Posts Tagged ‘Duterte administration’

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
Editorial

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.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/115087/the-tribune#ixzz5N7OXinpd
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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. – Rappler.com

https://www.rappler.com/nation/208651-noynoy-aquino-warns-vs-west-philippine-sea-joint-exploration

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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

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/115012/staggering-price-tag#ixzz5Mp0aT5QH
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Philippines: Economic data shows red flags

July 30, 2018

If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything,” British economist Ronald Coase once said. The current state of the local economy, for example, is such that it offers a wealth of empirical data to buttress the arguments of anyone in the political spectrum—hardliners, pundits and social media trolls alike. Depending on which side of the political fence one is on, information can easily be picked out, and picked apart, to ascribe credit or blame to whichever presidential administration one supports or opposes.

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On the issue of foreign investments in the Philippines, several quarters have expressed alarm over the flight of capital that appears to have been happening in recent months. In particular, the Philippines’ balance of payments, which represents the aggregate net value of the country’s transactions with the rest of the world for goods and services, now stands at a deficit of $3.26 billion in the first half of the year. With only six months’ worth of transactions having been tallied, the Philippine economy has already spent more than twice what the central bank was expecting for the entire 2018.

Malacañang critics also like to highlight the 58-percent drop in investment pledges in the first four months of 2018, as reported by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza), as evidence that things are looking south for the country. Both dollar outflows and the decline in pledges are also seen as worrisome indicators.

But there may be equally compelling data in the other direction. Consider the country’s foreign direct investments: During the first full year of the Duterte administration, foreign direct investments hit an all-time high of $10 billion. These long-term investments continued to surge during the first fourth months of the year, rising by 24 percent over last year’s figures.

Lobbing credit or blame for political one-upmanship is, of course, a much less useful exercise than actually taking stock of all these diverse, sometimes contradictory, information and using them to formulate or push for policies that will improve the lives of Filipinos, many of whom have no use for technical economic talk in their daily grind to make ends meet and put food on the table.

Is the Palace doing enough, for instance, to mitigate the inflationary spike, which the Duterte administration’s economic managers had said was “unexpected” but which is now generating mounting anxiety across much of the public? According to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey last June, 48 percent of Filipino families rated themselves as poor in the second quarter of 2018, a six-point jump from the number in March. That translates to around 11.1 million families. “The SRPTs (self-rated poverty threshold) for Mindanao, Balance Luzon and Metro Manila are at record-highs,” SWS said.

Is the administration doing enough as well to address other possible red flags in the economy? If the dollar spending can’t be helped, are policymakers implementing measures that will help the country earn more dollars by improving the competitiveness of the export sector?

As for the investment downturn, the government can draw in more investments by making sure that policies are stable and transparent; what’s the Philippines’ score again in that regard? Peza pledges should improve under such an environment. Public and private stakeholders, too, must be enjoined to work together to ensure that the economy continues to grow, and thus remains a good bet for investments.

While most foreign observers foresee continued growth for the Philippine economy, these early warning signs—inflation, depressed investment pledges, dollar outflows—appear to point at problems that need to be addressed urgently to stave off the possibility of bigger crises.

But there is one other, more unpredictable, element at play: politics. Echoing the concerns of many independent economists and thinkers, Moody’s Investors Service recently warned that the administration’s planned shift to federalism will be a “downside risk” to the economy. It added that “the Philippine president’s contentious policies on law and order over the past two years as well as other political controversies may have a negative impact on the Philippines’ attractiveness to financial and physical asset investors.”

In other words, if the country doesn’t look out, politics, in the end, may yet again prove to be the economy’s undoing.

http://opinion.inquirer.net/114990/downside-risk
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Philippines: Filipinos do not want to live in a Chinese province any longer

July 16, 2018

The proliferation of “Philippines is a province of China” banners around Metro Manila is an indictment of President Rodrigo Duterte’s total embrace of China.

What he has to say on the issue must be clear in his coming State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on July 23.A recent survey by Pulse Asia showed that 73 percent of Filipinos polled want the government to assert its sovereign right in the resource-rich South China Sea particularly the country’s entitlements in the West Philippine Sea which is steadily being taken over by China.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said a wide swath of Philippine territorial waters has already been usurped by the Chinese navy. Some 150-million barrels of oil comparable to the output of Kuwait and Iraq are possibly under the SCS seabed.

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Banners declaring the Philippines a province of China appeared in various parts of Metro Manila on July 12. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the apparent prank.(Contributed photo)

This, plus methane gas and the abundant fish supply to feed China’s 1.5-billion population. Oil and methane gas, on the other hand, would advance Beijing’s military agenda in the region. This is the reason why the Chinese made artificial islands out of the shoals, reefs and protruding rocks and building military bases on them.

China is not able to retake Taiwan which it considers a renegade province because the United States strengthened Taiwan’s military arsenal, particularly its air force. Beijing then opted for the Philippines because, as one observer said, “it is a willing victim.

”While the country cannot win a war with China and its mighty People’s Liberation Army, we should at least invoke The Hague arbitration court ruling rejecting China’s nine-dash-line and its sweeping claim to nearly the entire South China Sea.

But the Duterte administration kept its silence pursuant to its pacifist approach to the problem.The tarpaulin streamers were hoisted on the second year anniversary of The Hague’s ruling in favor of the Philippines. Professor Jay Batongbacal, a political analyst said the Duterte administration wasted a landmark international court decision by allowing China to continue its militarization of the disputed South China Sea.

While the Duterte administration appears ambivalent about the issue, other claimants to parts of the South China Sea like Vietnam, Taipei and Malaysia in fact use The Hague ruling in arguing their case against China.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, speaking on “On the Record” news forum, said the government’s weak-kneed response to China’s calibrated seizure of Philippine territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea is what gave rise to the proliferation of “Welcome to the Philippines, a province of China” banners in Metro Manila.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the streamers were put up by people who hate the President. We have to agree with Roque on this one.

Because the streamers are widespread all over Metro Manila, then Roque validated that there are many in the metropolis who hate Duterte.

To prevent any untoward or violent incident during Duterte’s third Sona, the Philippine National Police will deploy 6,000 men along the road leading to and around the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

The usual suspects of protesters like Kilusang Mayo Uno, leftist militants, labor and transport groups are expected to stage demonstrations in the vicinity of the Sona venue. These groups for sure will raise the issue of “endo” or contractualization and the government to fully address this issue. Rising prices of oil, transportation fare, inept management of the Metro Rail Transit which adds to commuter woes in getting to work on time are among the issues.

There are new ones to be raised even as the President is expected to enumerate glowing achievements of his two-year old administration. Most recently, tons of rotting rice were discovered in a warehouse in Tacloban, Leyte. Then there is the P5.9-million missing from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds, according to the Commission on Audit.

Where did the money go?

Do Filipinos want to be a province of China, or a state of America? The answer to this query if a poll is conducted by the SWS or Pulse Asia should be interesting.

http://manilastandard.net/opinion/columns/back-channel-by-alejandro-del-rosario/270574/those-province-of-china-banners.html

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73% of Filipinos want gov’t to assert South China Sea rights

July 13, 2018
To the question, “How much do you agree or disagree with the statement? The Duterte administration should assert our right and protect our territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” most of the 1,800 respondents agreed.

Edd Gumban
Ghio Ong (The Philippine Star) – July 13, 2018 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Seventy-three percent of Filipinos want the Duterte administration to assert the country’s rights in the South China Sea, according to Pulse Asia’s latest sruvey.

To the question, “How much do you agree or disagree with the statement? The Duterte administration should assert our right and protect our territorial sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea as stipulated in the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” most of the 1,800 respondents agreed.

Of the number, 46 percent said they “strongly agree,” while 27 percent “somewhat agree.”

Seventeen percent of the respondents said they may either agree or disagree with the question raised in the survey.

Only four percent “somewhat disagree” and three-percent “strongly disagree” or opposed the matter.

Two percent admitted they had limited knowledge about the topic, while 0.4 percent have no idea about it.

Pulse Asia released the results of the survey, conducted last June 15 to 25, on the second anniversary of the Philippines’ winning its case before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

On the other hand, two of 10 Pinoys “want Duterte gov’t to continue befriending China” despite disputes in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, the survey revealed.

Of the respondents, 21 percent said the government must “continue the current action of befriending China to avoid conflict between the Philippines and China” when asked what should be the Duterte administration’s position on China’s continued militarization of territories in the West Philippine Sea, Pulse Asia noted.

On the other hand, 36 percent of the respondents believed that the Duterte administration should “file a diplomatic protest with the Chinese embassy in the Philippines and stress the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration last 2016 that the islands in the West Philippine Sea are Philippine territory,” the survey showed.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of the respondents said the government must “strengthen military alliance of the Philippines with other countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia,” while 16 percent agreed that it must “strengthen the Philippines’ military capability to protect our territories.”

Some 0.3 percent said the government must declare war on China, while four percent said they have limited idea about the topic and 0.01 percent had other things to say which the survey findings did not disclose.

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Philippines now ‘willing victim’ in South China Sea — “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”

July 12, 2018

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Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – July 12, 2018 – 10:55am

MANILA, Philippines — Two years after a United Nations-backed tribunal handed down its ruling on the arbitration case on the South China Sea, the positions of both the Philippines and China remain “less than acceptable.”

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday lamented that the Philippines had set aside the landmark ruling.

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Activists protest Chinese reclamation work in the South China Sea, part of which Manila claims and calls the West Philippine Sea. Credit KJ Rosales, file

“The Philippines had two years to take advantage of its position to develop and obtain the support of many countries whose principles are aligned with our own and with whom our own voice could be magnified. Sadly, however, this was not made to happen,” Del Rosario said in a forum organized by independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

Del Rosario, who led the Philippines in its arbitration case against China, stressed that the ruling was also beneficial to other countries relying on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The  arbitration ruling was also beneficial to all states determined to maintain peaceful relations by committing to international law.

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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.

“In this light, we must as well consider our own country’s character since we have once been a reliable advocate for international law,” Del Rosario said.

READ: DFA urged to bare 100 protests filed vs China

The Philippines has become “a willing victim” and “an abettor” for its current policy in the disputed waters, he added.

“What may we call one that acquiesces to the abuses against it? Answer: a willing victim,” Del Rosario said.

“What may we call one that defends an aggressor at every opportunity? Answer: an abettor,” he added.

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Del Rosario

‘China, a grand larcenist’

China, meanwhile, is a “grand larcenist” and “international outlaw” for unlawfully taking the property of others and refusing the rule of law.

Moving forward, Del Rosario noted that the Philippines still has opportunities to promote rule of law, whether through multilateralism with the UN or ASEAN or through bilateral engagements.

“To close, we reiterate our position that coercive diplomacy has no place in a rules-based international order,” Del Rosario said.

He reiterated that Filipinos should urge the government to raise the country’s indignation against China.

“Finally, we need a of our friends in the community of nations who believe in the rule of law to help us. But before we can hope for help, we must first demonstrate that we are worth helping,” he said.

The July 12, 2016 ruling effectively invalidated Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

The Chinese government, however, refused to acknowledge the arbitration and has since installed anti-ship cruise missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers on its outposts in the contested waterway.

As It Happens
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LATEST UPDATE: July 12, 2018 – 3:25pm

Social media users, including former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, are reporting seeing banners saying “Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China” hanging from overpasses in parts of Metro Manila.

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The sightings coincide with the second anniversary of an arbitral tribunal ruling that China’s sweeping nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea has no legal basis. The Philippines has opted to play down the ruling and focus on nurturing better political and economic relations with China.

It is unclear who put up the banners, which are a possible reference to a “joke” that President Rodrigo Duterte told Chinese-Filipino business leaders in February.

“He (Xi) is a man of honor. They can even make us ‘Philippines, province of China,” we will even avail of services for free,” Duterte said in apparent jest. “If China were a woman, I’d woo her.”

The Palace said the remark was meant to impress the audience, who were Filipino citizens of Chinese descent.

July 12, 2018 – 3:25pm

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in response to criticism from former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario of the Duterte administration’s handling of issues in the West Philippine Sea, says: “We do not agree with those who lost control of territory by their confrontational hubris.”

He says President Rodrigo Duterte has instead “forged friendship which has obtained benefits for our people, boosted investment and trade for our economy, reduced the threat of conflict, and opened the door to confidence-building talks between ASEAN and China.”

He says issues with China are handled through a dialogue between friends and not as an argument between adversaries.

“All this time, we are building up our capabilities to eventually assert our sovereign rights and interests. That is the policy that works for our nation,” he says.

July 12, 2018 – 12:18pm

The Quezon City government has ordered its Public Safety personnel to remove tarpaulins that refer to the Philippines as a province of China.

In a Palace briefing earlier Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said “enemies of the government” are behind the banners.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/07/12/1832874/philippines-now-willing-victim-south-china-sea-dispute-del-rosario-laments#jvoii1mgWC03iLXP.99

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Some of China’s military bases in the South China Sea

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China has seven military bases near te Philippines

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Chinese bombers

Philippines Mayors Killed To “Shame” President Duterte, Lawmaker Says

July 4, 2018

The killings of two town mayors this week, if proven to be connected, were probably meant to “shame” the Duterte administration, Senator JV Ejercito said on Wednesday.

However, Ejercito, who is part of the administration bloc in the Senate, said he hopes he was wrong about his theory.

“I’m a little bit alarmed kasi two days dalawang mayor ( because two mayors [were killed] in two days),” he told reporters, referring to Tanuan Mayor Antonio Halili and Mayor Ferdinand Bote of General Tinio town in Nueva Ecija.

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Slain mayors: Tanauan Mayor  Antonio Halili and General Tinio Mayor Ferdinand Bote

Halili was gunned down by still unidentified suspects while attending the flag ceremony at the city hall on Monday while Bote was killed in an ambush in Cabanatuan City a day after.

READ: Another mayor killed in ambush

“It’s alarming. Kung sino ang gumagawa nito, I hope na magkaiba ito, sana hindi konektado. Pero parang tinitingnan ko dito, it’s intended to shame probably the government kung saka-sakali pero wala pa naman tayong proof pero the PNP (Philippine National Police) has to step up,” Ejercito said.

(Whoever is doing this, I hope these are not connected. But I think it’s intended to shame probably the government. We don’t proof but the PNP has to step up.)

“I hope I’m wrong pero kung mapapatunayan na iisa ang gumawa nito at konektado, it’s probably intended to shame the government,” he stressed.

(I hope I’m wrong but if it is proven that these are connected and only one person is behind these, it’s probably intended to shame the government.)

The senator also expressed concern that the killings in the country would affect the economy.

“How can we invite investors if we have this kind of atmosphere…?” Ejercito further asked.   /vvp

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1007128/killings-of-mayors-could-be-meant-to-shame-duterte-admin-jv-ejercito#ixzz5KHWqjl5v
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Former Philippines National Police Chief Shunned Due to War On Drugs, Human Rights Record

July 2, 2018

Several Guam senators have backed out of a meeting with former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, citing his involvement in the Duterte administration’s brutal war on drugs.

Guam local media outlets reported that Dela Rosa, now director-general of the Bureau of Corrections, was initially invited as a special guest of gubernatorial candidate, Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr.

Dela Rosa, who was supposed to visit Guam Congress Building last June 30, was invited to grace Guam’s celebration of the Philippine Independence month.

Image result for duterte, dela rosa, photos

Rodriguez cancelled the visit on Friday night after Senator Telena Nelson criticized Dela Rosa’s supposed stop at the legislative building, saying it would send a “wrong message.”

“Law enforcement officials (in) Guam, and throughout the world, must protect the judicial system, not act outside of it,” Nelson was quoted by Pacific Daily News.

“When numerous human rights organizations allege that thousands of lives were taken without due process, each of us have an obligation to say no — not stand there for photos,” Nelson added.

Several senators withdrew their backing of Dela Rosa’s visit following Nelson’s statement.

Rodriguez, however, said he cancelled the visit because he “refuse(s) to subject one of President Duterte’s top advisors to that kind of treatment.”

“While I applaud Sen. Nelson for her stance on human rights, before we subject Gen. Dela Rosa, who is our guest, to that kind of scrutiny, perhaps we should take a look at the human rights violations happening right here at home, over which her committee has oversight,” Rodriguez said.

As the PNP chief from since Duterte assumed the presidency in July 2016 and until this year, Dela Rosa led the administration’s bloody drug war.

Local and international human rights organizations have fervently criticized the controversial campaign, and asserted that it has already claimed thousands of lives.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has also launched a preliminary examination into the drug war killings. Anthony Q. Esguerra, INQUIRER.net                  /kga

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Philippines: ‘Without rights, a return to rule by tyrants’

July 1, 2018
Do Filipinos still care about human rights?

Philstar.com/Graphics by RP Ocampo
Gaea Katreena Cabico (philstar.com) – June 26, 2018 – 1:15pm

This piece is part of a news analysis series on the second year of the Duterte administration

MANILA, Philippines — There were more bloodshed and threats during President Rodrigo Duterte’s second year in office.

Various rights groups stressed that the Philippines under Duterte is in its worst human rights landscape since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos as thousands—mostly urban poor dwellers—have been killed in the brutal campaign against illegal drugs in so short a period.

Government spokespersons have disputed the claim, which has been made about practically all other administrations after Marcos’. They have said that the Philippines remains committed to upholding human rights and that allegations of abuse are being investigated — presidential spokesman Harry Roque says he is looking into individual cases.

The casualty count is more than 12,000, according to rights watchdogs. But the police have lower figures. They say they have killed some 4,300 “drug personalities” in legitimate anti-drug operations, and that they had been forced to because of violent resistance.

Last March, the International Criminal Court announced it had opened a preliminary examination into the bloody war on drugs, which has led to the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Hague-based court.

As the killings of suspected drug offenders by police and armed individuals continued, harassment and intimidation of individuals and agencies tasked with accountability also persisted.

Rights defenders both at home and abroad have been the target of the president’s ire, with him saying in trademark remarks that his spokepersons and supporters say are just expressions of frustration that state forces can “shoot” rights advocates “obstructing justice.”

The acid-tongued chief executive also threatened to slap a United Nations expert over her criticisms of extrajudicial killings of children in the drug war. The Duterte-allied House of Representatives sought to give the Commission on Human Rights a measly budget of P1,000 before relenting to opposition from the Senate.

Rights group Karapatan said there were 46 human rights defenders—including UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz—named in the government petition seeking to tag more than 600 individuals as terrorists.

image: http://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/headlines/20180630/infog-human-rights-philippines.jpg

Recently, Duterte resumed his attacks against the Catholic Church, accusing priests of engaging in corruption and even calling God himself “stupid.” Critics raised concerns that his verbal attacks against the Church might have fuelled violence against clergymen.

image: https://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/headlines/20180629/Carlos-Conde-HRW.jpg

“We’re talking about how Duterte normalized and institutionalized impunity and the wholesale disregard for human rights and civil liberties. We now live under a president whose contempt for human rights apparently knows no bounds,” Carlos Conde, Human Rights Watch Asia Division researcher, told Philstar.com.

With the continued killings linked to the administration’s drug war and the attacks on agencies and individuals critical of the government’s policies, human rights defenders believe that there is a great need to protect human rights.

But do ordinary Filipinos still care about human rights? And why should it matter for them when the president himself declared, on several occasions, that he does not care about these rights?

Human rights ‘severely politicized’

Conde pointed out that human rights education in the Philippines has waned since the ouster of Marcos more than three decades ago.

“We thought everything was okay now, and we should go about rebuilding our lives after the dictatorship. Many of us thought [there] was little point in dwelling in the past, so we neglected to sustain human rights education, forgetting that human rights awareness is part of upholding human rights,” he said.

Adding salt to the injury was the perception that human rights has been severely politicized, Conde said.

Duterte’s men have accused rights watchdogs and political opposition of politicizing or “weaponizing” the human rights issue for their own gain. It also does not help that Duterte dislikes the CHR  and its chairman Chito Gascon, whose former membership and continued interaction with the Liberal Party of the former administration.

image: https://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/headlines/20170510/Philippine-delegation-UPR.jpg

Head of the Philippines’ delegation Menardo Guevarra (2nd L) listens to an assistant during the universal periodic review of the Philippines by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on May 8, 2017 at the UN offices in Geneva. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (3rd L) has since repeatedly played down rights concerns as an attempt to discredit the Duterte administration and has insisted that criticism from abroad is unfounded and is an intrusion into domestic issues. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP, file

CHR notes ‘serious decline’ in rights appreciation

CHR acknowledged there is a “serious” decline in the appreciation of human rights and that the narrative has been slanted.

“It is a challenge for the commission right now to change public perception and to convey that human rights is non-partisan and we are not anti-government nor do we take a contrary stance against the government,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia told Philstar.com.

She noted that it is the agency’s role as the “conscience of the government” to call them out and provide advice using a human rights lens.

The gaps in human rights promotion also stem from a lack of budget for the CHR, de Guia lamented. CHR has been given P695.5 million for 2018—a budget higher only than the Office of the Vice President’s budget of P543.95 million.

‘Without human rights, a return to rule by tyrants’

Human rights is the core of the existence of human beings, Conde stressed. “Without human rights, we might as well cease to exist.”

“The public needs to realize that the institutions for justice and human rights work to their favor… They need to realize, for instance, that every time they are questioned by the police without basis, or arrested without warrant, those erode not just their rights but also of others,” he said.

image: https://media.philstar.com/images/the-philippine-star/headlines/20180629/de-guia-CHR.jpg

The HRW researcher, moreover, stressed that human rights is not only protection from the abuses of state forces but it is also about poverty, the people’s livelihood, their lack of access to basic services, and other social issues.

De Guia added that human rights “works to provide more meaning to our life [as] it guarantees existence and ensures our freedom.”

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, for her part, said that human rights and people’s rights must be upheld and defended, especially in the context of “increasingly repressive and tyrannical regimes such as Duterte’s.”

“Without the respect, promotion and protection of human rights, it would be a throwback to the medieval rule of tyrants,” she told Philstar.com.

In a TIME article, Gascon stressed there must be a collective pushback against what he called a worldwide retreat of human rights and democracy.

“We can and we must direct a righteous rage toward this trend, in a manner that is both purposive and strategic. The road ahead will be difficult, but we must persevere, building solidarity to affirm a politics of civility and inclusion, while employing non-violent strategies in our parliaments, our courts, our cyberspaces, and our streets,” he wrote.

With Duterte’s term ending in 2022, accountability for alleged rights abuses, aside from education and public awareness, is needed to show that human rights works for the interest of the Filipino people, Conde said.

“The public needs to feel invested in the promotion of human rights, that this is not just an idea or a battlecry or a political slogan,” he said.

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Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/26/1828106/duterte-year-2-without-rights-return-rule-tyrants#wdIZP7xG65am7lbb.99