteeing a knockout.
"Both of us fighters are very aggressive. We're gonna fight toe-to-toe and it's gonna make for a great fight," he said.
The Kuala Lumpur bout will likely mark the first time in 15 years that Pacquiao will be fighting without his long-standing US trainer Freddie Roach, who expressed hurt last week after saying ties have been cut.
The boxer suggested Wednesday that role might go to his own friend and compatriot Buboy Fernandez, at least for the Matthysse bout.
"We just want to try and experience that Buboy will handle this one fight and after that go back to Freddie," Pacquiao said, stressing he had yet to decide and was "not closing the door" on Roach.
The bout will also mark Pacquiao's first venture as a promoter, instead of having his long-time American impresario Bob Arum handle that end of the business.
"Bob Arum is in charge of American pay-per-view and that's it," Pacquiao told AFP.
After the Matthysse fight, Pacquiao told reporters Wednesday he wants to take on Vasyl Lomachenko, the Ukranian superfeatherweight WBO champion.
He is currently considered by many to be the world's top "pound-for-pound" fighter, an unofficial honour Pacquiao once held. 

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