The Daily Tribune News - The Daily Tribune News - Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 06:31:12 +0800 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Vicious Du30 spins ‘no deal breakers’



The backlash in efforts to demonize President Duterte has dulled and in terms of diplomatic relations, the harsh allegations against him are no deal breakers, international think tank Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA) said yesterday.
Alek Chance, PSA analyst, told The Tribune that Mr. Duterte is in a strong position politically since most of the topics that foreign governments take issue with (him) have been out in the open for a while now, “and ties aren’t likely to get worse.”
“On the contrary, many countries have come to terms with Duterte’s new style and are trying to find ways to improve relations,” he said.
He added that this doesn’t mean that criticisms mainly on the war on drugs will go away.
“Many western leaders face both political and policy constraints that won’t permit them to drop the subject, but this doesn’t mean that the issue has to be a deal breaker for Philippines ties with any given country,” he said.
Critics have recently exploited a string of detrimental reports on Mr. Duterte primarily the annual report of Amnesty International (AI), the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (TI) and Global Assessment report of the US Intelligence Community that all noted human rights and corruption issues against Mr. Duterte to call for more international pressure against the Duterte administration.

Chance said foreigners have taken note of a few high-profile issues where Mr. Duterte has adopted some controversial approaches and rhetoric, like the war on drugs.
He associated it with “the trends of our times” which “is the clear decline of liberal democracy around the world.”
“As such, foreign observers are particularly sensitive to any signs that a given country will become part of this trend, so certain policies and certain rhetoric are going to invite a lot of scrutiny,” he added.
He added foreign journalists and politicians also don’t necessarily evaluate the President’s “whole policy portfolio” because things like tax reform and infrastructure development just aren’t going to capture global attention in the same way.
Chance was referring to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law which multilateral financial institutions have hailed as a decisive move that took a lot of political will to pass but was crucial in sustaining the country’s strong economic growth.
“The president enjoys a lot of political capital at home for being an outsider, for pushing much needed infrastructure development, and for taking decisive action in other areas, but these things won’t gather much outside attention until some concrete results can be demonstrated,” Chance said.
He added that for many Westerners, “perceived problems in the realm of political, civil, and human rights will always outweigh progress on other fronts.”
TI score not conclusive
Anti-Duterte groups have also capitalized on the recent drop in the country’s ranking in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of TI as proof that corruption has worsened under Mr. Duterte despite the TI report showing a one-point drop in the CPI score of the Philippines from last year.
Chance said the difference in the score this year from last year was not conclusive.
“The first thing to point out about the Philippines’ new CPI score is that a one-point drop is not statistically significant,” he said.
“In other words, we can’t really know if the decline is the result of real changes on the ground, or just slight variation in how the data are collected, or which survey respondents were available from one year to the next,” he said.
He said that attention should be given “to significant, multi-year trends.”
“CPI published a list of countries experiencing statistically significant changes, and the smallest such change was six points. In other words, Transparency International doesn’t think this one point drop means much,” he added.
He also noted the CPI is a composite indicator of 13 different surveys.
“A survey of this kind isn’t very sensitive to short-term policy developments or issues in the news. So similar to how only big shifts in the score will tell us that real policy changes are at work, only real, sustained policy changes will be able to make a dent in the score,” he added.
“The upshot is that this is is something to track over the long term, not to focus on the ups and downs.
“Another thing to note about the methodology is that while TI’s website uses a narrative to describe some causes to the decline of SE Asian states’ scores, their data technically can’t tell us why a score has gone up or down,” Chance said.
A lot of TI’s narrative about trends is just speculation or interpolation, he said.
Chance said while the CPI gets a lot of attention, “there are several other studies out there that can offer interesting insights on the state of corruption.”
“The CPI isn’t the definitive study. There’s data from the World Bank, World Economic Forum, the Heritage Foundation, and others. Looking at these data is helpful because a lot of it is broken down into different components—bribery vs. nepotism, for example, or how different sectors compare,” Chance said.
He added these studies are reminders “that while corruption is a systemic problem for a country, there is a lot of variation. One sector in a low-CPI country can be clean, while another sector in a “clean” country might have a high incidence of corruption, based on a number of factors, he added.
Good as benchmark
“In short, an index like this may be a good benchmark for policymakers as they take stock of systemic issues, but from a business perspective, a more granular, on-the-ground evaluation process is necessary,” Chance said.
He added that in assessing business risks, the CPI and other data can help contextualize risks, but they really only provide background for an assessment.
“With a proper evaluation of third party corruption risks, a business can adopt appropriate strategies to mitigate these risks and succeed in poorly scoring countries,” he said.
He ceded that it can’t be ignored that the Philippines’ score “isn’t very impressive, and a lot of work needs to be done to improve the country’s standing.”
“Experts agree that corruption is a complex systemic problem that involves both policies and social attitudes, and is also cyclically tied to poor economic performance. In short, there won’t be any quick fix, so nobody should get frustrated if new policies don’t produce instant results,” he added.
Efforts to fight graft ongoing
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in a statement yesterday, said that President Duterte is doing his best to curb malpractice within the state bureaucracy.
“We have to underscore that corruption is a problem that cannot be solved overnight; thus, we are taking the results of Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, which shows our 111th (out of 180) ranking, seriously,” Roque said.
“President Duterte likewise gave a stern warning to government officials and employees that he would not tolerate corruption during his watch,” he added.
The CPI showed the Philippines placed 111th out of 180 countries surveyed, with a score of 34 from 35 last year when it ranked 101st out of 176.
The report said the Philippines, India and the Maldives scored high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths.
Roque, who claims to be a press freedom advocate, denied that journalists are not being safe under Mr. Duterte’s watch.
“There is no truth that we have fewer press freedom. Our media are still able to broadcast and print or publish what they want – fake news included,” Roque said.
“Filipinos are free to air their grievances with the President even declaring an unprecedented Day of Protest,” he added.
Notably, Roque’s claims on upholding press freedom came days after Malacañang barred a journalist belonging to an online news organization that has a reputation of being critical of the Duterte administration.
The Palace official, moreover, rallied more Filipinos to back the administration’s war on corruption.
“Fighting corruption needs everyone’s cooperation,” Roque said.
“The government cannot do it alone. Citizens must be vigilant and report corruption,” he added.
Chito Lozada, Ted Tuvera


]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Solon to divorce buffs: Not easy to break up with wife

The main proponent of the divorce bill yesterday warned would be divorcees that there is no “quickie” way to break up marriages that are made in heaven.

According to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the absolute divorce bill does not allow “drive through,” “no-contest” or “quickie” divorces.
Lagman explained that the bill unequivocally provides that “no decree of absolute divorce shall be based on a stipulation of facts or confession of judgment,” which is a prohibition on a no-contest divorce.
It was passed at the committee level on Wednesday.
Coerced petitions and convenient collusions are also prohibited, Lagman said.
He said divorcing a spouse is not easy to come by as the Office of the Public Prosecutor is mandated to conduct investigations to determine whether or not there is collusion between the spouses.

The bill specifically provides that the “Office of the Public Prosecutor in provinces, cities and capital towns is authorized and obliged to conduct investigations to find out whether or not there is collusion between the spouses in a petition for absolute divorce and shall report its findings to the proper court within six (6) months from the filing of the petition”.
He said steep penalties of five years imprisonment and a P200,000.00 fine are imposable on a spouse who coerces the other into filing a petition for divorce as well as on colluding spouses.
Section 12 of the bill provides that “a spouse who is a party to a petition for absolute divorce and who is found by the court to have used threats or coercion to compel the other spouse in filing the petition, and spouses who are guilty of collusion, shall be punished with imprisonment of five (5) years and a fine of Two hundred thousand pesos (P200,000.00).”
These provisions uphold the State’s commitment to protect marriage as a social institution, Lagman said.
Prelate: Divorce bill anti-family
Members of the clergy said the divorce bill, which passed the committee level at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, is against family.
With this, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes expressed disappointment over the lawmakers’ decision to pass the measure at the committee level.
“This is a very disappointing development. The Philippines is the only Catholic country in the world where divorce is forbidden. The Church should rally against this law by showing the disastrous effect of divorce that destroys the family, the basic unit of society and the domestic Church,” he said.
“Divorce is a direct affront to the law ordained by God and specifically reiterated by our Lord Jesus Christ!,” the Catholic prelate added.
Bastes is hoping that legislators will see the sanctity of marriage and also the effects of divorce in nations where such law is implemented.
“The destruction of families by divorce is indeed a project of Satan, the enemy par excellence of God! Would that our lawmakers open their eyes and hearts to the beauty of upholding the dignity of marriage and to the horrendous situation which divorce has caused in all countries of the world,” he said.
Fr. Jerome Secillano, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee said Congress will betray its mandate if it passes the divorce bill.
“Divorce is anti-marriage and anti-family! By passing this measure, Congress betrays its mandate to protect our country’s legally and morally declared social and inviolable institutions!” he said in a post on his Facebook account.
The Catholic priest noted that they support the protection of rights of parties involved but such rights should coincide in protecting marital unions.
“The Church is all for the protection of rights especially of the aggrieved parties in marriage. But protection of rights should go hand in hand with upholding our cherished institutions like marriage,” he said.
“While divorce may indeed vindicate the rights of women, as congressmen believed, it is unfortunately to the detriment of marriage and family as sacred institutions that should otherwise be protected by the State,” Secillano added.
A technical working group of the committee on population and family relations headed by Lagman approved a substitute bill that consolidates several measures which seek to legalize divorce in the country.
With PNA

]]> (Gerry Baldo) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
US envoy summoned to Palace over report

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.


]]> (Ted Tuvera) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Dunkin Donuts owner slapped with tax evasion


The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) yesterday filed a tax evasion complaint before the Department of Justice (DoJ) against Golden Donuts Inc. (GDI), exclusive franchiser and license grantee of US company Dunkin Donuts, which is headed by the Prieto Group, for failing to pay P1.118 billion in taxes.
Also charged were its officers Walter Spakowski, Miguel Prieto, Pedro Paraiso, and Jocelyn Santos for violation of Sections 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) for willful attempt to evade or defeat tax and for deliberate failure to supply correct and accurate information.
The BIR alleged that the company is liable for arrears of P1.118 billion in income tax, value added tax (VAT), and expanded withholding tax, including surcharges and interests, for 2007.
Marissa Cabreros, deputy commissioner of the BIR’s Legal and Inspection Group, said under the NIRC, the prescription period in filing tax cases involving fraud is 10 years from discovery, adding that the investigation against GDI was prompted by “confidential information” they received only in 2017.
In a statement, GDI said it “categorically” denies accusations of tax evasion for 2007.
“As a matter of fact, the tax liabilities of GDI for the said year had been settled with the BIR as of 2012,” it added.
“GDI has always been compliant with all tax laws and regulations, as evidenced by tax clearances issued by the BIR over the years. While GDI has yet to receive a copy of the complaint filed on Friday, it appears from the news reports that the complaint was filed based on an alleged 39 percent underdeclaration of sales which arose from the attribution of sales of franchises to GDI,” the statement read.

GDI added that all its franchisees “are business entities separate from GDI that are responsible for paying their own taxes.”
“GDI is a professionally-managed organization which has been in the food business for more than 37 years. GDI is prepared to answer the tax evasion case in the proper forum,” it added.
BIR checked GDI books
With the record on GDI, the BIR said its office has issued a Letter of Authority to examine GDI’s books and other accounting records.
BIR said the result of the investigation showed altered sales invoices while other invoices do not contain GDI’s income tax number.
“Through this scheme, GDI was able to claim the altered invoices as deductions from its income and as input VAT credits in the amount of P99,297,036.47 and P11, 915,644.38, respectively,” the BIR said.
“This is an independent evaluation conducted by an officer on the basis of the information provided to us,” Cabreros said.
The complaint lodged against GDI is the 131st filed under Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program under the leadership of Commissioner Caesar Dulay.
In April last year, President Duterte cited Dunkin’ Donuts alleged tax deficiency and its ownership ties to the broadsheet.
“Inquirer owned Dunkin Donuts and it owed tax payments. Kim Henares (former Internal Revenue Commissioner) fixed it and it did not pay anything. If they did pay, it was so small,” Duterte said.
“I will give them a deadline. I need money to run this country. I need money to build houses,” Mr. Duterte added.



]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
US expands laundering, fraud raps vs ex-Trump campaign chief Manafort

WASHINGTON — Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and his former partner Richard Gates were hit on Thursday with fresh charges of tax and bank fraud, as Russia election meddling special prosecutor Robert Mueller stepped up pressure on the president’s former aides.
Already indicted for money laundering and tax evasion, Manafort and Gates were charged in a separate 32-count indictment with defrauding the US Internal Revenue Service and lying to US banks in order to get some $20 million in loans.
As with the indictment of the two released by Mueller on October 30, the new charges were unrelated to the 2016 election campaign of President Donald Trump.
Instead, they grew from the work Manafort and Gates performed for Russia-backed former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych between about 2006 and 2014.
Mueller’s team alleges that the two laundered $75 million through offshore accounts, many of them in Cyprus, bringing a large portion of the proceeds into the United States as loans and purchases to avoid income tax.

“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work. From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from United States authorities, while enjoying the use of the money,” the new indictment said.
A spokesman for Manafort said he “is confident that he will be acquitted.”
“Paul Manafort is innocent of the allegations set out in the newly filed indictments and he is confident that he will be acquitted of all charges,” the spokesman said in a statement.
A long-time Washington and international political consultant, Manafort served as Trump’s election campaign chairman from June to August 2016, with Gates his deputy.
Mueller’s primary investigative focus is on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation.
But the mandate for Mueller, a former FBI director, is broad, and he has used it to go after Mueller and Gates for earlier behavior, with some analysts saying Mueller hoped to turn them into witnesses against others in Trump’s circle.
On January 3 Manafort sued Mueller for overstepping his mandate, calling the Russia probe “completely unmoored” from the special counsel’s original jurisdiction.
Trump threatens to pull law
enforcement from California
In another development, US President Trump threatened to pull immigration and other federal law enforcement agents from California on Thursday, a warning shot to the country’s richest and most populous state.
Complaining that California was not complying with his hardline position on migrants, Trump warned he could cut vital help from Washington and prompt a crime wave.
“Frankly it’s a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation,” he said, referring to a policy adopted by around 300 local authorities, cities and states of limiting cooperation with strict federal immigration edicts.
“We are getting no help from the state of California,” Trump continued, claiming the state was protecting members of the violent MS13 gang.
“Frankly if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a crime mess like you’ve never seen,” he said focusing on the role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies.
“All I would have to do is say ICE and Border Patrol leave California alone and you would be inundated, you would see crime like no one has ever seen crime in this country.”
Trump has repeatedly equated migrants with criminals, and made hardline migration policies a central plank of his political platform.
“In two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it.” 

]]> (AFP and Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Clashes as IS-linked gunmen seek new RP base: AFP

Months after being routed from the southern Philippine city of Marawi, jihadists are waging a fresh and deadly bid to set up a Southeast Asian caliphate in the same region, the military warned Friday.
The gunmen have mustered a force of about 200 and fought a series of skirmishes with the security forces this year after government forces retook Marawi last October, Colonel Romeo Brawner told Agence France Presse.
“They have not abandoned their objective to create a caliphate in Southeast Asia,” said Brawner, a senior commander for a military task force that has since been protecting Marawi.
“Mindanao is the most fertile ground,” he said, referring to the Philippine’s southern region. “Our countrymen are more vulnerable (to recruitment).”
Struggling with widespread poverty and armed Muslim insurgencies seeking independence or self-rule, Mindanao must improve poor supervision of Islamic schools or madrasas where most young gunmen are recruited, he added.
He said the armed forces were retooling to meet the challenge of the Maute group, which occupied Marawi over five months and has pledged allegiance to Islamic State group. Gunmen who escaped during the early days of the US-backed operation to recapture Marawi are leading the recruitment effort, flushed with cash, guns and jewelry looted from the city’s banks and private homes, Brawner said.

The recruits are mostly locals, but an unspecified number of Indonesians, some with bomb-making skills, have recently arrived there, he said.
‘Ready for another Marawi’
Mindanao military officials said Maute gunmen murdered three traders in the town of Piagapo, near Marawi, in November.
The military killed three jihadists in Pantar, another neighboring town, on February 8, while police last month arrested three suspects over the Piagapo merchant killings.
The military also reported skirmishes with Maute gunmen in the towns of Masiu and Pagayawan near Marawi last month.
The renewed fighting came after President Duterte and other political leaders in the Mindanao region warned of a potential repeat of the siege of Marawi which claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Duterte has imposed martial law over Mindanao until the end of the year in an effort to curb the militants’ activities.
Ebrahim Murad, head of the Philippines’ main Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace treaty with Manila in 2014, also warned Tuesday that jihadists were recruiting and could seize another city.
Murad said the 10,000-member MILF was battling pro-IS groups for influence in schools as the jihadists worked to infiltrate madrasas and secular universities.
At the same time IS gunmen were making their way into the southern Philippines from Malaysia and Indonesia, he added, but gave no estimates.
Speaking separately to reporters Friday, Brawner said the rebuilt Maute forces currently “do not as yet have the capability to launch another attack like what they did in Marawi”, though he added this could change.
The siege of Marawi forced the Philippine military, more used to low-intensity jungle warfare against guerrillas, to reorganize and to rewrite their doctrines, with a new emphasis on urban warfare training, he said.
“So (on) the side of the armed forces we are ready for another Marawi siege, whether it happens in Marawi or elsewhere,” Brawner said.
State security forces won’t let another Marawi-like incident
This is what Joint Task Force Ranao deputy commander Col. Brawner assured yesterday in a Palace briefing.
The commitment came days after Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim said that Islamic State (IS)-inspired militants could still ransack another city in Mindanao.
“From our experience from the Marawi siege, we are preparing for another urban warfare,” Brawner told reporters.
“In the eventuality that something similar to Marawi City happens, we should be ready,” he added.
MILF’s Murad on Tuesday said that IS loyalists are now into jihadist infiltration in Islamic religious schools surrounding the war-torn Islamic City.
“This ISIS group continues to penetrate us because they are being displaced in the Middle East and they want to have another place,” Murad said.
“The chances of having another Marawi cannot be overruled,” he added.
Brawner, moreover, encouraged the MILF to help the military foil any IS attempt.
“We are banking on the MILF to help us with this. We trust them when the said that they do not believe in violent extremism,” Brawner said.
“We hope that they help us in our advocacy against violent extremism, terrorism and radicalism,” he added.
Ted Tuvera and AFP

]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 24 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
TI, AI reports fuel anti-Rody views



A day after a United States intelligence community global assessment that mentioned that President Duterte being a threat to democracy and human rights, two reports from rights advocates, Transparency International (TI) and Amnesty International (AI), were drummed up yesterday as being detrimental to President Duterte.
In the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the Philippines dropped by a point in its score in the 2017 global corruption rankings compared to last year but it resulted in a ten-place slide in the ranking that was mainly the result of four more countries being included in this year’s list.
Presidential spokesman coined a term for the stories that are being slanted against Mr. Duterte as “clickbaits” which he differentiated from fake news.
“Apparently, what the mainstream media reported was clickbait. It’s not fake news, because it’s true that the intelligence department said that President Duterte could declare martial law in the entire Philippines or that he could declare a revolutionary government but what was mentioned that he was labeled as a threat to democracy in Southeast Asia, that’s clickbait. It’s worthless,” Roque said referring to the twist taken by some media outlets on the US intelligence report.

The CPI showed the Philippines placed 111th out of 180 countries surveyed, with a score of 34 from 35 last year when it ranked 101st out of 176.
The report said the Philippines, India and the Maldives scored high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths.
New Zealand ranked the highest in 2017 with a score of 89, with Denmark following at 88. Meanwhile, the three countries with the lowest corruption indices are Syria (14), South Sudan (12), and Somalia (9).
According to TI’s analysis, corruption levels around the world are linked to declining freedom of expression.
“We found evidence to suggest that those countries that respect press freedom, encourage open dialog, and allow for full participation of CSOs (civil society organizations) in the public arena tend to be more successful at controlling corruption,” TI said.
Human rights watchdog group Amnesty International (AI), which is known to be highly critical of President Duterte’s war on drugs, listed Mr. Duterte among the leaders who are “callously undermining the rights of millions.”
Following the release of AI’s State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018, AI secretary general Salil Shetty said in a statement “few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times. Instead, leaders such as (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil) al-Sisi, Duterte, (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, (US President Donald) Trump and (Chinese President) Xi (Jinping) are callously undermining the rights millions.”
AI hits strongmen leaders
“For the second consecutive year, President Duterte is identified with the worst performing leaders in terms of human rights,” Joel Noel Olano, AI Philippines head, said.
The Philippines was cited in the report for a list of supposed rights violations in the “war on drugs” and its implementation in the urban poor communities.
AI also mentioned the internal armed conflict, attacks to human rights defenders, and threats to Filipinos’ freedom of expression.
“Meaningful investigations into killings of alleged drugs offenders failed to take place; no police officers were known to have been held to account. Relatives of victims continued to be fearful of reprisals if they filed complaints against police,” AI said in its report.
It highlighted the high-profile cases of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, a teen allegedly killed in a police operation, and Jee Ick-Joo, the Korean national tortured within Camp Crame.
The detention of Sen. Leila de Lima, an outspoken critic of the Duterte administration; the increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions; and the attempt to pass a budget of P1,000 for the Commission of Human Rights were mentioned as attacks against human rights defenders.
In terms of the persistent internal armed conflict in the country, AI said the extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property by militants allied with the Islamic State during the Siege of Marawi “may have amounted to war crimes.”
AI noted that the Armed Forces of the Philippines vowed to probe all allegations of war crimes, amid concerns that the extension of martial law over the affected region in December may allow for “further human rights abuses.”
Alvarez urges diplomatic protest
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against the United States for its intelligence report that listed Mr. Duterte among Southeast Asian leaders that pose a threat to democracy and human rights.
The US released the unclassified version of the report last February 12 and a PDF copy is available online.
On the contrary, Alvarez said it is the US which poses a threat to democracy because of its interference in the internal affairs and undermining the sovereignty of many countries in order to ensure its continued influence as a world power and promote its interests.
Alvarez also urged the Filipino people to unite and protect the sovereignty of the Philippines from undue interference by the US.
Despite this, Alvarez said the Philippines should continue to maintain good relations with the US but at the same time assert our sovereignty and protect our national interest.
Through the formation of an international body analogous to the United Nations composed exclusively of Asian nations, Alvarez said Asian nations can truly protect their geopolitical and economic interests.
The national interest of the Philippines would be better served by such an Asian-only international body rather than through its membership in the United Nations, according to Alvarez.
Earlier, Malacañang expressed “concern” over the US intelligence report even and disputed its assessment of President Duterte.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies, stressing that the President adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the constitution.
Not fake news but clickbait
“It’s not fake news, but clickbait” was how Roque described headlines of some mainstream media outlets on the report that US intelligence report that tagged Mr. Duterte as threat to democracy in Southeast Asia.
On Feb. 12, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community released a report stating that Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution and declare a revolutionary government or martial law.
Citing a Freedom House report, the US intel report also listed the Philippines as one of the governments that uses propaganda and misinformation in social media “to influence foreign and domestic audiences.”
In a phone-patch interview on Wednesday morning, Roque expressed concern on the US intel report noting that the Palace will take its concern.
However, that same afternoon, he issued a statement describing it as “myopic and speculative” after having read the report.
He clarified that he made his initial statement because he was “made to comment on clickbait.”
Roque, a human rights advocate, earlier said that he would not join Duterte’s Cabinet if the President, a lawyer himself, was a threat to human rights.
“He’s a lawyer. He knows the law. He wants to uphold the rule of law. He knows about the bill of rights. And of course I wouldn’t have joined him if he was a threat to human rights,” Roque said.


]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Mayor Sara lashes at Speaker, Alvarez denies her claims

A misunderstanding appears to have led Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to let loose a diatribe against Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The presidential daughter yesterday engaged House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a verbal tussle after the latter allegedly described the regional political party the Davao City mayor put up as a product of political dynasties.
In a statement, Duterte-Carpio said that if Alvarez has some issues with political dynasties, then he should pass a law in that regard.
“The Speaker’s latest media statement that he respects the creation of Hugpong ng Pagbabago or that the unity is a non-issue, was unfortunately betrayed by his comment on political dynasties,” said Duterte-Carpio.
“If the Speaker is attacking our effort to do something significant and timely for Region 11, and reducing it as a product of political dynasties, I suggest he pass the Anti-Political Dynasty Law,” she added.

Alvarez: I did not say Mayor Sara
is part of the opposition
Speaker Alvarez yesterday was surprised at the statement issued by Sara Duterte, saying that he did not ever say Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte is part of the opposition.
“You know, the truth is that I never said anything like that. I don’t know where that came from but I never ever said that she is part of the opposition. How can she be a part of the opposition since she is part of the administration?” Alvarez said in a press briefing.
Alvarez issued the statement when asked for his reaction over the Davao Mayor’s social media post over supposed statements the Speaker has made against her and her father.
According to Alvarez, somebody may have fed the wrong information to Mayor Sara Duterte.
The Speaker is confident he can clear things out with the Davao Mayor.
“That is not a probelm,” Alvarez said.
On Wednesday, Alvarez said Mayor Sara Duterte’s formation of a regional political party is a “non-issue” and should be respected.
This case of the party of Mayor Sara is possible, so let us respect the formation of her party,” Alvarez had said.
In Bataan today, Alvarez rallied some 4,500 new members of the administration party, Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino, to support President Duterte’s advocacy for a shift to a federal form of government and the effort to change the charter for such purpose.
The other day, Duterte-Carpio, with the help of some Mindanao politicians whom Alvarez had eased out from PDP-Laban, formed the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP, or Alliance for Change), a political party the organizers claim is aimed at consolidating support for the President.
Aside from Duterte-Carpio, key personalities in HNP are four of the five provincial governors in Davao Region, Antonio Rafael del Rosario of Davao del Norte, Claude Bautista of Davao Occidental, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental and Jayvee Tyron Uy of Compostela Valley.
Incidentally, del Rosario is the cousin of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo whom Alvarez had slapped with graft charges in connection with his alleged business interest in the Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco) and the company’s alleged onerous contract with the Davao Penal Colony (DPC).
HNP is scheduled to hold its convention today, Friday.
Duterte-Carpio also clarified that while HNP is not affiliated with PDP-Laban, it has the blessings of her father.
“I would like everyone to know, including the Speaker of the House, that the unity I forged with the four Governors of Region 11 has the blessing of President Rodrigo Duterte,” said the Davao City mayor.
“Even the use of the word Hugpong as the name of our regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago has the President’s approval,” she said adding she has “specifically informed the President that she will not join PDP Laban.”
Later in the day, Duterte-Carpio lashed at Alvarez anew with “what did you tell the crowd: ‘He’s different as he is President, I am the Speaker, I can always impeach him!’ And you call me opposition? Somebody should really tell the President the truth,” Duterte-Carpio posted in her social media account.
“If you’re an asshole in Congress, don’t bring that to Davao, leave it in Manila. Somebody should tell the President what you are doing. How dare you call me part of the opposition. You messed with the wrong girl,” the Presidential daughter said in another post.
Asked for his reaction, Alvarez denied Duterte-Carpio’s allegation.
Aside from accusing Alvarez of branding her as an opposition, Duterte-Carpio slammed Alvarez for describing the formation of HNP as a a product of political dynasties.
In an interview, Alvarez was quoted saying, “Through that, we can see that in politics, there is something they refer to sometimes as political dynasty. You know, it is not correct all the time. Even a father and child, sometimes they cannot agree. Even siblings face each other in politics. So how can we stop them?”
Alavrez’s statement does give the impression that he favors political dynasties.
Nonetheless, Alvarez expressed confidence he can clear things out with the Davao Mayor.
“There is no problem with that,” Alvarez said.
“Mayor Sara’s formation of a regional political party is a non-issue. We should respect that,” Alvarez reiterated.

]]> (Charlie O. Manalo) Headlines Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Yellows, LP allies call for Leila’s freedom

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.”

]]> (Ted Tuvera) Headlines Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800
SC officials to face charges if CJ does not resign—Gadon

By Gerry Baldo
and Benjamin B. Pulta

Officials of the Supreme Court are going to face criminal charges if Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno does not resign by March this year, the complainant in the impeachment case against the Chief Justice warned yesterday.
Lawyer Larry Gadon also disclosed that the Office of Solicitor General Jose Calida is going to file a quo warranto proceeding against Sereno with the aim of nullifying her appointment as chief justice.
In conjunction with the move of Calida, Gadon said that he will also ask President Duterte to nullify Sereno’s appointment.
“I will ask President Duterte to nullify her (Sereno) appointment because it is tainted with fraud,” Gadon said in a media forum in Quezon City yesterday.
“The chief justice was appointed without the proper requirements. This is a very wrong precedent,” Gadon added.
Gadon insisted that Sereno skirted the requirements of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) particularly the required submission of her statement of assets and liabilities (SALN) for the past ten years prior to her nomination to the SC.
Gadon said Sereno submitted only one SALN. Sereno’s camp said she submitted three.
Gadon said that he is not abandoning the impeachment case be filed at the House of Representatives.
“I am not abandoning it. This would be a simultaneous move, based on different grounds, whichever comes first,” he said.

The cases that he is planning to file are in connection with the purchase of the Toyota Land Cruiser, the hiring of an IT consultant, the delay in the release of survivorship benefits, and the use of the presidential villa at the Shangri-la in Boracay.
In the list of those who are going to be charged in court are: Sereno; retired Deputy Court Administrator Thelma C. Bahia; Atty. Ma. Carina M. Cunanan, assistant chief, Office of Administrative Services; Atty. Corazon G. Ferrer – Flores, chief, Fiscal Management and Budget Office; and Atty. Michael B. Ocampo, Court Attorney IV, Office of the Chief Justice.
In the case of the alleged illegal hiring of an information technology consultant, those who are going to be charged are: Sereno; Deputy Court Administrator Raul Bautista Villanueva; Cunanan; Ferrer – Flores; Atty. Ma. Lourdes E.B. Oliveros, staff head, Office of tbe CJ; Ocampo; and Helen Perez – Macasaet (the IT consultant).
On the issue of survivorship benefits, those who are going to be charged are: Sereno; Atty Anna-Li R. Papa – Gombio, Attorney IV, Office of the Chief Justice; and Atty. Czarina Encarnacion Samonte – Villanueva, judicial staff head, Office of the Chief Justice.
For thw alleged illegal use of the presidential villa at the Shangri-la in Boracay, those to be charged are: Sereno; Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses, former judicial staff head, Office of the Chief Justice; and Ferrer – Flores.
Sereno’ s camp, however, described the move as a firecracker that didn’t explode.
In a statement, lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said Atty. Gadon’s ultimatum to the Chief Justice and certain court officials is just another dud.
“Once again, the Chief Justice cannot be hostaged to bombastic threats that are built entirely on lies,” Deinla said.
“This latest stunt by Atty. Gadon, the main impeachment complainant, smacks of fear and desperation, and proves that he has completely lost faith in the impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives,” Deinla added.
She noted that the past days “we have witnessed the high-handed efforts, forum shopping and resources behind this impeachment to force the Chief Justice to step down after several months of House hearings failed to produce a solid and convincing ground that would warrant her removal from office.”
Now, Chief Justice Sereno’s detractors are expanding their weak ouster move to professional civil servants who refuse to lie and toe the line of those wishing to see the Chief Justice unjustly and unfairly removed from the Supreme Court. This deserves nothing but condemnation for using them as political tools in the impeachment.
The Chief Justice has made it clear since the beginning of this well-orchestrated but pathetic telenovela masquerading as an impeachment proceeding, that she will not resign and will continue to dispense her faithfully sworn duty under the Constitution.
We reiterate that the Chief Justice is looking forward to defend herself in the Senate when it convenes as an impeachment trial court and where, hopefully, her basic and constitutional rights will be recognized and respected.

And SC case vs Sereno develops
A newsdpaper report yesterday said that the Supreme Court had, during a Tuesday hearing decided to have Sereno to comment on its order to Sereno and officials of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to justify her eligibility for appointment to the top judicial post in 2012.
The STAR newspaper’s sources said the justices decided in session to require Sereno as well as regular members and officers of JBC during her application for the chief justice post to comment on the letter of the House of Representatives justice committee seeking “appropriate action” on the reported incomplete SALNs she had submitted to the council then.
This SC action was based on the two page letter from the House justice committee seeking answers from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) throgh the High Court, which supervises tha JBC.
Sereno, JBC members Jose Mejia and Ma. Milagros Cayosa, former members retired justices Aurora Lagman and Regino Hermosisima Jr, JBC executive officer Annaliza Capacite and former chief of office of selection and nomination, now Judge Richard Pascual.
The report said in its two-page letter that the House asked the SC justice to take “appropriate action” on the preliminary finding in the impeachment proceedings that Sereno supposedly did not comply with the 10-year SALN requirement for her chief justice application.
Among the documents forwarded to the High Court were certifications issued by the University of the Philippines and Office of the Ombudsman showing that Sereno only filed SALNs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 prior to her appointment as chief justice.

]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Fri, 23 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0800