Posts Tagged ‘President Duterte’

Philippines: House restores VP Leni Robredo to succession line

October 11, 2018

The House of Representatives last night restored Vice President Leni Robredo to the line of succession to the presidency during the transition to the envisioned federal system.

Robredo’s reinclusion came in the form of an amendment presented by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. to the draft federal constitution the House is considering.

The chamber, at the request of Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar, returned the draft to the committee on constitutional amendments so it could introduce “perfecting amendments.”

By Jess Diaz
Philippine Star

Robredo’s reinclusion came in the form of an amendment presented by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. to the draft federal constitution the House is considering.

Michael Varcas

Robredo described as “very desperate” the move to exclude her from the presidential line of succession being pushed by allies of President Duterte.

In a speech at the 5th provincial congress of the Negros Occidental Small Fishers Alliance yesterday, Robredo said her critics are thinking of everything to remove her from her post.

She cited the filing of an impeachment complaint and an electoral case before the Supreme Court.

“Now, they are trying to insert it in the proposed Charter change,” she said, noting many House members are not aware of such provision.

Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, committee chairman, said Robredo was excluded in the succession line to the presidency during the transition for the sake of “political stability.”

Veloso said the country could be plunged into uncertainty if the Presidential Electoral Tribunal voided Robredo’s victory in the 2016 vice presidential election and declared former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the real winner.

He said Robredo’s exclusion was the idea of the ruling PDP-Laban, although he claimed he could not remember the proponent.

His committee’s decision to take out the Vice President in the succession line has received numerous criticisms.

Robredo laughed off Veloso’s claims and reminded him that she defeated Marcos by more than 200,000 votes.

She said Veloso, who is also facing an election protest, led by less than 100 votes against his opponent.

During election, Robredo said many winning candidates are charged by their opponents who cannot accept the result of the voting.

She said the mandate of the Vice President is to succeed the President.

“If you remove such mandate, nothing is left for the vice president. Might as well remove the position of the vice president,” she said.

Robredo welcomed Senate President Vicente Sotto’s statement that the Senate would reject the provision in the proposed federal government.

Meanwhile, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is puzzled by the provision that sought to exclude Robredo from the presidential line of succession.

DILG Assistant Secretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said it was not clear to them why the Vice President is being eased out from the order of succession when the House seeks to maintain the presidential system.

“The existing term limits must be respected so the people will not question the motives behind the President’s push for a federal system,” Malaya said.

He said the DILG stands by the consultative committee (Concom)’s proposed federal constitution in light of a new draft federal constitution submitted by the House committee on constitutional amendments.

Malaya said there are marked differences between the two drafts and the political and electoral reforms in Concom’s draft are “necessary ingredients” for federalism to succeed.

As such, the DILG endorses Concom’s proposal for a self-executing anti-political dynasty provision in the federal constitution, which will open up and democratize the country’s electoral process.

Malaya said the Concom’s recommendation to adopt a proportional representation as possible replacement to the party-list system should merit serious consideration by the House.

The DILG is hoping that the present Congress can still convene as a constituent assembly to debate on the proposed Concom amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

“We ask both the Senate and the House to fully consider all the features of the draft submitted by the Concom to President Duterte. It’s the product of a non-partisan body with no vested interests,” Malaya said.  — With Helen Flores, Cecille Suerte Felipe



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

October 3, 2018

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

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

Philippine Inquirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Philippines: Treatment of Senator Trillanes Is A Legal Atrocity

September 27, 2018

The decision of Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Elmo Alameda to revive the rebellion case against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that he himself dismissed, and to issue a warrant of arrest and a hold departure order against the President’s chief critic, is a legal atrocity.

It is fundamentally unfair, because it shifts the burden of proof; it is deeply undemocratic, because the court abandons its duty to serve as a check on power; and it is essentially antijudiciary, because it betrays a clear partisanship.

 / 05:28 AM September 27, 2018
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The ruling is another unfortunate addition to the growing body of judicial rationalizations that Inquirer columnist John Nery calls “jurisPRRDence” — court rulings “that break both law and logic, offend the Constitution and overturn normality,” just to meet President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s “partisan political objectives.”

How else can Alameda’s decision, which was handed down on Tuesday, be understood? Its entire argument centers on this passage:

“To prove that Senator Trillanes did not apply for amnesty under Proclamation No. 75, the prosecution presented a certification dated Aug. 30, 2018, issued and signed by one Thea Joan Andrade, Lieutenant Colonel JAGS, Chief, Discipline, Law and

Order Division, to wit:

“‘To whom it may concern:

‘This is to certify that based on the records of this office, ex-LTSG Antonio F. Trillanes IV O-11797 PN was granted amnesty on Jan. 21, 2011, pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 75 dated Nov. 24, 2010… However, there is no copy of his application for amnesty in the records.

‘This certification is issued upon the request of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida.’

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“The Court’s evaluation of the above certification is that it confirms the claim of the prosecution that Senator Trillanes did not apply for amnesty.”

Truly, there is none so blind as he who refuses to see.

The certification Andrade issued at Calida’s request confirms that “there is no copy” of the application, not that Trillanes did not apply at all.

In fact, the same certification confirms that, “based on the records of this office,” Trillanes, as a former member of the military (“ex-LTSG”), was in fact granted amnesty.

So an honest and fair evaluation of Andrade’s certification should lead to the conclusion that Trillanes’ application for amnesty is missing. That’s it.

Because this secondary document was in the safekeeping of Andrade’s division, the responsibility for its loss, and any administrative or criminal liability, lies with Andrade and her staff, not with Trillanes.

If, say, Judge Alameda’s passport was to be challenged at the airport because the Department of Foreign Affairs cannot find the application or renewal form he filled out and filed, he would have the right to be incensed, both at the absurdity of the challenge and the DFA’s negligence. The passport itself is proof that the process was followed.

But Alameda was not content to stop at making his illogical and unjust evaluation. He proceeded to overturn one of the most fundamental of rights guaranteed by the Constitution — the presumption of innocence — and shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.

“Since Senator Trillanes wants to establish a legal right on the amnesty granted to him, he has therefore the burden of proving his compliance with the minimum requirements to entitle him to be granted amnesty…”

In other words, and even without as much as a modicum of introspection, Alameda presumes that Trillanes is guilty of not complying with the amnesty requirements, and wants him to prove his innocence.

This is wrong, plain and simple. The burden is on Andrade’s office, to explain how the secondary document went missing, and on the Department of Justice, to prove that the grant of amnesty to Trillanes — itself confirmed in the certification — must be considered anomalous, violative of the presumption of regularity.

The power to grant amnesty, shared by the political branches of government, is not something that the courts should trifle with. At the same time, abuse by any branch should be decisively met by the countervailing force of judicial reasoning. This did not happen with Alameda’s ruling.

Indeed, Alameda showed a curious preference. He immediately presumed that Proclamation No. 75, issued by President Benigno Aquino III in 2010, must be invalid or has no effect on Trillanes.

He also immediately presumed that Proclamation No. 572, issued by President Duterte last month, supersedes Aquino’s amnesty proclamation.

Now why would he think that?

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

September 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who could make Uson apologize for her bad behavior?

The Filipino deaf community, it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See also:

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


Philippines: Fake news, ‘oligarchs’ conniving vs Duterte

July 17, 2018
Cabinet official says media, ‘oligarchs’ conniving vs Duterte
Artemio Dumlao (The Philippine Star) – July 17, 2018 – 12:00am

LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET, Philippines — Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. yesterday accused media and “oligarchs” of banding together to hit President Duterte “left and right.”

“For the first time, this government was able to say (to these oligarchs), ‘pay your taxes now’,” Evasco stressed, noting that rich families also own and control media companies.

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Evasco added that these individuals are attacking Duterte because their business interests are affected by the President’s order for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to accelerate tax collection.

“There is an existing connivance between the oligarchs and the media who are now hitting the administration by reporting mostly negative news against the President,” said Evasco.

Last year, Philippine Airlines paid its P6-billion debt to government while cigarette firm Mighty Corp. settled for P30 billion its tax delinquency.

Meanwhile, the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee in the country faces tax evasion charges.

The Cabinet official keynoted the launch of “Biyaya ng Pagbabago” at Benguet State University here.

Evasco assured those who attended the launch that the Duterte administration is promoting their interests.

“Biyaya ng Pagbabago” is the flagship poverty alleviation program under the Office of the Cabinet Secretary being managed by the Office of Participatory Governance.



Philippines new draft constitution: Be very afraid

July 7, 2018
The road to unlimited powers and even less accountability….
 / 05:08 AM July 07, 2018

I have a copy of the draft new constitution (as of June 27, 2018) framed by President Duterte’s consultative committee, which he tasked to review the 1987 Constitution. It was signed on Tuesday, July 3, so it is fair to assume that not much could change in the six-day period between the draft and the signed document.

So what are the major differences between the 1987 Constitution and the proposed constitution?

A very important difference is that, right from the get-go, the proposed constitution adopts a federal form of government; it is the constitution of the Federal Republic of the Philippines. Not surprising, really, because all the members of the committee were pro-federalism also from the get-go.

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I want to remind you, Reader, that the March 2018 Pulse Asia Survey showed that the opposition to Charter change went up from 44 percent in July 2016 to 64 percent in March 2018, and the opposition to federalism went the same way, except by a larger margin—from 33 percent to 66 percent.

But, wait. That is not all. The transitory provisions of the proposed constitution have given President Duterte vast powers between 2019 (I assume that the plebiscite will be held in 2019, a reasonable assumption) and 2022. And it also allows him—at least that’s what committee member Julio Teehankee has publicly admitted—to run for President in 2022. Since the new constitution provides for a four-year term plus one reelection, that means he can be our President (unless death intervenes) for a total of 14 years.

He will, of course, be 85 years old by then. But, hey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia is 94 years old. I hasten to add, however, that Mahathir neither drinks nor womanizes. That may make a difference.

What vast powers do the transitory provisions give President Duterte? Well, first, he will be the chair of the Federal Transition Committee (FTC), with 10 other members that he will appoint from a list supplied by a five-person search committee, of which four are also appointed by him. Lutong Macao.

And what does the FTC do? Wow. It will formulate and adopt a transition plan for the orderly shift to the new system of government, and it will promulgate the necessary rules, regulations, orders, decrees, proclamations and other issuances, do all acts to implement the same, and resolve all issues and disputes that may result therefrom. PLUS, it will organize, reorganize and fully establish the Federal Government and the governments of the Federated Regions, in accordance with this constitution; and exercise all powers necessary and proper to ensure a smooth, speedy and successful transition.

This transition plan that the FTC is responsible for will include the respective transition plans for the different branches of the Federal Government, the Independent Constitutional Bodies, the Federated Regions and other component units; plus the fiscal management and administration plan, which includes, but is not limited to, resource generation appropriation, allocation and expenditures.

Then, almost as an afterthought, it would also include the establishment of mechanisms for people’s participation in the transition. Gee, thanks.

This power goes on until June 30, 2022, when the first national, regional and local elections will have taken place, and our first elected leaders under the new constitution take over.

Bottom line: As soon as the new constitution is ratified, President Duterte, as chair of the FTC, has unlimited powers—to hire, fire, organize, reorganize, determine what will be the states that constitute the federal system, and how these states will themselves transition. For at least three years. Of course, by election time, he will have set the stage for his own election as president for the next eight years.

Remember the transitory provisions that gave Marcos dictatorial powers? This is the very same thing. There is a term for it: constitutional authoritarianism. This is what Mr. Duterte must have had in mind when he talked of a revolutionary government.

Well, he’s got what he wanted. If the people give it to him, that is.

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

July 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

READ: Another mayor killed in ambush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Philippines Presidential Spokesperson Says Assassination of Mayors Mere “Attempts to Erode the Public’s Trust on President Duterte”

July 4, 2018

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang said that the killings on the two mayors in Luzon this week are attempts to erode the public’s trust on President Duterte.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin blamed Duterte for the successive killings of Tanauan, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili, and the General Tinio, Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote early this week.

Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque

Villarin alleged that Duterte issued a “free license” to kill by making it clear that no one will face legal repercussions for the extrajudicial killings that are done in pursuit of his anti-illegal drug policy.

Roque, in a statement, said that the government does not tolerate state-sponsored killings and claimed that the killings are meant to paint the President in a bad light.

“There is no culture of impunity in the Philippines as we do not condone any state-sponsored killing,” Roque said Wednesday afternoon.

“We continue to adhere to the rule of law and consider the recent killings of high-profile figures as an attempt to erode confidence in the President, whose main platform of governance rests on fighting crimes,” he added.

Roque assured that the government will not be swayed in securing and restoring peace and order, and expressed that the public has high confidence in Duterte.

“We, however, cannot be deterred in our focus in securing and restoring order in the community,” he said.

“Our people have acknowledged the President as ‘the protector of people,’ as evidenced by surveys giving him high satisfaction, approval, trust and performance ratings,” he added.

Roque also assured that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not be leaving any stone overturned as they proceed to find and capture the killers of the two slain mayors.

Malacañang has condemned the killing of Halili and Bote and assured that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

“We assure everyone that we would discharge the state obligation for every murder. We will spare no effort in getting to the bottom of this latest violent crime,” Roque earlier said.

Halili was shot dead during the city’s flag ceremony Monday morning. Bote, on the other hand, was killed in an ambush late Tuesday afternoon in Cabanatuan City.

Earlier, Duterte said he suspects Halili was killed because of his involvement in the illegal drug trade. Halili was included in Duterte’s list of narco-politicians.

Bote, on the other hand, was a member of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

Philippines: Goverment Turns Tourist Area Boracay Into Police and Military Training Site During Clean-Up To Improve Business With China

May 1, 2018

Philippines: President Duterte’s controversial closure and rehabilitation of Boracay remains controversial. Word has leaked out that Chinese businessmen want to build a casino there. If this was in Duterte’s thinking, we just don’t know. But we do know the closure of the popular tourist site has cost thousands of Filipinos their jobs. Below is a letter to the editor complaining about an army of police officers President Duterte sent to Boracay to Keep The Peace:

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Dear Editor:

The deployment of over 600 police and 200 military personnel to Boracay to enforce President Duterte’s controversial closure and rehabilitation order is overkill.

Since when did bullets and bombs become cleaning agents for coliform, or conservation tools for flying foxes, sea turtles, and coral reefs?

Ironically, this is done under the pretext of “providing security and peace” and “making tourists feel safe.”

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Members of the Special Weapons and Tactics group simulate an assault during a security drill on Boracay

In reality, a fact-finding solidarity mission held by our affiliated local organizations last April 18-20 found that police threatened residents that they will turn Boracay into a “new Marawi.”

What the island needs instead are environmental specialists who could study the ecological situation and properly implement the rehabilitation of the island.

The coliform outbreak, coral reef bleaching, and habitat loss of important flora and fauna cannot be driven away by riot drills and live-fire exercises.

The people have suffered enough already from the loss of their livelihood (at least 36,000 lost jobs) and neglect by the government. Locals have been forced to flee the island by the hundreds.

Now they are threatened by virtual “martial law,” with restriction on movement and even suppression of media coverage.

Why is Mr. Duterte not deploying these armed forces instead to West Philippine Sea, Philippine Rise, and other areas where our national patrimony and sovereignty are being blatantly undermined?

Boracay needs scientists, engineers, development planners, social workers, and community organizers, not hundreds of troops and police.

These armed personnel must be pulled out of the island immediately.

LEON DULCE, national coordinator, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment,

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Philippines Watches as Elected President in a Democracy Becomes Something Else Entirely — Names Supreme Court Chief Justice His “Enemy” — Rule of Law?

April 11, 2018
 / 05:10 AM April 11, 2018

President Duterte has taken the velvet glove off the iron hand.

Before he left for the Boao Forum in China, he called Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of the Supreme Court an “enemy,” and vowed he would remove her from office.

“I’m putting you on notice that I’m your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court,” an angry President said in a news conference. “I will see to it and after that, I will request the Congress go into the impeachment right away.”

“I’m putting you on notice that I’m your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court”

What triggered the President’s outright declaration of enmity? What provoked his declaration of political war?

Sereno — forced to go on indefinite leave from the Court by an unwieldy coalition of justices, facing both a patently unconstitutional quo warranto proceeding before the Court and certain impeachment in the House of Representatives — has been accepting unending invitations to speak in all sorts of public forums, and in the last one she raised the obvious question: If the President says he is not behind the twin moves to oust her, why was it Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer and a close ally of the President’s, who filed the quo warranto case against her?

Even in the polite Filipino she used, there was no mistaking the direct challenge she had laid at the President’s door: “Mr. President, kung sinabi mong wala kang kinalaman dito, paki paliwanag po bakit si SolGen Calida na nagrereport sa ’yo ang nag-file ng quo warranto?”

President Duterte took personal offense. In a mix of Filipino and English, he said: “You, Sereno, I told you I did not interfere. If you are insisting, then count me in. Count me in and I will egg Calida to do his best. I myself will do it, fight you.”

And: “Son of a bitch, I said I did not interfere. Tell her, let the world know. [Now] I will really get involved.”

And again: “I was telling you that I did not interfere. Now look what you’ve done, talking and talking, I will beat you up. I will help any investigator.”

And, one last time: “Now I will really get involved. I am asking Congress: What’s taking you too long? Do not create any crisis in this country. I will not hesitate to do what is to the best interest of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it.”

It is no secret that Sereno has been on the wrong side of the President’s personal ledger since she defended the independence of the judiciary when, at the start of the President’s signature campaign against drugs, he pinpointed judges he said were implicated in the illegal drug trade.

Speaking for the Supreme Court, Sereno calmly welcomed the President’s allegations but firmly insisted that the judiciary, being a branch of government designed to be independent of the two political branches, must follow its own procedures in determining the guilt or innocence of any accused judges. It was downhill from there.

There was even an exchange of views that led the President to exclaim, “Or would you rather I will declare martial law?”

Since August 2016, when the two heads of coequal branches of government conducted what amounted to a debate held through public forums or press conferences, Sereno had always sought not to directly challenge the President.

Her statements, while growing increasingly sharp, were still couched in polite diplomatic language.

Her speech last Monday directly challenging the President was a departure from previous practice — and it must have been deliberate.

The question then is: Why did Sereno seemingly sign her own death warrant, so to speak, by taking on the President?

Because it sharpens the issues facing Sereno. The impeachment complaint in Congress was of course a political stratagem; how else could an incoherent complaint filed by an incompetent lawyer survive a lengthy proceeding if not for the political will of the leaders running the proceeding?

Now the President himself has confirmed that he wants the House of Representatives to hurry up.

Sereno has reached the point where the only possibility of legal and constitutional salvation lies in an impeachment trial in the Senate.

By provoking the President, she has succeeded in forcing the hand of the House.

But why was the House taking so long, when impeachment is a foregone conclusion?

Because House leaders are waiting for the Supreme Court to take the unconstitutional option of unseating an official identified by the Constitution as removable only by impeachment through another means — the quo warranto case.

Sereno’s challenge has led the President to paint the justices into a corner. If they oust her, whatever reasons they use they will be seen, forever, as mere errand boys and girls, carrying out the command of an angry executive.

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