Posts Tagged ‘President Duterte’

Philippines: President Duterte Foes Amend Impeachment Complaint, Call Duterte Stance on China ‘Dereliction of Duty’

March 20, 2017
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano holds a copy of the impeachment complaint he filed against President Duterte at the House of Representatives on Thursday. photo
MANILA, Philippines — Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said that his group is considering  filing a supplemental complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly being subservient to China.
Alejano’s statement came after Duterte claimed last week that he allowed China to send survey ships to Benham Rise as part of an agreement.
The Department of Foreign Affairs last week said it was not aware of an agreement or policy over the Benham Rise region.
In an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source,’ Alejano said that the president’s action is a matter of national security since there is a conflict of interest with China on the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.
“We’re talking about national interest here, we’re talking about national security here because we have a clear conflict of interest in West Philippine Sea,” Alejano said.
China has repeatedly reiterated its position over the South China Sea, saying it has a historical and legal claim over the vast area.
An international tribunal however, ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China, saying that China’s “nine-dash line” claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, has no basis.
In a speech on Sunday, Duterte also said that he cannot stop China from setting up a reported monitoring station in the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.
“We cannot stop China from doing its thing. Hindi nga napara ng Amerikano,” Duterte said.
Duterte added that the country will lose all of its military and policemen if he declares war against China.
Alejano however, said that war is not the only solution, saying that the president could constantly raise issues in the West Philippines Sea.
“He’s not doing that because he’s afraid to offend China,” Alejano said.
He added that if Duterte said he cannot do anything to protect the country’s territory “then that’s dereliction of duty.”
 (Contains links to several previos articles on the South China Sea)

Philippine President Duterte Seeking Allies For At Sea Code of Conduct

March 20, 2017
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Duterte is welcomed by his Myanmar counterpart U Htin Kyaw at the Presidential Palace in the capital Naypyitaw yesterday. Duterte flew to Bangkok, Thailand last night. AP

MANILA, Philippines – In a bid to avoid tension in disputed areas in the South China Sea, President Duterte called for support for the approval of a Code of Conduct (COC) among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“It’s very important for China and the rest of the nations, especially the ASEAN, to come up with a Code of Conduct,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Myanmar on Sunday night.

The President also pitched for the COC while he was in Myanmar, which was part of the last leg of his introductory tour of Southeast Asia in the run-up to the ASEAN summit this November in Manila.

The Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) was signed by all members of ASEAN and China on Nov. 4, 2002. It lists the principles of self-restraint and non-militarization.

Duterte said he would invoke the arbitral ruling favoring Philippine claims if China starts gathering mineral resources from the disputed areas.

“Kung ang China kukuha na sila ng mga oil o uranium (If China starts getting oil or uranium) or whatever that’s inside the bowels of the sea, kalabitin ko sila (I will do something). Ako man rin ang may-ari niyan (We own it). You claim it by historical right, but by judgment I won and it’s mine,” he said.

But Duterte again admitted that the Philippines cannot stop China from building a radar station at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal because the Philippine military is no match for Chinese armed forces. And he cannot allow Filipino soldiers to go to disputed areas to avoid casualties.

“First hour pa lang ubos na ‘yun (they are finished already). We are not in a position to declare war,” he said.

“But I said to China that someday during my term as President, I will have to confront you about the arbitral ruling and that would be maybe, during the time when you begin to extract minerals and the riches of what is inside the bowels of the earth,” he added.

Duterte also claimed that the United States is also “scared” of China.

“Hindi nga natin mapigilan kasi hindi natin kaya ang China. Hindi nga mapigilan ng Amerikano. In the first place, sa umpisa pa lang niyan, hindi na pumunta ang Amerikano, natakot na (We cannot stop China. Even the Americans cannot stop it. In the first place, from the start America did not respond, they got scared right away),” he said.

He noted that what the Philippines has right now are only entitlements.

“Just entitlement, not territory. I said repeatedly it is not within our territorial waters. But what we are trying to achieve is that we are also recognized to own the entitlements,” he said.

“The structures have nothing to do with the economic zone. It might impede but actually it’s a construction that would disturb the navigation of the sea,” he added.

Despite China’s excessive claims, Duterte said he is working to further bolster economic and trade ties between Manila and Beijing.

Defend Panatag

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded Duterte that he has the constitutional duty to defend Panatag Shoal from Chinese incursion.

Carpio also formulated a five-point strategy on how the Duterte administration can respond to China’s reported plan to install a radar station in the disputed shoal.

The magistrate explained that Panatag is part of the national territory under Republic Act No. 9522 or Philippine Baselines Law and should be defended to “preserve for future generations of Filipinos their national patrimony in the West Philippine Sea.”

But he stressed that since the Philippines cannot match the military power of China, Duterte may opt for other actions to defend the country’s sovereignty over the shoal and fulfill his duty as president.

First, Carpio suggested that the government should file a strong formal protest against the Chinese building activity before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

“This is what the Vietnamese did recently when China sent cruise tours to the disputed Paracels,” he added.

The PCA ruled that Panatag Shoal is a “common fishing ground” of fishermen not only from the Philippines but also from China and other neighboring countries and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over South China Sea. The justice said the government could also send the Philippine Navy to patrol the shoal.

“If the Chinese attack Philippine Navy vessels, then invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty which covers any armed attack on Philippine navy vessels operating in the South China Sea,” he suggested.



South China Sea: China says It Will Build Upon Scarborough Shoal — Apparently Breaking a Promise made to President Dutere

March 17, 2017


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The top official in Sansha City that has administered China’s island claims since 2012 was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the northwestern Philippines. File photo

BEIJING – China plans to build the first permanent structure on a South China Sea shoal at the heart of a territorial dispute with the Philippines, in a move likely to renew concerns over Beijing’s robust assertions of its claims in the strategically crucial waterbody.

The top official in Sansha City that has administered China’s island claims since 2012 was quoted by the official Hainan Daily newspaper as saying that preparations were underway to build an environmental monitoring station on Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

The preparatory work on the stations and others on five other islands in the strategically vital waterway was among the government’s top priorities for 2017, Sansha Communist Party Secretary Xiao Jie was quoted as saying in an interview published in the paper’s Monday edition seen online yesterday in Beijing. No other details were available.

Beijing seized tiny, uninhabited Scarborough in 2012 after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels. Taiwan also includes the island within its South China Sea claims that largely overlap with those of China.

The other stations mentioned by Xiao would be situated on features in the Paracel island group that China has controlled since seizing parts of it away from Vietnam in 1974.

China’s construction and land reclamation work in the South China Sea have drawn strong criticism from the US and others, who accuse Beijing of further militarizing the region and altering geography to bolster its claims. China says the seven man-made islands in the disputed Spratly group, which it has equipped with airstrips and military installations, are mainly for civilian purposes and to boost safety for fishing and maritime trade.

Prior to the announcement, South China Sea tensions had eased somewhat since Beijing erupted in fury last year after a Hague-based arbitration tribunal ruled on a case filed by the Philippines. The verdict invalidated China’s sweeping territorial claims and determining that China violated the rights of Filipinos to fish at Scarborough Shoal.

China has since allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the shoal following President Duterte’s calls for closer ties between the countries, but it does not recognize the tribunal’s ruling as valid and insists it has historical claims to almost the entire South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year.

Scarborough has no proper land mass and any structure on it would likely have to be built on stilts. The shoal forms a triangle-shaped lagoon of rocks and reefs running for 46 kilometers, with its highest point just 1.8 meters (about 6 feet) above water at high tide. Known in Chinese as Huangyan Island, it lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, and about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southeast of China.

US diplomats have said privately that reclamation work on the shoal would be seen as crossing a red line because of its proximity to the main Philippine islands and the threat it could pose to US and Filipino military assets.

During his Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson compared China’s island-building and military deployments to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and suggested China’s access to the islands should not be allowed. The US says China has reclaimed more than 1,295 hectares (3,200 acres) of land in the area.

The topic is likely to be high on the agenda when Tillerson visits Beijing for talks with top officials on Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang was visiting the Philippines, just days after Duterte said Monday that he had told the military to assert Philippine ownership of a large ocean region off the country’s northeastern coast where Chinese survey ships were spotted last year, in a discovery that alarmed Philippine defense officials.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have long contested ownership of the South China Sea, which straddles one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and is believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and gas.

Also this week, the commander in chief of China’s navy, Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, noted improving relations in a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Rear Adm. Pham Hoai Nam, in Beijing.

China and Vietnam have had long-running territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Tensions spiked in 2014 after China parked an oil rig near Vietnam’s central coast, sparking mass protests in Vietnam.

The two navies and their countries should “together play a positive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Shen was quoted as saying by China’s defense ministry.



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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.


Philippines tells EU lawmakers to butt out after criticism of drugs war — “They should mind their own business.” — More than 8,000 people have been killed since Duterte took power on June 30

March 17, 2017


March 17, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines derided the European parliament on Friday for interfering in its affairs after it issued a resolution calling for the release of a top critic of the president’s war on drugs, which it said should target narcotics networks instead of users.

EU lawmakers on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning the “many extrajudicial killings” taking place in the Philippines and showing concern for the safety of Senator Leila de Lima, a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is being held on charges of involvement in the drugs trade.

“They should mind their own business,” said Salvador Panelo, chief presidential legal counsel.

“They cannot dictate on the Philippine government on what to do with its constituent facing criminal charges,” he said. “Nor can they can interfere with the judicial processes of our country.”

More than 8,000 people have been killed since Duterte took power on June 30 last year and delivered on his election promise to launch a merciless campaign against crime and drug users.

Police take responsibility for over 2,500 of those deaths during their anti-drugs operations, but reject allegations by local and international human rights groups that police are involved in thousands of mysterious murders of drug users.

The EU parliament’s resolution said it supported fighting drugs, but from the source, not the consumer.

It called on Manila to “prioritize” the fight against trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers.

Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, singled out the EU for criticism, rather than the parliament, and said it had been “spooked” into making “unwarranted threats” as a result of flawed information.

Duterte’s ally and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel said the EU parliament was trying to “micro manage” the Philippines’ internal affairs.

De Lima, a former justice minister, was last month arrested in her Senate office after being accused of accepting bribes from convicts engaged in the drug trade.

She says the charges are politically motivated and intended to stifle criticism of Duterte, whom she has called a “sociopathic serial killer”.

The foreign ministry also rejected the resolution and said European lawmakers had no right to comment on the judicial system of a sovereign state.

“The Philippine government asks the international community to refrain from influencing the outcome of a case that is rightly under the jurisdiction of Philippine local courts,” it said in a statement.

It said the government was “taking pains to investigate the veracity of these allegations of state-sponsored extrajudicial killings”.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty)


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa (R) during a press conference at the Malacanang palace in Manila on January 30, 2017. © NOEL CELIS / POOL / AFP

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Philippines: Filipino’s killed by police without a court warrant or hearing in President Duterte’s “war on drugs.”

Amnesty International accused the Filipino police of murdering defenceless people or paying others to kill as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war

Amnesty International accused the Filipino police of murdering defenceless people or paying others to kill as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war ©NOEL CELIS (AFP/File)

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”

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Philippines Policeman found tortured and strangled after some fellow police said he was involved in the illegal drug trade. Photo Credit Boy Cruz

 (December 23, 2016)

Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl looks like it has been put out with the trash…..

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 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.

 (November 30, 2016)


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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo, Jean-Marc Ferré

Summary executions of supposed drug dealers and other criminals have become a common occurence in recent weeks. The STAR/Joven Cagande, file

 (November 16, 2016)


 (August 10, 2016)

Davao City’s Ronald dela Rosa has been appointed to become the next chief of the Philippine National Police to lead President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s planned crackdown on illegal drugs. Facebook/Dela Rosa

Crime scene investigators examine a vehicle used by two drug suspects killed during an alleged shootout with officers along NIA Road in Quezon City on June 21, 2016. JOVEN CAGANDE/file

President Rodrigo Duterte's crusade against drug users and dealers is controversial


Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry's Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers burying cadavers in various stages of decomposition in a mass grave in Manila, after health officials recovered the cadavers from Henry’s Funeral Home. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.

A worker arranging cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila. Picture: AFP/ Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Health officials closed Henry's Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Health officials closed Henry’s Funeral Home after recovering at least 120 unclaimed and rotting cadavers in Manila. The city health department conducted a surprise raid after receiving complaints about a foul odour coming from the funeral parlour. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry's Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.

Workers carrying cadavers in various stages of decomposition at the morgue of Henry’s Funeral Homes in Manila, October 2016. Picture: AFP / Noel Celis.Source:AFP

Philippines — Editorial: Road to impeachment — At some point, an impeachment effort will prosper

March 17, 2017

 (The Philippine Star) |

Impeachment is a numbers game, as everyone knows in this country where a president, chief justice and ombudsman have been impeached.

Right now, President Duterte still has the numbers – 267 members out of 292 – in the House of Representatives, where all impeachment efforts are initiated. And the House super majority, consisting overwhelmingly of balimbings whose chief concern is self-preservation, isn’t about to impeach this President. At least not while he remains immensely popular, as indicated in surveys.

The only sure consequence of the complaint filed yesterday by party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ brethren in the Magdalo, is the inoculation of Du30 for a year from further impeachment efforts.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez accurately summed up the fate of Alejano’s impeachment complaint: “Everybody is entitled to his own stupidity.”

True enough, though mean – but it’s the mean season in our country.

*      *

At this point the only thing that might alter balimbing support is if lawmakers’ personal or family interests are threatened, or if there is a lobby as persuasive as the one that prompted the House ways and means committee to pass with impressive haste the bill imposing a two-tier excise tax on cigarettes.

No such factors are present in the impeachment complaint against Duterte.

Also, it’s early days yet – no longer a honeymoon period for a new president, but still too early for regime change, especially for someone who obtained a clear mandate in free elections.

Du30 hasn’t even fully repaid yet the political debts he incurred during the elections. Cabinet seats and other government posts await his allies who lost in the polls when the one-year prohibition on their appointment to public office lapses.

Except for the extrajudicial killings linked to Oplan Tokhang and Double Barrel (the original, not the reloaded version), the offenses cited in the impeachment complaint are enhanced versions of the accusations hurled against presidential candidate Duterte during last year’s vicious campaign.

Extrajudicial killings have always been raised against him, but candidate Duterte actually used the EJK issue as a campaign platform. He publicly and unequivocally promised to kill, kill, kill, using the same reasoning that he still invokes to explain the continuing deaths related to his war on illegal drugs.

Candidate Du30 was more incensed about the accusations of corruption, P2 billion in bank transactions and lying about his wealth. This is one of the issues cited in the impeachment complaint. His family members led by partner Cielito “Honeylet” Avanceña have been accused of questionable bank transactions.

Apart from the impeachment complaint, a new issue raised by Du30’s opponents is the Chinese incursion in Benham Rise in the Pacific Ocean, which the President indicated was mentioned if not cleared with him by his Chinese friends.

From the reactions of administration officials, it’s clear that the Chinese “research trip” in the Benham continental shelf, where the Philippines has sovereign rights recognized since 2012 by the United Nations, was not cleared with the defense or foreign affairs departments.

There is grumbling in the military / defense establishment in particular that Benham is shaping up to be the next Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, occupied and never relinquished by the Chinese even after the UN-backed Permanent Arbitration Court declared it a common fishing ground where no country can keep others away.

In Zambales and even Pangasinan, residents are lamenting that Panatag has been their traditional fishing ground for centuries.

Du30 can pass off as an oversight his failure to inform at least his defense chief about any agreement for a Chinese visit in Benham Rise. But he will still have some explaining to do in case inquiries on the Benham incident, planned in both chambers of Congress, push through.

*      *      *

Although Du30 enjoys a firm hold on the House, it would be prudent for him to consider how quickly political winds can change direction in this country.

He cannot afford to disregard the turbulence that has buffeted his administration so early in his term.

His daughter’s kumpareng sarado Joseph Estrada, now the godfather of Du30’s newest grandson Stonefish, can personally attest that reversal of political fortunes in this country can be brutally swift.

It’s useful to remember that Erap also won the presidency by a landslide, despite everything including the kitchen sink hurled at him during the bruising 1998 campaign.

There were stories, mostly accurate, about Erap’s extended family and his predilection for pricey Petrus wine, women, late-night carousing and high-stakes gambling. He was linked to the still unsolved disappearance of a PAGCOR employee who reportedly leaked a video showing Erap playing in a VIP casino pit accompanied by the redoubtable (up to now) gambling aficionado Atong Ang.

And yet Erap won, and enjoyed high ratings in the surveys for at least a year and a half. Pinoys, however, can only tolerate so much. Scandal after scandal chipped away at the popularity of the former movie superstar. In the end, Erap failed to serve even half of his term.

Dirty Rody seems to have keener survival instincts than “Erap para sa mahirap.” But if the ongoing turbulence, now including active destabilization (according to Du30 and some of his officials), doesn’t kick him out of office, it can make governance of this ungovernable land even more complicated.

Public service then suffers; business confidence is shaken and jobs and the economy are affected. Already, the employment picture this year isn’t encouraging.

Any sign of weakening public support for the President and his notoriously fickle super majority will smell blood.

That’s the time an impeachment effort will prosper.



Philippines: Backsliding tendencies toward strongman rule (Editorial)

February 23, 2017


To reclaim lost ground

/ 12:30 AM February 23, 2017

After allowing the surreptitious burial of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, publicly acknowledging the campaign contribution of the dictator’s eldest child, and introducing during his China visit the dictator’s son and namesake as possibly the next vice president of the land, President Duterte appears to have green-lighted the downplaying of the anniversary celebration of the Edsa revolt.

Proclamation No. 1224 designates Feb. 22-25 of every year as Edsa People Power Commemoration Week. Yet a Malacañang official says a simple ceremony will mark this year’s 31st anniversary, so people can “move on and not get stuck in the past.” But who’s getting stuck in the past?

Recent official moves recall the inglorious past when the strongman thought nothing of bending the law to suit his agenda or defanging Congress to silence contrary views. The threat by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to expel from their exalted posts in the House those who would not toe the line on the matter of the revival of the death penalty definitely echoed Marcos’ dictatorial ways. That hero’s burial served to exonerate the strongman as well as his family, and to give the lie to the very reasons behind the display of people power on Edsa that toppled the dictatorship and sent the former first family packing. And the seeming laying of the groundwork to get the alleged pork barrel scam queen off the hook presages a state of affairs when the high and mighty got away with murder, as it was during the martial law era.

These backsliding tendencies toward strongman rule are the very arguments why Edsa should be marked properly, even ardently. History might be written by the victors, but it is now being revised and altered drastically by politicians and social media trolls who peddle fake news and alternative facts to advance their interests.

“Moving on and forgetting may leave us in danger of making the same mistakes all over again,” warned Vice President Leni Robredo, who underscored the importance of reverence for the past to “ensure quality of direction in our future.”

Indeed, as the group that names itself The Power of We said in its call for a proper celebration of Edsa at the People Power Monument on Feb. 25, this is one huge history class, especially for millennials too young to remember the events that led to the inspiring exercise of people power in 1986.

It bears recalling that this bloodless revolt gained for the Philippines the world’s respect and admiration, for showing that peaceful change was possible. It inspired similar people-fueled solidarity in shackled nations and literally brought down walls, such as the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Celebrating Edsa acknowledges the sacrifice of countless men and women who laid down their lives in resisting the Marcos dictatorship. While it is true that the ensuing years amply demonstrated that the mere changing of the guard was not sufficient to transform Philippine politics, Edsa remains a defining moment when Filipinos showed a capability to transcend differences to get together for decisive, collective action.

The highest outcome of this “near-miraculous four-day phenomenon … was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to infuse our people with a new purpose,” according to Edsa player and former president Fidel V. Ramos. “The Spirit of Edsa compels our unswerving opposition to injustice, greed, corruption and complacency.”

With ominous dark clouds looming anew, we must mark Edsa with a purpose and take rare comfort in its great achievement: the return of democracy. At the same time, we must mark it with renewed resolve because this democratic space is again at risk from dark forces.

Downplaying Edsa and limiting its commemoration within the confines of a military camp means isolating it from the source of its power—ordinary Filipinos, the sort who kept vigil on the great highway to deliver a message that still resounds today: Enough!

It’s time to reclaim lost ground, to prevent the return of forces exorcised 31 years ago and on the verge of resurgence.

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Philippine Vice President, 103 House reps urge President Duterte to resume talks with communists

February 9, 2017
y: – Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 09:40 PM February 09, 2017
The plenary hall of the House of Representatives

The plenary hall of the House of Representatives. (Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Updated: 11:43 p.m., Feb. 9, 2017

Vice President Leni Robredo and more than a third of the members of the House of Representatives on Thursday asked President Duterte not to waste the gains so far made in peace talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and urged him to return to the negotiating table.

In a resolution filed by the militant Makabayan bloc on Thursday, 103 lawmakers, including three Deputy Speakers, appealed to the President to consider “the unprecedented and significant advances made on the substantive agenda of the negotiations for the benefit of the Filipino people.”

The resolution was authored by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.

It was supported by at least 96 other lawmakers – 30 members of party-list groups, 42 representatives from Luzon, 11 from the Visayas, and 20 from Mindanao.

The resolution said it would be a shame to end the peace negotiations considering the “remarkable and unparalleled headway” that had been made.

“Terminating the same would only put to waste the unprecedented, positive and substantial gains the peace talks have reached,” it added.

Rome agreement

In their third round of formal talks held in Rome late last month, the two sides agreed in principle on free land distribution to farmers and farm workers and support for federalism being pushed by the President. They also planned to discuss a possible bilateral truce later this month.

However, the communist rebels last week announced they were terminating their unilateral ceasefire this Friday, accusing the government of reneging on a promise to release hundreds of political prisoners and of violating its own truce.

People’s desire

In an immediate and angry response, Mr. Duterte ended the government’s unilateral ceasefire and terminated the talks, which he said would not be reopened “unless there is a compelling reason that will benefit the nation.”

The NDFP has not formally withdrawn from the talks. It said the negotiations could continue even without a ceasefire.

“It is highly imperative that this Congress hear the Filipino people’s desire to support the resumption of the peace negotiations. It is just and lasting peace itself that is the very compelling reason to continue the peace negotiations,” the lawmakers said in their resolution.

Robredo said the two sides should pursue the peace negotiations.

“It’s sad that when our hopes were high that something good would come out of the peace talks, these things happened,” she told a news conference. “I hope both parties will not stop trying to find common ground.”

Robredo said the government’s decision to cancel the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) was a major setback to the talks.

“The Jasig cancellation is a big deal in the sense that the next question is, since it has been canceled, it seems like you are removing your recognition of them (NDFP) as the ones who should be negotiating,” she said.

“The question is: Is the cancellation tantamount to the termination of talks? I hope not,” Robredo said.

Safe conduct

The cancellation of the Jasig strips NDFP negotiators and the staff of their safe conduct, clearing the way for their arrest.

The government has launched a hunt for rebel leaders who had participated in the talks.

Episcopalian Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of the peace group Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao, also said talks should continue even without a truce.

The experience under the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations has shown that it is possible for both sides to talk while fighting.

“We believe it is still possible for the negotiations to continue even if armed skirmishes will serve as a thorny backdrop to the talks,” Calang said.

He said it was important that “there is no cessation of the talks even if it seems difficult at the moment to realize a cessation of hostilities.”

Peter Laviña, a former spokesperson for Mr. Duterte and one of his ardent supporters, said the President was “justified” in ending the talks after rebels killed three soldiers in Bukidnon last week, but the two sides have to resume the talks.

“We have to end the internal conflict, or our country will not move forward,” said Laviña, who now heads the National Irrigation Administration. —With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jigger Jerusalem, Allan Nawal, Frinston Lim And Williamor Magbanua /ATM

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Philippine President Duterte wants non-adversarial ties with Catholic church after Bishop calls Duterte’s drug war a “bringer of death”

January 26, 2017


In this Sept. 16, 2016 file photo, President Rodrigo Duterte prays during the Mass at a wedding at San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila.

PPD/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — He has spewed vulgar attacks against bishops, accused priests of immorality and described the Catholic Church as “full of s***” but President Duterte wants a “non-adversarial” relationship with the religious group, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the president is open to criticisms “if it were not adversarial coming from a moral high horse.”

“Basically what he (Duterte) is saying is, ‘Hey, we are all sinners here, right?'” Abella said at a press briefing at Malacañan Palace.

“We can all cooperate in the work but not from a place where somebody else is saying, ‘I’m better than you,’ ‘I am holier than you.’ That seems to be where he’s coming from. That he would like more collegiality, that he would appreciate more collegiality between institutions,” he added.

Abella said there is no need to have an adversarial relationship because “we are all referring to simply one country” and “are all building up one nation.”

The Catholic Church has raised concerns over the spate of killings linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and has urged authorities to promote the sanctity of life.

The remarks drew the ire of the president, who fought back by enumerating the corruption and sex scandals involving the clergy. Duterte, however, went beyond the scandals and accused priests of having bad breath and having dirty hands when giving communion.

Despite Duterte’s personal attacks and angry rhetoric, Abella said the president does not intend to silence the church.

“Like I said, he (Duterte) is open to criticism. But we do not approach the situation at hand from an adversarial (position),” the president’s spokesman said.

“We are not enemies. We can be critical of one another, but we are not enemies. We only have one nation. So we’re both interested in doing these things but we cannot do this from an adversarial position.”

Asked if it was necessary for the president to use personal tirades – like accusing a bishop of having two wives – to deliver his point, Abella said: “I don’t know if you call it necessary but it certainly adds color to the conversation, right?”

“But I mean, no, I mean, he’s not trying to be colorful, that’s what I’m saying. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying that he’s bringing out certain aspects of the ‘dialogue’ between the two of them that really, from the President’s point of view, don’t approach me from a moral high horse, moral high horse,” he added.

“He’s not trying to silence them. He’s just trying to say, as far as we can see, to have a more collegial (conversation). Let’s talk as co-equals.”

Duterte has accused former Novaliches bishop Teodoro Bacani of having two wives just like him but this was denied by the retired prelate. The president made the accusation after Bacani described the government’s anti-drug war as a “bringer of death.”

Abella said church leaders could have sent out feelers to Duterte instead of criticizing the president in public.

When asked if the president is willing to make the first move towards a non-adversarial relationship with the Church, Abella said: “The one who seems to have moral ascendancy, who says it more, should be the one to reach out, you know.”

“Sabi ko nga, wala namang matigas na tinapay sa mainit na kape hindi ba. So mag-usap tayo (No bread stays hard when soaked in coffee. So let’s talk),” he added.


EDITORIAL – ‘Misreporting’ (Philippine Star)

January 17, 2017

Media groups trotted out yesterday video and tape recordings to prove that indeed President Duterte had threatened to declare martial law if the drug menace became exceptionally “virulent.” Malacañang officials, for their part, insisted that the President’s words had been “misreported” and journalists had again missed the context and nuance of his public pronouncement made over the weekend in Davao City.

Yesterday Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II added to the voices of administration officials who said the President did not intend to declare martial law. For all his talk about emulating his favorite predecessor Ferdinand Marcos and imposing military rule, President Duterte had previously said he considered it “stupid” and unnecessary to declare martial law at this time. He should just stick to that message to avoid seeing his statements misreported.

Amid the bickering, several senators gave a sound advice yesterday: the President should just stop talking about martial law. In many of his speeches, President Duterte has been rambling on about his options in attaining his objective of eliminating all drug dealers in the country, down to the last man and woman. And he keeps mentioning martial law as a weapon against criminality and general lawlessness. Journalists simply pick up the statements.

Every utterance of the head of government is news, whether it is said openly in public, whispered off-mike, texted, tweeted or posted on Facebook, as US president-elect Donald Trump is finding out. President Duterte should learn from the travails of the incoming US leader whom he considers a friend.

ay be familiar with the wartime admonition that loose lips sink ships. When one is prone to rambling in public, leaving a wide room for different interpretations, there is virtue in circumspection. If President Duterte sincerely believes imposing martial law is needless and stupid, he should just shut up about it.

 (Philippine Star,

“President Duterte sees a loophole in the current Constitution that is supposed to have safeguards against the declaration of martial law in the country.”

 (December 29, 2016)

 (Duterte to declare martial law only if needed, Philippine Inquirer, December 28, 2016 )

Philippine President Promises “Comfortable, not great life”

December 31, 2016
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President Duterte salutes after placing a wreath at the Rizal monument during a ceremony to mark the 120th death anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal in Manila yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – The country “will not be very great” under his watch, but life will be “comfortable” for many Filipinos, President Duterte told descendants of Dr. Jose Rizal during the rites commemorating his death yesterday.

“It will be a hard time (for the corrupt). It will be adjustments for everybody, and I assure you, we will not be very great, but we’d have a comfortable life,” Duterte told some of Rizal’s descendants gathered for the commemoration ceremonies at his monument in Rizal Park.

Duterte led the formal honor rites, including the raising of the flag and laying of a wreath at the foot of the Rizal monument.

Instead of the usual speech extoling the virtues and sacrifices of the national hero, Duterte moved around to talk with members of the Rizal family, including former beauty queen Gemma Cruz-Araneta.

Accused of leading a rebellion against the Spanish colonizers, Rizal was sentenced to die by musketry in 1896. His execution at the Bagumbayan field that now bears his name is believed to have sparked greater outrage against Spain and led to the Philippine Revolution in 1898.

In a written Rizal Day message, Duterte enjoined Filipinos to make sacrifices if necessary in order for the country to attain true independence.

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In the same message, Duterte lamented how independence has remained elusive for the Filipino people even after the death of Rizal exactly 120 years ago.

“We are fortunate recipients of the fruit of Rizal’s sacrifices, the freedom that he fought for and the self-identity and honor that he strongly believed we ought to defend,” he said.

“Beyond his prodigious and various talents, Rizal is best honored when we regard him as a beacon and moral compass in these challenging and perilous times,” Duterte pointed out.

“As in his time, our country is still fighting for independence. But today, we are fighting for freedom from the bondage of poverty, crime, illegal drugs and corruption,” he pointed out.

“Indeed, they are our present enemies; they are the modern invaders that subjugate our people’s hearts, minds and spirits,” he maintained.

Addressing Rizal’s descendants, Duterte said seeing Filipinos enslaving fellow Filipinos really made him very angry.

“We are here also, idiots of this country are making slaves of our brothers. And they get into the attitude… slavery to a chemical,” he said, apparently referring to illegal drugs.

“Hindi ako galit, talagang galit ako (I’m not just angry, I’m really angry),” he added.

Duterte called on all Filipinos to show the same passion and nationalism Rizal had shown during his time.

“Each of us should manifest the same fervor and dedication that moved and motivated Jose Rizal to action. Let us therefore emulate the traits of Rizal, let us be willing heroes – patriotic, faithful and loyal to our Motherland,” he said.

“This day of commemoration is a day of grateful remembrance of his martyrdom so that we may also awaken and become our own heroes – committed to advocate good governance and uphold the rule of law; steadfast to end criminality and all forms of government corruption, and compassionate to the plight of the poor and less privileged,” Duterte added.

The President assured Rizal’s descendants that the country would be in good hands as he battles corruption and illegal drugs.

He added, however, there would be sacrifices as the nation continues its journey to development and stability.

“As our nation undergoes a significant phase of social development and economic growth, a period of national unity that calls for cooperation, patience and sacrifice of our people is necessary,” he stressed.

ISIS threat

In the same commemoration rites,  President Duterte expressed his concern before guests from the diplomatic community, including US Ambassador Sung Kim and Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev, over the ISIS threat in the country.

“Anyway, in the Middle East… really, there is truth that ISIS – since it becomes a chapter in this part of the world… another trouble…we hope that we can be at peace,” he said.

Turning to the US ambassador, Duterte said he was thankful for his and the others’ presence in the Rizal Day rites.

He also told Kim that he would like to have another meeting with him to talk about more important matters.

“We’d like that. Nice to meet you, Mr. President. Hope to see you,” Sung replied.

Christopher Go, special assistant to the President, was spotted speaking to the US ambassador. Go said Kim has expressed his intent to find the most appropriate time for the meeting with Duterte. After the Rizal Day event, Duterte flew to Leyte to check on the condition of those injured in last Wednesday’s blast.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana downplayed reports of plot to oust the President, supposedly being hatched by former US ambassador Philip Goldberg.

“Hindi totoo iyon. Hindi ako naniniwala doon (That’s not true. I don’t believe that). The US would not do that. Hindi ako naniniwala doon,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Rizal Day commemoration.