Posts Tagged ‘Duterte’

Philippines Navy Stopped Patrolling Scarborough Shoal in January 2016 in Part of Great Giveaway To China — Philippines’ government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights

November 21, 2017
“The AFP was ordered to desist from conducting aerial patrols over Panatag Shoal. However, the AFP insisted otherwise,” Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said., file

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy has stopped sending ships to patrol the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal in the disputed West Philippine Sea for almost two years now, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said Tuesday.

This revelation came in response to the statement of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that the government recently stopped sending Navy ships to Panatag Shoal.

The recent halt in Navy patrols was meant to ease tensions with China and prevent harassment from Chinese forces, according to Esperon

Alejano, meanwhile, claimed that he has received information that the Philippine Navy has not conducted a single mission to Panatag Shoal since January 2016.

“The frequent visits of Philippine Navy ships were noted in 2012 during a standoff with the Chinese Coast Guard. In the years that followed, very few patrols were conducted. In 2016, the government eventually ordered the complete halt of patrols in the area,” Alejano said.

The lawmaker added that Esperon’s statement attempts to hide the fact that the government has long ceased its efforts to strengthen the country’s claims on the disputed areas.

He also noted that there have been cases of Chinese harassment in the region since the Philippines reduced its presence in Panatag early last year.

“Instead of deterring incidence of harassment, Chinese forces have become more bold and fearless. In fact, some of our fishermen have opted not to venture anymore in Panatag for fear and worry of wasting their food and fuel just to be blocked by the Chinese,” Alejano said.

Alejano further claimed that the Philippine government ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to stop aerial patrols over Panatag, which the military denied.

“It is extremely disheartening to see our own government limiting the AFP from performing its mandate,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

The lawmaker lamented that the government “practically surrendered” the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea by acceding to pressure from China.

“The Duterte administration has bargained our claims in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for promised economic concessions,” he said.

On the other hand, the Philippine Coast Guard might be tasked to patrol the disputed waters after receiving three newly commissioned multi-role response vessels.

Esperon earlier hinted at making the Coast Guard a lead agency in patrol operations in the western seaboard, along with the Philippine Navy and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.


Philippines: A lot of catching up to do compared to much of the rest of the world

November 20, 2017



STOCKHOLM — After a year of hosting ASEAN meetings culminating in the summits among regional leaders and with dialogue partners, the Philippines should be attracting more foreign direct investments and tourists.

Those are supposed to be among the dividends of hosting international gatherings, with preparatory meetings held the entire year.

Hosting a global event such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup means a nation – particularly the city chosen for the event – can compete with the best in the world. It’s a coming-out party, and in many host cities, the improvements undertaken to make the party a success become permanent: better roads, mass transport facilities and telecommunications services; cleaner, greener surroundings; more professional services.

This was the case when China hosted the Olympics in Beijing and the World Expo in Shanghai. There has been no turning back from being world-class.

The idea is not just to serve as gracious host, but to make the experience so memorable guests will keep coming back, and invite others to do the same. While taxpayers always gripe about the massive price tag for hosting any international event, the long-term return on investment must be so attractive that most countries that have already hosted events such as the Olympics keep vying for more chances to host them again.

The mark of an advanced economy is when it can host such events at the shortest notice, with minimal improvements required. Paris can host any global event with its eyes closed; so can New York, Tokyo and Geneva.

We’re still waiting for a chance to host our international coming-out party, prudently limiting ourselves to regional events. The rotating chairmanships of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have provided good practice in hosting world leaders and organizing supporting meetings throughout the year.

Unfortunately, many of the improvements for these events are as ephemeral as the trimming of the greenery along Roxas Boulevard for the recent ASEAN summit. And even if ministerial meetings in preparation for the summits are held around the country throughout the year, it doesn’t seem to help us catch up with our neighbors in many areas such as tourist arrivals, foreign direct investment and overall prosperity.

Here we are, one of the five founding members of ASEAN, and we’re trailing much of the rest of the region in several human development indicators. Never mind oil-rich Brunei; why are we now lagging behind Vietnam?

Last month, Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma came visiting, and was remembered for noting that our internet is “no good.”

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How can we expect return business when even internet service, now one of the most basic human needs, is spotty? The service improved around the ASEAN venues during the summit and related meetings, but now it’s back to its “not good” quality. As I wrote, the improvements from hosting events are not sustained.

*      *      *

I’m in this lovely Swedish capital for an international sustainability forum. Before I left Manila, Sweden’s Ambassador Harald Fries told me that 27,000 of his compatriots visited the Philippines last year. I asked: and how many Swedes visited Thailand? Fifteen times more, he replied. Bilateral trade is also “too low,” he said ruefully, as he promised to work on improving the situation.

Air connectivity would help, the ambassador said. I had to stop over in Taipei and then enter the Schengen zone through Amsterdam before the final hop to this city. Bangkok, on the other hand, has direct flights to all the major European cities, just like the other top ASEAN travel destinations, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

We already suffer from the quality of our airports when compared with the gateways of several of our neighbors. Executives of about six Swedish companies are holding a joint seminar in Manila with representatives of the Department of Transportation and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to discuss safety and efficiency of airports.

We’re now too far behind some of our neighbors in terms of airport facilities, but maybe we can end those chronic flight delays and improve air conditioning at the NAIA.

*      *      *

At least the airport now has free wi-fi. Mon Isberto of Smart Communications told me that the company is gradually replacing its copper wires with fiber optic cables, which make internet speed 10 times faster. Optical fiber also works best with 4G LTE.

Smart has also started installing smaller cell sites to dispel health concerns over telecommunications signals, although smaller sites also mean weaker service.

Copper was a compromise technology, Mon said. The speed of replacing copper wiring depends on the support and efficiency of the local governments. Last year Cebu’s Toledo City became the first completely fiber optic service area for Smart; the latest is Naga City.

Transformation is slow. Mon said installing one cell site, from processing of documents to completion of the project, requires an average of 36 permits from the national and local governments, the barangay and homeowners’ association. The entire process could take up to a year, after which Smart must secure a separate set of permits for transmission.

Mon says other countries consider internet service as a public utility that qualifies for fast-track processing. This is not the case here. The result is the kind of service that, when visitors compare with those in much of the region, becomes another disincentive to visiting the Philippines.

Internet speed is on my mind because Sweden happens to rank third after South Korea and Norway in having the fastest internet on the planet. As rated by Akamai in the first quarter of this year, Swedish internet speed is 22.5 Mbps for fixed broadband, way above the global average of 7.2 Mbps. Hong Kong ranked fourth, Singapore seventh and Japan eighth.

The Philippines’ average internet speed was 5.5 Mbps as of the first quarter. We’re way behind Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

We have a lot of catching up to do, and the task keeps getting more challenging as our neighbors do better.


Looking Back At Donald Trump’s Asia Trip: The Winner is China — Viewing a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals

November 19, 2017
 / 05:22 AM November 19, 2017

At the festival of summits to which the Philippines dutifully played host last week, three basic standpoints by which humanity describes and criticizes the state of affairs in the world vied for space.

The first is the human rights standpoint, the modern version of the value placed by natural law on human dignity and equality, which today is encoded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The second is the semantics of national self-determination, which became deeply entrenched in the era of decolonization. The third is the working-class perspective, which took shape in the last century with the rise of socialism, but is now mostly expressed as a critique of neoliberalism.

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These competing viewpoints were not visible in equal measure at these summits. But, the resonance of particular issues, alongside the muted presence of others, gives us a good picture of how today’s leaders are reacting to the complex problems brought about by globalization. These problems include the massive flows of migrants and refugees, terrorism, bigotry, uneven development and sharp inequalities within and across countries, mass poverty, ecological disasters, and war. They are problems that need the kind of global perspective for which multilateral talks might have been suited.

But, the hands-down winner in these summits has been the nation-state perspective — and the vocabulary of national sovereignty, noninterference, and peaceful coexistence, in which it is officially articulated. The other name for it is the Chinese template. Rather than global agreements transcending nation-state divides, what we find instead are the bilateral deals by which every country tries to secure from another what it needs for itself.

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No one could have formulated this standpoint more bluntly than US President Donald Trump, who had won the presidency on a campaign to put “America first.” Even as he railed at the glaring trade imbalance between the United States and China during his recent official visit to China, he ended up praising his host. To resounding applause, he declared: “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” For the abysmal state of affairs in which the United States finds itself today, he blames Barack Obama instead.

Though it sounded like a backhanded compliment, his fawning comment on China’s behavior merely underscores the point that in the end it is the economic interests of their respective countries that matter most to these world leaders. Not surprisingly, Trump ended his China visit with about $250 billion in commercial deals between American and Chinese companies.

Trump’s deal-making pragmatism may appear to many as a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals. But this is a symptom not only of America’s decline as a world economic power but, more importantly, of the emergence of a world system without a center.

As Trump himself concedes, China has indeed become the model for today’s world. But, make no mistake about it. What this template represents is neither socialism (not even working-class solidarity) nor the primacy of universal values, but, rather, the advantages of a state-led capitalism with an authoritarian face.

On the side of the Asean Summit, there were separate summits with the United Nations and with the European Union. But, compared to the events attended by China, there was little interest in what was taken up at these meetings. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres would have been the logical interlocutor for human rights concerns. At the Asean-EU summit, he did speak briefly on the Rohingya crisis, drawing from his experience as former UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and called for humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya. But, while he expressed interest in helping to strengthen the Asean human rights commission, he avoided mentioning extrajudicial killings, speaking at length instead on the threat from terrorism and violent extremism.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who represented the European Union, took more or less the same tack in his address to the Asean leaders. He politely avoided any mention of human rights issues, and dwelt almost entirely on the need for international cooperation to combat radicalization and terrorism. This is in stark contrast to the human rights concerns persistently aired by EU delegations in recent months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only leader who was bold enough to bring up the sensitive matter of EJKs in his brief one-on-one meeting with President Duterte on Nov. 14. He did so in the most courteous way possible, prefacing his remarks with an admission that his own country is guilty of neglect and mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. Trudeau thought that he and Mr. Duterte had “a very cordial and positive exchange.”  But, after he left, Mr. Duterte wasted no time in telling the media what he thought of Trudeau’s human rights comment — “a personal and official insult.”

And so this vicious reaction unfolds, where any hint of criticism of another government’s treatment of its own nationals is treated as an insult and an affront to national sovereignty.  Given such a standpoint, one wonders how it is possible — except in the most limited terms — to express any concern for global problems such as the plight of migrant workers, of refugees, of children, and of the millions of victims of racial bigotry, religious oppression, and misogyny across the world.

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit

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Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific dream’ is working Asians’ nightmare
 / 05:00 AM November 18, 2017

It has been 16 years since the United States launched their “global war on terror” which, according to them, was an “action to end the waves of terror and chaos in the different parts of the world.” This was yet another lie.

A quick study of recent history since 9/11 would prove that it was not the obstruction or decimation of terrorists or jihadists that the United States focused on. But rather, they tactically used their “war on terror” in order to gain control of cheap raw materials needed to fuel their global economic dominance (Iraq, Libya), open up new markets (Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan) and strengthen their foothold on countries with strategic trade routes. This is what is unfolding in Somalia today and their objective in their continued interference in the Malacca Straits and in the South China Sea.

Ever since the Philippine-American War—a result of American businessmen wanting to establish a porting dock in Asia—up to the multiple, unequal and unjust trade and military treaties such as the Bell Trade Act (1946), the Cold War relic, Mutual Defense Treaty (1951), the circumventing Visiting Forces Agreement (1999), and of late, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that promoted our economic dependency on the United States, the Filipino people were, and still are, tied on an imperialist leash.

The Filipino people are tired of being treated as “little brown men” by our “GI Joe liberators.” All of the nation’s past presidents have succumbed to the imperialist agenda. Fostering our economic dependency on the West, politicians have bled us dry to pay for onerous debts the bankers promoted as “development projects,” placing us in the crosshairs of a nuclear Armageddon, placing our rural communities in peril for their extractive industries and giving undue privileges to their multinational corporations at the expense of Filipino workers.

When President Duterte promised an independent foreign policy, we were given hope that the status quo would change. However, the Filipino people have been deceived, again.

US President Donald Trump’s first visit to the Philippines in time for Asean’s 50th anniversary dawns a new era of exploitative policies and treaties; he calls it the “Indo-Pacific dream.” Trump recently outlined the administration’s overall Asian policy in his address to CEOs in Vietnam. He offered a general set of principles and interests that will unfold in the coming years, obviously designed to rival China’s Silk Road Economic Belt roadmap that Mr. Duterte has fallen in love with.

The supposed main thrust of Trump’s vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific” is “partnership” with strong, independent nations willing to play by their rules.

Trump’s “economic security is national security” could only mean that imperial America will not sit idly as its throne as a global economic power is slowly eroding and is being contested by other superpowers such as China and Russia.

His “Indo-Pacific dream” is but a military and economic conquest for dominance in East Asia and Southeast Asia—the location of the world’s most dynamic economies since 2008. This is a blatant admission of imperial America’s true and unwavering agenda in the region. This could mean more deregulation, market liberalization and corporate takeover of social services.

Trump’s pipe dream is most certainly the working Asians’ nightmare.

JOANNE S. LIM, spokesperson, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan,

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South China Sea: Philippine Judge and Frequent Duterte Critic Likes Progress in Talking To China

November 19, 2017
By:  – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
 / November 18, 2017

Antonio Carpio

The Philippine government’s decision to negotiate with China on its own will not end the protracted territorial claims involving other nations in the South China Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Friday.

Nonetheless, Carpio said President Duterte’s policy shift to engage Beijing in bilateral talks was a “logical step” and a “positive development” in implementing the ruling of the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year.

Besides China and the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia are also insisting ownership over parts of the sea, said to be rich in energy reserves and marine resources.

“Clearly, the South China Sea dispute involves both bilateral and multilateral disputes,” Carpio said in an emailed statement to the Inquirer.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines can take up only the bilateral disputes between (both countries) … and not the multilateral disputes involving … other states,” he pointed out.

Carpio, who has been championing the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea—the part of the South China Sea within the country’s 327-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—noted that even nonmembers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) were interested in finding a final solution to the decadeslong sea row.

“The South China Sea dispute also affects nonclaimant states, both within (the) Asean (region) and outside (of it) … These nonclaimant states, which include the US, Japan and Australia, are worried how China’s expansive claim will affect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, for both commercial and military vessels and aircraft,” he said.

The magistrate noted that Beijing’s disputed nine-dash line asserted ownership of 85.7 percent of the strategic waterway where about $5 trillion in global trade transits every year.

The landmark decision of the international tribunal invalidated China’s nine-dash line and its argument that it had sovereign and historic rights over the disputed sea.

It also upheld the Philippines’ exclusive rights over its EEZ, including Scarborough Shoal, also called Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc.

According to Carpio, the territorial row involving the Philippines and China is “intimately related to all the multilateral disputes and all the other bilateral disputes” as Beijing’s territorial claims are based on its nine-dash-line policy.

“A bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award will be a logical step as the award is binding only between China and the Philippines,” the magistrate said.

“However, this will not resolve the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines. Neither will it resolve the multilateral disputes involving China, the Philippines and other states,” he said.

Carpio, however, said that “any bilateral negotiation between China and the Philippines on the enforcement of the arbitral award is a positive development.”

On Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that Mr. Duterte had “articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute” when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Vietnam last week.

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South China Sea: China Takes Control — “The sheer numbers [of Chinese] are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out”

November 18, 2017

China is starting to dictate terms in one of the world’s strategic waterways, and the United States is largely missing in action.

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaonin, takes part in military drills in the South China Sea on Jan. 2. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

In his 12-day trip to Asia, U.S. President Donald Trump largely focused on North Korea and trade, all but avoiding the simmering disputes in the South China Sea and steering clear of sharp criticism of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive activities there.

With the Trump administration focused elsewhere for now, China is quietly pressing ahead with its agenda in one of the world’s most strategic waterways, building more military facilities on man-made islands to buttress its expansionist claims and dramatically expanding its presence at sea at the expense of its smaller neighbors.

Beijing’s under-the-radar advances in the South China Sea could be bad news for countries in the region, for U.S. hopes to maintain influence in the Western Pacific, and for the rules-based international order that for decades has promoted peace and prosperity in Asia.

At the Chinese Communist Party congress last month, President Xi Jinping cited island building in the South China Sea as one of his top achievements so far, and touted the “successful prosecution of maritime rights.” Those rights appear at odds with international law: Xi is now assuring nervous neighbors that China will offer “safe passage” through the seas to other countries in the region.

“The South China Sea has fallen victim to a combination of Trump’s narrow focus on North Korea and the administration’s chaotic and snail-paced policymaking process,” said Ely Ratner of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as an advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden.

China’s recent advances in the South China Sea aren’t as eye-popping as the overnight creation of artificial atolls in recent years, a massive engineering project dubbed the “great wall of sand” by a top U.S. admiral. That’s one reason the disputes got pushed to the back burner on Trump’s big trip.

“Because there’s no sense of immediate or medium-term crisis (in the South China Sea), they didn’t make it a big priority on the trip,” said Evan Medeiros of the Eurasia Group, who oversaw Asia strategy in the Obama White House.

But experts say the quiet moves — including expanding military bases, constructing radar and sensor installations, hardened shelters for missiles, and vast logistical warehouses for fuel, water, and ammunition — are threatening to turn China’s potential stranglehold on the region into reality.

Much of the activity has centered on three reefs converted into artificial islands through large-scale dredging: Fiery Cross, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, about 650 miles from Hainan Island in southern China. Satellite imagery in June revealed a large dome had been erected on Fiery Cross with another under construction, suggesting a substantial communications or radar system, experts say. At Mischief Reef, workers were installing two more domes.

With runways, hangars for fighter jets, and communications hardware in place on the artificial islands, China can deploy military aircraft and missiles whenever it wants, solidifying its grip over the area and flouting international maritime law. The three newly built bases in the Spratlys, combined with another on Woody Island, will enable Chinese warplanes to fly over nearly the entire South China Sea, according to Pentagon officials and defense analysts. That could be the precursor to an “air defense identification zone” similar to the one that China slapped onto the East China Sea in 201

And the new bases have given China much greater reach at sea. Beijing has deployed more naval ships, Coast Guard vessels, and a flotilla of fishing boats that act as a maritime militia virtually around the clock. The ships can now dock nearby to refuel and resupply, rather than sail home, extending their time on station and their ability to project Chinese power through the area. That is changing the balance of power as fishing ships and coast guard vessels from other claimant countries like Vietnam and the Philippines are elbowed away from disputed features.

This summer, for example, Vietnam hoped to drill for natural gas off its own coast. But China reportedly summoned the Vietnamese ambassador and threatened military action if Hanoi went forward with development in its own exclusive economic zone. Sensing little backing from Washington, Vietnam quietly backed down and stopped drilling.

“The sheer numbers are starting to push the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, and the Malaysians out,” said Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

More than nine months into the Trump administration, contrasts with U.S. policy under Barack Obama toward the South China Sea are apparent — as they are with the initial saber-rattling tone of Trump administration officials. The Obama administration put a focus on diplomacy and consistently sought to uphold international law regarding the disputed waterway, though it often shied away from sailing U.S. Navy ships through the waters to send a tough signal to Beijing.

The Trump administration has taken almost the opposite approach: Navy cruises to assert the right of navigation have become commonplace, but there is little sign yet of a concerted U.S. policy to diplomatically push back against Chinese encroachment or offer encouragement to U.S. allies and partners threatened by Beijing’s advances, former officials, experts and foreign diplomats said.

“By having no South China Sea policy, Trump ensures that all the initiative lies with Beijing,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center.

Former U.S. officials and congressional aides said the Trump administration appears to be pulling its punches on the South China Sea, as well as trade issues, in hopes of securing Beijing’s cooperation to cut off North Korea’s access to fuel and cash to fund its nuclear weapons program. So far, China has stopped short of drastic action to squeeze the regime in Pyongyang — and Chinese officials just contradicted Trump’s claims that the two countries have found more common ground.

At the end of his Asia trip, Trump did offer to “mediate” between Vietnam and China, but that spooked officials in Hanoi who fear they could be a pawn in a bigger U.S.-China game centered on North Korea.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on its approach to the South China Sea.

However, some former Obama officials are cautiously optimistic that the Trump administration, hamstrung so far by short staffing at key positions, especially regarding Asia policy, is starting to craft a more coherent policy toward the region, including a sharper focus on China’s activities in the South China Sea. Joint communiques in Japan and Vietnam stressed continued U.S. support for the rule of law and an end to coercion in maritime disputes, for example.

Ratner, the former Biden advisor, said he expects the Trump administration to chart a more proactive course as it settles into office.

“They appear to finally be getting their policy feet under them and I’m expecting more focus on South China Sea in the months ahead,” he said. “So it’s premature to declare it’ll remain a low priority going forward.”

Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent. @dandeluc

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China’s playbook still working…


Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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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: War On Drugs Stopped “Under the Guise of Human Rights Protection” — Government Solicitor General Says — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno Being Impeached — Rule of Law?

November 18, 2017
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

MANILA, Philippines (First published on November 17, 6:33 p.m.)

— The solicitor general belittled legal criticisms of the bloody war on drugs, saying the petitions are done “under the guise of human rights protection.”On Friday afternoon, government’s chief legal representative Jose Calida filed a 63-page comment on the consolidated petitions of two groups of families of victims of Oplan Tokhang, the core operation under the banner campaign.

Calida said the drug war is being “emasculated and undermined” by petitions of the families who lost their loved ones in the violent police operations. They are among the thousands of suspects killed in the drug war.

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Jose Calida

While the solicitor general lamented the “unfortunate” loss of lives from police operations, he said the killings “do not automatically render the anti-drug operation conducted by the respondents ‘unlawful’ as would entitle the petitioners to protection of writ of amparo.”

A writ of amparo is a remedy the court can grant to any person “whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.”

He warned that to “give due course” to the petitioners’ “patently baseless petitions would only serve to countenance harassment suits and ‘fishing expeditions’ that distract law enforcement agencies from their principal duties or, worse, dampen their zeal in the pursuit of criminal elements.”

“Ultimately, the ones who will benefit from the grant [of] these petitions will be those who are engaged in the illegal drug trade. This should not be countenanced by this Honorable Court,” Calida added.

READ: Duterte’s war on drugs to face SC for first time

The constitutionality of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs was brought to the high court by two groups of kin of Oplan Tokhang victims represented by human rights lawyers.

Calida will represent the respondents Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and former-Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

The solicitor general argued before the SC that “the two petitions before this Honorable Court, however, are marred by speculations, unfounded information, and unsubstantiated arguments.”

War on drugs constitution, Calida insists

Calida argued that the petitioners “failed to establish substantial evidence of an actual violation of or threat to petitioners’ rights to life, liberty and security that would entitle them to the grant of the interim reliefs prayed for.”

On October 11, Aileen Almora and Rowena Appari were assisted by the members of the of Free Legal Assistance Group, led by De La Salle University Dean Chel Diokno, when they filed a petition seeking a writ of amparo (or protection), injunction and prohibition, temporary protection order, and TRO before the Supreme Court.

Almora, in her petition, assailed the constitutionality of the Duterte’s memorandum No. 16-2016 ordering the police force to conduct Project Double Barrel.

The petition also challenged the DILG memorandum circular 2017-112 which allows Project Masid or the setup of community drop boxes for “reporting” of suspected drug sellers.

Calida stressed that it is within the mandated of PNP to “conduct house-to-house visitations and persuade possible illegal drug personalities to turn themselves in.”

“The purpose of Project Tokhang is to persuade the surrender of suspected drug personalities, not to effect their arrest. It is undeniably a valid police measure,” he added.

Petitioners from the two groups recounted harrowing experiences where cops knocked on their doors and shot their families indiscriminately.

They also noted that some of their kin have previously submitted themselves to the barangay to clear their names from involvement in drugs, but were still killed by vigilante groups.

But the solicitor general maintained that the petitioners “are effectively attacking the validity of the [PNP and DILG] circulars collaterally, in violation of prevailing doctrine.”

‘Petitioners failed to provide substantial evidence to prove threat to life’

Another petition was filed by Sr. Ma. Juanito R. Daño and 38 other petitioners whose families were killed in police anti-drug operations seeking for a writ of amparo.

Daño was assisted by the Center of International Law in filing its petition of October 19.

Calida hit Daño and the 17 lay mission partners who were also petitioners in the case for not being the “aggrieved parties within the contemplation of the law who are entitled to the benefit and protection of the writ.”

“Sr. Daño and the seventeen lay mission partners merely took the cudgels for the victims and their “families who are [allegedly] unwilling to join the petition for fear of retaliation,” and based their allegations on news articles and information they gathered during their visits to the wake of the alleged victims,” the comment further read.

On Tuesday, November 21, President Rodrigo Duterte’s ruthless campaign against illegal drugs will face the 15-member court led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Police records over 6,000 deaths under investigation since June 2016, while human rights group put the death toll under the administration’s drug war at 13,000.


Philippine House justice committee invites Sereno to impeachment hearing

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno earlier asked the committee to allow her lawyers to cross-examine the complainant’s witnesses

Published 8:55 PM, November 16, 2017
Updated 8:55 PM, November 16, 2017
COMMITTEE HEARING. The House justice committee will continue deliberations on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. File photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

COMMITTEE HEARING. The House justice committee will continue deliberations on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. File photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The House justice committee on Thursday, November 16, officially invited Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to a November 22 hearing which will tackle an impeachment complaint filed against her.

The invitation was made by acting committee secretary Rene Dolorino, on behalf of committee chairman Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali.

“As the respondent in the aforementioned impeachment complaint, you are hereby invited to personally attend the said hearing,” reads the letter.

Lawyer Larry Gadon wants Sereno impeached because she supposedly curtailed the authority of the Supreme Court (SC) en banc by making decisions without their knowledge. Gadon has also repeatedly criticized Sereno for purchasing a luxury vehicle which she uses in her capacity as Chief Justice.

Gadon’s impeachment complaint was earlier deemed sufficient in form, substance, and grounds. The House justice committee will next tackle if there is probable cause to pursue the complaint. (READ: Sereno: No sufficient evidence in impeachment complaint before House)

Thus far, the powerful committee – a mix of high-ranking House officials and regular members – have voted overwhelmingly in favor of Gadon’s complaint.

Sereno has repeatedly asked the committee to allow her lawyers to conduct cross-examinations of Gadon’s witnesses before the committee. But several lawmakers, including Umali, who is a lawyer, think only Sereno herself and not her lawyers may conduct cross-examinations.

The Chief Justice’s camp has insisted that it’s Sereno’s right to be represented before the committee hearings, which they say is akin to criminal proceedings. They have yet to comment on the invitation by the committee. (READ: CJ Sereno’s band of lawyers in her impeachment case)

Should the justice committee approve the impeachment complaint, it will be endorsed to the House plenary. If at least one-third of the House votes in favor of the committee report approving the impeachment complaint, Sereno will be deemed impeached. It will then be endorsed to the Senate, which will sit as an impeachment court. (READ: CJ Sereno asks lawmakers to choose democracy over partisan interest)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on November 6 called on Sereno to resign and spare the SC “from any further damage.” But the Chief Justice’s camp said “resignation has never been an option.” –

South China Sea: China Agrees To Start “Code of Conduct” Talks (Again) — A Project That Began in 2002

November 17, 2017

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 / 05:36 AM November 17, 2017

The consensus reached by the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to finally begin negotiations on a Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea is a positive outcome from a week of summit pageantry, but it is hardly the breakthrough that China and its apologists, witting or unwitting, say it is.

In the first place, this code was promised 15 years ago; the last paragraph of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, signed on Nov. 4, 2002, held that “The Parties concerned reaffirm that the adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea would further promote peace and stability in the region and agree to work, on the basis of consensus, toward the eventual attainment of this objective.” The reason negotiations on the Code never took off was China’s strategy of delay. It had signed the DOC in the waning months of Jiang Zemin’s presidency, and despite the official Chinese policy of a “peaceful rise,” the presidency of Hu Jintao never accorded the Code priority. Under the much more authoritarian Xi Jinping, the “peaceful rise” policy has been shelved, in favor of an even more assertive, expansive nationalism.

Secondly, the negotiations will finally take place under circumstances redefined by China to be much more favorable to its interests. As the case that the Philippines filed against China at the arbitral tribunal was progressing, Beijing ramped up its land-reclamation and facility-building in the Spratlys; it successfully dissuaded Manila from using the landmark and sweeping legal victory of July 12, 2016, at the Permanent Court of Arbitration as leverage, and Vietnam from deploying more oil and gas rigs in disputed waters; it has—according to President Duterte himself—raised the possibility of war, contrary to the spirit of every single one of the agreements it has entered into with Asean; it has even enabled the initiative to write a so-called Framework on the Code of Conduct, another agreement touted to be a significant achievement but in reality is yet more proof of Chinese strategic delay.

Thirdly, the start of negotiations on the Code of Conduct early next year is exactly that: merely the start. How long the process will last, what form the document will take, and (the most important question) whether the Code will be legally binding, will all be largely determined by Beijing. Its strategy has paid off; delays have weakened the hand of the Asean as a bloc and of its claimant countries, even including Indonesia. To be sure, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hit most of the right notes at the Asean-China summit last Monday. “We hope the talks on the code of conduct will bolster mutual understanding and trust. We will strive under the agreement to reach a consensus on achieving early implementation of the code of conduct,” he said (according to a transcript provided by the Chinese foreign ministry).

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China H-6 bomber Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

Lastly, we must bear in mind the lessons of recent history. When they don’t meet its interests, China has learned to ignore the fine print of the agreements it enters into. The DOC itself, often used by China as proof of its commitment to regional diplomacy, has been repeatedly dishonored. Paragraph 5 of the Declaration begins: “The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.” This vital principle of self-restraint has not stopped China from converting seven rocks or reefs it occupies in the Spratlys into islands, capable of sustaining not only civilian life but even military operations.

The Philippines and its partners in Asean must enter into the negotiations on the Code of Conduct with these lessons in mind, and with calibrated optimism. The breakthrough lies at the end, not at the start.

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Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

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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.

South China Sea: Philippine President calls For a Legally Binding Agreement

November 16, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center on November 14, 2017. Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will push for a legally binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, Malacañang said yesterday as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed the adoption of a framework that would pave the way for negotiations on a “substantive and effective” COC with China.

ASEAN and China have agreed to start talks on the COC. Encouraged by the “positive momentum,” the chairman’s statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila said the leaders of the regional bloc look forward to the start of negotiations at the 20th ASEAN-China Summit and the subsequent convening of the 23rd ASEAN-China Joint Working Group Meeting on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Vietnam in early 2018.

The framework that was agreed upon in August seeks to advance the DOC, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

The chairman’s statement was released as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Manila after the ASEAN events and official visit in the country.

In the statement, the leaders took note of the improving relations between ASEAN and China, reaffirming their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence among parties.

The leaders also welcomed the successful testing of the hotline between the ministries of foreign affairs of China and the 10 ASEAN countries or MFA-to-MFA Hotline to Manage Maritime Emergencies in the South China Sea and “looked forward to the operationalization of the Joint Statement on the Observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea.”

“In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation,” the statement said.

ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the leaders said.

The leaders stressed the need to adhere to the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They welcomed positive developments in maritime cooperation among ASEAN member-states, including through continued constructive dialogues on issues of common interest and concern, marine scientific research, maritime domain awareness and marine environment and protection.

During the meetings in Manila this week, leaders of the ASEAN, European Union and the United States committed to ensure maritime security, the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight, non-militarization in the South China Sea and other lawful uses of the sea.

Binding COC

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque gave assurance that Duterte and other ASEAN leaders want to work on a legally binding COC.

Roque said Duterte tried to negotiate with all the ASEAN member-nations to work for a code that would govern the behavior of countries at sea.

“I think the consultations on the (COC) was rather substantial because the different countries contemplated a (COC) that would in fact be legally binding,” Roque said.

“Otherwise, if it’s merely aspirational, then it will not promote the kind of peace and stability that they are hoping for. But anyway, we are only about to commence the process of negotiating a (COC). So we will see,” he added.

Roque said it was clear from Duterte’s statement that he wants the COC to be agreed upon by all parties to ensure peace and stability in the region.

“I think this was clear from the language also of the framework agreement that they previously entered into… which signaled the commencement of the talks for the (COC),” Roque said.

“I think that was a priority of the President because unless it becomes legally binding, we would not achieve the kind of predictability that all the countries want in order to achieve peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Asked what was substantially achieved during the ASEAN summit, Roque said it became clear that there was a consensus among all claimant countries and among Southeast Asian countries to ease the tension over the South China Sea.

“I think the fact that parties have now adopted the calm positions has led to stability in the region and has led to a tremendous reduction in tension as far as claimant countries are concerned,” Roque said.

Roque said Duterte is also open to bilateral talks as far as resolving the conflict is concerned and has said “time and again that he does not see any utility in talking to third parties who are not parties to the conflict.”

Roque said he does not think that the United Nations arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims would “figure” in the drafting of the COC.

“As I said, the arbitral ruling is binding on China and the Philippines only,” he said.

“Well, even from my limited engagement in treaty drafting, I don’t see how it can figure actually. Considering that the (COC) is going to be applicable to all claimant countries and to all countries in Southeast Asia including China,” he said.

Bilateral solution: No use of threat or force

While negotiations for a code will commence, Roque said Duterte would also continue dealing with China bilaterally with regard to the South China Sea issue.

“And yes, I can confirm the report that the President has articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute. However, China… also stated that they have very good bilateral relations with all the claimant countries,” he said.

Following Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit in Manila last Wednesday, Manila and Beijing agreed not to resort to the threat or use of force in the South China Sea.

Instead, the two sides said the dealings should be based on friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

As this developed, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the Philippine Coast Guard will continue to take the lead role in conducting patrols in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham) Rise.

Esperon was one of the officials who met with PCG officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia yesterday morning, during the visit of Kentaro Sonoura, special advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security of Japan, at the PCG headquarters.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, on the other hand, would take charge of developing and conserving the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.

‘Fantastic team’

All ASEAN delegates had left the country as of noon yesterday, the ASEAN Security Task Force (ASTF) said.

ASTF commander Director Napoleon Taas said the Chinese leader was the last delegate to the ASEAN Summit to leave the country.
“…we have successfully secured the country’s hosting of the 31st Summit and the 50th anniversary of ASEAN,” Taas said in a statement.

Taas and Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy said the government led by Duterte received all praises for the successful hosting of the ASEAN events, including security arrangements.

“US President Trump described his experience as fantastic. The Singaporean (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) calls it a tough act to follow. (Duterte) refers to all of us as his ‘Fantastic Team,’” Taas noted.
Taas, however, said credit should be given to the thousands of personnel who contributed their best to ensure the success of the events.
“To the greatest security team that I had the privilege to lead, this is indeed a proud day for the nation. A day made possible by the nameless, selfless and dedicated men and women of the ASTF 2017,” Taas said.
Cuy said the country’s hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit was a success, without even a single untoward incident recorded.

Cuy said a total of 60,000 troops were deployed and mobilized to provide security and safety to the world leaders, delegates and the general public during the summit.  
Cuy said the preparations for the summit were not a walk in the park but the Multi-Agency Coordination Committee was able to deliver what was expected through hard work with the numerous drills, simulation exercises, critiquing activities and rehearsals.

–  With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

No automatic alt text available.

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.

Trump claims ‘America is back’ post-Asia trip

November 16, 2017

Image result for trump photos, november 15, 2017, white house

Updated 2:43 AM ET, Thu November 16, 2017

Washington (CNN)– President Donald Trump, fresh off a five-country swing through Asia, sought Wednesday to cast his first 10 months on the world stage as an unmitigated success, claiming a “great American comeback” that has restored the US’ standing in the world.

The speech, which came as Trump fumed at press coverage of his trip, framed his accomplishments in terms of correcting the “mistakes” of his predecessors and following through on his promises to voters. But he offered no new announcements on trade or North Korea, two of the top issues he focused on during his trip.
“I vowed that we would reaffirm old alliances and form new friendships in pursuit of shared goals. Above all I swore that in every decision, every action I would put the best interest of the American people first. Over the past 10 months traveling the globe and meeting with world leaders, that is exactly what I have done,” Trump said from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Trump on North Korea: What he said in Asia 01:39
Trump pointed to his efforts during his first foreign trip to rally Muslim leaders around the fight against radical Islamist terrorism and his urging that NATO allies boost their financial commitments to the alliance. And he highlighted his efforts on this most recent trip to bring back “free and reciprocal trade” and unite the world against the North Korean threat.
“My fellow citizens, America is back, and the future has never looked brighter,” he concluded.
But much of his speech failed to counter the core of the criticism he has faced in the wake of his 12-day trip to Asia: that he didn’t deliver on his rhetoric.
Beyond fresh Japanese sanctions against North Korea and a verbal commitment from China to increase pressure on North Korea, Trump made no immediate, visible progress to stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Trump's sip of water goes viral

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Trump’s sip of water goes viral 01:32
Trump on Wednesday touted his insistence to regional partners on “free and reciprocal” trade, but he emerged with no written commitments from the region to rebalance trade with the US or change trade practices that have disadvantaged the US.
The President did appear to try to clean up remarks in Beijing when he said he did not “blame” China for its unfair trade practices and gave the country “credit” for taking advantage of the US.
Trump said Wednesday that he emphasized to Chinese President Xi Jinping in “a very candid conversation” that US-Chinese trade must be “conducted on a truly fair and equitable basis.”
“The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over,” Trump promised, though he announced no changes to the terms of the relationship.
Trump returned Tuesday night from his tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, where he focused on trade and North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Trump was able to help secure the release of three UCLA basketball players, appealing directly to Xi to look into the matter.
But Trump on Wednesday morning was focused on the criticism he has faced from some over his warm embrace of Xi, whom Trump praised in Beijing and absolved of any wrongdoing for unfair trading practices that Trump has said have hurt the US.
“The failing @nytimes hates the fact that I have developed a great relationship with World leaders like Xi Jinping, President of China,” Trump tweeted. “They should realize that these relationships are a good thing, not a bad thing. The U.S. is being respected again. Watch Trade!”

Donald Trump hails Asia trip as ‘tremendous success’ and declares: ‘America is back’

  • President delivers lengthy speech and claims success in North Korea dispute
  • Trump ignores questions about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore
The bulk of the president’s statement on foreign policy was clearly aimed at his supporters, assuring them he was keeping his election promises on fighting for American jobs.
 The bulk of the president’s statement on foreign policy was clearly aimed at his supporters, assuring them he was keeping his election promises on fighting for American jobs. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images 

Donald Trump has declared his 12-day Asia tour as a “tremendous success”, claiming that “America is back” as a global leader.

The US president did not take questions from reporters, instead delivering an extended account of his five-nation trip, in which he claimed to have unified the world against the North Korean nuclear weapons programme, paved the way for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and insisted on “free and reciprocal” trade relations with the Pacific Rim.

“The days of the United States being taken advantage of are over,” Trump declared in the Diplomatic Room at the White House.

On North Korea, Trump claimed to have had a productive meeting with the Chinese president Xi Jinping, but restated the US rejection of the diplomatic option that Beijing has been promoting – a “freeze-for-freeze” deal under which Pyongyang would pause its nuclear and missile development and the US would rein in military exercises with its regional allies.

Trump did not repeat his prior threats of military action against Kim Jong-un’s regime, simply noting the oft-repeated formula that “all options remain on the table”.

The president also claimed to have won agreement from China and other countries in the region to exert “maximum pressure” on North Korea, but Chinese officials have stressed that Beijing will do nothing to trigger a collapse of the Pyongyang regime.

Perhaps as notable as what Trump said in the 24 minutes he spent behind the podium was what he did not say. He made no mention of the fate of embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and ignored reporters’ shouted queries of whether Moore should quit the race. Trump left the room without taking any questions.

Republican leaders, who have called on Moore to step aside, have been eager for Trump to weigh in on allegations Moore sexually assaulted and preyed upon teenage girls. The controversy represents a crisis for the Republican party, and jeopardizes its precarious 52-48 majority in the Senate.

Trump declined to weigh in on the allegations against Moore during his trip to Asia, telling reporters he was focused on his visit. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week Trump believes Moore will “do the right thing and step aside” if the claims are true, but cautioned against a rush to judgment.

Trump takes an awkward sip of water during his speech.
 Trump takes an awkward sip of water during his speech. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Since those comments, more women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct, while reports have also surfaced that the former judge was banned from a shopping mall because predatory behavior toward teenage girls.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, became the first White House official to condemn Moore on Wednesday, telling the Associated Press: “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

“I’ve yet to see a valid explanation [from Moore] and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,” Ivanka, a senior adviser, said.

Read the rest:

South China Sea: ASEAN Goes Soft on China

November 16, 2017
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang talks during the 20th ASEAN China Summit in Manila, Philippines, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. Linus Escandor/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — The ASEAN, under Philippine chairmanship, declined to mention China’s expansive island-building activities in the South China Sea in its chairman statement.

In its chairman statement released after the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila, the ASEAN merely mentioned “non-militarization” and “self-restraint” among claimant states.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, gestures to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as they prepare for their bilateral meeting following a welcome ceremony at Malacanang Palace grounds in Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Li is on an official visit to the country. AP/Bullit Marquez

“In this regard, we further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states,” the statement read.

This echoed the joint communique issued during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila last August, where the ministers said they “took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

READ: ASEAN stresses self-restraint, non-militarization in South China Sea

The 10-member regional bloc welcomed its improving relations with China following the adoption of the framework of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea last August.

The ASEAN is looking forward to the start of the negotiations on the COC, which was announced at the ASEAN-China Summit in Manila.

The chairman statement stressed the need to adhere to a peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The statement, however, did not mention the arbitral ruling of a United Nations-backed tribunal based in the Hague, Netherlands.

RELATED: With no reference to arbitral ruling, ASEAN to pursue sea code

In July 2016, the international tribunal issued a landmark award in favor of the Philippines, invalidating China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The tribunal also ruled that Beijing violated its commitment under the UNCLOS by constructing artificial islands in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The regional bloc, meanwhile, reaffirmed its commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“We reaffirmed our commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety, and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence amongst parties,” the statement read.

The ASEAN-China joint working group meeting on the implementation of the DOC is set to convene in Viet Nam early next year.

In a separate chairman statement of the 20th ASEAN-China Summit, the concerned parties “welcomed the positive developments in the South China Sea.”

The ASEAN and China reiterated their commitment to the implementation of the DOC. Implementation will include confidence-building measures and practical maritime cooperation.

FULL TEXT: Chairman’s statement for the 31st ASEAN Summit





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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.