The Daily Tribune News - The Daily Tribune News - Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 13:55:30 +0800 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb ICC chief offers talks on pullout


The International Criminal Court (ICC) has offered to dialog with the Philippines before its Assembly of States Parties regarding its decision to opt out of the Rome Statute or the agreement creating the global judicial body.
The Philippines has given official notice to the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the ICC last Thursday.
With the delivery of the notice, the countdown for the one-year withdrawal period from the ICC officially began on March 15, 2018.
The move comes two days after Duterte announced his nation would quit the court, and triggered warnings from ICC president O-Gon Kwon that the Philippines decision would have a “negative impact” on punishing crimes.
“I regret this development. A state party withdrawing from the Rome Statute would negatively impact our collective efforts towards fighting impunity,” Kwon said after the Philippines officially gave notice that it was leaving the court.
The Assembly of States Parties is the ICC’s management oversight and legislative body and is composed of representatives of the States which have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute. 

The ICC, based in The Hague, last month launched a preliminary inquiry into the anti-narcotics campaign of President Duterte amid allegations that extrajudicial killings (EJK) undertaken by security forces amount to crimes against humanity.
“All States Parties have the opportunity to voice their concerns before the Assembly, and I call on the authorities of the Philippines to engage in dialogue in this regard”, Kwon said.
Kwon, in a statement, expressed concern “in response to the announcement that President Rodrigo Duterte has taken steps for the Philippines to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC.”
“The ICC needs the strong support of the international community to ensure its effectiveness. I encourage the Philippines to remain as a party to the Rome Statute,” Kwon said.
Kwon recalled in the statement that the Philippines has participated actively in the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute since becoming a State Party in 2011, and as recently as December 2017 had publicly reaffirmed its support for the principles of the Rome Statute and the Court.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the Philippines was quitting due to “the well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community, to crucify President Duterte... by distorting the human rights situation in the country”.
Officially quitting the court requires a year’s notice and does not stop the ICC from continuing its investigation of the killings, which have drawn international concern.
“A withdrawal would have no impact on ongoing proceedings or any matter which was already under consideration by the court prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective,” the ICC said Friday, its first comment since Duterte’s announcement.
“The court encourages the Philippines to not follow through with the reported/stated intention to withdraw, as it is... an integral part of the international criminal justice system,” it added.
Should the Philippines fully withdraw from the court it would not be the first to do so, as Burundi became the first ever nation to leave in October 2017.
The Philippines said in its letter that it “affirms its commitment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes”, despite its withdrawal.
Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings at home, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation’s 100 million people.
No effect on case
A statement released yesterday by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor stressed that the Philippines’ latest move will not have any effect on the ongoing case against the country’s war on drugs.
“In the event of a withdrawal from the ICC, this decision will therefore not affect the continuation of the preliminary examination process,” the ICC prosecutor’s office said.
“Nor does it affect the continuing obligation of the State concerned to cooperate with the Court in relation to an investigation initiated before the withdrawal came into effect,” it added.
Technically speaking, under “preliminary examination” the complaint is being reviewed if the ICC has jurisdiction over it or not.
Charged with “crimes against humanity” allegations before The Hague-based tribubal, Mr. Duterte declared the Philippines withdrawal as a signatory of the ICC charter also known as the Rome Statute.
Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Teodoro Locsin Jr. forwarded Mr. Duterte’s note verbale to withdraw from the ICC to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Friday.
Through a communication last February 8, the ICC notified Malacañang that it is conducting a preliminary examination on the charges against Mr. Duterte filed by lawyer Jude Sabio who counsels self-confessed assassin Edgar Matobato.
The complaint claimed Mr. Duterte was behind the scores of killings in Davao City during his two-decade stint as Mayor. Matobato says he personally received orders from Mr. Duterte.
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV also filed a supplemental complaint to Sabio’s charges, pointing at Mr. Duterte for the series of killings under his presidency and are attributed to his administration’s drug war.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) admits to at least 4,000 individuals killed during police operations in the narcotics crackdown.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a human rights activists who once lobbied for the Philippines’ inclusion in the ICC charter, said the President is not in anyway skirting the ICC case filed against him.
In a presser on Thursday, Roque claims that Mr. Duterte is disgusted how the ICC politicizes his person and that the court itself has no jurisdiction over him.
“First and foremost, we are not saying that we will not participate. What we’re saying is [the ICC] will not have juristidction over the President’s person,” Roque said.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that a case is poltiicized when a politician has filed it. It should have been thrown to a waste basket instantly,” he added.
“Even if preliminary examination is not an official part of court procedure yet, the President’s rival already have political mileage. That’s what we are saying being politicized,” he added.
The Philippines became a signatory of the Rome Statute on December 2000 under former President Joseph Estrada. It was ratified under Mr. Duterte’s immediate predecessor Benigno Aquino III on August 30, 2011 and took effect on November 1 that same year.
The Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Those crimes “shall not be subject to any statute of limitations”.
Under the treaty signed in 1998, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves.

]]> (Ted Tuvera) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
10 dead in Bulacan plane crash

Ten persons were confirmed dead when a small plane crashed into a residential area in Plaridel, Bulacan province, yesterday morning, police and aviation officials said.
The Piper-23 Apache twin-engine aircraft crashed shortly after taking off in Plaridel town, killing all five aboard as well as three children, a mother and a grandmother from the family in the house, said Plaridel police chief Supt. Julio Lizardo.
The crash ignited a fire in a house that was hit by the aircraft, he added.
Lizardo also said two other persons on the ground were injured by burning debris.
“We had to dig through the rubble to find the bodies,” he stressed, explaining why the toll rose from an initial figure of seven dead.
Witnesses said the plane hit a tree and electric post before slamming into the house.
Officials declined to say what may have caused the crash of the Piper PA-23 Apache, operated by local charter company Lite Air Express.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio said the aircraft was bound for northern Laoag city.
All the aircraft operated by the transport and courier company were grounded while investigators tried to determine the cause of the crash, he added. 

]]> (AFP and Tribune Wires) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Razak warns of IS threat resurgence

The Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar could spark the resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) which will pose a serious security threat for the region, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Hundreds of thousands of the Muslim-minority Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state after authorities launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago that the United Nations (UN) has called “ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar has vehemently denied the allegations, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya militants in late August.
Razak raised fears that so many desperate and displaced people could fall prey to extremist groups like the IS.
With Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi sitting just metres away at a special Australia-Asean summit in Sydney, Najib said it was no longer a domestic issue.
“Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter,” he said.
“In addition, the problem should not be looked at through the humanitarian prism only because it has the potential of developing into a serious security threat to the region.
He pointed to pro-IS militants seizing Marawi City last year as a warning of what can happen.
“We must draw lessons from Marawi and be extremely concerned that at least 10 militant groups in the Mindanao region (of the Philippines) have declared their affiliation to Daesh,” he said.

Daesh is an alternative name given to IS.
“Rakhine with thousands of despairing ... people who see no hope in the future will be a fertile ground for radicalisation and recruitment by Daesh and affiliated groups,” he said.
The UN last Friday launched an appeal for nearly $1 billion to care for Rohingya refugees, who have mostly fled to Bangladesh.
Najib said Malaysia was ready to assist in finding “a just and durable solution”, while urging Southeast Asian nations to work closely to deter any extremist threats.
“We must be vigilant and increase our collaboration, because the collapse of Daesh territories in Iraq and Syria has forced it to go underground and re-emerge elsewhere, especially in crisis zones where it can grow and operate,” he added.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with Australia a dialog partner since 1974.
All leaders are attending the summit in Sydney except President Duterte, who cited more pressing developments at home.
Aussie warns on encrypted apps
Use of encrypted messaging apps to plan terrorist attacks is the greatest threat facing intelligence agencies in modern times, Australia warned as Southeast Asian leaders vowed closer cooperation to counter extremism.
An Asean-Australia special summit in Sydney heard that use of the “dark web” was a spiralling problem and countries in the region must work together to keep on top of it.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the meeting “the use of encrypted messaging apps by terrorists and criminals is potentially the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times”.
He said the only way to deal with the problem, and the increasing use of the internet by groups like Islamic State to radicalise and recruit new members, was together.
“We have to be constantly alert, constantly working with our neighbours in the region,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, pointing to the increasingly trans-national nature of terrorism.
“Sharing of intelligence is critically important. As we all know, what may appear to be a not especially important, not especially consequential piece of intelligence, may be the piece that connects the jigsaw for somebody else’s investigation.
“Trust, sharing, collaboration, it is absolutely critical.”
Asean leaders signed a memorandum of understanding after a day of counter-terrorism talks, agreeing to work together to develop “best practice counter-terrorism legislation”.
They also agreed to regional dialogues and workshops covering electronic evidence, financial intelligence, and ways to tackle online radicalisation.
Canberra is already helping Southeast Asian states choke terrorist financing and counter violent extremism.
The problem has been exacerbated by jihadists now being forced out of Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State caliphate mostly crushed, and into other countries.
The issue was driven home last year when pro-IS militants seized Marawi, with Australia aiding Manila to win it back.
Razak praised Australia’s initiative to strengthen cooperation, and said countering online extremist propaganda was especially critical.
“This is our new main battleground, to win the hearts and minds of our youth through social media, so that they do not easily succumb to the warped, perverse and evil ideology of Daesh,” he said,.
Najib added that “the more we work together on these issues the more successful we will be”.
“The more united we are, the more effective we will be in combatting this terrible and inhumane scourge. None of us is safe from it but together we will be safer,” he added.
Australia has suffered six terror attacks in recent years and disrupted 14 more, including a plot to bring down a plane departing Sydney.
In response, Canberra has consolidated key functions such as national security, immigration, counter-terrorism, cyber-security, and border protection under a newly-created Home Affairs department, headed by Dutton.
He said that to address the issue of apps which allow extremists to operate clandestinely, Canberra planned to introduce legislation to strengthen agencies’ ability to adapt to encryption.
This will include making companies that provide communications services and devices obliged to assist when asked, while also making the use of surveillance devices and computer network exploitation by authorities easier.
Turnbull said regional security would be at the heart of the key ASEAN leaders’ summit on Sunday.
“That’s why we’re here, to fulfil our most important duty, to keep our people safe. We’re stronger when we work together. Our people are saver when we combine our efforts and cooperate,” he said.
Anti-terror deal inked
During the assembly, the Asean and Australia sealed a historic agreement seeking to bolster regional security, with the joint signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a Cooperation to Counter International Terrorism on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
Leading the Philippine government delegation was Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who represented Mr. Duterte for the two-day leaders’ dialog.
The MOU is aimed at strengthening the cooperation between the two parties in combating terrorism, counter-terrorism financing, and in the fight against violent extremism.
In a joint statement, the leaders stressed that the crafting of the MOU demonstrates their “joint resolve to stand together” against those who seek to divide communities.
The document intensifies Australia’s annual engagement with the bloc and enshrines practical measures to deepen dialogue across governments and security and law enforcement institutions.
The MOU is supported by programs on technical and regulatory assistance to develop best practices in aid of counter-terrorism legislation, and regional dialogues and workshops on topics, such as electronic evidence, financial intelligence, and countering online radicalization.
“Asean nations have a strong record of working together to confront violent extremism and defeat terrorist organizations,” the joint statement read.
“In recent years the threat posed by returning foreign fighters and ISIL-linked extremists has grown. It makes today’s cooperation all the more important,” it added.
The MOU signing adds to the numerous peace and security cooperation between the two parties, which ranges from cyber and maritime cooperation, in their fight against people trafficking.

]]> (AFP and Tribune Wires) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
WPP bid won’t affect Napoles cases, says Chiz

Plunder cases on businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles before the Sandiganbayan will not be affected by her provisional admission under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice (DoJ), Senator Francis Escudero said.
Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the P10-billion pork barrel and the P900-million Malampaya fund scams.
Escudero said on radio that since it was the DoJ’s decision to consider putting Napoles under the WPP, the case filed by the Ombudsman against her remains.
Napoles’ lawyers also asked the Sandiganbayan last Friday to transfer her custody to the WPP.
In a three-page urgent motion filed before the Sandiganbayan, the lawyers of Napoles said she should be transferred from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa to the DoJ following her provisional admission to the WPP.
The camp of Napoles attached a certification from the DoJ, which states that Napoles “has been provisionally covered by the Witness Protection Security and Benefit Program effective Feb. 27, 2018.”
Escudero said unless the DoJ requests the Ombudsman that she also be made state witness for cases filed against her, Napoles’ provisional WPP coverage will not have an effect on cases pending with the Sandiganbayan.
“Those cases will be pursued and any changes that will be sought will have to  be brought before the presiding judge,” Escudero said.

Motion to quash pends
Last March 13, Napoles has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft and malversation cases filed against her on the so-called P900-million Malampaya fund scam since she is not a public official.
In a 21-page quashal motion dated Feb. 20, and filed before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, Napoles said she should not be facing 97 counts each of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds, which could only be committed by a public officer.
She argued that the anti-graft law and malversation, as defined under the Revised Penal Code (RPC), only prosecute government officials who control public funds and have conspired with other public individuals to misappropriate them.
“This element can only be committed by a public officer charging administrative, judicial, or official function. Not being public officers, herein accused could not possibly commit the acts that they are charged with,” Napoles said.
“The charge of malversation is misplaced and absolutely baseless. As defined, the accused cannot be made liable for malversation. She is a private individual and the crime of malversation can only be committed by a public officer,” her motion added.
Napoles is a co-accused of former Department of Budget and Management secretary and incumbent Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., and former Department of Agrarian Reform secretary and now Masui City, Lanao del Sur Mayor Nasser Pangandaman.
The case arose when they allegedly misused P900-million worth of Malampaya funds from the relief operations, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of areas affected by Tropical Storm Ondoy and Typhoon Pepeng through the Napoles-led foundations between 2009 and 2010.
Napoles argued that the Office of the Ombudsman “miserably failed to establish conspiracy” between her and her co-accused.
She added the Ombudsman had failed to clearly state the place and date in its charge sheet as to when the alleged crime took place, thus disabling her ability to defend herself.
“Certainly, it would be perplexing for the accused to admit or face the charge, by not knowing how, when, and where, during the span years, were the alleged ‘over criminal acts’ have been committed,” Napoles’ motion read.

]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Con-com sub-panel seeks ‘balanced’ economic liberalization

A sub-committee of President Duterte’s Consultative Committee (con-com) to review the 1987 Constitution is eyeing provisions that will create a balanced economic liberalization to improve the inflow of foreign investments while enhancing the growth of domestic enterprises to make them more competitive.
Con-com sub-committee on economic revisions chairman Arthur Aguilar said liberalization needs to be balanced with the need to increase competitiveness while protecting domestic interests.
He stressed that during their last meeting, the members of the sub-committee agreed that liberalization must be viewed from a holistic perspective that considers several factors that affect the inflow of foreign investments.
These factors include ease of doing business, ownership restrictions, peace and order, infrastructure, tax and other incentives, governance, graft and corruption, labor cost and energy cost, among others.
Although the measures are yet to be finalized, Aguilar said the panel agreed that liberalization has to be measured on the basis of what is best for the people in general and should ensure that Filipino enterprises, particularly small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) don’t get wiped out.

“Small and medium scale businesses, have to have some element of protection otherwise they’d get wiped out,” Aguilar told reporters in an interview.
“When we liberalize that, we were conscious of trying to balance liberalization on one side and the national interest to make sure that it is for the welfare of the people and to balance it out for some sectoral interests of our economy,” he added.
The panel also tacked foreign ownership of land classified into three: Agriculture, industrial-commercial, and residential.
Since nothing is final yet, Aguilar was hopeful that these principles will eventually find their way into constitutional language in some provision.
Aguilar, meanwhile, expressed the importance of economic reforms in the proposed federal form of government.
“You have to have economic reforms if you federalize because you’re now sharing [power and resources]. As you know in federalization, you have exclusive federal powers, you have exclusive regional powers and you have shared powers. In our proposal here, on economic policies, the federal government will just set general standards,” Aguilar said.
Once these policies are made at federal level, everything else will be done in the regional level.
“That’s what federalization is all about, the regions can compete for investors and then the best practices will surface and everyone will rise to a higher level,” he added.
In December 2016, Mr. Duterte formed the committee through an executive order to “study, conduct consultations, and review” the provisions of the 30-year-old Constitution, in line with the government’s plan to shift to a federal form of government.
He later appointed its 19 members, who are legal luminaries and mostly federalism advocates.
Appointed as chair of the committee was former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
The members of the committee are former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Victor de la Serna, Ranhilio Aquino, Virgilio Bautista, Rodolfo Robles, Antonio Nachura, Julio Teehankee, Bienvenido Reyes, Eddie Alih and Edmund Tayao.
Also appointed as members were Ali Pangalian Balindong, Laurence Wacnang, Roan Libarios, Reuben Canoy, Arthur Aguilar, Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, Antonio Arellano and Randolph Parcasio. 

]]> (PNA) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Xi reappointed as China’s president with powerful ally as VP


BEIJING — China’s rubber-stamp parliament unanimously handed President Xi Jinping a second term Saturday and elevated his right-hand man to the vice presidency, giving him a strong ally to consolidate power and handle US trade threats.
Xi’s reappointment by the Communist Party-controlled legislature was a foregone conclusion, but all eyes had been on whether his former anti-corruption enforcer, Wang Qishan, would become his deputy.
The National People’s Congress has widely expanded Xi’s already considerable authority during its annual session, adding his name to the constitution and lifting the two five-year term limit for the presidency and vice presidency.
Xi received a standing ovation after winning all 2,970 votes for the presidency and Central Military Commission chairman. In 2013, Xi had received 2,952 votes, with one against and three abstentions, a 99.86 percent share.
Only one delegate voted against Wang’s appointment, with 2,969 in favor.
Xi and Wang shook hands as the legislators heaped on applause. As part of the package of constitutional amendments, Xi and Wang for the first time took the oath of office by pledging allegiance to the constitution. Xi put his left hand on a red-covered book containing the charter, and raised his right fist to take his vow.

“I pledge loyalty to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China” Xi recited, vowing to “strenuously struggle to build a rich, strong, democratic and civilized” country.
Elevating Wang allows Xi to keep a formidable ally by his side, as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong cements his authority and sets his sights on a possible lifelong tenure — a move that has drawn criticism online.
Wang, 69, stepped down from the Communist Party’s ruling council in October under informal retirement rules.
But he has kept a prominent profile, sitting at the same table as the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee during the public sessions of the National People’s Congress while receiving fervent applause from the delegates as he voted.
Wang’s appointment shows that “he’s a really important political adviser,” said Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London.
“He’s a very capable politician, so it makes sense he would still be around,” Brown told AFP, noting that “it also shows we’re in an unconventional time in Chinese politics.”
Wang was at the frontline of Xi’s anti-corruption crusade, heading the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has punished 1.5 million officials in the past five years, from low-level cadres to regional leaders and generals. He stepped down last year.
Known internationally in his previous role as China’s pointman on trade, Wang could help Xi deal with increasingly tense relations with the United States amid fears of a looming trade war, analysts say.
Xi’s real power stems from his title as general secretary of the Communist Party, but analysts say Wang could provide extra heft to his presidency, even though the vice president has largely been a ceremonial post in the past.
Xi is keeping Wang by his side because of his “talent and ability,” according to Hua Po, an independent Chinese political commentator.
“Choosing Wang as vice president is certainly to consolidate his power,” Hua told AFP.
“Xi is already a very powerful man. The problem is that he has too few people who are loyal and competent for his use, so he has to retain Wang and give himself more time to cultivate more talented people.”
Wang replaces Li Yuanchao, a relatively low-profile politician who has represented Xi on trips abroad.
In his former position as vice premier, Wang periodically traveled to the United States, where then-president Barack Obama once gave the Chinese delegation a signed basketball.
An “amazing” economist, he could now form a “dream team” with another member of the party leadership, Wang Yang, to deal with concerns that US President Donald Trump policies will trigger a trade war, Brown said.
“Maybe they’ll be able to come up with a solution for this massive brewing storm with America about imbalances and tariffs.”
China’s capital was engulfed in a rare flurry of swirling snow on Saturday, sending delegates of the congress scurrying from the Great Hall of the People after the vote.
Legislators beamed when talking about Xi — a stark contrast from the criticism that Chinese people expressed online when term limits were lifted last week, prompting censors into action.
“Our Chairman Xi is too great, truly he is too great,” said Du Meishuang, a Chinese opera singer and delegate from Chairman Mao’s home province of Hunan.
“I hope he will rule for life, truly, this is the common people’s heartfelt wish.”
She said the single vote against his deputy Wang was not a problem: “His age is quite advanced, maybe that was the reason.”
“All Chinese are looking forward” to Xi continuing on, said Zhang Fanhua, a delegate from Anhui, as he hurried into the falling snow.
“This is a great happiness for the country and the nation.” 


]]> (AFP and Tribune Wires) Headlines Sun, 18 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Napoles placed in provisional WPP


Businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who was tagged as mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam that the previous administration of President Aquino used to pin down key opposition senators is being considered under provisional admission, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said yesterday as he confirmed that Napoles has been provisionally admitted to the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

Aguirre said Napoles has executed an affidavit which provided more details on the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
“We confirm that Janet L. Napoles has been placed under Provisional Admission of WPP subject to the content of the affidavit she submitted which is now undergoing assessment,” Aguirre said in a text message.
The WPP is administered by the Department of Justice (DoJ). WPP is a program established under Republic Act No. 6981 or “The Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act,” which seeks to encourage a person who has witnessed or has knowledge of the commission of a crime to testify before a court or quasi-judicial body, or before an investigating authority, by protecting him from reprisals and from economic dislocation.

The turn of events ruffled political opponents of President Duterte since Napoles had identified key opposition figures as recipients of campaign funds from her.
Napoles, for instance, said last January she gave election campaign “donations” to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
In an interview with television broadcaster Erwin Tulfo, Napoles said she gave P5 million to Drilon during the 2010 elections.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that Napoles, being the key figure in the pork barrel scam, should back up her statement against Drilon with “physical evidence.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo agreed with Roque that Napoles should execute a sworn statement to make herself credible.
“Otherwise, it’s just hearsay. Just to be fair to everyone,” Panelo said.
Drilon, an ally of former President Aquino, has denied Napoles’ allegation, calling it ‘fake news.’
Provisional status
However, Aguirre said Napoles is still not under the physical custody of the WPP.
“As of the moment, physically she is not under WPP due to the provisional status of admission. If requested by subject we can provide additional security and as warranted, address medical needs,” Aguirre added.
Earlier, the Court of Appeals reversed a Makati City court decision which convicted Napoles and her brother Jojo Lim for serious illegal detention.
Napoles remains in detention since she is still facing plunder, graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan, along with former senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Last November, Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct the probe based on the complaint filed by the Coalition for Investigation and Prosecution, led by former Manila councilor Greco Belgica.
The DoJ has already created a team led by Usec. Antonio Kho Jr. to conduct the probe and build-up of possible cases.
Last Feb. 9, Belgica submitted the third tranche of documents that would enable the justice department to build-up possible criminal cases against former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and other officials over the alleged misuse of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds.
Belgica said they submitted to Aguirre’s office the third set of evidence records that they gathered that would show a conspiracy between the Aquino administration and some lawmakers for the alleged misuse of DAP funds.
Belgica submitted the first tranche of documents on DAP in September last year, and the second tranche last February 1.
He formally asked the DoJ to conduct a fact-finding investigation and called on the department to expedite the probe, saying that the evidence gathered so far would already suffice to charge the former officials in court.
‘Justice system weaponized’
The political opposition and the leftist partylist groups raised a howl over the admission of Napoles as state witness.
Napoles is the principal suspect in the P10-billion scam that involved lawmakers’ pork barrel.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said that under the present administration the justice system is being used as a weapon against the political opposition.
“Under the watch of (Justice) Secretary Aguirre, our justice system is weaponized to go after the political opposition,” Villarin said.
“It’s pure political harassment to silence critics of the fake war on drugs and deflect attention from the looming ICC (International Criminal Court ) case against President Duterte and his ilk,” Villarin added.
Villarin pointed out that after the DoJ prosecutors absolved confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, Peter Lim, Peter Co, among others, and after using them against Sen Leila De Lima, now Aguirre is setting up Napoles as state witness to implicate former officials of the Aquino adminis-tration including incumbent elected officials.
He said that the grand narrative is to silence any opposition to Duterte using DoJ’s prosecutorial powers, using discredited witnesses like convicted drug lords and Napoles as well as pseudo-justice crusaders like Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
He noted that even without sufficient evidence, cases are filed and projected in the media to condition our minds that the accused are guilty even without trial to strike fear on their targets.
Villarin, however, said that the fake war on drugs that killed thousands and put to prison Sen de Lima, however, did not get its desired result of silencing the opposition of our people.
It will end democracy and establish one-man rule.
Caloocan Rep Edgar Erice said that he has information that Napoles will implicate former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Sen. Frank Drlion.
Erice also implicated veteran radio journalist Ted Failon in efforts to run after former President Benigno Aquino, Roxas and Abad on the issue of housing.
“Yes I have information that there will be two “Failon Ngayon” episodes that will be dedicated on a housing mess during the Aquino administration that will be the basis of a house investigation,” Erice said.
Kabataan Rep Sarah Jane Elago accused Duterte of coddling Napoles and other drug lords.
“After unraveling his scheme of corruption through the coddling of Pulong’s drug scandal and Isabelle’s extravagant debut, Duterte has finally proven to be, himself, a defender of the corrupt,” Elago said.
“Just recently, “War on Drugs” perpetrator Duterte has revealed himself as not only tolerant of drug lords but as protector, worst and most ironic of all,” Elago added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate criticized as “wrong and unjust to place a principal plunderer like Pork Barrel Queen Janet Napoles under a special protection by the justice department.”
Zarate also warned the Duterte administration of “merely using the Pork Barrel Queen as a weapon for political blackmail for retaliation against its critics and enemies belonging to the previous administration, including making them toe the Duterte administration’s push for Charter change.”
“Merely weaponizing Napoles just to retaliate against its political enemies will not do justice to the Filipinos deprived of needed services because of the billions of pork barrel corrupted and plundered by politicians in cahoots with the Pork Barrel Queen. It would be very sad indeed if the Philippines is further pushed into poverty if the Pork Barrel Queen is used as a means to approve Charter change or Cha-cha,” Zarate said.
“Janet Napoles should not be allowed to do a Kerwin Espinosa,” he said, referring to the self-confessed druglord, who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima , but was recently absolved of drug charges by the justice department.
“The credibility of the justice department and the Duterte administration is now further put into question. While it absolves or gives special treatment to druglords and plunderers likes of Espinosa and Napoles, it wants to designate as terrorists people who are truly aspiring for genuine change and development in the country!”, Zarate said.
Even an ally of Mr. Duterte, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel said placing Napoles under the WPP was “an unbelievable crazy development.”
“Do some people in the DoJ really believe that Janet Lim-Napoles is qualified to be a state witness in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam which she herself invented, organized and perpetuated?” Pimentel said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros also warned that Napoles might be used as a “political weapon” to harass members of the opposition.
“Napoles could also be used as a means to enforce loyalty within the Duterte camp. All those who will not toe the line and have strong opinions against the government’s policies and the President himself could easily be included in Napoles’ pork barrel list,” she said.
Morales: No effect on case
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Napoles under WPP will not affect her pending cases.
“It has no effect on the cases under trial in court,” Morales said.
Napoles faces five counts of plunder and multiple counts of graft before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
Previously, Morales said if a motion is filed to make Napoles a state witness, the Ombudsman “will block any attempt to make her state witness.”
“As [far as] the prosecution is concerned, she is one of the principal alleged malefactors. We don’t find her to be a candidate for being state witness,” Morales said.
Solons upset
Other Senators protested the DOJ decision.
Opposition Sen. Bam Aquino called for the resignation of DoJ Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre II noting how the Cabinet secretary appears to be mishandling some highly controversial cases lately.
“Aguirre should resign to give way to a credible and capable justice secretary,” Aquino said in a statement even as he urged President Duterte to “put his house in order.”
The senator lamented how, in a matter of only one week, the public saw the dismissal of cases by the DoJ of some alleged drug lords and now the reported inclusion of Janet Lim Napoles into the government’s witness protection program (WPP).
“For the ordinary Filipino to have any hope for justice, the DoJ must stop perpetrating the culture of impunity in our country and begin upholding the rule of law,” the senator said.
Aquino reminded Aguirre that the DoJ’s mandate is to enact justice for the Filipino people and not to provide protection to drug lords and criminal masterminds.
Sen. JV Ejercito shared the observation of Aquino saying that the DOJ has been on a “clearing spree”.
“I urge the President, who has adopted a no-nonsense attitude towards corruption and inefficiency in government, to review the performance of the DOJ,” he said.
“I am disturbed and dismayed by the news that the so-called pork barrel queen has been granted provisional government protection by the DOJ,” Ejercito said.
This latest, in a string of questionable decisions and actions, Ejercito said, undermine the success of the administration in its relentless war against drugs and corruption.
“This is a setback in our fight against corruption and the pork barrel system. I am not prepared to accept the idea that Napoles is the least guilty in the PDAF scam,” he said.
Napoles, Ejercito said, rigged the system in order to enrich herself and others at the expense of the public.
Sen. Sonny Angara, on the other hand,reminded the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the need to comply with all the requirements provided by law before deciding on whether Napoles is entitled to the WPP.
“Since it is still provisional, perhaps they should look carefully at the criteria provided under the Witness Protection Act and whether she qualifies,” he said in a text message to reporters.
Angara said the DOJ should first determine if the testimony provided by Napoles, the alleged brains behind the multibillion pork barrel scam, is absolutely necessary and that there is no other direct evidence available.
The DOJ should also ensure whether her testimony can be corroborated and most especially, not the most guilty, he said.
Angara also hastened to point out that the law requires that the witness has no previous convictions.
“All of these must be complied with,” he said.
Despite misgivings, Sen. Joel Villanueva said he could only hope that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is out on preparing a legal strategy in the handling of cases of some high-profile personalities.
“I really hope the DOJ has a good strategy in going after those who are guilty of crime and corruption,” he said when sought for his reaction on Janet Lim Napoles who had been placed by the department under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“(But) so far, I haven’t seen that in the way the secretary handled the immigration issue where a P1,000 disappeared so the case was downgraded from plunder to an ordinary criminal case,” he said.
“I don’t want to pre-empt their approach but really, I hope the SOJ (Secretary of justice Vitaliano Aguirre II) has a good one,” Villanueva added.
Villanueva was referring to the issue on the “missing” P1,000 from the recovered “dirty money”, the P50 million alleged to have been extorted by former Bureau of Immigration (BI) associate commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles from gaming tycoon Jack Lam in Nov. 2016.
The threshold required for a plunder conviction is P50 million.

]]> (Gerry Baldo and Angie M. Rosales) Headlines Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Government notifies UN of ICC pullout

The government served notice to the United Nations (UN) on its decision to opt out of the Rome Statute to begin the one-year process for the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC, nonetheless, encouraged the government not to “follow through with the reported intention to withdraw.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the withdrawal was formally conveyed in a note verbale that Philippine Permanent Representative Teodoro Locsin, Jr. handed over to Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Chef de Cabinet of UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres at 6:07 p.m. New York time on Thursday or 6:07 a.m. Manila time on Friday.
“Our decision to pull out of the Court is a principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights,” Cayetano said in a statement issued shortly after arriving yesterday in Sydney where he will represent President Duterte in the Asean-Australia Special Summit.
In the note conveying its withdrawal, the Philippines gave its assurance to the International community that it continues to be guided by the rule of law embodied in the Constitution and its long-standing tradition of upholding human rights.
“The government affirms its commitment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes, notwithstanding its withdrawal from the Rome Statute, especially since the Philippines has a national legislation punishing atrocity crimes,” the note said.
“The Government remains resolute in effecting its principal responsibility to ensure the long-term safety of the nation in order to promote inclusive national development and secure a decent and dignified life for all,” it added.
In his statement explaining Manila’s decision to pull out of the Rome Statute, Cayetano pointed to the well-orchestrated campaign to mislead the international community, to crucify President Duterte and the Philippines by distorting the human rights situation in the country.
“This campaign against President Duterte and the Philippines is being effectively carried out by elements who seek to undermine our government and who have successfully infiltrated the human rights community and weaponized human rights protection mechanisms to advance their goal of overthrowing our democratically installed government,” Cayetano added.

“It is doubly lamentable that members of the international community, who include our own partners in the war against terror, have allowed themselves to be used as pawns by these individuals and organizations in undermining our own efforts to restore the rule of law,” Cayetano added.
“We are, however, confident that there is no crime or liability to speak of in the first place since our campaign against metham-phetamines and other narcotics is a legitimate law enforcement operation designed to protect all Filipinos and uphold the rule of law,” he added.
Consistent policy
Cayetano said it has always been the position of the Philippines that States have the inherent responsibility to adopt and implement measures, consistent with their respective laws, to effectively address threats to the safety and well-being of their citizens.
In the case of the Philippines, Mr. Duterte has identified the proliferation of illegal drugs and its link to other forms of criminality as a serious threat to our people that had to be immediately addressed, Cayetano said.
“The campaign we are waging against illegal drugs is consistent with the sovereign duty of any State to protect its people,” he said, adding that in the conduct of this campaign, the Philippines is guided by the rule of law embodied in its Constitution, statutes, and its long-standing human rights obligations.
“Contrary to what some parties are trying to make it appear, there is no failure on the part of the Philippine Government in dealing with issues, problems, and concerns arising from this campaign,” he added. “These are dealt with by independent and well-functioning organs and agencies of our State,” he said.
1-year notice
Officially quitting the court requires a year’s notice and experts say pulling out does not preclude an investigation of the killings, which have drawn international concern.
The Philippines said in its letter that it “affirms its committment to fight against impunity for atrocity crimes,” despite its withdrawal.
Duterte had declared that the ICC would never have jurisdiction over him.
Opened in 2002, the ICC is the world’s only permanent war crimes court and aims to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling.
The previous administration ratified in 2011 the Rome Statute which underpins the ICC, giving the tribunal authority to investigate crimes on its soil.
Mr. Duterte, who is buoyed by high popularity ratings at home, has fiercely defended the drug war as a battle to bring safety to the nation’s 100 million people.
The withdrawal from the ICC provides strong basis for investigation into its ruthless war on drugs, a Catholic bishop said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the country’s commitment to human rights in the international community cannot just be set aside by the President alone.
“This shows that there is basis for the investigation on him,” Pabillo said. “They are afraid of accountabilities. Duterte should be investigated.”
For the bishop, it’s clearly an attempt to evade liability. “The Philippines is not Duterte,” he said.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon, for his part, said Duterte’s action is a sign that he’s afraid of a “possible conviction”.
“His withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the ICC is an act of cowardice, which makes his name more infamous,” he said.
Loss of strong ally
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., however, said with the withdrawal, the ICC has lost its strongest ally in Asia.
In a Palace briefing, Roque said ICC special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has violated the principle of complementarity that prompted Duterte to withdraw from ICC.
“Because of the violation committed by the prosecutor, the ICC has lost its strongest ally in Asia continent. So to the ICC, to the Assembly of State Parties, they only have to thank the prosecutor for the end of our dream to achieve universal ratification for the ICC,” Roque said.
Roque said the Philippines is one of the only three ICC members in Southeast Asia. Others are Cambodia and Timor-Leste.
“Now that we are withdrawing, there is no other country that would convince Asian nations to join the ICC. This is the development that the prosecutor should have considered when she decided to embark on preliminary examination,” Roque said.
“My only hope is that this will not lead into an avalanche of countries wanting to get out from the ICC,” Roque said.
Roque admitted he was saddened by the country’s withdrawal from ICC as he was the one who lobbied for Philippines membership into the ICC.
“But I agree with the President that we cannot set aside sovereignty,” he said.
Roque also agreed with Duterte that there is “concerted efforts” to paint the President as ruthless and heartless violator of human rights for allegedly allowing extra-judicial killings.
“With the statement, the President is convinced that there must be some kind of a conspiracy on the part of pressure groups and UN officials to shame him,” Roque said.
He said the ICC’s plan to conduct preliminary examination into the war on drugs has been politicized by the prosecutor through the help of lobby groups.

]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
De Lima blocks arraignment for drug case for 4th time


Detained Sen. Leila de Lima keeps on complaining about her being detained for over a year with her drug cases not moving, portraying herself as a political prisoner, yet it is she and her team of lawyers who are to blame for the delay in her drug cases since they keep on blocking her arraignment.
The Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court Branch 205 again deferred Friday the arraignment of drug cases filed against detained Senator de Lima in connection with her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The arraignment was reset in order to resolve first the de Lima camp’s omnibus motion to reverse the court’s Feb. 21, 2018 order granting the prosecution’s motion to admit the amended information from the original charge of drug trading to conspiracy to trade drugs.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a motion amending the information regarding the illegal drug trading charge filed against the senator.
The motion seeks to revise the charge against de Lima and her co-accused from illegal drug trading to conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading.
Amending the charges is allowed under the law, as long as the accused has not been arraigned.
The reset of de Lima’s arraignment has been rescheduled several times since June last year.
From June, the arraignment was moved to Sept. 25, 2017 then to Oct. 13, 2017, and was moved again to Nov. 24, 2017 and was reset on March 16, 2018.
Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 Judge Amelia Fabros-Corpuz rescheduled the arraignment on May 18, which would be the 5th reset, should there be anther delaying tactic on the part of the defense.
Separate cases for three counts of drug trafficking were filed against de Lima before the Muntinlupa RTC which were assigned to three different branches of the courts.
Aside from Branch 206, the two other cases against de Lima which accused her of receiving millions from illegal drug trade in the NBP are now being handled by Branch 204 and Branch 205.
The first count in Branch 204 also included de Lima’s former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan, who is now detained at the Muntinlupa City Jail.
On the other hand, de Lima is joined by her nephew Jose Adrian Dera in the second court in Branch 205.
Lastly, the third court in Branch 206 included former Bureau of Corrections chief Franklin Bucayu, his alleged bagman Wilfredo Elli, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, de Lima’s former bodyguard Jonel Sanchez, Dayan and Dera, also as accused.
De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.


]]> (PNA) Headlines Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800
Cabinet revamp imminent — Roque

President Duterte plans a revamp of his Cabinet since he was no longer happy with the performance of some of his officials, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.
He really said there are secretaries that he is no longer happy in terms of performance and there will be a revamp in the Cabinet, Roque said.
The planned shake up, however, is a continuation of changes in the government that Mr. Duterte had initiated since late last year.
Mr. Duterte had removed Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) Administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro III from his post due to excessive foreign trips.
Other dismissed officials include former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Ismael Sueno due to an alleged anomalous firetruck deal; Peter Laviña as head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) due to accusation that Laviña asked money from contractors; and, Presidential Commission on Urban Poor (PCUP) officials including chairman Terry Ridon over excessive foreign trips.
Roque, however, did not provide details on who would be affected by the revamp.
Recently, the Palace said President Duterte still trusts Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre but unhappy with the dismissal of charges against drug lord suspects Kerwin Espinosa and Peter Lim.
“He (Duterte) said so,” Roque responded when asked if Aguirre still enjoys the trust of the President during a Palace media briefing.
“Maybe the trust remains because if not, he should have been fired by the President. And the President has not hesitated to fire even members of the Cabinet. For as long as he has not been fired, he enjoys the trust and confidence of the President,” he added.
Roque said President Duterte doesn’t waste words even when he had said “in jokingly manner” that Aguirre has to replace Lim and Espinosa in jail if self-confessed drug lord Espinosa and Lim get away with drug offenses.

“But as I said, while you don’t take the President literally, you must take him seriously,” Roque explained.
Roque said for the last six months that he had been working as presidential spokesman, “he (Duterte) doesn’t waste words.”
“Unlike me, I’m very verbose ‘no. But the President does not waste words,” Roque said.
“I think the message is: He is not happy with the decision,” he added.
Roque believes that Aguirre took the President’s words seriously as the DOJ chief formed a new panel that will look into the cases of the two drug lord suspects.
“I think he has, that’s why he (has) already taken steps to create a new investigation panel,” he said.
No money for Senate run
Roque also admitted he wants to run for senator but has no financial machinery to raise some P500 million for the 2019 midterm elections campaign.
“Do I want to run? Yes, I do. But the reality is, 14 months from now, you need 500 million (pesos). That’s minimum,” Roque said in a Mindavote Live interview in Davao City.
He said he is thankful to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for expressing support for his possible presidential bid.
“I’m so thankful to our President. But the real problem is I have no money” he said, adding that 14 months are not enough for him to raise funds for TV ads that are crucial to a candidate’s winnability.
“I have no illusions. I know I was born a normal person. I know that possibly I would need more time if I want to raise that money. Anyway, there is still another chance,” Roque said.
He further said he is disappointed with the country’s “political system” wherein rich candidates are allowed to spend so much money that would assure their victory in the polls.
“Candidates should not be allowed to spend so much in an election because it would mean that only rich candidates or those who are supported by individuals investing in politics can run in election,” the former party-list representative said.
He said election campaigns should focus on the candidates’ ability to answers all questions “so that we can get best to lead our country”.
For now, Roque said he wants to concentrate on his task as spokesperson of the President.
Roque, an international law expert, is the concurrent presidential adviser on human rights.

]]> (Tribune Wires) Headlines Sat, 17 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0800