Posts Tagged ‘drug war’

Harry Roque pirouettes for Duterte

February 15, 2018
The Presidential Spokesman changes his tune on at least 3 issues he championed as private lawyer – the West Philippine Sea, extrajudicial killings, and press freedom

Philippines says Hague court weighs complaint against Duterte over drug war deaths — “Duterte is complicit in the illegal deaths of thousands of Filipinos.”

February 8, 2018

MANILA (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has told the Philippines that it has begun a preliminary examination of a complaint accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes against humanity, his spokesman said on Thursday.

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FILE PHOTO – Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte with his director and Chief of the Philippine National Police Ronald dela Rosa | REUTERS

The complaint, which says Duterte is complicit in the illegal deaths of thousands of Filipinos during his war on drugs, was “a waste of the court’s time and resources” and the examination would be the end of the process, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

About 4,000 mostly urban poor Filipinos have been killed by police in the past 19 months in a brutal crackdown that has alarmed the international community. Activists believe the death toll is far higher.

Roque said he had discussed the ICC issue for two hours the previous night with Duterte, a former prosecutor, adding that the president more than willing to face trial.

“He’s sick and tried of being accused,” said Roque, an international law expert.

“He wants to be in court and put the prosecutor on the stand.”

The website of the ICC, which sits in the Hague in the Netherlands, carried no new information concerning the complaint against Duterte. The court’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since it was set up in 2002, the ICC has received more than 12,000 such complaints or communications, just nine of which have gone to trial.


Duterte has dared it to bring him to trial and said he would rot in jail to save Filipinos from crime and drugs.

His tirades against the court are notorious, and include calling it “bullshit”, “hypocritical” and “useless”, stemming from one of its prosecutors saying there could be grounds for an investigation into his bloody crackdown.

He also threatened to cancel the Philippines’ ICC membership and said European lawyers were “rotten”, “stupid”, and had a “brain like a pea”.

Police say those thousands of killings were during legitimate anti-drugs operations in which the suspects had violently resisted arrest. Duterte has boasted about killing thousands of drug dealers and has told police they can kill if they believe their lives are in danger.

But his critics accuse him of incitement to murder and of refusing to properly investigate allegations that police are planting evidence, fabricating reports and executing users and dealers.

Duterte rejects such accusations and typically chides the international community for listening to what his government says are biased human rights groups that have no proof.

A Philippine lawyer filed the initial ICC complaint against Duterte and at least 11 senior officials last April, saying crimes against humanity were committed “repeatedly, unchangingly and continuously” and killing drug suspects and other criminals had become “best practice”.

Senator Antonio Trillanes and Congressman Gary Alejano sent a supplementary communication several months later urging an ICC investigation, which included a list of public statements made by Duterte that they said amounted to ‘shoot-to-kill’ orders.

Trillanes said the examination “should jolt Duterte into realizing that he is not above the law”.

Roque called the complainants “domestic enemies of the state” and said the ICC had no jurisdiction.

Pending court cases meant domestic legal processes had yet to be exhausted, and the anti-drugs campaign was a sovereign issue, he said.

Additional reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez

Philippines orders arrest of three policemen in drug war’s first murder case

February 7, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – A court in the Philippines ordered the arrest on Wednesday of three policemen for the high-profile August 2017 killing of a teenager, the first murder case in a brutal war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos.

The Caloocan City regional trial court in Manila issued an arrest order following the recent filing of murder charges by state prosecutors over the death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos, a student described in a police report after his death as a drug courier.

“We will comply with the arrest order,” said John Bulalacao, national police spokesman, adding the three policemen once arrested would be transferred to a jail.

Family members at the casket of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos

They are currently on restricted duty having been reassigned to the regional headquarters south of Manila in the wake of the teenager’s murder. His death caused outrage over a bloody drugs crackdown that is largely supported by Filipinos, but condemned by the international community.

The three policemen were also charged with planting drugs and a handgun on delos Santos, who according to police experts, was shot dead while on his knees in a dark alley. His family and friends insist he had no involvement in drugs.

As in nearly 4,000 killings of drug suspects by police as part of the 19-month-old crackdown, the official report said delos Santos was killed because he violently resisted arrest, endangering officers’ lives.

But human rights groups and activists dismiss that as implausible and accuse police of systematic executions and cover-ups that President Rodrigo Duterte not only refuses to investigate, but tacitly supports.

Duterte and the police have repeatedly rejected that and say there is no evidence to support such allegations.

Delos Santos’ death sparked a big protest and led to Duterte briefly suspending police operations in October.

Two months later, however, he ordered police to resume raids and sting operations. Some 46 deaths have been reported in a two-month period ending Feb. 5, based on official reports.

Duterte has frequently praised police who kill drug dealers and promised to pardon any officers who are jailed. However, he has lambasted the men accused of killing the teenager and promised his family justice.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Enemies List Grows Longer — Pro-Duterte bloggers try to ‘weaponized the internet’

February 1, 2018

News site Rappler alleged that the government, via pro-Duterte bloggers, had ‘weaponized the internet’ to attack opponents

Image result for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Enemies List Grows Longer

MANILA—In last year’s State of the Nation address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte questioned whether the ownership of an online news site that criticized his administration was “100% Filipino,” as required by the country’s constitution.

Unknown to the public, the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission had just days earlier launched a probe into the site, called Rappler. That led to the revocation of the company’s certificate of incorporation this month and the voiding of an investment from an American fund.

Authorities also launched two criminal investigations.

Rappler Editor Maria Ressa, center, walks with her lawyers to the National Bureau of Investigation earlier this month.
Rappler Editor Maria Ressa, center, walks with her lawyers to the National Bureau of Investigation earlier this month. PHOTO: BULLIT MARQUEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was the latest example of what the president’s opponents and human rights figures say are government agencies taking action against critics of Mr. Duterte, particularly those who have questioned a bloody war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead. More broadly, these people have accused the president of using public statements and Philippine institutions to silence dissent from the press, judges and lawmakers.

The recent action against Rappler “is very, very disturbing to us,” said Jose Manuel Diokno, a prominent human rights lawyer. “What we’ve seen are attacks on the different institutions one at a time.”

Mr. Duterte says he hasn’t made any efforts to silence his critics or penalize Rappler for its coverage of him.

Reporters Under FireThe Philippines is one of the world’s mostdangerous countries for journalists, with 83killed in the last decade.Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
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The targeting of media in the Philippines is the latest in a lurch against press freedom in Southeast Asia this past year. In Myanmar, two Reuters reporters who worked on stories about alleged ethnic cleansing by the military were charged under colonial-era secrecy laws. In Cambodia, authorities effectively forced the closure of one of the country’s last remaining independent newspapers. In Thailand, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a 2014 coup, has declined to discuss the timing of promised elections, telling journalists to address their questions to a cardboard cutoutof himself.

In some cases, politicians have compared their actions with the Trump administration’s fight with the media. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who recently banned the country’s opposition party, this month praised the American president for handing out “fake news awards.”

Rappler, which is continuing its operations pending an appeal, has called the securities commission’s action politically motivated and the criminal investigations “pure and simple harassment.” The commission said its ruling was in line with its mandate. The country’s Justice Department, which has launched criminal probes into whether Rappler violated foreign ownership limits and libel laws, said its job is to investigate whether the law had been broken.

The commission’s ruling against Rappler found that the firm’s issuance of a financial instrument to Omidyar Network, a fund started by eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and based in the U.S., gave a foreign firm some control over its operations, in violation of the constitution.

Omidyar Network said the commission’s decision was “an unfortunate interpretation of Filipino law that reduces press freedom and independent news coverage in the Philippines.”

Philippine journalists and supporters, wearing black, gathered earlier this month to protest the SEC’s revocation of Rappler’s certificate of incorporation.
Philippine journalists and supporters, wearing black, gathered earlier this month to protest the SEC’s revocation of Rappler’s certificate of incorporation. PHOTO: BULLIT MARQUEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mr. Duterte’s public criticism and the securities commission’s action followed an online campaign against Rappler that began after the website published a series of articles in October 2016 alleging that the president and his allies had used fake Facebook accounts and a coordinated strategy of spreading fake news to bully opponents into silence.

Within hours of publishing, Rappler became a target. Maria Ressa, the editor, said she was inundated with as many as 90 rape and death threats an hour. Soon, the hashtags #unfollowRappler and #arrestMariaRessa pervaded social media.

The campaign labeling Rappler as foreign-owned originated from a handful of pro-government bloggers, some of whom later accepted government jobs in roles ranging from communications to foreign affairs. Rappler alleged that the government, through these bloggers, had “weaponized the internet” to attack its opponents, systematically popularizing smear campaigns that eventually made their way into the president’s own speeches.

The government says its online support is a legitimate reflection of its popularity. Bloggers who have participated in online campaigns against critics say they aren’t responsible for how people respond to their content.

Leila De Lima, a senator who had investigated alleged extrajudicial killings in the country’s drug war, is escorted by police officers in February 2017. She is awaiting trial on drugs charges.
Leila De Lima, a senator who had investigated alleged extrajudicial killings in the country’s drug war, is escorted by police officers in February 2017. She is awaiting trial on drugs charges. PHOTO: TED ALJIBE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Other critics of the president have been targeted by online campaigns that preceded actions by the government. Among them, Leila de Lima, a senator who investigated alleged extrajudicial killings related to the drug war, is now in prison awaiting trial on narcotics charges she says were politically motivated. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Maria Lourdes Sereno, is the target of ongoing impeachment hearings seen by government critics as a warning to the president’s opponents.

Mr. Duterte has frequently targeted the press. While still president-elect, Mr. Duterte said he believed murdered journalists who had been corrupt deserved to die. In March, Mr. Duterte warned local broadcaster ABS-CBN that “karma will come” after repeatedly threatening not to renew its franchise for failing to air his political commercials during the election.

After the Philippine Daily Inquirer began keeping a “kill list” of deaths from the drug war, the newspaper was attacked on Facebook and repeatedly criticized publicly by Mr. Duterte. In July, the family that owned the Inquirer sold the daily to a political ally of the president.

Legislators who support Mr. Duterte have proposed constitutional amendments that would introduce “responsible exercise” as a condition for press freedom.

Facebook dominates political discourse and news dissemination in the Philippines, making campaigns on the social media platform particularly potent.

Social Screen Time — Filipinos spend more hours on social media each day than any other of the 29 social-media savvy areassurveyed.  Source: We Are Social Ltd.Note: 2016 data, based on a survey of internet users ages 16-64
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The social media giant is under pressure elsewhere in the world for its alleged role as a vehicle for spreading inaccuracies and political harassment, including in the 2016 U.S. election.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said maintaining a safe community without hate speech is “absolutely critical” to the company, which removes offensive content, uses artificial intelligence to disable fake accounts and has sought to provide information to help users identify trustworthy sources.

Facebook “is the public space we’re all in,” Rappler’s Ms. Ressa said. “The reason why you clobber truth is that the voice with the loudest megaphone—i.e. whomever has power—gains more power.”

Write to Jake Maxwell Watts at

What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon?

It’s social media in the age of “patriotic trolling” in the Philippines, where the government is waging a campaign to destroy a critic—with a little help from Facebook itself.

Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Philippines’ leading online news site.


Rodrigo Duterte walked down the aisle of a packed auditorium at De La Salle University in downtown Manila, shaking hands and waving to nearly 2,000 college students snapping photos of the rising political star. At the front of the hall, waiting for him in a sharp red jacket, was Maria Ressa, co-founder of the Philippines’ largest online news site, Rappler.

Featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 11, 2017. Subscribe now.

Ressa, something of a journalistic legend in her country, had invited five candidates for the 2016 Philippine presidential election to a Rappler forum called #TheLeaderIWant. Only Duterte showed on this January afternoon. So, after the crowd stood for the national anthem, Ressa introduced the lone candidate and his running mate. “The stage is yours,” she said to applause.

For the next two hours, Duterte, under bright lights, sat in a white leather chair as Ressa lobbed questions that had been crowdsourced on Facebook, the co-sponsor of the forum. This was a peak moment for both interviewer and subject. While the event elevated Ressa and her four-year-old company, it also gave the then-mayor of Davao City, known as “the Punisher” for his brutal response to crime in the southern Philippine city, an exceptional opportunity to showcase his views. It was broadcast on 200 television and radio stations, and viewing parties on more than 40 college campuses across the Philippines tuned in as the event was livestreamed.

The Philippines is prime Facebook country—smartphones outnumber people, and 97 percent of Filipinos who are online have Facebook accounts. Ressa’s forum introduced Duterte to Filipino millennials on the platform where they live. Duterte, a quick social media study despite being 71 at the time of the election, took it from there. He hired strategists who helped him transform his modest online presence, creating an army of Facebook personalities and bloggers worldwide. His large base of followers—enthusiastic and often vicious—was sometimes called the Duterte Die-Hard Supporters, or simply DDS. No one missed the reference to another DDS: Duterte’s infamous Davao Death Squad, widely thought to have killed hundreds of people.

“At the beginning I actually loved it because I felt like this was untapped potential,” Ressa says. “Duterte’s campaign on social media was groundbreaking.”

Until it became crushing. Since being elected in May 2016, Duterte has turned Facebook into a weapon. The same Facebook personalities who fought dirty to see Duterte win were brought inside the Malacañang Palace. From there they are methodically taking down opponents, including a prominent senator and human-rights activist who became the target of vicious online attacks and was ultimately jailed on a drug charge.

And then, as Ressa began probing the government’s use of social media and writing stories critical of the new president, the force of Facebook was turned against her.

Ressa interviews President Duterte in late 2016, shortly before their relationship soured.

To get to the offices of Rappler—the word is a portmanteau of “rap” and “ripple”—you wind through the hilly streets of Manila, swept along by a tide of motorcycles, small cars, and vibrantly decorated jeepneys. Perched at the top of a hill is an up-and-coming neighborhood just north of the Pasig River, where Rappler sits on the third floor of a nondescript tower nestled between the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a Tim Hortons. The elevator doors open to a large concrete hall, with orange (Rappler’s signature color) balloons floating on the ground in front of a glass-enclosed office. Inside, about 100 editors, reporters, videographers, and other staff churn out various types of content—breaking news, lifestyle stories, edgy video features in the style of Vice News. On the day I visited in October, a video team was editing a virtual-reality documentary about the city of Marawi, which for nearly six months had been embroiled in a war between the Philippine government and Islamic militants.

Rappler’s varied content is a reflection of Ressa, a woman who has so many ideas that she often shifts topics midsentence and will occasionally run from desk to desk for meetings. She spent almost two decades on-air with CNN, then led the news division of the largest broadcaster in the Philippines, ABS-CBN Corp. Born in Manila and raised in New Jersey, she broke major stories after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, connecting the masterminds of the plot to terror cells in the Philippines. She wrote two books on Southeast Asian jihadi networks, and in 2008 personally negotiated the release of three members of her news staff who’d been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaeda affiliate in the southern Philippines.

So it may be surprising to learn that the interview that launched Rappler six years ago was a Facebook video filmed in Ressa’s apartment with Alodia Gosiengfiao, a young cosplay (as in costume play) model. She was best known for dressing up as pigtailed anime characters and buxom video game heroines. With nearly 1 million Facebook followers, she helped Rappler position itself outside the old strictures of traditional news.

Rappler demonstrated its seriousness, however, by dominating the 2012 coverage of the impeachment trial of the chief justice of the supreme court. The next year the company put together a public debate forum for Senate candidates that was livestreamed on Facebook. As each candidate answered questions, audience members clicked on what Rappler called a mood meter, and a line gauging their reactions popped up on a screen next to the candidate. It was a breakout moment for Rappler, even if the candidates vowed never to participate in that setting again—they described the experience as nerve-wracking. (Ressa says that reaction partly explains why Duterte was the only candidate to accept her invitation for her presidential forum.)

Rappler was given another boost in March 2015 when it entered into a partnership with, a free service established by Facebook Inc.aimed at giving the world’s then nearly 5 billion unconnected people access to the internet—and, of course, to Facebook. The program was meant to highlight the company’s expansive vision of itself. Facebook wasn’t just about connecting friends anymore. It was becoming a basic necessity, a powerful tool for poor and sometimes isolated people in Colombia, India, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia—and now the Philippines.

To advertise the global rollout of, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg posted a picture on his page of a young Filipino looking at a phone while sitting in the cab of a colorful motorized tricycle of the sort that is ubiquitous in the Philippines. “Here’s a photo of Jaime, a driver in Manila who uses Facebook and the internet to stay in touch,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’re one step closer to connecting the world. … Now everyone in the country can have free access to internet services.” Rappler would be one of the free network’s featured sites.

Visitors at the Festival of Light in Makati, Manila’s financial district, on Dec. 1, 2017.

As the campaign for the 2016 Philippine presidential election got under way, Facebook began receiving inquiries from candidates on how they could best use the platform. In January the company flew in three employees who spent a week holding training sessions with candidates. When it was Duterte’s turn, the Facebook team gathered with the campaign inside the Peninsula Manila Hotel. The campaign staff was trained in everything from the basics of setting up a campaign page and getting it authenticated with the trademark blue check mark to how to use content to attract followers. As an example of the use of unscripted video, the Duterte campaign was shown a live Facebook video of Barack Obama preparing for his State of the Union speech in 2016. The clip garnered more views than a video of the actual address to Congress.

Armed with new knowledge, Duterte’s people constructed a social media apparatus unlike that of any other candidate in the race. The strategy relied on hundreds of volunteers organized into four groups—three in the Philippines, based on geography, and one comprising overseas Filipino workers, a crucial constituency—to distribute messages created by the campaign. Every day the campaign would tee up the messages for the following day, and the volunteers would distribute them across networks that included real and fake Facebook accounts, some with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Facebook initially started receiving complaints about inauthentic pages. It seemed harmless enough—they supported a range of candidates, and most of them appeared to originate from zealous fans. Soon, however, there were complaints about Duterte’s Facebook army circulating aggressive messages, insults, and threats of violence. Then the campaign itself began circulating false information. In March one of the campaign’s Facebook pages posted a fake endorsement by Pope Francis, with the words “Even the Pope Admires Duterte” beneath the pope’s image. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines posted a statement saying, “May we inform the public that this statement from the Pope IS NOT TRUE. … We beg everyone to please stop spreading this.”

Duterte ended up dominating the political conversation so thoroughly that in April, a month before the vote, a Facebook report called him the “undisputed king of Facebook conversations.” He was the subject of 64 percent of all Philippine election-related conversations on the site.

After Duterte won, Facebook did what it does for governments all over the world—it began deepening its partnership with the new administration, offering white-glove services to help it maximize the platform’s potential and use best practices. Even as Duterte banned the independent press from covering his inauguration live from inside Rizal Ceremonial Hall, the new administration arranged for the event to be streamed on Facebook, giving Filipinos around the world insider access to pre- and post-ceremonial events as they met their new strongman. was just one part of a decade-long campaign of global expansion for Facebook. In countries such as the Philippines, the efforts have been so successful that the company is able to tout to its advertisers that its network is, for many people, the only version of the internet they know. Repressive governments originally treated Facebook, and all social media, with suspicion—they saw how it could serve as a locus for dissidents, as it had in the Arab Spring in 2011. But authoritarian regimes are now embracing social media, shaping the platforms into a tool to wage war against a wide range of opponents—opposition parties, human-rights activists, minority populations, journalists.

The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as “patriotic trolling,” involves the use of targeted harassment and propaganda meant to go viral and to give the impression that there is a groundswell of organic support for the government. Much of the trolling is carried out by true believers, but there is evidence that some governments, including Duterte’s, pay people to execute attacks against opponents. Trolls use all the social media platforms—including Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, in addition to the comments sections of news sites. But in the Philippines, Facebook is dominant.

Ressa exposed herself to this in September 2016, a little more than three months after the election. On a Friday night, a bomb ripped through a night market in Davao City, Duterte’s hometown, killing 14 and injuring dozens more. Within hours, Duterte implemented a nationwide state of emergency. That weekend, the most-read story on Rappler was an archived item about the arrest of a man caught planting an improvised explosive device, also in Davao City. The article had been written six months earlier, and the incident had no connection to the night market bombing—but it was circulating on the same Facebook pages that promoted Duterte’s presidency, and people were commenting on it as if to justify the state of emergency.

This, and another earlier incident, became the basis of the article that altered Ressa’s relationship with her government. She titled it “Propaganda War: Weaponizing the Internet.” Within hours of publication, she and Rappler were being attacked through Facebook. She began receiving rapid-fire hate messages. “Leave our country!!!! WHORE!!!!!!” read one. The messages became increasingly violent: “I want Maria Ressa to be raped repeatedly to death.” When she later reported that she was getting as many as 90 such messages per hour, including rape threats, the tidal wave began again. The onslaught became so disturbing that Ressa sent her social media team to counseling. She installed an armed guard in front of her office. By November an #UnfollowRappler campaign led to Rappler losing 52,000 of its Facebook followers, or about 1 percent.


Manila was changing. The economy had boomed under the previous administration, but much of the wealth gains went to the top, and some Filipinos had taken to calling the capital “Imperial Manila.” Duterte, who was born in one of the nation’s poorest regions, positioned himself as a champion for regular people. He told Filipinos the nation was being ruined by drug abuse and related crime, and promised to bring to the capital the merciless strategy he had employed in Davao. Soon, Duterte’s death squads prowled the streets at night in search of drug dealers and other criminals. Images of blood-smeared bodies slumped over on sidewalks, women cradling dead husbands, and corpses in satin-lined caskets went viral. As the bodies piled up—more than 7,000 people have been killed as part of Duterte’s war on drugs—the social media war escalated.

Ressa had already watched Duterte’s supporters undo his opponents. Senator Leila de Lima, who had led an investigation into Duterte’s extrajudicial killings in Davao City, was targeted by viral Facebook articles with headlines like “Leila de Lima is an idiot” and “Leila de Lima is the patron saint of drug lords.” An #ArrestLeilaDeLima campaign began—the origins are unclear—and in February she was arrested, on drug charges that she disputes. (De Lima is listed by Amnesty International as one of the world’s “Human Rights Defenders Under Threat.”) Duterte also targeted the Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, in part because it maintained what it called a kill list—a record of drug war victims. In public remarks, Duterte called the owners of the newspaper “sons of bitches” who “went too far” in their “nonsense” and warned that “someday, karma will come.” In July, the family that owned the paper announced it was selling it to a wealthy businessman who is a close friend of Duterte’s.

Ressa grew more alarmed after the powerful campaign bloggers were brought even closer—in one case, into the administration itself. Mocha Uson, an actress and DDS blogger with more than 5 million followers, was named assistant communications secretary. R.J. Nieto, who runs the influential pro-Duterte site Thinking Pinoy, which has frequently taken aim at Ressa, was hired as a consultant to the Department of Foreign Affairs. (“Pinoy” is slang for Filipino.)

The Rappler data team had spent months keeping track of the Facebook accounts that were going after critics of Duterte. Now Ressa found herself following the trail of her own critics as well. She identified 26 accounts that were particularly virulent. They were all fake (one account used a photo of a young woman who was actually a Korean pop star) and all followed one another. The 26 accounts were posting nearly the exact same content, which was also appearing on faux-news sites such as Global Friends of Rody Duterte and Pinoy Viral News.

The messages being posted consistently linked back to pro-Duterte pages. Ressa and her team put all these accounts into a database, which grew rapidly as they began automating the collection of information, scraping Facebook pages and other public sites. They took to calling their database the Shark Tank. Today it contains more than 12 million accounts that have created or distributed pro-Duterte messages or fake news. Ressa isn’t sure how many of these accounts are fake.

Even in the U.S., where Facebook has been hauled before Congress to explain its role in a Russian disinformation campaign designed to influence the U.S. presidential election, the company doesn’t have a clear answer for how it will stem abuse. It says it will add 10,000 workers worldwide to handle security issues, increase its use of third-party fact-checkers to identify fake news, and coordinate more closely with governments to find sources of misinformation and abuse. But the most challenging questions—such as what happens when the government itself is a bad actor and where to draw the line between free speech and a credible threat of violence—are beyond the scope of these fixes. What stays and what goes from the site is still decided subjectively, often by third-party contractors—many of them stationed, as it happens, in the Philippines, a long-standing outsourcing hub.

Facebook is inherently conflicted. It promises advertisers it will deliver interested and engaged users—and often what is interesting and engaging is salacious, aggressive, or simply false. “I don’t think you can underestimate how much of a role they play in societal discourse,” says Carly Nyst, a London-based consultant on technology and human rights who has studied patriotic trolling around the world. “This is a real moment that they have to take some responsibility. These tools they’ve promised as tools of communication and connection are being abused.”

Facebook’s executives say the company isn’t interested in being an arbiter of truth, in part because it doesn’t want to assume the role of censor or be seen as having an editorial opinion that may alienate users. Nonetheless, it’s been under increasing pressure to act. In the Philippines, it began conducting safety workshops in 2016 to educate journalists and nongovernmental organization workers. These cover the basics: an overview of the company’s community standards policies, how to block a harasser, how to report abusive content, how to spot fake accounts and other sources of misinformation. The company has increased the number of Tagalog speakers on its global Community Operations team in an effort to better root out local slurs and other abusive language.

Still, Facebook maintains that an aspect of the problem in the Philippines is simply that the country has come online fast and hasn’t yet learned the emergent rules of the internet. In October the company offered a “Think Before You Share” workshop for Filipino students, which focused on teaching them “digital literacy” skills, including critical thinking, empowerment, kindness, and empathy.

Nyst says this amounts to “suggesting that digital literacy should also encapsulate the ability to distinguish between state-sponsored harassment and fake news and genuine content.” The company, she says, “is taking the position that it is individuals who are at fault for being manipulated by the content that appears on Facebook’s platform.”

In Europe, that isn’t good enough: The U.K., Germany, and France have threatened fines and increased regulation if the company doesn’t take more steps to prevent fake news and extremist propaganda. Ten days before the French elections in April, Facebook announced it would suspend 30,000 fake accounts. Ressa wondered why the company was willing to act in France but in the Philippines said people needed to bone up on online etiquette. “We are going through much worse than any of the Western nations, and our institutions are far weaker,” she says. “It made me really realize that I needed to speak up.”

In April, Ressa met with Zuckerberg at the F8 conference in San Jose, an annual event for Facebook developers. After a keynote by Zuckerberg, Ressa joined a group of other entrepreneurs for a meeting with the Facebook founder. When it was her turn to talk, she described how critical Facebook was to Filipinos, that it was essentially the country’s most important public space. Politely, she also expressed dismay at how it had become a tool to spread what she called government propaganda. She then invited Zuckerberg to come to the Philippines.

A few days later she sent an email to a New York-based Facebook manager in charge of journalism projects saying that the issues she’d raised in earlier emails to the company’s Asia-Pacific division had not been addressed. She attached some of the underlying data from the Shark Tank and outlined the scope of the harassment she was enduring. In May she wrote again, this time to two additional U.S.-based Facebook managers. “Please take a closer look at the Philippines,” she wrote. “While you’ve taken action in Europe, the danger is far worse for us, and Facebook is the platform they use to intimidate, harass, and attack. It is dangerous. I fear where this may lead. Best, Maria.” In yet another email, she suggested the company consider changing its algorithm to take into account the difference between credible news, harassment, and government propaganda.

In a response to questions from Bloomberg Businessweek, Mia Garlick, Facebook’s director of Asia-Pacific safety programs, said, “We are committed to helping ensure that journalists around the world feel safe on Facebook as they connect their audiences with meaningful stories. We permit open and critical discussion of people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience based on their profession or chosen activities, but will remove any threats or hate speech directed at journalists, even those who are public figures, when reported to us.”

The pressure on Ressa increased in May after Rappler published a transcript of a call between Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump, in which Duterte called the leader of North Korea a “madman.” Nieto, the government consultant, posted a video on Facebook calling Ressa a “traitor” who had made the Philippines a target of North Korea. The video got 83,000 views and drew comments like “Declare Rappler & Maria Ressa as enemies of the Filipinos” and “#ArrestMariaRessa.” In July, in his annual state of the nation address, Duterte stood at a podium before the Philippine Congress and for nearly two hours hammered against illegal drugs, corruption, and pollution. Then he began a tirade against news organizations, saying that by law they’re supposed to be entirely owned by Filipinos. That’s when he singled out Ressa’s company: “Rappler, try to pierce the identity and you will end up with American ownership,” he said.

In August the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission established a special panel to investigate Rappler. In the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, the panel ordered Rappler to produce evidence that the company wasn’t in violation of a constitutional provision limiting ownership of media companies to Philippine citizens. Rappler has overseas investors, including North Base Media Ltd., a Cayman Islands-based venture capital firm with investors from around the world, and Omidyar Network, a venture capital firm started by EBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar. Rappler’s response to the special panel was that the investments were made legally through a common financial instrument called a Philippine Depositary Receipt, which, unlike traditional shares, does not confer ownership or control. It isn’t clear whether this explanation will suffice. The SEC has broad powers to refer cases to the Philippines’ Department of Justice for criminal charges.

Commuters at a bus stand in Taguig, Metro Manila, on Oct. 23, 2017.

Rappler was born on Facebook and lives there still—it’s the predominant source of Rappler’s traffic. So Ressa finds herself in an awkward spot. She has avoided rocking the boat, because she worries that one of the most powerful companies in the world could essentially crush her. What if Facebook tweaked the algorithm for the Rappler page, causing traffic to plummet? What if it selectively removed monetization features critical to the site’s success? “There’s absolutely no way we can tell what they’re doing, and they certainly do not like being criticized,” she says. But after more than a year of polite dialogue with Facebook, she grew impatient and frustrated.

In a trip to Washington in early November, she met with several lawmakers, telling them that she believes Facebook is being used by autocrats and repressive regimes to manipulate public opinion and that the platform has become a tool for online hooliganism. She did the same in a speech at a dinner hosted by the National Democratic Institute, where Rappler was presented with an award for “being on the front lines of fighting the global challenge of disinformation and false news.”

As she accepted her award, Ressa recalled that she started as a journalist in the Philippines in 1986, the year of the People Power Revolution, an uprising that ultimately led to the departure of Ferdinand Marcos and the move from authoritarian rule to democracy. Now she’s worried that the pendulum is swinging back and that Facebook is hastening the trend. “They haven’t done anything to deal with the fundamental problem, which is they’re allowing lies to be treated the same way as truth and spreading it,” she says. “Either they’re negligent or they’re complicit in state-sponsored hate.”

In November, Facebook announced a new partnership with the Duterte government. As part of its efforts to lay undersea cables around the world, Facebook agreed to team up with the government to work on completing a stretch bypassing the notoriously challenging Luzon Strait, where submarine cables in the past have been damaged by typhoons and earthquakes. Facebook will fund the underwater links to the Philippines and provide a set amount of bandwidth to the government. The government will build cable landing stations and other necessary infrastructure.

That’s the sort of big project Facebook embraces. It’s also testing a solar-powered drone that will beam the internet to sub-Saharan Africa and has a team of engineers working on a brain implant to allow users to type with their minds. To Ressa, Facebook looks like a company that will take on anything, except protecting people like her. —With Sarah Frier and Michael Riley

Human Rights Watch: Don’t Be Fooled By Philippines President Duterte’s Distraction Strategy — Demand Accountability

January 23, 2018
Human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Human Rights Watch says
In this Sept. 6, 2016 photo, police inspect one of two unidentified drug suspects after being shot by police as they tried to evade a checkpoint in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. AP/Aaron Favila, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s accusations against New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a manifestation of the Philippine government’s distraction strategy, the human rights watchdog said Tuesday.

On Saturday, Cayetano accused HRW of “misleading the international community” after reporting that the human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The DFA chief also accused the human rights observer of politicising the drug war issue and has not done any research or investigation on the human rights situation in the country.

READ: Philippines in ‘worst human rights crisis’ since Marcos

Phelim Kine, deputy director of HRW’s Asia Division, said that the “groundless” accusations of Cayetano come as no surprise as he is President Rodrigo Duterte’s “chief denier” of the evidence linking the war on drugs to extrajudicial killings.

“They are the latest manifestation of the government’s distraction strategy that appears aimed to sideline domestic and international demands for accountability for what nongovernmental organizations and media outlets estimate is a drug war death toll of more than 12,000 people over the past 18 months,” Kine said.

Cayetano’s declaration before the United Nations General Assembly that the drug war was a necessary instrument to protect the human rights of Filipinos was “demonstrably false,” Kine added.

“It also airbrushed Watch and investigative journalists demonstrating that many of those deaths amount to extrajudicial killings by Philippine National Police personnel and their agents,” Kine said.

The HRW deputy director also noted that Cayetano has not called for justice for the thousands of deaths linked to the anti-drug campaign.

“The government has made no genuine efforts to seek accountability for drug war abuses. There have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in the killings, despite compelling evidence,” Kine added.

Kine stressed that there is a need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings to expose the extent of the abuses in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign. The investigation would also determine possible prosecutions for crimes against humanity.

In its World Report 2018 released last week, HRW noted that Duterte’s drug war has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives since June 2016.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s,” the report read.

The human rights watchdog cited extrajudicial killings, attacks on human rights defenders, children’s rights, press freedom, HIV epidemic, sexual orientation and gender identity, terrorism and counterterrorism and relations with international actors as factors in making the assessment.





The grandmother of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, Violeta, cries beside his casket yesterday in Caloocan City. Relatives and concerned neighbors of the teenager slain by police are calling for justice. MICHAEL VARCAS
One of the fatalities, who has yet to be identified, was killed in an alleged shootout with police officers in Guiguinto, Bulacan on June 16. AP/Aaron Favila, file

Image result for duterte, dela rosa, together, photos

President Rodrigo Duterte and PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa. PhilStar photo

Jee Ick-joo, a South Korean businessman in the Philippines, was abducted by police from his home in October. It took his wife, Choi Kyung-jin, three months to learn his fate. Video: Eva Tam; photo: Jes Aznar for The Wall Street Journal

Philippines says top rights group giving misleading account of drugs war deaths

January 22, 2018


About 3,987 people had been killed in Philippine police anti-drug operations during the 18-month crackdown. (Reuters)

MANILA: The Philippines hit back at a prominent US-based human rights group on Monday for what it said was a misleading death toll of more than 12,000 in its war of drugs, putting the number at half of that and championing its rate of arrests and drug seizures.

New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte had not only resisted calls to end his brutal campaign, but handled criticism by “impugning, harassing, and threatening critics of the government and human rights defenders.”
The president’s office held a news conference on Monday with police and the drugs enforcement agency to present a detailed rebuttal to a report the foreign minister, Alan Peter Cayetano, said was without “any real research, study or investigation.”
Cayetano at the weekend challenged HRW to prove 12,000 people had died in the drugs war, while police spokesman Dionardo Carlos asked the group to provide evidence to help with investigations.
“We hope that they will be more specific, engage us so we can help look into the cases,” he said.
Carlos said 3,987 people had been killed in anti-drug operations during the 18-month crackdown, while some 11 percent, or 2,235, of the total 19,560 murders under police investigation were drug-related.
Eighty-five security forces had been killed during the campaign, he said.
In response to international criticism over what activists and the political opposition say are summary executions and cover-ups, Duterte suspended police from the campaign in October, but has since decided to bring them back.
The authorities deny systematic abuses are taking place in the campaign and say those killed had violently resisted arrest. Activists dismiss that as implausible.
“Oplan Tokhang,” where police visit homes of users and dealers and seek their surrender, is to resume soon, Carlos said, adding that it had brought positive results.
He said more than 1.3 million drugs users had turned themselves in seeking rehabilitation and police had made 119,361 arrests.
The authorities have seized more than two and a half tons of the methamphetamine “shabu,” with a street value of 13.2 billion pesos.

Philippines: Huge Pay Raise for Killer Cops

January 13, 2018
 / 05:18 AM January 13, 2018

Beginning this month, the chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, will enjoy a 79-percent increase in his basic monthly pay—from P67,500 to P121,143. That’s the combined result of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that reduces personal income tax rates and Joint Resolution No. 1 that mandates a hike in the salaries of uniformed personnel. Both laws were signed by President Duterte this January.

Dela Rosa’s increase is only the third highest in the PNP ranks under the new scheme; police officers 1 will enjoy a 100-percent salary hike, from P14,834 to P29,668, while police officers 2 will get an 82-percent increase, from P16,934 to P30,867. All other police personnel will also see their pay increase by an average increase of 58.70 percent beginning Jan. 15, the PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, announced in a press briefing.

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Philippine National Police Director  Director General Ronald dela Rosa

A similar 100-percent increase in salaries will apply to military personnel, with new monthly rates now ranging “from P18,587 for candidate soldier and P29,668 for private or police officer 1 to P34,761 for chief master sergeant or senior police officer 3,” as this paper has reported. For higher-ranked personnel: “The rates range from P35,456 for first chief master sergeant or senior police officer 4 to P121,143 for a general or police director general starting Jan. 1. Their pay will be adjusted upward to the range of P38,366 to P149,785 starting Jan. 1, 2019.

The hefty increases amount to a significant change in the compensation structure of police and military personnel, who, for far too long, have lived with meager pay, substandard materiel, lack of provisions, and many other privations. There is no question that soldiers who have performed heroically in Marawi City and elsewhere deserve to be compensated fairly and provided robust support.

And the PNP? Under Dela Rosa’s watch, the country’s civilian national police force has swiftly been degraded into an organization whose name has come to be associated with the routine abuse and killing of suspects; the perversion of the government’s war on drugs (such as the abduction and murder by cops of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo on the pretext of a drug raid); and widespread public doubt on its methods and motives, as borne out by surveys. As it is, dismayed observers note, Dela Rosa’s 79-percent increase in pay amounts to an undeserved reward for continually botching his job.

And as entry-level police personnel are now about to receive P30,000 in monthly pay, the basic salary of a  teacher 1 is only P21,000. The hefty pay increases for uniformed personnel inevitably raise questions about distortions in the government’s compensation structure. A recent Senate resolution specifically calls on the Department of Budget and Management to look at likewise readjusting the basic salaries of civilian personnel to ensure that, as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon points out, if a rookie policeman receives P40,000, an entry-level teacher, a lawyer at the Department of Justice, and a health worker should also be entitled to the same pay.

President Duterte is committed to and has “ordered everyone to study how to increase the salary of teachers,” his spokesperson Harry Roque said last Thursday. But a day earlier, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno swatted down the idea, flatly saying it is “not our priority at this time.” The administration’s priority, according to Diokno, is its “build, build, build” program, the expenditures for which are projected to amount to P9 trillion until 2022. Doubling the salaries for some 600,000 public schoolteachers nationwide would mean shelling out an additional half a trillion pesos, Diokno said.

But against the huge outlays so far for infrastructure, intelligence and pay increases for favored sectors, is not improving the welfare of teachers, who bear the awesome responsibility of educating the hope of the motherland, as urgent as that of cops and soldiers?

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The grandmother of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, Violeta, cries beside his casket yesterday in Caloocan City. Relatives and concerned neighbors of the teenager slain by police are calling for justice. MICHAEL VARCAS

Philippines: Legal Battle Aims To Keep Records of 3,800 Drug War Deaths From Supreme Court

January 12, 2018

Solicitor General Jose Calida said that the documents on the thousand deaths under investigation are “irrelevant” from the petition challenging President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

Facebook/Presidential Communications, File

By Kristine Joy Patag ( – January 12, 2018 – 7:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General said that the voluminous police records on the thousands of deaths under the police’s anti-drug war “are not relevant” to the current petition challenging the campaign’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the SC to “recall” its earlier directive to the OSG to submit documents relevant to the petition filed by the kin of drug war victims and residents of San Andres Bukid, Manila.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said he wants documents on the 3,800 deaths related to the drug war that are under investigation of the Philippine National Police.

The SC also ordered Calida to submit the following documents:

–list of persons killed in legitimate police operations from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30 2017
–list of deaths under investigation from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2017
–list of Chinese and Filipino-Chinese drug lords who have been neutralized
–list of drugs involved whether shabu, cocaine, marijuana, opoids, etc.
–comparative tables on index crimes
–statistics of internal cleansing within the police force
–drug watchlist in the affected areas
–list of warrants and warrantless arrests in [high-value target] police operations
–list of cases under investigation under Internal Affairs Service

Calida, during the oral arguments last year, said that “he will comply” with the orders of the court. He also asked the SC to extend the deadline, from 30 to 60 days, enough to collate the documents.

In his pleading, Calida said that he felt the need to file the motion for reconsideration since he found the documents to be irrelevant to the two government circulars on the anti-drug war.

He added that the motion was filed not to defy the order of the court but “to strengthen the rule of law and prevent abuse of judicial processes.”

Central to the petitions are the Philippine National Police Command Memorandum Circular 2016-16 for Project Double Barrel and the Department of Interior and Local Government memorandum circular 2017-112 on Masa Masid or the community drop box project.

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Philippine National Police Director  dela Rosa

A copy of the motion for reconsideration filed by the OSG was sent to reporters by the SC Public Information Office on Friday.

Through the order, Calida said that the SC “ventured into unwarranted factual inquiries” since the petitions only question the constitutionality of the circulars.

“It cannot go beyond determining the textual commitment of the PNP CMC No. 16-2016 and DILG MC No. 2017-112 to the Constitution,” he said.

According to Calida, the required documents contain “legitimate police operations that were not undertaken pursuant to the assailed CMC,” among others.

READ: Highlights from the Supreme Court oral arguments on the drug war

National security may be put at risk

Calida pointed out that the Constitution provides “guarantees” such as the right to information and right to access to official records but imposes limits on matters such as national security.

“The production of documents required…in the court order involve information and other sensitive matters that in the long run will have an undeniable effect on national security,” Calida said.

Last year, the SC held oral arguments on petitions challenging the constitutionality of martial law in Mindanao. On the third day of oral arguments, the SC en banc held an executive session with Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana and other military officials.

The court said that while an oral argument was set for the day, it opted to conduct the last day of hearing in an executive session, citing that national security issues will be discussed among the justices.

But Calida, for the drug war petition, argued that the submission of the documents “would not only compromise ongoing police anti-drug operations but likewise put at risk the lives of informants who provide such information.”

He also lamented that the submission “would require significant utilization of man-hours and other scarce resourced by the PNP.”

“With the return of the anti-drug program to the PNP, its current authorized personnel would be hard pressed in performing its mandate of enforcing law and order,” Calida said.

Other than the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Bureau of Investigation are also empowered and tasked to carry out the administration’s war against drugs.

RELATED: Carpio asks: Were there Chinese drug lords killed by the PNP? | Justices ask: Did Oplan Tokhang, Masa Masid violate any law?

Read more at…/calida-moves-bar-sc-obtaining-da…


Five killed as Philippine police resume drug war — Corrupt police accused of killing defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts

January 11, 2018


© AFP/File | President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has stoked controversy in the Philippines and abroad
MANILA (AFP) – Five narcotics suspects have been killed in the Philippines, police said Thursday, as authorities again ramp up a drug war that has drawn warnings that President Rodrigo Duterte may be overseeing a crime against humanity.Police killed almost 4,000 suspects in Duterte’s first 17 months in office as he followed through on his election campaign promise to eliminate drugs from Philippine society.

The latest police killings occurred Wednesday in Bulacan province, a frontline in the crackdown, where they said five suspects were “neutralised” — a term rights groups said was a euphemism for killings.

Ninety-five others were arrested in dozens of sting operations, according to a provincial police report.

The five deaths in Bulacan equal the number of drug-related killings in the previous five weeks, according to official data.

The crackdown has stoked controversy both in the Philippines and abroad.

Rights groups allege corrupt police are killing defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they kill.

A Philippine lawyer filed a suit at the International Criminal Court last year accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity, which the president rejects.

Duterte conceded in January last year that the police force was “corrupt to the core”.

He has suspended them from the counter-narcotics campaign briefly on two occasions to quieten mounting opposition to his drug war.

But the president, who has said he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug addicts, has on both occasions brought the police back to the drug war’s frontlines without any major reforms to eradicate corruption.

Philippines: Presidential Spokesman Says President Rodrigo Duterte’s body language tells you — you can trust him

January 6, 2018
By: – Reporter / @LeilasINQ
 / 11:30 PM January 06, 2018
Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo by KING RODRIGUEZ / Presidential Photographers Division)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s body language and actual words show that he has no desire to perpetuate himself in power, and people should be assured that he will continue to do what he said he would do, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

“We can see from the body language and the words of the President, literally, that number one, he had not wanted to be President of the country,” Andanar said on Saturday in his new program over government-owned Radyo ng Bayan.

“Number two, if federalism [is] passed, he [would be] ready to step down,” he added.

Andanar said people just would have to believe Duterte when he said he had no desire to perpetuate himself in power and would step down if a federal government would be put in place.

“The President said that if federalism passes, he would resign. So what more assurance do we want?” Andanar said.

Duterte has repeatedly made these statements and the president has always done what he said he would do, Andanar said.

These include bringing peace and order to the streets and combatting drugs and crime, and as a result, the drug supply and the crime rate has gone down, he said.

The President, though, has revised his initial promise to lick the illegal drug problem in six months, saying he did not realize the extent of the problem.

Andanar also said Duterte had been true to his promise not to tolerate corruption, as he had fired several appointees, including two recent ones who had gone on numerous trips abroad.

The administration is working on the President’s promise to bring down poverty incidence, and among the measures intended to achieve this is the new law that provides free tuition in state colleges and universities and its ambitious infrastructure program, he said.

He also called on the people to trust the country’s lawmakers to amend the Constitution and change the form of government. This would also follow a process, he said.

He said the lawmakers would be assisted by a team of experts forming a constitutional commission.

The President, however, has yet to appoint members to this commission.

Ultimately, Andanar said the new charter proposed by Congress would undergo a plebiscite, which means the people would be the ones to decide.

Catholic Church leaders and members of the opposition have bucked proposals to extend officials’ terms and to postpone the midterm elections as part of the transition to a federal government.

They warned that this showed that there are officials who just want to extend their stay in power. /atm

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