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By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday took Vice President Leni Robredo to task for blasting the Duterte administration’s war on drugs before an international audience, noting that there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules the government without first verifying facts.    
While it said the government respects fundamental freedoms, including the right of everyone to speak freely on any topic, the DFA, however, stressed “freedom of expression is a right that comes with the responsibility to ensure that facts are verified, and unfounded allegations from questionable sources are avoided.”The DFA added that Robredo’s message was delivered not before the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UN-CND) in Vienna, Austria, but only in one of its many side events. “In this regard, elements in the Vice President’s side event statement need to be verified, as already earlier stated by the presidential spokesman on the matter,” it stressed.

The six-minute video presentation of Robredo, which was played on March 16 during the UN-CND in Austria, allegedly maligned the Duterte administration by distorting facts.
“In the UN context, side events, or activities organized outside the formal program of official UN meetings, provide an opportunity for member states, UN entities and NGOs (non-gevernment organizations) to discuss themes in parallel to the official UN meetings or conferences where the NGOs are not involved,” it added.
The event led by high-level government officials from the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna explained that the Philippine government remains committed to fight criminality and illegal drugs in the country.
They explained that the Philippine government is investigating the veracity of allegations of drug-related extra-judicial killings, which are being undertaken precisely in strict adherence to due process and the rule of law.
In their statement, they explained that “the Philippine government has pursued a balanced and holistic approach to the drug issue in all its facets — prevention, education, enforcement, rehabilitation and reintegration.
They even pointed out that “the five pillars of supply reduction, demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and regional and international cooperation inform the Philippines’ mission against illicit drugs.”
With this, the DFA supported the delegates position who were armed with data and statistics to the true picture on the Philippines’ war on drugs.
       ‘Hurting tourism’
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, for her part, urged Robredo and the media to “tone down” reports of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, complaining that claims on extrajudicial killings were scaring away foreigners.
“Those kinds of statements make it hard for us to sell the Philippines as a tourist destination so I hope we could… this does not only refer to VP Leni but also to the media to please tone down the reports on extrajudicial killings,” she said.
According to her,  has “great respect” for Robredo but the Vice President’s statement raises security concerns among potential tourists, especially that the Philippines is now “an alternate destination in Asia and (for tourists from) Europe.”
On a trip to Thailand accompanying Duterte, Teo insisted the Philippines is a safe destination but said journalists were making the country a hard sell because of their focus on the killings.
“Help us because you know, it’s really difficult for me to sell the Philippines, especially when extrajudicial killings becomes the topic,” Teo told Filipino reporters following the Duterte entourage.
Teo said tour operators abroad were “always” asking her about the issue, citing Asia and Europe as regions where people were particularly concerned.
“To the media, please tone down a little the extrajudicial killing (reports),” she said.
Robredo is in hot water for her video message about the alleged irregularities in the government’s anti-drug campaign addressed to the international community.
Robredo has been accused of having committed an impeachable offense for putting the country’s image in bad light, which may cause a negative impact on tourism and the economy in general.
Lawyer Oliver Lozano, together with perennial senatorial candidate Melchor Chavez, has endorsed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez an impeachment complaint against Robredo, based on her video statement.
Special session to tackle Robredo                         impeach sought
Lozano also yesterday asked the House leadership to call for a special session of Congress in April to tackle the impeachment case he filed against Robredo.
He said the Speaker should already initiate the impeachment process against the Vice President through a special session at the House of Representatives.
“I sent a request to Speaker not to wait until May… This impeachment can be done in April if there is a special session,” he stressed.
Lozano expressed confidence that the Robredo ouster move will prosper in the lower chamber, noting that there are at least a hundred congressmen who will support the impeachment try against her.
A vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House is necessary before it can be transmitted to the Senate for trial.
“There is a sufficient number of representatives that will favor the impeachment… There are 100 representatives already,” Lozano said.
“There’s no such thing as a weak or strong impeachment complaint. Impeachment is a numbers game,” he added.
Lozano described Robredo as a “thorn” that hampers the Duterte administration’s pursuit of radical change.
“These dishonest and disloyal misrepresentations of the Vice President have shamed our country,” Lozano said.
On Monday, Lozano, delivered a copy of their impeachment complaint to the Speaker’s office requesting for proper endorsement.
In their complaint, Lozano and Chavez cited betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution as grounds for impeachment against Robredo.
They explained that Robredo allegedly committed acts of injustice stemming from a video message she sent to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs where she criticized the conduct of the administration’s anti-drug campaign.
“She (Robredo) betrayed the people by shaming the nation with her dishonest message to the United Nation,” the complaint read.


By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

Even as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)  sent  a note verbale to China, and sent another one yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing yesterday denied reports that China will begin preparatory work this year for an environmental monitoring station on the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
An online report quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as saying that “China places great importance on the preservation of the South China Sea’s ocean ecology, this is certain,” Chinese Foreign Ministry during a daily briefing.
“According to the relevant bodies in China, the reportsyou mention that touch upon building environmental monitoring stations on Scarborough Shoal are mistaken, these things are not true,” she added.

“With regard to Scarborough Shoal, China’s position is consistent and clear. We place great importance on China-Philippines relations.”
Earlier this month, Xiao Jie, the mayor of Sansha City, said China planned to begin preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.
Sansha City is the name China has given to an administrative base for the South China Sea islands and reefs it controls.
According to the relevant bodies in China, the reports you mention that touch upon building environmental monitoring stations on Scarborough Shoal are mistaken, these things are not true,’’ she added.
Jie’s comments about the plans as quoted by the state-backed Hainan Daily had been amended to remove mention of the shoal in the paper’s online version when checked Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the Philippines formally asked China’s Embassy in Manila to explain news reports about building plans for Scarborough Shoal.
“We have sought clarification from China on reported plans on Scarborough Shoal,’’ Charles Jose said in a text message sent to news organizations.
In a radio interview later, Jose said it was important for the Philippines to strengthen its defense and maritime domain awareness capabilities.
He said the Philippines should also step up cooperation with its allies and regional partners who share the country’s position in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, resorting to peaceful settlement of disputes and adherence to rule of law.
“We should maintain the civilian nature so as not to escalate tensions,’’ he said.
He was reacting to some suggestions that the Philippines deploy warships to Scarborough Shoal to assert Manila’s claim on the rocky outcrop.                         
DFA confirms 2nd note
         verbale filed
 The DFA yesterday confirmed that the government has filed another note verbale to China seeking  clarification on latter’s reported plan to construct a permanent station on Scarborough Shoal.
DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said the Note was sent to the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday, March 21.
This came after the reported plans of Beijing to build an “environmental monitoring station” in the shoal.
Last week, Communist Party Secretary Xiao Jie, named mayor to Sansha City, was quoted as saying by a local Chinese media report that China is preparing to build the permanent structure in the contested shoal.
He said the preparatory work on the monitoring station and development of five other islands will be among their government’s top priorities for this year.
Jose said that  should the Chinese side confirm its  mulled construction on Scarborough, the Philippine government will file a protest to assert our rights among other things.
On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre already noted that the Philippines is preparing a complaint against Beijing’s plan.
“The case which will be filed is fairly strong I think,” he has said.
Speaking at a televised press conference in Thailand, DFA Acting Secretary Enrique Manalo said “it’s only a reported plan so we are  seeking clarification from China” giving assurance that the government closely monitors activities over Scarborough Shoal.
          ‘We wait’
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that a Chinese monitoring station or a “radar station” on Scarborough Shoal will immediately complete China’s radar coverage of the entire South China Sea.
This said, there’s the risk that China may impose an ADIZ or an air defense identification zone in the strategic waterway.
Citing situations, Carpio said in 1987, the Chinese erected a radar weather station on Fiery Cross Reef (an outcrop in Spratlys just a meter above water) ostensibly to help UNESCO’s global oceanic survey.
And later in 2014 to 2015, the Chinese turned the weather station into a 270-hectare military air-naval base.
“China will use its HQ-9 surface to air missiles to enforce the ADIZ. These missiles are now installed on Woody Island in the Paracels. China also just completed building on Subi Reef, Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef concrete hexagonal structures, with retractable roofs, to house HQ-9 missile batteries.”
With the same military installations to enforce the 9-dashed lines as China’s national boundaries in the South China Sea, Carpio explained that this may lead to China grabbing 80 percent of Philippine exclusive economic zone.
“These developments call for a national debate, and consensus, on how the nation should proceed with its bilateral relations with China,” he stressed.
Justice Carpio also suggested that the President call on the US to come in, using the Mutual Defense Treaty.
When asked to comment, Manalo reiterated that the government has already approached China to seek clarification on this reported plan, “we have to wait for China’s reply.”
Senator nixes Trillanes’
    Benham Rise probe
 Sen. JV Ejercito yesterday vowed not to participate in the  Senate probe initiated by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on the alleged agreement between President Duterte with China allowing Chinese vessels to conduct surveillance operations in the Benham Rise area.
This, despite Ejercito leading the call in the Senate on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a note verbale to China to protest the continuing incursion into the territorial waters of the country.
“If it were not Trillanes who had called for a hearing, I would have been interested in it. However since it is Trillanes callng for the hearing, I am certain he has a different intention,” he said.
Ejercito, on Tuesday, joined the growing number of senators who have expressed concern over the alleged questionable activities of China in some of the disputed territories.
“The Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise are part of the Philippine territory. As it is our sworn duty to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty, I urge our foreign affairs department to file a strong diplomatic protest against China’s incursions and building activities in Philippine territory,” he said.
“(The Philippines), as a member of the community of nations, we do not wish to engage in destructive military confrontations. We should therefore exhaust all diplomatic means in asserting our sovereign rights in these territories,” Ejercito added.
Last March  15, Trillanes initiated the filing of resolution No. 331, urging the Senate committee on national defense, chaired by Sen. Gregorio Honasan to inquire into President Duterte’s alleged deal with China allowing Chinese surveillance ships to ply the Benham Rise region.
Trillanes cited the immediate need to conduct the inquiry in the light of Duterte’s confusing statements as it came in contradiction to what Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, that the Philippines might intensify its naval presence and even build structures over Benham Rise to assert the country’s sovereign rights.
Not only does it potentially threaten the territorial integrity of the country, Trillanes said it could lead to a larger geopolitical dilemma thereby diminishing the Philippines’ assertion of sovereign rights in the said underwater landmass northeast of Luzon.

With Angie M. Rosales

Palace: NYT report on Rody well-paid hack job

Thursday, 23 March 2017 00:00 Published in Headlines

The New York Times report on President Duterte is yet another way of attempting to bully Mr. Duterte, Malacañang said yesterday in response to the NYT report that was based more on what Sen. Antonio Trillanes and his witnesses ,Edgar Matobato and retired police superintendent, Arturo Lascañas as well as anti-Duterte media  that want US pressure applied on the President and support for his ouster.
Malacañang on Wednesday slammed the New York Times report on President Rodrigo Duterte as a “well-paid hack job” and an attempt to “bully” the chief executive.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement,  said the New York Times “cynically and unfairly narrates the President’s rise to power in the context of violence.”
“One would expect more fromThe New York Times. Its  article, ‘Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman, sounds like a well-paid hack job for well-heeled clients with shady motives,” Abella said.

The report published Tuesday and authored by investigative journalist Richard Paddock traced back Duterte’s political career and the circumstances that made him a “killer-savior.”
The NYT report goes: “President Rodrigo Duterte relishes the image of killer-savior. He boasts of killing criminals with his own hand. On occasion, he calls for mass murder.
“Mr. Duterte and his friends have long cultivated legends of his sadistic exploits, like throwing a drug lord from a helicopter and forcing a tourist who violated a smoking ban to eat his cigarette butt at gunpoint.
“Whether Mr. Duterte has done what he says — the killings he claims to have carried out are impossible to verify — he has realized his gory vision in national policy. First as a mayor, now as president of the Philippines, he has encouraged the police and vigilantes to kill thousands of people with impunity.
“While his draconian justice and coarse manner have earned him widespread condemnation outside the Philippines, an in-depth look at his rise to power and interviews with many people close to him reveal a man of multiple contradictions.
“He has alienated many with outrageous comments and irrational behavior, yet remains wildly popular. He is an anti-drug crusader, yet has struggled with drug abuse himself. And he grew up a child of privilege, the son of a provincial governor, yet was subjected to regular beatings.
“Violence in the house, violence in the school and violence in the neighborhood,” Emmanuel Duterte, the Preident’s brother, said. ‘That is why he is always angry. Because if you have pain when you are young, you are angry all the time.’
That act of devotion only begins to unravel the paradox that is Mr. Duterte. Behind his brutish caricature, according to interviews with dozens of Mr. Duterte’s friends, family members, allies and critics, is a man who can be charming and engaging. He has many loyal friends and a soft spot for sick children.
“As mayor of Davao City, he was known to help people in need by digging into his pocket and handing them a wad of cash. To many, his vulgar jokes only burnish his bona fides as a man of the people. When he appears in public, he is swarmed by adoring fans.
The Davao Death Squad
Shortly after he became mayor, crime suspects started turning up dead on Davao’s streets.
Mr. Duterte and his supporters have long denied the existence of a death squad in Davao City. But in September, Edgar Matobato, 57, came forward and told a Senate committee that he worked as an assassin on the squad for 24 years, killing about 50 people.
In an interview with The New York Times, he (Matobato)  said the death squad was founded in 1988 at a lunch he attended at the old Menseng Hotel with Mr. Duterte, several police officers and six other recruits. They were told their job was to hunt down criminals.
A police officer passed around a covered basket, and each recruit took out a weapon. Mr. Matobato considered it good fortune that he drew a .45.
“The only one who could command the Davao Death Squad was Mayor Duterte,” he told The Times. “If there was an order to kill, it had to be with his clearance. Without his orders, we kill no one.”
Mr. Duterte took part in at least one killing, Mr. Matobato said. In 2007, a chance encounter on the road with a man named Vicente Amisola led to a shootout.
After Mr. Amisola ran out of ammunition, Mr. Matobato said, Mr. Duterte arrived, grabbed an Uzi and emptied two magazines at the defenseless Mr. Amisola.
When they checked Mr. Amisola’s body, the squad discovered that he worked for the National Bureau of Investigation.
Arnold Rosales, the bureau’s acting regional director in Davao, said that Mr. Matobato’s account of Mr. Amisola’s killing matched the findings of the bureau’s investigation except for one detail: the allegation of Mr. Duterte’s involvement.
Investigators concluded that the death was a result of miscommunication, and no charges were filed, Mr. Rosales said. The investigative report is missing, he said.
In February, a former police officer, Arthur Lascañas, 56, came forward and confessed to having led the death squad. He said that he received orders to kill directly from Mr. Duterte and that he had killed 200 people.
“All the killings that we committed in Davao City, whether they were buried or thrown in the sea, were paid for by Mayor Duterte,” he said.
Of the more than 1,400 people the Davao Death Squad is believed to have killed, at least one was not a crime suspect. Jun Pala, a journalist and outspoken critic of Mr. Duterte’s, was gunned down near his home in 2003. Mr. Lascañas said the mayor ordered the killing, and that Mr. Lascañas helped carry it out.
NYT, however, failed to state that both witnesses who were quoted were found to have been lying. Not even Sen. Leila de Lima, then chair of the Human Righs Commission, did an investigation, failed to file a case against then Mayor Duterte.
But the NYT continues: “Mr. Duterte has never directly addressed the accusations made by Mr. Matobato or Mr. Lascañas, and he declined to be interviewed for this article. After Mr. Matobato’s testimony, Mr. Duterte accused the senator who led the committee of taking payoffs from drug lords. She was arrested and jailed last month.
Mr. Duterte’s personal death toll is harder to substantiate. If he stabbed someone on the beach, there is no record of it. In boasting that he hunted down suspects by night, he offered no specifics.
His claim to have killed “about three people” probably refers to a 1988 hostage raid in which he says he fired an M-16 at three kidnappers. But he recently acknowledged, “I may have hit them all or none at all.”
The Times also referred to the president’s mercurial behavior stemming from the constant pain he suffers and his use of narcotics to treat it. Mr. Duterte has made a political career of fighting drugs but acknowledged in December that he had been abusing the opioid fentanyl, the powerful and addictive drug that killed the musician Prince last April.
Mr. Duterte began using fentanyl to treat back pain and migraines from a spinal injury, apparently a result of a motorcycle accident a few years ago.
“Antonio Trillanes, a senator, recalled that when they met in 2015 to discuss a political alliance, Mr. Duterte only wanted to talk about people he had killed and “how the brains were splattered all over the place, gangland style.”
The Times started the article with this: “Mr. Duterte and his friends have long cultivated legends of his sadistic exploits, like throwing a drug lord from a helicopter and forcing a tourist who violated a smoking ban to eat his cigarette butt at gunpoint. It is a thuggish image that Mr. Duterte embraces,” Richard Paddock wrote.
“Whether Mr. Duterte has done what he says — the killings he claims to have carried out are impossible to verify — he has realized his gory vision in national policy. First as a mayor, now as president of the Philippines, he has encouraged the police and vigilantes to kill thousands of people with impunity,” he further said.
Abella defended Duterte’s achievements in Davao during his term as mayor, including making the city “one of the safest” in the world.


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