Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

Duterte warns of fresh terror threat in the Philippines

January 18, 2018


Debris flies in the air as Philippine Air Force fighter jets bomb suspected locations of militants in the southern city of Marawi on June 9, 2017. Months after “neutralizing” the Daesh-linked militants, the Philippines is again on alert over fresh terror threats in the south. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of a fresh terror threat against his country.

“Maybe it’s good to anticipate that there’s going to be (a terror attack) in the coming days,” Duterte said in a speech this week, amid reports that an increasing number of foreign fighters are now in the Philippines.

“They’d like to blow up (places where) people converge: In airports, seaports, and parks, because of what happened in the Mindanao provinces,” Duterte added, referring to the defeat of Daesh-backed militants who laid siege to Marawi City in Mindanao for five months last year.

“As I have said, the threat remains,” the president continued, adding: “My advice to our security forces, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police), in this matter of security against terrorism, is that no quarter should be asked, and no quarter given.”

Earlier, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana told the country’s elite special forces to prepare for a possible repeat of the Marawi siege in another city.

Lorenzana admitted authorities are looking into the reported entry of a number of foreign terrorists into the southern Philippines.

Mohaquer Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had previously warned that the defeat of the Maute group in Marawi City does not mean the defeat of Daesh-oriented groups in Mindanao.

“Expect that they will surface once again,” he said.

Talking to Arab News, Iqbal reiterated his statement on the increasing number of foreign fighters in the southern Philippines.

Image result for Marawi, Philippines, mosque, after battle, photos

Marawi after the battles ended

“What has been validated by our side is that there is a continuous inflow of foreign elements that are suspected to be Daesh-connected individuals,” Iqbal said.

The army recently reported they have identified 48 foreign terrorists currently in the Philippines and told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that a number of terrorists had entered the southern Philippines posing as businessmen or tourists.

Iqbal confirmed that MILF’s intelligence backs up the army’s figures, saying, “We have around 90 percent validated (the presence of foreign terrorists). We have reliable reports to that effect.”

Some of those foreign terrorists arrived in the country after the Marawi siege ended in October, he said. Many arrived via the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan, and a number of them are “Caucasian-looking.”

Early this week, an article released by the Asian think tank Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) said that the deaths of Filipino militant leaders Isnilon Hapilon — the Daesh-designated emir in Southeast Asia — and Omarkhayam Maute, “have not fundamentally reduced or removed the jihadi threat in the region.”

The article said that there are still four “key leaders” of Southeast Asian extremists: Amin Baco, Bahrumsyah, Abu Turaifie and Bahrun Naim.”

Baco, a Malaysian born in Sabah who built his jihadi credentials fighting in Basilan and Sulu, was reported to have been killed during the Marawi siege. But, on Wednesday, Joint Task Force Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military was trying to verify information that, although wounded, Baco had managed to escape the Marawi siege and is now in Sulu with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Iqbal said he has no information about Baco’s whereabouts, but that Toraife — commander of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) — has been regularly moving his location because of a series of military operations against his group.

“Recently he (Toraife) was in North Cotabato,” Iqbal claimed. “But he seems to have transferred from there already. They seem to be on the move constantly.”

However, Iqbal explained that Toraife and his group “are not a major threat at this point in time” as they lack the capacity to launch a major attack similar to the Maute Group’s siege of Marawi.




Philippines: Will Charter Change and Federalism fix the country’s pressing problems — If not, why are we wasting so much time on it? — Philippine President Deterte: Federalism will eliminate poverty

January 18, 2018
 / 09:00 AM January 18, 2018

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Amid a clash in Congress on how to effect Charter change (Cha-cha), Senator Joel Villanueva on Thursday expressed doubt whether amending the Constitution would fix the country’s pressing problems.

His statement comes after the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes held its third hearing on resolutions on changing the Constitution.

“As a legislator, I would like to know what problems a Constitutional amendment is trying to resolve. I think we should have a national consensus on what these issues and principles are. Are these problems unsolvable without Charter Change or federalism?” Villanueva said in a statement.


Villanueva pointed out that proponents of Cha-cha, whether through a constituent assembly (con-ass) or a Constitutional convention (Con-con), claim that Cha-cha would “bring forth lasting solution to poverty and economic inequality, and provide an effective mechanism to empower local governments by increasing their resources through distribution of wealth.”

But Villanueva said he believed that Cha-cha “might not be the be-all and end-all solution to the problems that its proponents vow to resolve.”

While the senator clarified that he remained open to Charter change, he said the country’s problems could be solved by enacting laws without changing the Constitution.

“I’m open to Cha-Cha because our Constitution is not perfect but I think the current limitations of the fundamental law can be addressed through legislation,” Villanueva said in a separate social media post.

Lawmakers are currently debating whether Constitutional amendment should be through a Con-con, where changes would be proposed by representatives elected by the people, or through a con-ass to be composed of sitting legislators. /cbb

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

China is again exploiting the Philippines

January 18, 2018


By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star)

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MANILA, Philippines — China is again exploiting the goodwill of the Philippine government to conduct studies in Philippine seas to discover more areas rich in minerals and gas, a lawmaker warned yesterday.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate cautioned the public that with the Duterte administration’s friendly approach to the Chinese, Beijing is using the same modus operandi it employed during the Arroyo administration.

Zarate reminded the public about the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) of Beijing in 2005, wherein Philippine    official position in the disputed West Philippine Sea “jeopardized our claims in the Recto Reed Bank” near the waters off Palawan.

He warned that the JMSU during the Arroyo administration “is bound to happen again in the case of Benham Rise.”

Benham Rise is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf awarded by the United Nations in 2012, which provides Manila the exclusive sovereign rights over it. The area is believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should rethink its decision to allow Chinese oceanographers to conduct studies in Philippine waters because it is one of the methods they used before under the JMSU that China entered with the Arroyo administration,” Zarate said.



South China Sea and Beyond: Chinese research ship ‘Kexue’ to conduct research in Philippine waters

January 18, 2018


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China research ship Ke Xue


By Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 18, 2018 – 2:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — China will deploy its most sophisticated research ship to study Philippine waters, including the potentially resource-rich Benham Rise (Philippine Rise).

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) earlier slammed the Department of Foreign Affairs for allowing the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) to conduct research in waters off Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and off Eastern Mindanao.

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The Chinese marine exploration will take place on January 24 to February 25 this year.

READ: Alejano: DFA approved Chinese think tank request to study Philippine waters

In a press conference in Beijing last Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang confirmed that Chinese research vessel “Kexue” will survey Philippine eastern waters, adding that such a cooperation would further strengthen the two countries’ bilateral relations.

“China commends this decision made by the Philippine side on agreeing to China’s scientific activities and offering facilitation,” Lu said.

“We welcome Philippine scientific research institutions’ participation and would like to work with them to advance maritime practical cooperation in marine research and other fields so as to create a favorable environment for the sound, steady and sustainable development of bilateral ties,” he added.

The $87.5-million Kexue was handed over to IO-CAS in 2012, newspaper China Daily reported. In September 5 last year, Kexue reportedly finished a month-long scientific exploration of the western Pacific Ocean.

Weighing 4,711 tons, China Daily described Kexue as a “moving laboratory on the sea” capable of global voyages and all-day observations.

Kexue can also conduct water body detection, atmospheric exploration, deep-sea environment exploration and remote sensing information verification.

In 2012, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved the Philippines’ undisputed claim to the Benham Rise.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed an Executive Order officially renaming Benham Rise to “Philippine Rise” to assert the country’s sovereignty there following reports that Chinese research vessels were spotted surveying the area in 2016.

The Philippine Navy now regularly patrols the continental shelf.

According to Alejano, the Chinese researchers will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute “as a requirement.”

Alejano also revealed that a similar plea was lodged by French-based non-profit organization Tara Expeditions Foundation, but it was declined by the DFA.

The lawmaker said Tara Expeditions was a better choice if Manila was seeking additional resources and manpower to study eastern waters, noting that France, unlike China, has no territorial conflict with the Philippines.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the law gives equal chance to foreign countries to study Philippine waters as long as there are Filipinos on board.

Foreign marine researchers must also share their findings and data with their Filipino counterparts, Cayetano added.

READ: Cayetano: ‘Same rules for all countries’ seeking to study Philippine waters






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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.

Philippine Senate Stops “Charter Change”

January 17, 2018

The Philippine Senate decided on Wednesday to call a temporary halt to the Charter Change process while several issues were resolved.

More on this as it beomes available…

Former chief justices Hilario Davide Jr. and Reynato Puno and former Supreme Court associate justice Adolf Azcuna share a light moment before the start of a Senate hearing on the proposal to amend the Constitution yesterday.  Geremy Pintolo


Senate stops Charter change train
Paolo RomeroMarvin Sy (The Philippine Star) – January 18, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The speeding Charter change train from the House of Representatives has stopped dead in its tracks as senators vowed to resist pressure to rush the crafting of a constitution for a federal government.

After the House hastily voted to convene Congress as a constituent assembly in Joint Resolution No. 9, senators held a caucus during which they unanimously agreed to oppose any joint voting and joint session under the con-ass.

Senators s aid they could just sit on Joint Resolution No. 9 while tackling their own Charter change (Cha-cha) proposals in a more careful manner.

The senators also expressed openness to Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposal to expel any senator who attends the con-ass called by the House.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said it would be confusing if members of the two chambers would be physically together in a con-ass but would vote separately over every proposed amendment to the Constitution. Pimentel said the House resolution would simply be consigned to the reference of business of the chamber and likely referred to the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, chaired by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who presided over a hearing yesterday.

“We have to follow the same procedure to have proposed amendments to the Constitution. If not, then there’s none,” Pimentel told reporters.

When asked about the marked difference between the resolution and the proposal of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for the Senate to hold its own con-ass, meaning separate from the House, he said: “If the Cha-cha is a dance, the two dancers or two partners must dance the same dance.”

“If they’re dancing different dances, then we don’t have a Cha-cha,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the House approval of its resolution won’t “influence us into anything.”

“We will still, and based on our caucus and our decision, we will still proceed with our regular system – the system that we know, which is we hold hearings and listen to all those who must be listened to, and we’ll make a decision thereafter,” Sotto said.

Lacson emphasized the House cannot force the Senate to do its bidding, especially on Congress leaders’ proposal to cancel the elections and extend the terms of office of officials.

“They have Resolution No. 9 – we’ll not act on it. And we’ll just deliberate among ourselves on the (Charter change) mode,” Lacson said.

“If we don’t agree (with the House), it’s as if nothing’s been passed in the House,” he said.

Pangilinan said the situation could be described as a stalemate, as the Senate would not allow any railroading of Charter change, especially that the people and lawmakers have yet to have a full grasp of federalism.


Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Charter change in the Senate is “dead,” and will remain so especially if House leaders insist on pushing for it, including by scheduling a plebiscite simultaneously with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in May this year.

“Clearly, we cannot do it in 10 session weeks, not to mention the possibility of the Senate being an impeachment court once again, not to mention we have to pass other laws as senators, as members of Congress,” Recto told the hearing.

“Based on what I’ve heard today, Cha-cha is dead in the Senate,” he said.

He said since he started public service in 1992, there has been no clamor for Charter change, much less a shift to a federal system.

During the committee hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked former chief justice Reynato Puno whether the Supreme Court (SC) can compel the Senate to act on the resolution calling for a constituent assembly.

“The Supreme Court still does not have jurisdiction to accommodate and decide questions that are political in character. The issue that we are talking about is a political question,” Puno replied.

Puno said the SC is unlikely to entertain the case as the matter between the Senate and the House is political in nature and therefore not in the province of the high tribunal.

Puno, former chief justice Hilario Davide and former SC justice Adolf Azcuna – also one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution – voiced the opinion that the Senate cannot be forced to adopt what the House wants.

They said the two chambers should be voting separately in amending the Constitution.

“If we do not act on the House resolution calling for a constitutional assembly, the issue cannot be brought to the Supreme Court?” Drilon asked, to which Puno replied in affirmative.

“The resolution is lost and you cannot be subject to a writ of mandamus,” Puno added.

Drilon earlier castigated the House leadership for disparaging the Senate for being “slow,” which he said was meant to condition the minds of the people to the supposed necessity of abolishing the chamber.

Lacson said several scenarios were discussed during the caucus, including the remote possibility that a senator might decide to ride the House Cha-cha train and attend the lower chamber’s version of the con-ass.

He said the House could then claim a joint session with the Senate.

“Since we’ve agreed that we will not allow ourselves to be drowned out… I said to make things firm, let’s agree to expel any member who will participate in such an arrangement without any resolution adopted by the Senate,” Lacson said.

He, however, stressed that he does not believe any senator would break the agreement.

But if there’s one senator who does not seem bothered by the consequences of a Cha-cha, it’s Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

“As I said, I don’t care about my position. If federalism will be good for the country, or if it will mean abolition of the Senate or Congress, I don’t care as long as it is good for the country,” he said in Filipino in a TV interview.


Also at the hearing by the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, legal and constitutional experts expressed unanimous support for a constitutional convention (con-con) as the mode of amending the Constitution, but were divided when it came to the question of whether or not Charter change should be done immediately.

“To insure a truly impartial, objective and comprehensive discussion on this crucial issue of federalism or the entry into our midst of a foreign invader, I respectfully submit that the matter be left to a constitutional convention, with delegates duly elected by the people for that purpose,” Davide said in a statement he read during the hearing.

According to Puno, the country has no experience in con-ass and that giving Congress the task of revising the Constitution would only add to their mandate of writing laws.

Puno noted that Congress would also soon be preoccupied with the forthcoming impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“More importantly, some members of Congress may find themselves in a conflict situation in the course of rewriting the Constitution,” he said.

Puno also brushed aside the arguments being made by the proponents of con-ass that con-con is more expensive.

“To me that is a cheap argument. We should not count the cost when rewriting the Constitution,” he said.

Former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., father and namesake of the Senate president, said he has no doubt on the viability of con-con but admitted it would be costly to assemble one.



Despite unanimous Senate ‘no,’ Alvarez insists on joint voting for Cha-Cha

‘We are representatives of the people. We are the nearest link to the people, so why should senators’ vote have more weight than a congressman?’ says House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez

Published 8:06 PM, January 17, 2018
Updated 8:06 PM, January 17, 2018

JOINT VOTING. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insists on joint voting, contrary to the opinion of senators as well as those who framed the 1987 Constitution. Malacañang file photo

JOINT VOTING. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insists on joint voting, contrary to the opinion of senators as well as those who framed the 1987 Constitution. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday, January 17, insisted that the House of Representatives and the Senate must vote jointly should it convene as a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for Charter Change (Cha-Cha).

Alvarez made the assertion late Wednesday, after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that during a caucus, senators were “unanimous” in rejecting proposals for the two chambers to vote jointly in a Con-Ass.

“We respect the belief in separate voting, but I believe in joint voting. To me, it’s very clear in the Constitution that three-fourths of all members of the Congress [should vote]. So that means all members, all of us will vote together, particularly when it comes to amendments in the Constitution,” Alvarez said in an interview over dzMM.

But legal luminaries and framers of the 1987 Constitution, during a Senate hearing on Cha-Cha, all advocated for separate voting for the two chambers, consistent with the bicameral mode of legislature.

“We are representatives of the people. We are the nearest link to the people, so why should senators’ vote have more weight than a congressman?” insisted Alvarez, who represents the 1st District of Davao del Norte.

The Senate is composed of up to 24 senators, who are elected at-large by qualified voters of the country. The House, meanwhile, is composed of over 290 members who are either elected by a legislative district or represent a party-list group.

Senators have argued against joint voting, saying it diminishes the power of the Senate. They have also argued that since the regular process of passing a law necessitates separate deliberations and voting, something as important as amendments to the Constitution should follow the same process.

Constitution framers explained during the Senate hearing that Article XVII, which deals with the process of amending or revising the Constitution, was written under the assumption that Congress would be unicameral.

When the Constitution was revised to make way for a bicameral legislature, this particular article was simply left unchanged, hence the vague wording.

Drilon, in a chance interview on the sidelines of the hearing, said there were “rumors” that one or two senators might show up at the House for a Con-Ass, thus constituting a “joint session.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson suggested that any senator who would defy their “unanimous” decision should face expulsion.

But Alvarez said he doubts this threat since it “isn’t a ground for expulsion.”

“If that’s unethical, I think as long as the Constituent Assembly is convened legally… if someone wants to attend, should you stop that person? It is a constitutional duty,” he said.

The House on Tuesday, January 16, adopted a resolution calling on the 17th Congress to convene as a Con-Ass. In order for it to take effect, the Senate must adopt a similar resolution.

Alvarez, a lawyer, also thinks that even if the Senate refuses to participate, Cha-Cha will still push through.

“There’s the Supreme Court to decide if we’re right or not,” he said.

It is unclear if Alvarez meant that he would push through with a Con-Ass even if the Senate does not adopt a counterpart resolution.

The House is in the process of consolidating sub-committee proposals to amend the Constitution. –

New Form of Government for the Philippines — What We Know

January 17, 2018

The public should closely monitor the process of changing the 1987 Philippine Constitution to avoid abuses, say constitutional law experts


MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has been pushing for a shift to federalism even before he was elected into office in 2016. Now, with the aid of his allies in Congress, the process of constitutional reform has begun.

The two houses of Congress are looking into convening into a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) but that would need a vote of three-fourths of all members. The Senate and the House of Representatives, however, differ on whether to vote jointly or separately as the 1987 Philippine Constitution is silent on the manner of voting.

This is just one of the many issues that need to be threshed out in the bid to amend the Constitution, a process that needs to be closely monitored, according to constitutional law experts Rappler talked to.

What are the other important questions that need to be raised?

What is Charter Change?

Also called constitutional reform, Charter Change (Cha-Cha) refers to amendments or revisions in the 1987 Philippine Constitution

What are the changes that can be implemented?

Bodies can either propose amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution.

Amendments refer to changes that do not affect the overall structure and basic principles of the Constitution. Revisions are changes that involve alterations in the structure.

For example, changing the provision on the term limit of the President is an amendment while an overhaul of the government structure to federalism is a revision.

How can the 1987 Philippine Constitution be changed?

The process of changing the Constitution, according to retired Supreme Court (SC) justice Vicente Mendoza, can be categorized into two stages – the proposal stage and the ratification stage.

In the first stage, changes are proposed by a Con-Ass or a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con), or through a People’s Initiative.

Congress, through a vote of three-fourths of all members, can convene into a Con-Ass. This body can propose both amendments and revisions.

A Con-Con is made up of elected delegates and can propose both amendments and revisions. Congress, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, can call for an election of its members.

A People’s Initiative can only propose amendments through a petition of at least 12% of the total number of registered voters, according to Article XVII of the Constitution. The process is provided in Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act.

What’s a more ‘suitable’ method among the 3 ways to propose changes?

For retired SC justice Adolfo Azcuna, one of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “all are suitable.”

“All are suitable, one is not considered as exclusive,” Azcuna told Rappler. “They can be resorted to as needed so hindi naman na dapat ganito lang (it’s not necessarily just this way)….They’re all equally good and effective means if pursued properly.”

The dominant move right now is for the Congress to convene into a Con-Ass because, according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, it is “cheaper and faster.” In fact, on Monday, January 15, Senator Panfilo Lacson filed Senate Resolution 580 for the Senate to constitute itself into a component of the bicameral Con-Ass.

While there is no best way to amend the Constitution, UP law professor Dante Gatmaytan noted that Duterte allies dominate Congress.

“An assembly beholden to the President may not necessarily produce the best document,” he said. “Any project that involves drafting the fundamental law of the land will benefit from serious deliberation founded on contending views, not a mere collection of yes men.”

Mendoza, meanwhile, preferred a Con-Con even if the process is costlier, considering the envisioned end-product of the process – a shift to federalism.

“A change to a federal system is a real paradigm shift in our constitutional order requiring the calling of a Con-Con, and the expense of holding it in order to have a real representative assembly of the people to undertake such a momentous change should not deter us from holding one,” he told Rappler.

“If we can spend billions of pesos on infrastructure projects, we should be willing to spend a fortune on the infrastructure of government for the nation,” Mendoza added.

But there are two chambers in Congress. How will they vote in a Constituent Assembly?

Unfortunately, Article XVII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is silent on the manner of voting. It does not indicate whether the two chambers should vote jointly or separately during the process of changing the Constitution.

While there are proposals from the House to vote jointly, senators have expectedly opposed the move. It has become a “unifying issue” among members of the majority and minority bloc in the Senate. (READ: Joint voting on Cha-Cha? Senate’s problems, plans against it)

Some senators have agreed to convene Congress into a Con-Ass on the condition that the two houses vote separately. With the nearly 300-member House against the 23-member Senate, the voice of the Senate would be deemed irrelevant in a joint vote.

“Voting jointly means that the House alone decides the issue because they outnumber the senators,” Gatmaytan said. “That is why the Senate wants ‘separately’ especially if the proposal is to make a unicameral Congress.”

He also said that the issue on voting will most likely reach the High Court.

Azcuna, for his part said, “We have still a system under this Constitution that an interpretation can be made by those implementing it and ultimately by the Supreme Court.”

After the body approves the proposals, what happens now?

Once the proposals are “approved” in the first stage – regardless of whether done through a Con-Ass or Con-Con – these will be subject to a national plebiscite.

Amendments or revisions are only valid once ratified by a majority of votes, according to Article XVII of the Constitution.

The schedule of the national plebiscite, to be set by Congress, should be within 60 to 90 days after the body approves the proposal.

According to Mendoza, the period before the national plebiscite is ideally the time proposals are discussed with the public. This information dissemination would help the people decide on how to vote.

“There should be a public discussion in the newspapers, in the schools, wherever people gather,” he said. “The idea is for them to keep talking within that period, that’s the study period and it’s the duty of the people, as citizens of an independent nation, to study the proposals very well.”

A national plebiscite is an exercise in the “power of the people” when it comes to the law.

“To change the Constitution, the power is with the people. Not even Congress – Congress can only propose changes but the change must be done by the people so it is what you call the constitution of sovereignty. Sovereignty is the highest power of the people to make or change the law.

What should the public watch out for?

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and will affect each individual in the country, including future generations. It is necessary then to keep a close watch over the Cha-Cha process.

According to Gatmaytan, the public should monitor “every aspect of the amendment process” and be wary of watered-down and abusive provisions such as those on accountability of public officials and term limits.

“We should maintain a strong system of checks and balances that prevents the abuse of political powers,” he explained.

Mendoza, meanwhile, encouraged the people to monitor the proceedings “from the very start,” particularly the proposal stage, to lead to a “success of constitutional government in this country.”

“How many times do we have to remind ourselves that eternal vigilance is the price we have to pay not only for our liberties but to have good government?” he said. “Bad government is what we get for public indifference to the most important task of writing the basic document of our nation.”

Mendoza said anyone who is against any proposal should speak up immediately and not wait until the last minute.

“The point is, if you are opposed to the proposal, doon pa lang sa umpisa ay kontrahin mo na (oppose it from the very start) by all means available to you,” he said. “Write about them, oppose them in public assemblies. Do not wait until ratification kasi late na iyan (because it would be too late.)”

For Azcuna, there is a need to monitor the transitory provisions.

“Every constitution would contain a transitory provision, meaning rules that will apply between the passage of the new constitution and the full implementation of the new constitution,” he said. “Iyon ang bantayan dahil baka maraming itatago diyan (That’s what should be monitored because a lot of provisions may be hidden there).” – With reports from Sofia Tomacruz/

Philippine President Deterte: Federalism will eliminate poverty, provide more powers to local governments — Judicial and Bar Council will be deleted, New limits on free speech

January 17, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, hat and closeup

By Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 17, 2018 – 6:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — As Philippine lawmakers buckle down to work for the country’s shift to federal system of government, Congress cannot amend the 30-year-old constitution, which was designed to stop a repeat of dictatorship, without stirring controversies.

The switch to a federal system was one of the key planks of President Rodrigo Duterte’s election campaign. The country currently employs a unitary form of government with much of the power emerging from the central government.

According to Duterte, federalism will eliminate poverty in provinces and will provide more powers to local governments, including the power to establish courts, implement business regulations and impose taxes.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to convene Congress as a constitutional assembly. If the House con-ass measure gets Senate concurrence, leaders of both chambers would set a schedule for the drafting of the envisioned federal Constitution.

President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech during the Anti-Corruption Summit 2017: ‘Breaking Chains of Corruption 2017’ at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on November 28, 2017

However, people are divided regarding any attempts to amend the Constitution, with administration critics accusing legislators of seeking to perpetuate themselves in power, or of finding a way to extend Duterte’s term beyond 2022.

But Duterte had repeatedly said he would prefer to retire earlier.

READ: Quick Facts: What’s inside the House-proposed federal charter

Below are some features of the proposed federal charter by a House sub-committee that have been generating controversies:

No Judicial and Bar Council – Under the proposal, the provision that created the Judicial and Bar Council will be deleted, effectively abolishing the body in charge of conducting careful screening of candidates seeking to fill the vacancies from the lowest to the highest in the judiciary.

Removal of power of judicial review on “grave abuse of discretion” – Citing “judicial overreach,” a portion which allows the judiciary to inquire into acts of other branches of government will be deleted.

Grave abuse of discretion refers to arbitrary or despotic exercise of power amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

Limiting protection of free speech – Without giving a clear explanation on what qualifies as “responsible,” the proposed federal charter wants the law to only guarantee “responsible exercise” of the freedom of expression.

“The right of free speech, or any right enshrined in the Bill of Rights, comes with an equal burden of responsibly exercising the same,” the House sub-committee’s proposal read in part.

“The exercise of one’s rights must be done with good faith and reasonable care,” it added.

Amendments in “Human Rights” sub-title – The proposed federal charter also seeks to “delete” Article XIII, which contains provisions on social justice and human rights.

Image result for free speech, tape over mouth, photos

The provisions in Article XIII, however, will be transferred to Article II, which lists the Declarations of Principles and State Policies.

On the Human Rights sub-title of Article XIII, all provisions will be retained except in “paragraph 1,” which states that the Commission on Human Rights is mandated to investigate human rights violations regardless of whether such abuses were committed by a government or non-state party.

No love – The word “love” will be deleted from the preamble because “it has no place in a Constitution.”


The issue of amending the Constitution is a sensitive topic in the Philippines, a country once under Marcos dictatorship for two decades, over fears that it will be used to prolong the term of the chief executive.

A move to amend the charter during President Gloria Arroyo’s term was met with protests as concerns that it was intended to extend her term loomed.


Philippines: What’s inside the House-proposed federal charter

January 17, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech during the Anti-Corruption Summit 2017: ‘Breaking Chains of Corruption 2017’ at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on November 28, 2017, reads the International Narcotics Control Board’s 2014 report on the frequently used illegal drugs as he explains how some drug addicts turn violent when they are accosted by authorities.

Presidential photo/Simeon Celi Jr.


Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – January 17, 2018 – 3:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to convene Congress as a constitutional assembly to amend the country’s 30-year-old Constitution in preparation for the country’s switch to federal system of government.

The switch to a federal system was one of the key planks of President Rodrigo Duterte’s election campaign, along with his deadly war on drugs. The country currently employs a unitary form of government with much of the power emerging from the central government.

According to Duterte, federalism would provide more powers to local governments to eliminate poverty in provinces, including the power to establish courts, implement business regulations and impose taxes.

In a late afternoon session, members of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments abruptly ended debates and voted to convene as con-ass, a swift decision that some opposition lawmakers protested.

If the House con-ass measure gets Senate concurrence, leaders of both chambers would set a schedule for the drafting of the envisioned federal Constitution.

Inside the House-proposed draft charter

Form of government

Under the lower house’s planned draft for a new charter, the legislative power will be vested in the parliament — which will consist of the Federal Assembly as the national legislative department, and the Senate as the legislative body representative of the regions.

The Federal Assembly will be composed of not more than three hundred members “unless otherwise provided for by law.” On the other hand, each state will have a minimum of three seats in the Senate.

Meanwhile, the President of the Philippines will be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of five years with one re-election.

The President will remain as the head of the Armed Forces and foreign affairs and will have oversight powers over all branches of government, constitutional bodies, and independent bodies, among others.

He will also have the power to grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons.

The head of the government will be the Prime Minister, who will be elected by a majority of all members of the parliament from among themselves.

Among the functions of the Prime Minister include the appointment of Cabinet members, preparation of annual budget of the Federal Republic, entry into contracts on behalf of the government, and execution of all laws and decisions by the Federal Supreme Court.

The Vice President will continue her duties until 2022 while the functions and powers of both the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan were retained in the new proposal.


The territory of the Federal Republic will be divided into five states which will have their own State Constitution, name, flag, anthem, and seal:

  • State of Luzon
  • State of Visayas
  • State of Mindanao
  • State of the Bangsamoro
  • State of Metro Manila (seat of Federal Government)

Each state will have a Premiere who will exercise executive power. The states will also have the power to organize and supervise their own police agencies.

In terms of fiscal matters such as revenue sharing, a law implementing a “fair and equitable system” will be enacted by the Parliament.


People are divided regarding any attempts to amend the Constitution, with administration critics accusing legislators of seeking to perpetuate themselves in power, or of finding a way to extend Duterte’s term beyond 2022.

But Duterte had repeatedly said he would prefer to retire earlier.

The issue of amending the Constitution is a sensitive topic in the Philippines, a country once under Marcos dictatorship for two decades, over fears that it will be used to prolong the term of the chief executive.

A move to amend the charter during President Gloria Arroyo’s term was met with protests as concerns that it was intended to extend her term loomed.



Philippines Starts Constitutional Revisions on The Road to A “Federal System of Government”

January 17, 2018

By Jess Diaz
The Philippine Star
January 17, 2018

The House of Representatives voted last night to adopt a resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly (con-ass) in preparation for work on a new Charter for a federal system of government.


House awaiting Senate’s formal action on constituent Assembly (Con-ass) clash

y: – Reporter / @VinceNonatoINQ
 / 05:03 PM January 17, 2018

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Leaders of the House of Representatives have kept mum about moves by senators to prevent the two chambers from convening jointly into a constituent Assembly amid a difference of opinion and fears of one outnumbering the other.

Constitutional amendments committee chair Rep. Roger Mercado said in a phone interview: “We would better wait for the [Senate’s] black-and-white position. We want everything to be done formally and in accordance with interparliamentary courtesy.”

Meanwhile, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters: “I will not comment on the acts, omissions, or pronouncements of Members of the other Chamber.”

Several senators on Wednesday told reporters that they have unanimously agreed that the 23-member chamber may convene and vote separately on the amendments to the Constitution, which the Duterte administration had pushed ostensibly in a bid to shift to a federal form of government.

House members have insisted that the wording of Article 17 of the Constitution, which required that amendments be approved by “the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members,” meant the two chambers would have to convene and vote together.

Such a setup meant the nationally-elected senators would be outnumbered by the 292 district and party-list representatives.

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

Philippines “partly free” in world freedom index — headed in the wrong direction

January 17, 2018


The Philippines maintained its “partly free” status in the world freedom index after dropping in the rankings last year due to the extrajudicial killings carried out as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign. AFP/Noel Celis, File

By Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – January 17, 2018 – 12:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines maintained its “partly free” status in the 2018 world freedom index released by human rights advocacy group Freedom House.

The Philippines garnered an aggregate score of 62/100 in the index, which is one point lower than its score in 2017.

The country also scored three out of seven in freedom ranking, political rights and civil liberties. Countries were rated one (most free) to seven (least free).

Freedom House is yet to release a full report on the status of the Philippines, which is among the 58 countries that qualified as “partly free.”

In the 2017 index, a downward trend arrow was observed in the Philippines due to the thousands of extrajudicial killings carried out in the conduct of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“Long-term violent insurgencies have continued for decades. Impunity remains the norm for crimes against activists and journalists, and newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has led to a surge in extrajudicial killings and vigilante justice,” the 2017 world freedom index read.

In November 2017, Freedom House released its Freedom on the Net report where the group discussed how an army of social media commentators was paid to manipulate information from June 2016 to May 2017.

The report also noted that overall internet freedom in the country slightly worsened during the same period.

According to the new Freedom in the World report, 30 percent of all countries assessed were “partly free” and were home to nearly 1.8 billion people or 24 percent of the world’s total.

A total of 88 countries were designated as “free” while 49 countries were deemed “not free.”

Freedom House reported that democracy around the world faced its most serious crisis in decades last year as basic tenets such as free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press and the rule of law came under attack.

The report noted that “repressive regimes” in Asia continued to consolidate their power while marginalized communities in Cambodia, China, Myanmar, the Maldives and Timor-Leste faced dire threats.