Posts Tagged ‘President Duterte’

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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Human Rights Watch: Don’t Be Fooled By Philippines President Duterte’s Distraction Strategy — Demand Accountability

January 23, 2018
Human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Human Rights Watch says
In this Sept. 6, 2016 photo, police inspect one of two unidentified drug suspects after being shot by police as they tried to evade a checkpoint in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. AP/Aaron Favila, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano’s accusations against New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a manifestation of the Philippine government’s distraction strategy, the human rights watchdog said Tuesday.

On Saturday, Cayetano accused HRW of “misleading the international community” after reporting that the human rights situation in the Philippines is at its worst since the time of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The DFA chief also accused the human rights observer of politicising the drug war issue and has not done any research or investigation on the human rights situation in the country.

READ: Philippines in ‘worst human rights crisis’ since Marcos

Phelim Kine, deputy director of HRW’s Asia Division, said that the “groundless” accusations of Cayetano come as no surprise as he is President Rodrigo Duterte’s “chief denier” of the evidence linking the war on drugs to extrajudicial killings.

“They are the latest manifestation of the government’s distraction strategy that appears aimed to sideline domestic and international demands for accountability for what nongovernmental organizations and media outlets estimate is a drug war death toll of more than 12,000 people over the past 18 months,” Kine said.

Cayetano’s declaration before the United Nations General Assembly that the drug war was a necessary instrument to protect the human rights of Filipinos was “demonstrably false,” Kine added.

“It also airbrushed Watch and investigative journalists demonstrating that many of those deaths amount to extrajudicial killings by Philippine National Police personnel and their agents,” Kine said.

The HRW deputy director also noted that Cayetano has not called for justice for the thousands of deaths linked to the anti-drug campaign.

“The government has made no genuine efforts to seek accountability for drug war abuses. There have been no successful prosecutions or convictions of police implicated in the killings, despite compelling evidence,” Kine added.

Kine stressed that there is a need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings to expose the extent of the abuses in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign. The investigation would also determine possible prosecutions for crimes against humanity.

In its World Report 2018 released last week, HRW noted that Duterte’s drug war has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives since June 2016.

“President Rodrigo Duterte has plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s,” the report read.

The human rights watchdog cited extrajudicial killings, attacks on human rights defenders, children’s rights, press freedom, HIV epidemic, sexual orientation and gender identity, terrorism and counterterrorism and relations with international actors as factors in making the assessment.





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
One of the fatalities, who has yet to be identified, was killed in an alleged shootout with police officers in Guiguinto, Bulacan on June 16. AP/Aaron Favila, file

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President Rodrigo Duterte and PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa. PhilStar photo

Jee Ick-joo, a South Korean businessman in the Philippines, was abducted by police from his home in October. It took his wife, Choi Kyung-jin, three months to learn his fate. Video: Eva Tam; photo: Jes Aznar for The Wall Street Journal

Philippines: Speaker of The House Slows Down “Charter Change” Expected To Change Government Toward Federalism

January 22, 2018
“My target is to hold it during the barangay elections so we can save on funds. But if, for example, we are not able to comply with the requirements of the law in time, then we will adjust (the timetable),” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said. Photo

MANILA, Philippines — In a change of tack, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday stepped back from the House of Representatives’ original plan to hold a plebiscite simultaneous with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on May 14.

Alvarez also said he was just joking when he warned congressmen and local executives that the House would cut off funding for those who refused to support the shift to federalism.

In an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel, he said the House is open to moving the plebiscite – where Filipino voters will be asked whether they accept federalism or not – from this year to the May 2019 midterm senatorial elections.

“My target is to hold it during the barangay elections so we can save on funds. But if, for example, we are not able to comply with the requirements of the law in time, then we will adjust (the timetable),” Alvarez said.

The House, he added, is flexible enough to also move its timetable to 2019 if other unforeseen circumstances cause delays.

But Alvarez is unflinching on the possibility that the House could convene into a constituent assembly and propose changes to the Constitution even if the Senate refuses to participate or insists on voting separately for the purpose.

“It is very clear: ‘The Congress upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.’ Of all its members mean all of us,” he said, citing Article 17, Section 1, Paragraph 1 of the 1987 Constitution.

He reminded the public that federalism was one of the four key campaign promises of President Duterte, three of which Alvarez said are already being carried out: the campaigns against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.

“There is substantial compliance on the three. For me, this federalism is an advocacy of the party, of PDP-Laban. It has long been there. It was there even during the time of Manong Nene Pimentel. It has been the advocacy of the party,” Alvarez said of the former Senate president.

He clarified though that even if the House could on its own convene as a constituent assembly, its leaders prefer that the Senate join them in the process. He added that he is yet to talk with Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III about the issue.

“We are not required to go on a joint session,” Alvarez said, noting that senators are necessarily included in the bicameral nature of Congress and that it would be up to the senators to attend the House-initiated con-ass or not.

“Remember, we are not passing an ordinary law, we are proposing to amend the Constitution. The proposal need not go through the President. There is no requirement for the President to sign it,” he added.

The PDP-Laban stalwart and leader of the 292-man House believes that the only requisite Congress has to comply with is the three-fourths provision of the Constitution.

He explained that the House committee on constitutional amendments led by southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado held several public consultations across the country since 2016 and has already brought the issue to the plenary.

“Now, it would be up to the people to approve or disapprove our proposal. We don’t have the luxury of time,” Alvarez said, adding that the House will vote “within the year” because of the constitutional provision that states “any amendment shall be held not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition.”

Just joking

Alvarez also took a 180-degree turn on his threat to declare a “zero budget” for local officials who will not toe the federalism line of the House of Representatives, saying it was only meant as a “joke.”

“When you give a speech, you also have to crack a joke. That was it. I am not sure why they considered it seriously,” he told Davila in Filipino.

He was earlier quoted during a speech in Iloilo City where he was said to have threatened to give zero budget to provinces not supportive of the administration’s push to shift to a federal form of government.

Alvarez was in Iloilo last week to administer, as secretary-general of the ruling party, the oath of local officials led by Gov. Arthur Defensor who joined the ruling PDP-Laban party in simple rites held at the Pototan Coliseum.

While his threat was meant to be a joke, he clarified that he could do it. He cited as example the Makabayan bloc and the so-called Magnificent 7 who got zero allocations for their districts and constituents.

In Negros Occidental, former governor Rafael Coscolluela asked: “Who gave the Speaker the right to treat the budget like it was his money? This is nothing but undisguised blackmail.”

But 3rd District Rep. Alfredo Benitez defended Alvarez, saying the latter has the “prerogative or right to decide on who will be given or not.”

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia also do not see the need for a threat as they both support the shift to a federal government.

“It’s time we make the Constitution dynamic and responsive to the call of the times,” said Leonardia who has called for several seminars to educate people about the proposal.

Marañon recalled that he has always been for federalism—the reason he did not support the Constitution adopted during the term of former president Corazon Aquino.

“I was for federalism but people did not listen to us then. Cory was a very popular president,” he said.

Benitez and Rep. Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list also debunked accusations that Charter change is being railroaded in the House of Representatives, calling this “unfair.”

They reasoned that the fact that consultations were made across the country to ensure that people’s sentiments are heard proves that the House is not railroading the move.

Benitez added that the government must first explain the reason and the purpose of the shift so they will be informed. Constituents also need to know how the shift could benefit them in the long run.

“If we can answer that, and people see it as a better form of government, maybe that is the proper time we have to push it,” he said.

He added that the majority in the practice of a democratic institution would always win. – Gilbert Bayoran

Related video:

Philippines: Easier, more beneficial for Congress to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution than to change the entire form of government — “Many of us do not have a full grasp of federalism”

January 14, 2018


The senators stressed they are open to amending the Constitution, including its political provisions, and were only pointing out the complexity of changing the form of government as well as the many questions from the public that need to be answered by federalism advocates. Photo

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) – January 15, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — It would be easier for Congress to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution than to rewrite major sections in the Charter that may require extending the term of officials so the country may shift to a federal system, senators said yesterday.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, made the remarks as the panel prepared to conduct a hearing on Wednesday on various Charter change (Cha-cha) bills.

The senators stressed they are open to amending the Constitution, including its political provisions, and were only pointing out the complexity of changing the form of government as well as the many questions from the public that need to be answered by federalism advocates.

Sotto said relaxing the restrictive economic provisions to attract foreign investments was easy using a formula whereby the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” is simply included in the provisions.

The phrase, Sotto said, does not pave the way for a rewrite of the Constitution, but allows Congress to make amendments to give the country some flexibility or take advantage of economic opportunities whenever they arise.

“Prudence dictates that federalism will require a long debate because many of us do not have a full grasp of federalism,” Sotto told radio station dzBB.

He said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s timetable of holding a plebiscite for the proposed amended Constitution to coincide with the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections this May can be doable if only the economic provisions will be touched.

“We can’t promise that (timetable of Alvarez) if we will discuss federalism and the parliamentary system in amending the Constitution—but let’s see,” Sotto said.

Sotto also said Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposal for the Senate to convene as a Charter-amending body to write the proposed amendments and submit the same to the House – just like approving a bill – could speed up the process.

He said senators from the majority and minority bloc are amenable to proposals for Congress to convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to draft the amendments as long as the voting of the Senate and the House will be separate.

He said among the turn-offs for senators, and the general public as well, on the issue of Charter change is if the House insists on a joint voting in a con-ass; if there are term extensions, and if the scheduled elections are cancelled.

Pangilinan said to provide direction in the Charter change hearing, the committee would first determine if there is a need to amend the Constitution; which provisions should be amended and the mode of amending the Charter.

He said he is also determined to conduct the hearing with transparency and a clear timetable to finish the deliberations even as warned against pressuring or rushing the panel to suit some vested interests.

“We want everything in the open and clear, all voices will be heard, and we’ll also not allow any railroading or forcing of the issue—but we’ll oppose any unnecessary delay,” he added.

New charter to abolish OVP?

However, the proposed new constitution reportedly aims to abolish the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in 2019 and allow President Duterte to run for reelection in 2022.

Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Neri Colmenares yesterday warned that under the proposed constitution that will allow the shift to federal form of government being pushed by the ruling PDP-Laban, “the OVP will be abolished by 2019 if they succeed in having the new constitution ratified during the 2019 elections.”

“Vice President Leni Robredo will be ousted from her office long before her term ends in 2022,” he added.

Colmenares also said the draft constitution “does not disqualify” Duterte from seeking re-election in 2022, when his six-year term expires.

“While PDP-Laban may argue that they will not apply this to Vice President Robredo, this is not expressed in PDP-Laban Constitution since they have refused to divulge their transitory provision,” he said.

Colmenares cited Article VII, Section 7 of the proposed PDP-Laban constitution, which provides that it is is the “Senate President and if incapacitated, the Speaker who shall succeed President Duterte in case of death, or removal from office.”

“The Vice President is not mentioned at all in the line of succession because, upon ratification of the new Constitution, her office no longer exists,” he added.

Anticipating criticisms from PDP-Laban stalwarts and other allies of Duterte, Colmenares said that “even if Robredo is allowed to stay until 2022, she will be a lame-duck vice president who is not even listed in the line of succession to President Duterte.”

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, an administration lawmaker, advised Duterte’s critics in Congress to “show respect” to the majority of legislators who gave their unwavering support to the administration.

“I hope that the 20 percent who disapproved of our President’s actions would just keep their peace since the overwhelming majority of 80 percent have already spoken and approved of President Duterte’s brand of leadership,” Barbers said.

“In a democracy which these critics keep on mentioning, it is always majority wins.

“It is quite funny and pathetic that the 20 percent are making so much noise while the 80 percent are simply smiling and watching in great content the President’s game-changing policies and unorthodox leadership,” he added.

The OVP has been a feature of the republic for over 80 years since it was created under the 1935 Constitution. And the only time since then that the Philippines had no vice president was during the Marcos dictatorship.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president is barred from seeking reelection to prevent abuse of power and dictatorship.

Why abolish the OVP?

Robredo’s camp questioned the motives of Duterte’s allies in abolishing the OVP.

Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s legal adviser, said he does not see a link between the proposed shift to a federal system of government and the removal of the OVP in the Charter.

“The current proposals to revise the Constitution are supposedly anchored on a drive to promote and institute a federal system of government. The question therefore is, how does abolishing the OVP relate to the establishment of federalism?” Gutierrez said.

“Or is the abolition already in service of some other, unstated, agenda?” he added.

Earlier, Robredo, who chairs the formerly ruling Liberal Party, opposed term extension for elected officials and the no-election (“no-el”) scenario next year, which are being floated by allies of Duterte in line with the shift to a federal system of government.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had said it is possible that midterm elections next year would be canceled should the government shift to a federal system.

Duterte: No term extension for me

Duterte has allayed fears that efforts to amend the Constitution would be used to perpetuate himself in power.

“There will be no suspension of elections and there will be no term extension especially for me,” the President told MindaNews in an interview last Friday.

Duterte is also waiting for the draft of the committee he formed to propose amendments to the Constitution but he has not named its members “because it is not yet time to mention them.”

“I read one by one their bio data, or what you would call resume,” Duterte said.

Duterte said Congress may summon the members of the consultative committee to present their proposals upon the resumption of sessions after Holy Week.

“Nandyan na yan. (It’s there). Then by the time they (Congress) are ready to resume (sessions)… they (committee members) can be called by Congress, each one of them and every one of them to present the structure, whatever,” the President told MindaNews.

In 2016, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 10 creating a 25-member consultative committee that would review the provisions of the 1987 Constitution. In the order, Duterte said there is a need to review the Constitution “to ensure that it is truly reflective of the needs, ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people.”

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is set to kick off protests today against the planned Cha-cha by Duterte’s lawmakers.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary-general, said they will start the first of a widespread campaign against Cha-cha tomorrow afternoon at the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

Reyes said in a statement that they are against the moves to amend the 1987 Constitution via constituent assembly as these “are patently self-serving and will have no benefit for the people.” With Delon Porcalla, Helen Flores, Alexis Romero, Romina Cabrera




Filipino officials: Chinese navy stalked Philippine area — Philippine Government not telling all they know?

August 22, 2017
 / 08:04 PM August 22, 2017

In this Friday, April 21, 2017 photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, two Filipino security officials said China has deployed its navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them in an emerging territorial issue that the government stated was quickly resolved. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines- China recently deployed navy and coast guard ships in a cluster of uninhabited sandbars in the disputed South China Sea amid concerns that the Philippines may build structures on them, two Filipino security officials said Tuesday. The government, however, said the issue was quickly resolved amid the Asian neighbors’ friendlier ties.

Two senior Philippine security officials told The Associated Press that three Chinese navy ships, a coast guard vessel and 10 fishing boats began keeping watch on Sandy Cay on Aug. 12 after a group of Filipino fishermen were spotted on the sandbars. The Filipinos eventually left but the Chinese stayed on.

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The two spoke on condition of anonymity, saying only the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila has been authorized to publicly discuss issues related to the country’s territorial disputes with China. The foreign affairs department, however, has in recent days refused to divulge details of the situation at Sandy Cay, a cluster of three sandbars.

A senior Philippine diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly, said China “is concerned that we will build” structures on the sandbars. Chinese and Philippine officials have quietly worked to resolve the issue in recent days, said the diplomat, who is involved in the talks.

A government security report seen by the AP says Chinese navy ships with bow numbers 504, 545 and 168, a Chinese coast guard ship with bow number 46115, and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay. Its nearest sandbar is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu’s southwest coast, the report said.

Philippine troops and villagers based at Thitu call it Pag-asa -Tagalog for hope – while the Chinese call the island Zhongye Dao.

The Chinese military presence near Thitu sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island’s 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters.

“In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China,” Carpio said in a statement over the weekend.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have the constitutional duty to defend and protect Philippine territory.

“The very least that they could do now is to vigorously protest this invasion of Philippine territory by China,” Carpio said. “If both are courageous, they should send a Philippine navy ship to guard Sandy Cay and if the Chinese navy ships attack the Philippine navy vessel, they should invoke the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The 1951 treaty binds the allies to come to the aid of each other when attacked.

Cayetano, however, told reporters Tuesday that the issue has been diplomatically resolved and denied that China has invaded Sandy Cay.

“Let me assure you, there is no more problem in that area,” Cayetano told reporters, declining to provide details. “But it is not true that there was an attempt to invade or seize it.”

Much-friendlier ties between Manila and Beijing under Duterte have allowed both governments to manage their disputes better. “If our relationship with our neighbors isn’t this good, the situation in the West Philippine Sea will be much, much worse,” Cayetano said, using the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Duterte told reporters over dinner late Monday that he has been assured by China’s ambassador in Manila, Zhao Jianhua, and the Chinese foreign ministry that Beijing has no plans to occupy or build structures on Sandy Cay.

“They’re not invading,” ABS-CBN TV network quoted Duterte as saying. “They are just there but they are not claiming anything.”

One of the Philippine security officials said the military has been monitoring the Chinese presence at Sandy Cay but added it was difficult to check if Beijing’s ships were still there due to bad weather in the remote offshore region.

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Deepsea Metro I

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Chinese H-6 bomber

 (Is the Philippines just a pawn for China now?)

The ONLY TRULY JOYFUL FACES at the ASEAN conference were provided by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.  (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)



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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 chose to ignore international law.