Posts Tagged ‘Duterte administration’

Philippines: Inclusion in UN rights council no endorsement of Philippine policies

October 14, 2018

The Philippines’ election to the UN Human Rights Council is not an endorsement of the government’s campaign on illegal drugs or its human rights records, Karapatan said Sunday.

The human rights group pointed out in a statement Sunday that there were only 18 candidates for the 18 seats on the council, meaning the country’s re-election to the council “is due to the removal of any competition, instead of the Palace’s dramatized version of ‘acknowledgement by the international community’ of the Duterte government’s infamous campaigns.”

According to a UN explainer on the Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly allows “extra blank slates” to enable a competitive voting process. “However, if – as was the case this year with 18 candidacies for 18 available seats – no extra countries apply, then no competition occurs, and whichever Member State applies, is likely to get elected.”

RELATED: International rights groups: ‘Philippines unfit for seat on UN Human Rights Council’

In this image obtained from the UN, conference officers collect ballots during the election of new members of the UN Human Rights Council on October 12, 2018 at the UN in New York. Bahrain, Cameroon and the Philippines were among a number of nations controversially elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, sparking sharp criticism from rights groups. “By putting forward serious rights violators and presenting only as many candidates as seats available, the regional groups risk undermining the council’s credibility and effectiveness,” said New York-based Human Rights Watch.


Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo claimed the re-election meant that “the community of nations has viewed the drug menace as a global problem requiring its utmost attention in forcefully dealing with it and forging a united front against the purveyors of its proliferation across the frontiers of the world.” He added the Philippines “is showing the way how to slay the dragon of destruction.”

“Our successful bid to keep our seat in the Council is proof that many in the international community remain convinced the Philippines respects and protects human rights and have seen through the efforts of some to politicize and weaponize the issue,” Alan Peter Cayetano, who is stepping down as Foreign Affairs secretary to run for congressman of Taguig, also said.

Karapatan: Gov’t spin does not erase thousands killed

But Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said Sunday that staying on the council “does not absolve the Duterte government of its rights violations against the Filipino people.”

“It does not erase the thousands killed in its murderous drug war or its spectrum of violations and scores of victims in indigenous and peasant communities,” Palabay, who participated in an “International People’s Tribunal” in Belgium in September, said. The IPT proceedings, although not legally binding, would be forwarded to the International Court, organizers said then.

“We thus call on the UNHRC to pursue its independent investigation to look into human rights violations in the Philippine, amid numerous reports and complaints that have been submitted to the said body,” she also said.

She said government spin on the re-election “reflects the Duterte administration’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge its accountability on the numerous killings as a result of its war on drugs and its attacks on human rights defenders and civilians as a consequence of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao.”

The Philippine government has maintained that it upholds and protects human rights but has also claimed the the issue of human rights has been “weaponized” by members of the political opposition to discredit the government.

According to a government “RealNumbersPH” release in September, there have been 4,854 “drug personalities” killed in anti-drug operations since July 1, 2016. Critics and human rights groups have higher estimates.


Karapatan which translates as rights, is a human rights non-governmental organization in the Philippines. The full name of the group is KARAPATAN: Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.

Philippines: Duterte Admin Helping To Import Crystal Meth from China?

October 3, 2018

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are looking into the recent alleged smuggling of P6.8 billion worth of “shabu” or crystal meth from China, and the picture that’s emerging so far is not a pretty one: The very agencies in the frontline of the Duterte administration’s centerpiece war on drugs seem to be the very ones undermining it.

The hearings so far have implicated not only personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), for what appears to be a conspiracy with drug syndicates to spirit into the country almost a ton of shabu via four magnetic lifters that were later discovered empty in a warehouse in Cavite in August.

Philippine Inquirer

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Now, even officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police have come under suspicion, too.

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino revealed during the hearing of the House committees on dangerous drugs and good government that his deputy for administration, Ismael Fajardo Jr., had been relieved of his post on Sept. 14, after it came out that he knew about the questionable shipment.

Four unidentified active police officers and dismissed PNP Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto also became the subject of an investigation, after former Customs intelligence officer Jimmy Guban said during the hearing that he had been coordinating with them on the magnetic lifters shipment in July.

Guban told the committees chaired by Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Romualdo that it was Acierto who had asked him to look for a “for-hire” consignee — in this case, SMYD Trading — to sign off on the shipment.

Acierto’s name should be familiar to observers of the drug war.

Formerly the deputy director for administration of the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, which was disbanded in January following the kidnapping and killing by cops of South Korean national Jee Ick-joo right inside Camp Crame, Acierto was dismissed from service in August in relation to an Ombudsman case on the PNP-Firearms and Explosives Office’s anomalous issuance of licenses for AK-47 rifles from 2011 to 2013.

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Aquino’s testimony not only fingered such personalities, but also raised an alarming scenario — that earlier successful interceptions of smuggled shabu by law enforcers may just be part of a bigger modus operandi by drug syndicates.

Some shipments would be deliberately caught, so that even more shipments of illegal drugs would get away.

To recall, 500 kilograms of shabu worth an estimated P3.4 billion that were concealed inside a large magnetic lifter were intercepted on Aug. 7 at the Manila International Container Terminal by combined operatives of the PDEA, PNP and BOC.

After this interception, on Aug. 9, the PDEA discovered four more magnetic lifters suspected of containing as much as a ton of shabu in a warehouse at Barangay F. Reyes in Governor Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.

Aquino noted at his press briefing that it was Guban, Acierto and Fajardo who had fielded “the raw information” of the “shabu” in the earlier shipment.

“They are the ones that investigated and conducted the investigation until the last… They were the ones who conducted the case buildup,” he said.

These damning revelations may end up giving Malacañang a headache. How to square them, after all, with the Congress testimony of BOC chief Isidro Lapeña on Aug. 14, in which Lapeña claimed that BOC’s own swab tests on the empty magnetic lifters found inside the Cavite warehouse “tested negative for illegal drugs”?

Thus, the pronouncement that drugs are flooding the local market “has no basis,” Lapeña added.

That assurance apparently won the ear of President Duterte, because the President subsequently waded into the issue by declaring in a speech before businessmen that the PDEA report of another massive shabu haul was “pure speculation,” in effect dismissing the investigation of the lead agency in his drug war.

But what’s emerging from the hearings is a contrary picture — that this incident isn’t a product of imagination or conjecture, that much remains to be uncovered about its true and full dimensions, and that a thorough and transparent investigation into it is warranted, at the very least.

As things stand, with the growing testimony about possible criminal collusion among official circles in facilitating the P6.8-billion shabu hoard, this explosive case is proving to be anything but mere speculation.

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Philippines: Experts Suspects Data Breach At Philippine Department of National Defense

October 2, 2018

The Senate should seriously consider the call by a data privacy expert to look into the possible data breach of files from the Department of National Defense (DND), in the wake of the political firestorm over the Duterte administration’s move to void Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s amnesty for his supposed failure to submit his application form.

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Trillanes maintains he filed it, and documentary evidence such as video clips, photos and news reports from that period appear to support that claim. But the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters’ personnel division (J1) certified that Trillanes’ amnesty records are missing, raising urgent questions: How did that happen, and who should be responsible?

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Lawyer Jamael Jacob, a former director of the National Privacy Commission and now a data protection officer at Ateneo de Manila University, said: “In Trillanes’ case, one could argue that the loss of his record by the DND amounts to a type of data breach.”

That’s because the Data Privacy Act requires the DND and other government agencies to safeguard information such as Trillanes’ amnesty application; it should have employed measures to protect personal information against “natural dangers such as accidental loss and human dangers such as unlawful access,” said Jacob.

Philippine Inquirer

The National Privacy Commission should also look into the case since the privacy law gives the commission the freedom to initiate its own investigation even without receiving a complaint, the lawyer added.

The issue assumes crucial import because it may well go beyond Trillanes and affect ordinary citizens, who depend on the government for the safekeeping of their public documents.

But the adverse decision by Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Elmo Alameda last week against Trillanes for not having the original copy of his amnesty application — the lack of which, said the judge, voids the amnesty — raises the possibility that mere absence as such would now cast doubt on the legal status of all manner of public transactions and civic documentation.

As lawyer Jude Sabio put it in an opinion piece in Rappler: “If we are to follow the logic of Judge Alameda’s ruling, then any other public document will have to be subject to an inquiry as to the existence of a prior application form… If a traveler is in the airport and presents a passport, a BID agent can legally ask for a previous application form, which makes it necessary for the traveler to always bring with him a previous application form.

A policeman can require the presentation of a previous application form if he flags down an erring motorist.

A court can now challenge a person holding a land title to present a previous application form.

Many more examples can be shown to support the absurdity that results from the ruling of Judge Alameda, which is in direct contradiction with basic principles of evidence in relation to public documents.”

Many observers have also pointed out the leap in logic in Alameda’s ruling — that the absence of Trillanes’ application form in the DND record meant he never filed one in the first place, when, given the background of the case, the paper might only have gone missing, or as Trillanes has alleged, perhaps was even intentionally mislaid.

How can an important document, after all, just vanish from the custody of a government agency?

And how vulnerable are the rest of us, then, from these breaches of personal and official data that the government is expected to keep private and secure?

Malacañang’s campaign against Trillanes, and Alameda’s ruling, placed the onus on the senator to produce the document.

But, as Trillanes’ lawyer Reynaldo Robles protested, “Shouldn’t the DND be held accountable for this infidelity of custody of
official documents?”

Former national security adviser Jose Almonte echoed that point: “You do not punish the one amnestied just because the original was not located. You punish the custodian of the document.”

There are records management laws in place that penalize the negligent handling of government archives by their personnel, as well as acts such as pilfering or tampering with official documents.

What violations, if any, are involved in the mysterious disappearance of Trillanes’ papers, and how can the government’s record-keeping be strengthened to prevent similar breaches?

Indeed, if the records of someone like Trillanes are not safe within the confines of a highly meticulous, records-obsessed organization like the AFP, ordinary citizens may well assume that theirs, too, are in an even more precarious position in the porous, shambolic government bureaucracy.

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Presidential Communications team making fun of the sign language of deaf people in Facebook video — PR disaster, not cute

September 25, 2018

If Presidential Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson and her perennial hanger – on, Drew Olivar, thought they could get away with their latest antic — making fun of the sign language of deaf people in a recent video posted on Uson’s Facebook page — the way they had gotten away with their other offensive online actions in the past, they thought wrong.

Then again, for far too long, Uson’s many bald lies, ethical lapses and sheer cluelessness about her job had merited no more than a peep from Palace officials, who appeared to fear the perceived clout of her 5-million-plus following on social media.

People had begun to wonder if she were untouchable. After all, with at least P130,000 a month of taxpayer money going into her salary, the public had every right to expect some sort of accountability for her official behavior — something tougher and more stern than, say, the generic memo that she was issued over her earlier infamous video of Olivar performing suggestive dance moves while mouthing “pepe-dede-ralismo,” a clip Uson admitted to filming in her office.

Far more costly than that video, which effectively torpedoed the administration’s federalism campaign, was Uson’s swaggering video, shot in Kuwait, announcing the intended rescue by Philippine government personnel of some distressed overseas Filipino workers in that country.

The video, and the actual incidents that followed, led to a full-blown diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, the Filipino ambassador himself getting expelled and declared persona non grata by the Kuwaiti government.

The Kuwaiti stunt did not appear to do Uson much damage. No apology was ever forced out of her for that dangerous caper, and none for the “pepe-dede-ralismo” imbecility, either.

While sundry officials called for Uson’s removal from government or at least her inhibition from dabbling in matters of policy or governance in the wake of that PR disaster, Malacañang itself made no move to sanction her.

President Duterte, in fact, was characterized by the Palace as having remained “cool” after seeing the clip. During a recent speech before the Filipino community in Israel, the President said that while there were “excesses” in Uson’s actions, they were part of her freedom of speech.

Who could make Uson apologize for her bad behavior?

The Filipino deaf community, it turns out.

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Presidential Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson and her perennial hanger – on, Drew Olivar with Duterte dolls

The immediate outcry of those citizens, and the public at large — concretized in a suit filed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) at the Office of the Ombudsman against Uson and Olivar — forced the pair to offer separate apologies for their latest hijinks.

The complaint charges them with violating Republic Act No. 9442, “which penalizes verbal, nonverbal ridicule and vilification against persons with disability.”

“Uson and Olivar were laughing and making fun of us,” protested PFD president Carolyn Dagani.

For Marya Angcay, a leader of the deaf community, the video clip “reminded us of the times when we were bullied and could not fight back,” while Raymond Manding, president of the PFD’s youth section, worried about the reach of social media and how Uson, a high-profile public official, was setting a bad example.

“What if children started copying her?” he asked.

The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), which houses a School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies and the Benilde Deaf School, also released a statement urging the government to “take action” against Uson and Olivar for being “very offensive and disrespectful” to the Filipino deaf community.

(Olivar is in hot water again for posting a fake “bomb threat” on Sept. 21 to dissuade people from joining antimartial law rallies.)

Uson’s actions, said DLS-CSB president Br. Dennis Magbanua, were “unbecoming of a government official,” and violative of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Previous appeals to hold Uson to those standards, to which other less favored government officials are strictly subjected, had been met with shrugged shoulders in the Palace.

On Thursday, notably, it offered no defense of Uson but announced that it would let the Ombudsman decide on the PFD complaint.

It should be said: Penalizing Uson and Olivar for the wanton dumb and dumber routine they have foisted on the nation, at taxpayers’ expense, will help ensure that their overextended 15 minutes of notoriety no longer makes a mockery of governmental affairs.

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See also:

Complaint filed at Ombudsman vs. Mocha Uson, blogger over controversial sign language video


Philippines: Duterte admin’s appeasement policy on China causing a crisis?

September 22, 2018

Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte conveyed to his countrymen that he expected China to be fair on the South China Sea dispute and that they should accept Beijing as a good neighbor.

“I am sure that in the end, China will be fair and the equity will be distributed,” he said. He predicted that “in the days to come, we would realize that China… is really a good neighbor.”

Renato Cruz De Castro ( – September 22, 2018 – 12:29pm
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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua

Duterte’s (misplaced) good faith on China is consistent with his administration’s appeasement policy, which is in turn embodied by his and his foreign affairs and defense officials’ concerted efforts to foster closer relations with the rising superpower, alongside calculated moves to pivot away from the United States and its allies (Japan and Australia), over the South China Sea disputes, in particular, and in other international issues, in general.

The Philippine public, however, does not share Duterte’s benign and patronizing view of China. Opposition figures and left-wing organizations have criticized the Duterte administration for not publicly raising alarm and indignation over Chinese efforts to militarize the land features it occupies in the South China.

Two prominent American analysts rightly observed that “expert and media commentaries in the Philippines tend to highlight the dangers and obstacles regarding his infatuation with China and animosity towards the U.S.”

A fragile rapprochement? 

The Duterte administration’s appeasement policy is based on a quid pro quo with China and would result in the unraveling of his predecessor’s balancing policy on China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea. This was in exchange for Chinese moderation in their actions vis-à-vis the Philippines and, more significantly, the infusion of Chinese investment and aid for the Duterte administration’s massive infrastructure program called “Build, Build, Build.”

The siege of Marawi City in 2017 and the revelation of the Philippine military’s weakness vis-à-vis the Islamic militants provided the United States an opportunity to bring the Philippines back “onside, rather than pushing [it] further to China’s embrace.”

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The U.S. supported the Philippines in the two countries’ mutual interests of counter-terrorism and Humanitarian Assistance and Risk Reduction.

Consequently, the U.S. assistance to the Philippines during and after the siege of Marawi City strengthened the pro-American elements in the government and military, providing them opportunities to mitigate Duterte’s efforts to separate from Washington and to gravitate closer to China.

In early June, the Philippine government issued a formal demand for China to ask its Coast Guard to stay away from the Philippines’ traditional fishing grounds around the Scarborough Shoal and stop the harassment of Filipino fishermen off the shoal. This action was triggered by TV news reports of Chinese Coast Guard personnel boarding Filipino fishing vessels, inspecting the fishermen’s catch, and then confiscating their best catch.

In late July, the Philippine government expressed concern over the increase in offensive Chinese radio warnings against Philippine aircraft and ships flying and sailing near reclaimed and fortified islands in the South China Sea.

An  internal Armed Forces of the Philippines report leaked to the Associated Press revealed that Philippine Air Force planes patrolling the South China Sea have received at least 46 warnings from Chinese naval outpost in the artificial islands, where more powerful communications and surveillance equipment have been installed along with weapons such as anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missiles.

China is also withholding the funds it promised Duterte when he visited Beijing in October 2016. During that visit, he collected US$24 billion in investment pledges to finance his administration’s ambitious five-year infrastructure agenda.

However, according to a study by Alvin A. Camba of Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., of the US$24-billion pledges made in 2016, US$15 billion were negotiated between private businessmen that were eventually modified or canceled. The rest of the projects have been stalled because they are hard to implement such as rail networks and irrigation dams.

In mid-August, a delegation of Filipino ranking officials led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez went to Beijing to discuss China’s funding of several infrastructure projects under the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

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Both sides agreed on a two-stage funding program (first and second baskets) for Chinese loan financing. This means that while Chinese funds would be available to finance the administration’s infrastructure projects, the money will be disbursed on a staggered basis and on Beijing’s terms.

Crisis in the appeasement policy on China?  

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has affirmed the Duterte administration’s goal for the Philippines and China to agree on a joint development arrangement that will enable the two disputing states to come up with a scheme to utilize the natural resources in the South China Sea for mutual benefits.

However, stung by the Filipino public’s negative view on the government’s appeasement policy and by China’s refusal to keep its end of the bargain, Cayetano revealed that the Philippines has informed China of four “red lines” in the two countries’ territorial disputes. He also threatened to resign from office if the Philippines will lose additional territory to China under his watch as foreign secretary.

On 15 August, Duterte openly criticized China for its island-building activities and called on it to temper its behavior in the South China Sea. This was his strongest comment on China since he pursued an appeasement policy in late 2016.

China, however, sharply rebuffed him by asserting that it “has a right to take the neces-sary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into air and waters near China’s relevant islands.”

Philippine-China relations in the twenty-first century has undergone periods of ups and downs. It experienced a golden age during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term. The relationship became problematic and toxic during President Benigno Aquino’s presidency. These recent developments indicate that Philippine-China relations under the Duterte administration might again undergo this cycle of ups and downs.

As one Chinese pundit observes: “As for China, the periodic swing of Sino-Philippine relations means China should remain cautiously optimistic. On the one hand, China should take advantage of this chance to bolster relations with Manila. On the other hand, Beijing should remain wary of historic fluctuations in the relationship.”


Dr. Renato Cruz de Castro is a trustee and convenor of the National Security and East Asian Affairs Program of the Stratbase ADR Institute, a partner of



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Philippines President Awaits Arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes

September 7, 2018

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday that President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for the issuance of warrant of arrest of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal critic whom he has ordered arrested in a proclamation published this week.

Roque, in a press conference in Amman, Jordan, said that the “the president has decided that he will abide with rule of law.”

“He will wait for the decision of the regional trial court if they will issue a warrant of arrest,” he added.

In his Proclamation 572, Duterte claimed that the senator “did not comply with the minimum requirements to qualify under the Amnesty Proclamation.”

The president has ordered the Department of Justice and the court martial of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pursue all criminal and administrative cases filed against Trillanes in connection with the Oakwood Mutiny in 2003 and the Manila Peninsula siege in 2007.

State prosecutors have filed two motions for the issuance of an alias warrant before two different courts: Makati Regional Trial Court Branches 148 and 150.

The prosecutors failed to secure an immediate arrest warrant from Branch 148 on Tuesday.



Philippines Re-Examines Rule of Law, The Powers of The President

September 6, 2018

Can a President order anyone’s arrest, without a court order?  Can a civilian be reclassified as a military member, on the President’s whim? Can anyone, even the President, change the rule of law to fit political objectives — or hit political targets?

 / 05:24 AM September 06, 2018

Proclamation No. 572, issued by the President on Aug. 31 but published only on Sept. 4, when he was already on his official visit to Israel, seeks to revoke the grant of amnesty given to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in 2011 as “void ab initio” and orders his immediate arrest.

This act of the Executive is not only a grievous mistake, an unwise policy that will undermine confidence in the government’s amnesty programs; it is also, and above all, a gross violation of the Constitution and an attack on the very rule of law.

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The attempt to put Trillanes, a former Navy officer and mutineer, behind bars again was an orchestrated, multipart legal and bureaucratic offensive.

Many elements were involved: the drafting of the presidential proclamation and its unannounced publication on the day Solicitor General Jose Calida’s controversial security agency was the subject of a committee inquiry led by Trillanes; the eager participation of comparatively low-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense (no generals or former generals) in a coordinated news conference; the timely filing of a motion for a hold departure order and a warrant of arrest against Trillanes with the Makati Regional Trial Court.

And the Duterte administration would have pulled off a political coup if the Senate had not insisted on the prerogatives of one of its members, and thus of the dignity of the institution.

Whatever may be said about Senate President Vicente Sotto III, in the initial hours of the crisis he cut a clear contrast with the way the Senate conducted itself when Sen. Leila de Lima was the target of an orchestrated legal and bureaucratic offensive.

And the decision of Makati Regional Trial Court Presiding Judge Andres Soriano, first not to be stampeded into issuing a ruling by insisting on reading the case files and second by scheduling a hearing on the merits of the motion for next week, may have provided only temporary relief to Trillanes, but it was still a welcome display of a court’s independence.

Stripped of legal gobbledygook, the President’s order asserts that Trillanes failed to meet two conditions of his amnesty.

First, that Trillanes “did not file an Official Amnesty Application Form as per the Certification dated Aug. 30, 2018, issued by Lt. Col. Thea Joan N. Andrade… stating that ‘there is no available copy of his application for amnesty in the records.’”

And second, that Trillanes “never expressed his guilt for the crimes that were committed on occasion of the Oakwood Mutiny and Peninsula Manila Hotel Siege.”

As TV reports and newspaper stories from 2011 show, Trillanes and other ex-mutineers said that “they were not admitting guilt to the mutiny and coup d’etat charges.” (This and another quote are included in the presidential proclamation.)

But the same reports and stories also show, first, that Trillanes (like others) did file his application form, and second, that he (like others) made a “general admission of guilt” in his application, which he swore to.

Between this sworn statement and his boastful statements before the media, which one carries legal weight?

And if the same TV reports and newspaper stories show that he had filed his application, then the issue of liability reverts to the military office in charge of the documents.

The application form, complete with ID photos and signatures, was seen by many witnesses and, by extension, by tens of thousands of TV viewers.

That it was valid is proven by the amnesty the Armed Forces processed and Trillanes received.

If his application is missing now, then the officials in charge of that document must answer for it.

Trillanes himself gives the best analogy for the Duterte administration’s “case” against him.

To acquire a passport, a citizen needs to meet certain requirements. A passport is issued only if all the requirements are met. If one of those required documents happens to go missing in the archives of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the passport does NOT become invalid.

The “case” against him now is exactly the same; the grant of amnesty is itself proof that all the requirements were met. If, after the grant, one of the required documents goes missing, the amnesty remains valid.

It does not become invalid, or void from the start, on mere presidential say-so.

Indeed, an amnesty should not be revoked, because it imperils trust in the government as a negotiating party. And if an amnesty can be revoked, revocation must be at the same hands of those who granted it: the President and Congress, together.

A President cannot order anyone’s arrest, without a court order.

A civilian cannot be reclassified as military, on the President’s whim.

And no one, not even the President, can change the rule of law to fit political objectives — or hit political targets.

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Philippines: Ombudsman Role Demands Integrity Amid Corruption and The Rest of Government

August 3, 2018

In the Philippine legal tradition, the ancient title of “tribune of the people” has been used to describe the character of the chief government lawyer, the solicitor general.

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Conchita Carpio Morales

The extraordinary tenure of Conchita Carpio Morales as Ombudsman of the Republic, which came to its mandated end last week, should encourage the next generation of lawyers to reconsider the tradition; perhaps the honorific should be conferred on the Office of the Ombudsman instead. Or, to draw the right lesson from Morales’ term, it should be conferred on the official who does the most to deserve the honor.

The solicitor general is described as tribune of the people because, by constitutional design, he is supposed to literally represent the people in cases brought before the Supreme Court. We can see this dynamic at work when the solicitor general represents the people’s position even against the government he is an officer of; we can see this dynamic fail when the solicitor general ends up representing the view of an interested private party instead of the people’s interest. (Case in point: Solicitor General Jose Calida arguing for the 50-percent shading in the electoral case that defeated candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. brought against Vice President Leni Robredo. That is a clear instance of the government lawyer defending the narrow interest of a private party rather than the longstanding principle, conducive to the national interest, of the liberal interpretation of election rules.)

 / 05:24 AM August 03, 2018

But the Ombudsman, during Morales’ term, did not only represent the people in her decisions; she performed the actual functions of the tribune of the people, including the right and duty to prosecute corrupt officials. The work that went into the pork barrel scam cases—including the thorough investigation into and the complete case preparation of the startling charges against three incumbent senators, including a former Senate president—can anchor any lawyer’s legacy.

For Morales, the prosecution of Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla is a career highlight, but by no means the only one. (This achievement remains, even though the Supreme Court has unaccountably allowed Enrile and Estrada to post bail for the nonbailable case of plunder; the cases are live, strongly argued, and rest on incontrovertible evidence.) Morales has also served the ends of justice by reducing the Ombudsman’s caseload dramatically (in part by coming to work early and by working long hours). And when her person and her office came under gratuitous criticism from the Duterte administration, she defended both her personal integrity and the dignity of her office in the only way President Duterte understands: By giving no ground, by standing up to him.

In one unforgettable instance, after Malacañang announced its intention to (unconstitutionally) create a commission to investigate its own coalition’s allegations of corruption in the Ombudsman’s office, Morales issued a short, simple statement. “Sorry, Mr. President but this office shall not be intimidated,” she began her statement. She ended it with the same formulaic expression administration officials gave to political rivals, critics and citizens worried about the use of the government’s iron fist. “If the president has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear.”

In this exchange with the President, Morales fulfilled, or rather exhibited, the third great power of the Roman office of the tribune of the people: the inviolability of the tribune’s person. To be sure, there were attempts to initiate an impeachment complaint against Morales, but the attempts could not proceed because Morales’ reputation, after decades of distinguished service as judge, as justice of the Supreme Court, and finally as Ombudsman, was impregnable.

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Samuel Martires

Will the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Samuel Martires, live up to the Morales standard? Can he be the next tribune of the people, as more fully understood? He has to do as Morales did—and refuse to honor Malacañang’s unconstitutional order dismissing Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang. The Supreme Court he served already laid down the law: The executive department cannot meddle in the work of the Office of the Ombudsman; it cannot dismiss a deputy ombudsman.

Mere days after Martires took his oath, he faces the exact same test—in ancient Roman terms, the inviolability of the tribune’s person—that Morales, to the credit of her office and in the people’s interest, passed with proud, flying colors.

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Peace and Freedom Note: Our man in the Philippines says, “Chinese tourists just won’t come here. Too much crime an violence. We were hoping for more Chinese money by now…”

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Philippines: Former President Against Proposed Sharing of South China Sea Oil, Gas With China — Philippines has no obligation to share its resources

August 1, 2018

Former president Benigno Aquino III opposes the proposed 60-40 sharing of natural resources between the Philippines and China in the joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea.

Aquino said the area is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the country has no obligation to share its resources with the Asian giant.

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Benigno Aquino III

He again shared a “joke,” China’s supposed motto, which was often used during his term. What started as a joke, he said, seems to be coming true under the Duterte administration.

“Exclusive economic zone ang pinag-uusapan eh. Parang wala tayong obligasyon na makihati sa kanila. Noong panahon ko may joke eh, sabi raw nila: ‘What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share.’ So ngayon, parang nagiging totoo na ata ito,” Aquino said.

(We’re talking about our exclusive economic zone. We have no obligation to share it with them. During my time, there was a joke. China said: “What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share.” So now, it seems this is coming true.)

“Balikan lang natin fundamental dito: exclusive ito sa atin, meron ba tayong obligasyon na bahagian sila?” he added. (Let’s just go back to the fundamental issue here: This is exclusively for us. Do we have an obligation to share it with China?)

For Aquino, who brought China to court over the disputed waters, the Asian neighbor cannot be trusted. He said the proposed 60-40 scheme favoring the Philippines could end up being disadvantageous to the country.

“Ang bargaining position, 60-40. Baka naman sa dulo nito ay baliktad, baka sila 60, baka 70… Sa halip na wala silang karapatan, biglang ngayon eh baka naman kailangang amuhin sila sa dulo. At para mapaamo, kailangang mas malaki ang parte nila,” the former president said.

(The bargaining position is 60-40. But in the end, it might become the opposite. They might get 60% of the share or 70%. Instead of them having no rights, all of a sudden we might have to woo them in the end. And to woo them, we have to give them a larger share.)

“Bantayan natin na sana ‘di maging gano’n ang mangyari (Let’s be vigilant that it won’t happen),” he added.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano previously said China is “open” to the joint exploration proposal, adding that the draft framework might be out by September.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself made the proposal in a speech last April.

“Precisely I said, with the issue of the [South] China Sea, leave it at that, it’s geopolitics. Anyway, China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you a better deal, 60-40,” Duterte said.

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Malacañang earlier spoke of two areas in the West Philippine Sea being considered for the joint activity – Service Contracts 57 (Calamian) and 72 (Recto Bank).

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned, however, that the 1987 Constitution prohibits joint development within the Philippines’ EEZ.

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal also said allowing joint development in such an area could be seen as “inconsistent” with the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines in 2016.

In its ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the ‘9-dash line.'” (READ: FAST FACTS: South China Sea dispute)

Despite the ruling, China continues its military buildup in the West Philippine Sea and harassment of Filipino fishermen in areas declared by the decision as common fishing grounds. –


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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippines: Change to Federalism Has Staggering Price Tag — “Is this just treasury robbery?”

July 31, 2018

It’s a “a disaster… (considering) the duplication of all expenses at all levels.”

How much will the proposed shift to federalism cost? Estimates by experts vary, but they all agree on one thing: It will be huge.

The creation of a federal government will cost some P55 billion that would have “to come from the pockets of taxpayers,” Dr. Rosario Manasan of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies told a recent Senate hearing on the issue. The amount would go to the salaries of regional governors and vice governors, additional senators per region, additional members of the judiciary and their staff, as well as the operating expenses for the gargantuan new bureaucracy that would result from the creation of 16 plus two federal states.

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Under the federalism model proposed by the consultative committee convened by President Duterte, the Senate would have two senators per federal unit, or 36 senators from the current 24. The House of Representatives would expand from the current 250 members to 400.

Among the pluses advocates have cited for this shift in government is that regions would be given more “power of the purse” and greater control over projects they can implement, with each federated state enjoying “a more autonomous and responsive fiscal system.” The federal model, its proponents argue, will narrow the long-standing inequalities across regions of the country, especially the dominance of “imperial Manila” or “imperial Luzon.”

But experts have rung alarm bells over the cost of such a radical overhaul of government, led by the country’s chief economic manager himself, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, who warned that federalism could disrupt the Duterte administration’s infrastructure projects and “wreak havoc” on the country’s economy.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque belatedly tried to finesse the crisscrossing messaging from the Palace with a bald statement insisting that the shift “would have no adverse effect on the Philippine economy.”

Another person apparently aghast at the projected price tag is Marcos-era finance chief and former prime minister Cesar Virata. Federalism advocates, he said, “should consider that the cost of having a duplicate government” may reach more than P800 billion.

And, while federal states may have more in terms of revenue collections, only the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Central Visayas have the capacity to sustain their operations, Virata noted. The other federal regions will continue to be dependent on the national government.

Former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., a framer of the 1987 Constitution, debunked the argument that federalism would give provinces a more equitable revenue stream from the national government by pointing out that a recent Supreme Court ruling had actually made moot the need to decentralize fiscal resources. The Court’s decision that the “just share” of LGUs’ internal revenue allotment must come from all national taxes—among them collections from import duties and other levies by the Bureau of Customs, and not only from national internal revenue taxes such as those collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue—should help remedy the supposed problem of LGUs ending up with a pittance of the national budget.

Bernardo Villegas, long dubbed the “prophet of boom” for his consistently upbeat views on the Philippine economy, is gravely downbeat about the federal project, describing it as “a disaster… (considering) the duplication of all expenses at all levels.”

The staggering billions mentioned are only the projected expenses for the inevitable expansion of government. The campaign to win over a skeptical public—62 percent of Filipinos are against the shift, while 69 percent have “little or no knowledge” about federalism, according to surveys—entails additional cost. The Duterte administration said it will set aside P90 million for a nationwide awareness caravan to get more Filipinos aboard the federalism train.

Is it all worth it—to dangerously deplete the treasury to fund the pipe dream of a viable federal Philippines?

 / 05:09 AM July 31, 2018

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