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DU30 urges ICC exodus

Monday, 19 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


By Ted Tuvera and Gerry Baldo

President Duterte yesterday urged other signatory nations to abandon the International Criminal Court (ICC) days after withdrawing the Philippines from the Rome Statute, which was the agreement that created the international tribunal which is examining his deadly drug war.
Duterte lashed out at the ICC after the government notified the United Nations (UN) of his decision.
“I withdrew from the ICC simply to announce to the world and I will convince everybody now under the treaty, get out! They are very disrespectful!” Mr. Duterte said in a speech to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates.
Mr. Duterte made the remark after noting that the one-year countdown for the termination of the country’s membership does not apply since he maintained the Rome Statute is not enforceable on the country since it did not follow the requirement of a law needing domestic publication to become effective.

“It is not a document that was prepared by anybody, it’s an EU-sponsored,” he added referring to the ICC charter otherwise known as the Rome Statute. “It is really an atonement for (Europe’s) sins,” Mr. Duterte said.
The Hague-based ICC announced last month it was launching a “preliminary examination” of Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown that has prompted international concern.
Duterte, 72, won elections in mid-2016 vowing to launch an unprecedented drug war.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has listed 4,100 drug suspects killed in legitimate police operations while rights groups claim the toll is around three times the numbers given by authorities.
The ICC, which opened in 2002, is the world’s only permanent war crimes court and aims to prosecute the worst abuses when national courts are unable or unwilling.
The Philippines last Thursday told the UN it was withdrawing from the ICC, triggering warnings from a top tribunal official that it would harm global efforts to end impunity for the world’s worst crimes.
ICC President O-Gon Kwon has offered the Philippines a dialog before its Assembly of States Parties to raise its grievances.
Kwon warned that the Philippines decision to pull out from the ICC would have a “negative impact” on punishing crimes.
Mr. Duterte insisted the ICC could not prosecute him since the treaty was not published locally, in violation of domestic laws. “That treaty, if you read it, it’s all bull,” Duterte said.
He added that the ICC was part of efforts of “white idiots in the EU” to “atone” for wrongdoings in Africa and the Middle East.
“These people when they went to Africa, they killed the Arabs.... it is really an atonement for their sins. And then they run after either the blacks, when there are so many problems but they still meddle,” he said.
Should the Philippines fully withdraw from the court it would follow the African nation of Burundi, which in October 2017 became the first country to leave.
Decision carefully made
Speaking publicly for the first time about the country’s pulling out of the ICC charter, Mr. Duterte said his decision has long been contemplated.
The Rome Statute inked in 1998 stated the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are “unable” or “unwilling” to do so themselves.
“It is clearly a criminal law,” he said.
“If you read it there is the commissioning of ICC, the judges, then there is the ICC prosecutors; and the definition of the crimes and the penalty attached to the crimes,” he elaborated.
However, Mr. Duterte pointed out technicalities as to why the ICC’s charter cannot govern the Philippines in anyway because it was made to appear to have been recognized without publication in major newspapers and in the government’s Official Gazette.
“Now our rule in this jurisdiction is to have it published to spare the public from ignorance. Because if it is not published, you cannot tell me now that ignorance of the law excuses no one. It has to be published in the Official Gazette. That is the publication of the government,” the President said.
“You know, if it is not published, there is no law. So there is no reason to withdraw something which is not existing,” he added.
“The rule in a democracy is ignorance of the law excuses no one,” he added. Mr. Duterte said the requirement for the publication of the law serves to address the dictum.
Usual critics assail terror list
At least 25 human rights groups and non-government organizations worldwide have condemned the Duterte administration filing a proscription petition against 648 Filipinos that Malacanang wants the courts to declare as “terrorists.
The suit, filed under the provisions of the much-maligned Human Security Act of 2007 enacted during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, would label the 648 individuals as leaders, members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), which President Duterte proclaimed to be “terrorist” organizations.
Aside from the statements of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and two UN special rapporteurs condemning the inclusion of the names of UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and of human rights defenders in the Department of Justice (DoJ) petition, statements of support and solidarity poured in 25 UN bodies and international human rights organizations decrying the Duterte administration’s fake terrorist list.
Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment Fund said: “These charges must be dropped immediately, and support provided for the legitimate activities of these individuals who have UN mandates, and the civil society organizations with which they work… It is deeply concerning that authorities have routinely responded to the expressions of environmental and human rights defenders by criminalizing and delegitimizing their voices.”
His full statement can be accessed through:
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues also decried the charges against indigenous human rights defenders as “unsubstantiated” and called on the Philippine government to uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
Its full statement here:
International human rights organizations and people’s organizations from various countries have also expressed support for the activists and human rights defenders in the said fake terror list.
The Women’s Major Group, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Gabriela-New York and Innabuyog led a protest action at the Philippine Consulate in New York City on March 16, 2018 to express support for women human rights defenders included in the list.
Among the organizations that released statements of support are:
Amnesty International; Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation;
Front Line Defenders; Protection International; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact; Pesticide Action Network - Asia Pacific; Forum Asia; International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines;
Ibon International; CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness Working Group on Conflict and Fragility; United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD); International Union for Conservation of Nature;
Cultural Survival; Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago –Indonesia; Friends of the Earth International; Bayan-USA; Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples; Federation for Indigenous Peoples Self-Determination (FAPI); Slow Food; Land is Life; People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty of Latin America; Association Pour L’integration et le development durable au Burundi; Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People; Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples’ Policies, and; Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples–Nicaragua.

Three killed, several hurt in Manila Pavilion blaze

Monday, 19 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines


At least three persons were killed and more than a dozen injured as a fire swept through a casino in a Manila hotel on Sunday morning, authorities said.
The blaze broke out at the Manila Pavilion Hotel where about 20 persons earlier listed as trapped had been evacuated safely, Johnny Yu, chief of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, said.
Of the three who died, two were identified as hotel employees, Yu said.
“The two are a security guard and a treasury officer. They were likely trapped, suffered from suffocation and were brought to the hospital but declared dead on arrival,” he told reporters.
Authorities were investigating the cause of the fire, which is believed to have begun in the casino or mezzanine area of the 21-floor hotel which regularly hosted both locals and foreigners, Yu said.
Responders sent a helicopter to rescue people trapped on the rooftop and officials launched a ground operation to get the others out.
Manila is one of 16 cities making up Metro Manila. Nearby cities were helping put out the blaze, Manila’s fire department said.  Authorities said the fire started around 9:49 am.

“This is a major fire. There were those who inhaled the smoke and were brought to the hospital,” senior fire officer Marlon Banaag told Agence France Presse.
Firefighters were still trying to control the blaze that continued to rage as of press time.
The cause of the fire was still unknown, but the hotel management, in a statement, said it “has taken steps to ensure the safety and security of our hotel guests and employees.”
“We will issue a full report once thorough investigation has been completed,” it added
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte conducted an aerial inspection of the affected areas on Sunday afternoon after attending the Commencement Exercises of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alab-Tala Class of 2018 in Baguio City in the morning.
“From his stint at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, President Rodrigo Duterte before going back to the Palace, flew over Manila Pavilion to check the damage caused by the fire that hit the hotel, and another nearby area which was also hit by a conflagration,” Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go said in a text message.
Pat C. Santos, PNA and AFP


More execs linked as vaccine inquest starts

Monday, 19 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

As the probe into the Dengvaxia vaccine mess goes deeper, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has scheduled on March 23 the preliminary investigation on the criminal complaint filed by Vanguard of the Philippines Inc. (VCPI) and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) against former President Aquino, two former Cabinet officials and several former and incumbent health officials.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Rossane Balauag was designated as head of the panel with Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Decena Valdez and Assistant State Prosecutors Consuelo Corazon Pazziuagan and Gino Paolo Santiago as panel members who will handle the preliminary probe of the case for a complaint of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 which prohibits a public officer from giving a private party unwarranted benefits in the discharge of his administrative or judicial functions; Section 65(3) of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement

Reform Act; and Article 220 (technical malversation) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC); and Article 365 (criminal negligence) of the RPC against Aquino.

Aside from Aquino, named as respondents were former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Health Secretary Janette Garin and Undersecretaries Dr. Carol Tanio, Gerardo Bayugo, Lilibeth David and Mario Villaverde; Assistant Secretaries Lyndon Lee Suy and Nestor Santiago; DoH Financial Management Service director Laureano Cruz; DoH directors Dr. Joyce Ducusin, Dr. May Wynn Belo, Dr. Leonila Gorgolon, Dr. Rio Magpantay, Dr. Ariel Valencia and Dr. Julius Lecciones; retired DoH Undersecretaries Dr. Nemesio Gako, Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr., Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go; and Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, who served as Garin’s head executive assistant.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is also expected to release soon a report on the Dengvaxia investigation that may inplicated former Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial as findings in the probe revealed she expanded the coverage of the P3-billion anti-dengue vaccination drive during her term.
The committee, led by Sen. Richard Gordon, officially ended last week its hearing into the vaccine program and is set to recommend charges against persons involved, including Aquino.??
Past hearings indicated Ubial was “equally liable” if not more culpable in the controversy because she continued the vaccination program during her stint, P2 billion was released during her term to procure the vaccine.
Also named as respondents in the complaint were officials and employees of pharmaceutical company Zuellig, which supplied the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine, and Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of the vaccine.
The summons were issued last March 1 but were received by parties only over the weekend.
VPCI and VACC claimed that procurement of the Dengvaxia was “irrefutably” fast tracked and may have transgressed pertinent provision of the government procurement law.
A total of 830,000 children and 30,000 more, including members of the Philippine National Police, received doses of the Dengvaxia vaccine.
“Since correlation between vaccine (Dengvaxia) and deaths had been established prima facie, respondents Aquino III, Abad, Garin and the other respondents (concerned DOH officials, past and present) should stand trial for criminal negligence under Article 365 of the RPC (Revised Penal Code).The respondents should be charged with multiple homicide and physical injuries through criminal negligence,” read the 17-page complaint.
Earlier, the VACC also filed a complaint for violation of election laws before the Commission on Elections against Aquino and the other former officials also in relation to the Dengvaxia controversy.
The VACC charged Aquino, Garin, and other health officials for violating election laws when they started implementing the controversial program on April 4, 2016, which is within the 45-day election ban on government projects for the May 2016 elections.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, it is prohibited to release, disburse, or spend public funds for any public official or employee, including barangay officials and those of government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries, 45 days before a regular election.
Aguirre earlier tapped the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) to provide legal assistance to families of children who developed severe dengue that led to either death or serious illnesses after getting the vaccine.
Aguirre said a clinical pathologist was important to determine the cause of death in the autopsies being conducted by the PAO forensic team led by Dr. Erwin Erfe.
Aguirre, however, said the expert should come from abroad with an impressive qualification.
“It will not be a Filipino. It will come from abroad who can establish definitely the linkage between the Dengvaxia and the death or injuries suffered by the students,” he explained.
Apart from PAO, the DOJ also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the DOH that reportedly posed health risks to children already injected but without history of the disease.
The DoH earlier suspended the implementation of the controversial dengue vaccine project which reportedly poses health risks to children already injected but without history of the disease.
Ubial answerable
Senate investigations showed the DoH under Ubial used and injected more than 1 million Dengvaxia vaccine doses in the expanded program. In comparison, Garin, used around 493,000 doses of the dengue vaccine while she was in office.
This irked Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian during one of the hearings where the lawmaker blasted Ubial for spreading the vaccine program into other regions.
“She (Ubial) expanded the program to the regions, if I’m not mistaken Region VII and in my opinion she is liable for that because these are the lives of the children,” said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.
Ubial tried to defend herself but Gatchalian, dismissed the ex-DoH secretary’s defenses as unacceptable.
The recent probe likewise suggested that Ubial is liable for changing the mode of implementing the Dengue immunization program which she apparently converted from school-based to community-based. As a result, around 5,000 members of the PNP were injected, who were outside the targeted 9-11 year-olds under the school-based program.
Further, monitoring, as well as important protocols for patient information, including securing consent and waiver forms were compromised due to the alterations made by Ubial on her shift to community based implementation.
Meanwhile, United States scientist vaccine expert Dr. Scott Halstead rejected the Dengvaxia findings of the Public Attorney’s Office led by Atty. Persida Acosta.
Halstead explained that an autopsy cannot be the basis for linking the drug to the death of a child who received the vaccine.
“Please be aware that the diagnosis of Dengvaxia cannot be based on an autopsy. In any child that dies post-Dengvaxia, there has to be 2 things: 1. Unequivocal evidence that the infection was caused by Dengue virus and that can be done by virus isolation or DNA identification or NS1. 2. We need to know whether the vaccinee was seronegative or positive and to do that, we need to use the test that Sanofi has developed.”?
It was learned that Halstead advocated for sero testing before vaccination as safety signals were noted but only in the 2-5 years old group when the drug was being tested. Halstead said that some members of the group were hospitalized although none died.
Nevertheless, under the WHO guidelines there was no recommendation for sero testing for the 9-45 year-olds because of the 85 percent dengue prevalence in the Philippines.
Further, Halstead refuted the pronouncements of Acosta and PAO forensic consultant Dr. Erwin Erfe that Dengvaxia caused the recent deaths of children vaccinated with the drug.
“Dengvaxia does not cause any illness whatsoever, ” Halstead said during the last hearing at the Senate.
Halstead even refuted Dr. Susie Mercado’s claim on the alleged ill effects of Dengvaxia — “(I)t is not appropriate to use the terms viscerotropism and neurotropism in relation to Dengvaxia.” “Viscerotropism” is a medical term defining an effect on the body’s internal organs, usually the heart, lungs and liver; while “neurotropism” refers to an effect on the nerves.
He said the two terms are applied to yellow fever and not to dengue.


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