Posts Tagged ‘President Rodrigo Duterte’

Philippine President: Why Not Make The Philippines a Province of China?

February 19, 2018


The President says negotiations for joint exploration with China are underway. He suggests a sharing scheme of two-thirds for the Philippines and one-third for China.

By Pia Renata
Updated 9:35 PM, February 19, 2018

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NOT A TARGET. President Rodrigo Duterte says China’s military buildup in the West Philippine Sea targets the United States and not the Philippines. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte jokingly suggested to China that it make the Philippines part of its territory, as a province.

“Kung gusto ‘nyo, gawin ‘nyo na lang kaming province, parang Fujian (If you want, just make us a province, like Fujian),” said Duterte on Monday, February 19, during the anniversary of the Chinese Business Club.

“Province of Philippines, Republic of China,” he added, to applause from his audience of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.

Duterte made the joke after saying Chinese President Xi Jinping himself promised not to build any structures on Scarborough Shoal.

“They assured us they will not build anything there in Scarborough Shoal,” said Duterte.

“Maniwala kayo kasi ‘yan ang commitment sa akin ni China. Si Xi Jinping mismo nagsabi and he’s a man of honor.” (Believe it because that is China’s commitment to me. Xi Jinping himself said it and he’s a man of honor.)

Duterte added that negotiations for joint exploration between China and the Philippines are underway, even mentioning the possible sharing scheme between the two nations.

“Kasi ‘yung oil, joint (exploration) naman, ‘yung pinakamarami. Two-thirds sa amin, one-third sa inyo,” said the President. (Because the oil, it’s joint exploration, we will have the biggest share. Two-thirds will be ours, one-third yours.)

Military bases

Duterte also admitted in his speech that China is building “military bases” in the West Philippine Sea but said it would be silly for anyone to think China will use such military assets against the Philippines.

“Military bases, I must admit it, but is it intended for us? You must be joking. It’s not intended for us,” he said. (READ: Roque: One day, we’ll thank China for artificial islands)

China is building up its defense capability against just the United States, according to Duterte.

“It’s really intended for those who China thinks will destroy them and that is America, hindi tayo kasali diyan (we aren’t part of that),” said the President.

“There’s negotiations for joint exploration. Can you beat that? Hayaan mo missile-missile diyan, hindi para sa atin ‘yan (Just ignore the missiles there, it’s not intended for us),” he added.

Duterte also downplayed China’s successful bid to name 5 undersea features in Philippine Rise (Benham Rise). But he maintained that if the continental shelf is found to be resource-rich, the Philippines would claim the resources, such as oil. (READ: No bad faith on part of China in naming PH Rise features – Roque)

“If they say there is a lot of oil there, fine…Remember, that is ours. The whole of the [South] China Sea, you have already claimed it…but this Philippine Rise is ours,” said Duterte.

He repeated that any future scientific research conducted by a foreign entity in Philippine Rise will have to be cleared by the military first. (READ: PH can ban China in Benham, but not other nations – Carpio)

“If the military says it’s good, it can be done, I’ll give you the permit,” said Duterte. –



In front of Chinese envoy, Duterte makes bold stand on sea row

By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 08:39 PM February 19, 2018

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

“That is ours.”

President Rodrigo Duterte asserted on Monday the sovereign rights of the Philippines in parts of the disputed South China Sea in front of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua and Chinese businessmen.

“Itong claim sa South China Sea, talagang atin ‘yan. In so far as the Republic of the Philippines is concerned, I am ready to put my presidency, my career as president, my life and all [on the line], atin ‘yan. I stated it in black and blue that it has been the claim of the Philippines na atin ‘yan,” he said, while Zhao was listening.

But the President insisted that the Philippines could only be “diplomatic” in dealing with the country’s maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Duterte said the Philippines would continue to insist its claim in the disputed waterway but reiterated that Manila could not go to war with Beijing.

“We can only be talking on friendly terms and civilized terms,” Duterte said in a speech at the Manila Hotel.

“I will never go to a battle which I can never win. How can I win?” he added, saying he would not commit the lives of Filipinos going to war against a powerful neighbor. “We cannot do that today. It is unrealistic.”

China has a sweeping claim in the South China Sea, transforming at least seven disputed reefs into island fortresses.

Duterte has been slammed by critics for his soft-stance on China but the President turned the table and blamed the previous administration.

“The critics say that I am not doing enough. What were they doing their time?” he said.

“Wala tayong ginawa,” he added, referring to the time when China was just starting building military installations in the disputed sea during the previous administration.

He said China was willing to talk over the maritime row, citing the ongoing bilateral consultative meetings Manila and Beijing had conducted.

“Why will I fight? China is willing to talk,” he said.

Duterte said the military installations in the disputed islands were not intended for the Philippines but for the United States. had earlier reported that China was almost done transforming artificial islands into military bases.

“It is really intended against those who the Chinese think will destroy them. And it is America,” he said.

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Duterte admin ‘not given up too much, too early, too soon’ to China – Roque

By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 03:08 PM February 19, 2018

Malacañang refuted on Monday the assertions of a maritime expert that the Philippines was giving “too much, too early, too soon” in dealing with China.

“The Duterte administration has certainly not given up too much, too early, too soon in its relation with China nor China has gained more than us,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Roque was referring to the statement of lawyer Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, who said he was wary about Manila “trading away too much, too early and too soon” in seeking better ties with Beijing.

READ: PH giving China ‘too much, too early, too soon’, says UP prof

In a press conference last Saturday, Batongbacal also said: “China is gaining too much from our softness on these issues.”

But Roque rejected such claims.

“On the contrary, we have upheld our national interest and produced tangible benefits for our people in pursuing friendly and mutually-beneficial ties with China,” the Palace official said.

“Our people have been able to resume their right to fish in Scarborough and there is peace in the region. This is over and above the increased arrivals of Chinese tourists, as well as investments from mainland China,” he added.

Roque, an international law expert, said that the Philippine government would continue to defend the country’s sovereign rights in the disputed South China Sea while patching-up Manila’s strained relations with Beijing.

“We have said in a numerous occasions that we will continue to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights when we discussed our territorial and maritime disputes with China while maximizing the benefits

of our people by promoting economic and other relations with China in which they are no contentious issues between us,” he said.China has refused to recognize the United Nations (UN) arbitral ruling in July 2012, which invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims over almost all of the South China Sea.   /kga

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We’ve heard 白痴國家 (Means “Idiot Nation”)



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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


Philippine lawyer says he wants ‘death squad president’ in court

February 18, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine attorney Jude Sabio says he hasn’t been home for a year, steers clear of public events and is forever looking over his shoulder after accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of crimes

against humanity.

 Image result for Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio poses for a picture in Metro Manila, Philippines February 10, 2018.

Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio poses for a picture in Metro Manila, Philippines February 10, 2018. Picture taken February 10, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Sabio, a stocky 51 year-old, says he lives in constant fear of reprisals after filing a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the wildly popular Duterte, whose administration Filipinos rate as the best performing since opinion polls started in the 1980s.

A little-known lawyer until he filed the complaint last April, Sabio argues that the deaths of thousands of Filipinos in a brutal war on drugs is Duterte’s method of controlling crime, and that he used the tactic effectively during his 22 years as the mayor of Davao City in the south of the country.

Duterte has repeatedly denied ordering extra-judicial killings while mayor or president and reiterated this month that he would “gladly” go before the ICC. Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had earlier said her office had started a preliminary examination into whether any crimes against humanity had been committed and if ICC had jurisdiction.

The step is the first in a process that could take years to complete, if at all. Since it was set up in 2002, the ICC has received more than 12,000 complaints or communications, just nine of which have gone to trial.

Sabio’s move is unpopular in a country where, despite the bloodshed, Duterte enjoys a cult-like status and has a loyal online following which hounds and harasses his opponents.

The Social Weather Station’s (SWS) latest quarterly poll shows Duterte’s trust rating bounced back to “excellent” in December from “very high” three months before. Another SWS poll gave his government the best rating so far for a Philippine administration

“When I went to The Hague I received so many threats,” Sabio told Reuters. “The (latest) announcement from the ICC, I‘m also receiving threats. It’s many, I don’t want to read them.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque says “domestic enemies of the state” are behind Sabio’s complaint. Asked about Sabio’s safety, Roque said he should report threats to the police.

“We have no ill will against him,” he added. “We know it (the complaint) will not proceed beyond preliminary examination.”


In an interview, Sabio described Duterte as a “death squad president” who bragged in public about killing criminals and promised voters he would kill thousands in an anti-drug crackdown if elected.

Duterte earned the nickname “the Punisher” because of allegations he operated a death squad that killed more than 1,000 criminals when he was Davao mayor. He suggested during a televised presidential election debate in 2016 that more would die if he became president.

“I do not want to commit a crime. But if by chance, God would place me there (as president), you watch out,” he said in widely reported comments. “This 1,000 will be 100,000. You will see the fish in Manila Bay become fat, I will throw you there.”

On the day of his inauguration in June 2016, he told supporters: “If you know any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

Since Duterte took office, 4,021 people have been killed in what police call legitimate operations against “drug personalities” they say ended in shootouts, according to police data. About 2,300 other drug-related homicides have been blamed by police on vigilantes.

Human rights groups say police take their cue from Duterte’s rhetoric and accuse them of executing suspects, mostly drug users and small-time pushers from slum districts. Police deny that and Duterte insists security forces can kill only in self-defence.

When he made the ICC complaint, Sabio said he was broke and needed sponsors to pay for his flight to The Hague. He had undergone an angioplasty and been through a marriage breakup, and was working out of an office his friend let him use for free.

He says he is still not fully recovered but he had no regrets.

“I always thought in the past the cases I fought, no matter how small, were preparing me for something big in the future,” said Sabio, who was a criminal lawyer in Manila for two decades before his marriage ended, prompting him to return south to his home city of Cagayan de Oro in 2015 to open his own practice.

“Fate directed me to the ICC.”

Sabio’s involvement started when a man named Edgar Matobato testified to a Senate inquiry in September 2016 that he was a hit man who killed at Duterte’s behest when he was Davao City mayor. Sabio said he learned from a priest that Matobato had no lawyer, so he volunteered.

The inquiry concluded there was no proof of a Davao death squad. It was reopened in February 2017 when a second self-confessed assassin testified, but senators again concluded there was insufficient evidence.

Sabio went to The Hague two months later to file a complaint he said is backed by many Filipinos, among them some of Duterte’s political opponents.

Two of those, lawmakers Gary Alejano and Antonio Trillanes, have filed a supplementary communication with the ICC to reinforce Sabio’s 77-page complaint. Both have welcomed the ICC’s preliminary examination.

Sabio said he knows what he’s doing will anger most Filipinos, but he’s undeterred.

“Popularity cannot be invoked as a defence in the ICC, it is irrelevant, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“I don’t care if millions of Filipinos will look at me as a villain.”

Aircraft Carrier USS Carl Vinson Operating in the South China Sea

February 17, 2018

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON: With a deafening roar, the fighter jets catapulted off the US aircraft carrier and soared above the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), as its admiral vowed that the mighty ship’s presence was proof America still had regional clout.

SHOW OF FORCE An F-18 Hornet fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as the carrier strike group takes part in a routine deployment mission in the South China Sea, one hour away from Manila. AFP PHOTO

“US presence matters,” Rear Admiral John Fuller told reporters on board the USS Carl Vinson. “I think it’s very clear that we are in the South China Sea. We are operating.”

The Carl Vinson, one of the US Navy’s longest-serving active carriers, is currently conducting what officials say is a routine mission through the hotly contested waters where years of island reclamation and military construction by Beijing has rattled regional nerves.

Following criticism that the Trump administration’s commitment to the Asian region has been distracted by North Korea, reporters were flown onto the ship Wednesday as it sailed through the sea.

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In a rapid series of take-offs and landings, F18 fighter jets roared off the deck, traveling from zero to 290 kilometers (180 miles) per hour in a dizzying two seconds.

Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson Strike Group, said the 333-meter-long ship’s presence was a way to reassure allies.

“The nations in the Pacific are maritime nations,” he said. “They value stability … That’s exactly what we are here for. This is a very visible and tangible presence. The United States is here again.”

Strategic competitor

But the location of the strike group – which includes a carrier air wing and a guided-missile cruiser – is also a very direct message to China, whether US officials admit it or not.

Its voyage comes just a month after the Pentagon’s national defense strategy labeled China a “strategic competitor” that bullies its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea – believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits and through which $5 trillion in trade passes annually – and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea.

Manila has also protested China’s naming of five features in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, a
vast undersea area within the Philippines’ continental shelf where the country holds sovereign rights.

Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China boasts just one carrier.

But the rising Asian superpower has made no secret of its desire to build up its naval forces and become much more regionally assertive.

Last month Beijing said it had dispatched a warship to drive away a US missile destroyer which had “violated” its sovereignty by sailing close to a shoal in the South China Sea.

Major naval nations like the US, Britain and Australia are determined not to let China dictate who can enter the strategic waters.

They have pushed “freedom of navigation” operations in which naval vessels sail close to Chinese-claimed militarized islets in the South China Sea.

“We will follow what international rule says and we will respect (it), even if there are disputes there,” Fuller said.

Alliances shifting

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson – the ship that took Osama Bin Laden’s body for burial at sea – began a regular deployment in the Western Pacific last month.

The carrier is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots, and other crew members as well as 72 aircraft.

Washington has announced plans for it to dock in Vietnam – a first for the communist nation which is rattled by China’s expansionism in the sea and has forged a growing alliance with its former foe the US.

Britain said on Tuesday it would sail its own warship from Australia through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights in support of the US approach.
But alliances are shifting.

The Philippines, a US treaty ally, was once the strongest critic of Beijing’s expansionism in the South China Sea, successfully winning a tribunal case in The Hague over their claims.

But it has changed course under President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid for billions of dollars worth of Chinese investment.

Duterte last week said it was not time to fight China over the row, adding the Philippines should “not meddle” with Washington and Beijing’s competition for superpower status.

In Wednesday’s trip, the USS Carl Vinson hosted top Duterte aides and key Philippine military officers.
Duterte’s communications secretary Martin Andanar described the carrier as “very impressive” and its equipment “massive.”

Asked if Manila welcomed US patrols in the disputed area, Andanar told reporters: “The United States has been a big brother of the Philippines, a military ally.”

PH won’t recognize renamed features

The Philippines was not consulted by the International Hydrographic Organization’s (IHO) Subcommittee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) in renaming several features within the Philippine Rise as proposed by China, and will not recognize these names, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Thursday.

“The decision of the SCUFN was made without due consultation with the Philippine Government,” Esperon said in a statement.

His statement came days after maritime expert Jay Batongbacal posted on Facebook that Beijing had proposed names before the IHO for several undersea features of the Philippine Rise.

These features include four seamounts and one hill, which are the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts located some 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan province; the Haidonquing Seamount located further east at 190 nautical miles; and the Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount that form central peaks.

According to Esperon, the renaming of Jinghao and Tianbao seamounts were adopted in October 2015 while the renaming of Jujiu seamount was approved in September 2016.

The approval of the proposals in naming underwater features, as a matter of procedure, are decided upon solely by the 12-member SCUFN countries: Germany, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Italy and Russia, Esperon explained.

Decisions made by the SCUFN are “deemed as final and non-appealable,” he noted.

“Because of the numerous complaints from many countries regarding its supposed arbitrary and unregulated decision-making process, the SCUFN decided to suspend last year the processing of pending proposals for the naming of undersea features worldwide,” Esperon said.

“Nonetheless our diplomatic posts have been alerted against such future applications in Philippine waters,” Esperon added.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced that President Duterte had ordered the Philippine Navy to “chase away” foreign vessels found within the Philippine Rise.

On June 12 last year, the military’s Northern Luzon Command hoisted a fiberglass Philippine flag within the Philippine Rise, to assert sovereignty over the territory.


Philippine President Duterte’s “Shoot Women in the Vagina” Remark Draws Criticism

February 12, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte remarked that soldiers shoot the vagina of female NPA rebels as he talked to rebel returnees at Malacañan Palace on Feb. 7, 2018. The party-list Gabriela Women’s Party slammed the president over the remark they tagged as misogynistic. Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

( – February 11, 2018 – 6:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — Gabriela Women’s Party condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest order to soldiers to shoot female New People’s Army rebels in the vagina.
Gabriela Women’s Party called Duterte a “fascist” for this.
“Duterte’s latest nasty remark openly encourages violence against women, contributes to the impunity on such, and further presented himself as the epitome of misogyny and fascism terribly rolled in one,” Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said in a release.
“He is dangerously pushing the fascist Armed Forces of the Philippines to commit more bloody human rights violations and grave abuses of international humanitarian law, and takes state terrorism against women and the people to a whole new level,” she added.
The group was reacting to Duterte’s anti-women remarks before former rebels last February 7. He delivered the speech in Visayan language.
In the translated transcript of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Duterte was questioning why women join the NPA movement. He then ordered government troops to shoot their vagina saying it would be useless.
The president clarified that these women would not be killed.
“Bring that. Tell the soldiers ‘There’s a new order coming from mayor We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your —  so that…’ If there are no — it would be useless,” the translated transcript of the speech read.
Meanwhile, De Jesus also countered that Roque’s statement that “feminists are sometimes OA” or overreacting, saying “speaking up for women’s rights will never be too much under a regime that brazenly degrades and disrespects women.”
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Harry Roque
De Jesus said women from various sectors would join protests to denounce Duterte’s “macho-fascist” leadership. These protests are the One Billion Rising Event slated on February 14 and International Women’s Day on March 8.
“We cannot just take these vile remarks sitting down,” De Jesus said.
The solon added that the huge protest also opposes the anti-poor and tyrannical policies of the Duterte administration. — Rosette Adel



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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

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Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.


© AFP/File | President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has stoked controversy in the Philippines and abroad

Philippines Denies Being Soft on China, International Law After Photos Show At Least Seven Chinese Military Bases Now Near Philippines

February 7, 2018
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 05:10 PM February 07, 2018
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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo by JOAN BONDOC / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

The Philippines on Wednesday downplayed criticisms that the government is being “too soft” in dealing with China’s militarization in the South China Sea as it joined the call of Southeast Asian nations for non-militarization and self-restraint in the disputed territory.

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Mischief Reef now an extensive Chinese military base

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Tuesday raised concerns on the continued militarization and reclamation of China in the disputed sea despite an earlier agreement to proceed with talks in crafting a sea code.

The statement came after aerial photos showed that China was nearly done transforming disputed reefs in the South China Sea into island fortresses.

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Photos show China’s South China Sea island fortresses


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said top diplomats of Asean were “right” in airing their concerns against China.

“Oo, tama naman po yang concern na ‘yan dahil ang hinihingi ng Asean bilang isang bloke, tumalima sa discussion ng code of conduct [ang China],” Roque told reporters in a phone patch interview.

(Yes, they are right regarding their concern because what they are asking, being a bloc, is for China to adhere to the discussion of the code of conduct.)

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“[K]asama tayo sa Asean. “Yan po ang panawagan ng Asean. Kasama ang Pilipinas sa panawagan na yan,” he added.

(We are included in the Asean. That is the Asean’s call. The Philippines is one of them in calling for that.)

Sought for comments on criticisms that the Philippines was too soft in dealing with Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea, Roque denied this, saying the government only wanted to maintain peace and stability in the disputed sea.

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Chinese military bases near the Philippines

“We are not being too soft po pero meron tayong (but we have already) established policy diyan. Number one is: we are of course one with Asean in recognizing that this is a concern or all Asean countries, the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea. Number two of course our common concern is peace security and stability in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes,” he said.

Since he assumed office, President Rodrigo Duterte has taken steps to mend Manila’s strained relations with Beijing after it went hostile during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III due to the long-unresolved territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

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Chinese warships have been observed in transit between islands near the Philippines

Duterte has vowed to take a “soft-landing” approach in dealing with the country’s maritime dispute with China, setting aside the United Nations (UN) arbitral ruling, which invalidate Beijing’s weeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea. /jpv

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

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China has no greater rights than any other in the sea. China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Philippine President Duterte Orders All Marine Scientific Research Away from Benham Rise

February 6, 2018
During a Cabinet meeting Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the cessation of all foreign activities in the Philippine Rise or Benham Rise.

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Navy to chase out any foreign fishing or research vessel in the Philippine Rise, also known as Benham Rise, a Cabinet official said Tuesday.

According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Duterte ordered the halt of all marine explorations and studies by foreign scientists in the underwater plateau east of Luzon during the Cabinet meeting Monday evening.

“Let me be very clear about this: the Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration,” Duterte told his Cabinet members.

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BRP Lapu-lapu and BRP Francisco Dagohoy

The Navy was ordered to deploy vessels while the Air Force was tasked to conduct flyovers in the region to check the presence of foreign groups.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was also ordered to dispatch multi-mission offshore vessels BRP Lapu-lapu and BRP Francisco Dagohoy to monitor the presence of foreign vessels in the area.

Duterte’s order came after a statement from a “foreign low-level diplomat” that the Philippines does not own the whole of the undersea region, Piñol said.

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“Henceforth, only Filipino scientists will be allowed to conduct researches and exploration in the Philippine Rise,” Duterte said.

Aside from Navy vessels and Air Force aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles controlled from military bases in Luzon will also monitor the developments in the region.

DFA: Research benefits Philippines

Controversy arose following reports that the Department of Foreign Affairs had allowed China to conduct marine scientific research in Benham Rise.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was quick to defend this position, stressing that more research requests would be more beneficial for the country.

RELATED: DFA OKs Benham Rise study by US, Japan, Korea

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier drew flak for saying that Filipinos could not do research in the continental shelf without China’s help. Roque, later on, denied saying that Filipinos do not have the financial means to conduct research in the area.

About 13 million hectares of Benham Rise has been declared as part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone while another 12 million hectares are part of the country’s extended continental shelf.

Under Paragraph 1, Article 77 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a state has sovereign rights over its continental shelf for the purpose of “exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.”

“The rights referred to in paragraph 1 are exclusive in the sense that if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the express consent of the coastal State,” the UNCLOS states.

RELATED: House probe into China’s research in Benham Rise sought

Duterte bent on rewriting Philippine constitution — But is it a smokescreen? Help for China?

February 1, 2018

The Duterte administration is moving to make changes to the nation’s constitution, to turn the Philippines into a federal state. Critics say it is but a smokescreen to prolong his stay in power. Ana P. Santos reports.

Rodrigo Duterte Präsident Philippinen (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Favila)

President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to carry out his campaign promise to amend the constitution and turn the Philippines into a federal state. The shift to a federal form of administration would diffuse government powers centralized in the Philippine capital of Manila, giving local governments more autonomy.

The nation’s legislature has earlier passed a resolution to convene the two chambers into a Constituent Assembly that would lay out the constitutional reform needed to transition to a federal form of government.

Proponents of federalism say that the current system of governance concentrates wealth and power in Manila, creating an imbalance that has excluded remote provinces from development and prosperity.

“Constitutional reform is very much needed. The existing constitution provides a political system that favors only those in power. That is why you have the same political dynasties, particularly in areas with small constituent sizes and are therefore easy to dominate,” Edmund Tayao, political analyst and executive director of the think tank Local Government Development Foundation, told DW.

Tayao also sees constitutional reform as a way to pass and gain acceptance for the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a peace deal that would grant greater autonomy to the predominantly Muslim provinces in the southern part of the country.

Fast track to constitutional reform

Under Philippine law, amending the 1987 constitution would require the support of both houses of Congress and the approval of the people through a national plebiscite.

But the two houses have so far been unable to agree on the timeline for the referendum. The Senate is eyeing 2019, while the House of Representatives wants voter ratification to take place as early as May this year.

Critics say that the rush to change the constitution is a smokescreen meant to consolidate Duterte’s power and keep him and his allies in office indefinitely. Tony La Viña, a legal expert and former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, worries more about how the Duterte administration plans to implement a change as drastic as a nationwide overhaul in governance.

“There is no clarity on how he is going to carry this out. Regional divisions would work out a lot of problems, it would diffuse powers but there is no vision, no clear legal framework to guide the move to federalism,” La Viña told DW. His other concern is the short cuts taken to convene a Constituent Assembly necessary to initiate federalism.

“Such a constitutional change should not be rushed. It leaves no room for debate, discussion or consultation. Any constitutional change should not take place before the next scheduled presidential elections in 2022. This would mean ensuring that the current administration does not benefit from any kind of constitutional changes it had initiated,” said La Viña.

Read more: 

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Federalism: Good or bad?

In a statement released to DW, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez responded to critics’ claims that the move to federalism is being rushed and is a smokescreen to extend the powers of Duterte’s allies.

“It would be inaccurate to say that Congress is expediting this matter. Empowerment of the local governments, which is really what a shift to a federal system is all about, has been an issue constantly faced and debated upon by our country,” read the statement.

What we see right now is just the natural culmination of all those years of debate regarding this issue, Alvarez noted.

“The time has come to finally move forward, tip the scale, and further address the structural aspects of the Philippine state that has dragged and hindered the possibility of achieving greater political stability, more economic development, and expanded opportunities and welfare for our people.”

Furthermore, Alvarez explained that a shift to a parliamentary system is also being considered to create a more efficient legislative branch with better coordination with the executive department.

“A shift to a federal government will diffuse power, reduce the structures that sustain warlordism and political dynasties, expand political and economic opportunities for all, and this new environment created by the structural changes will eventually allow the tenets of a healthy democracy,” Alvarez concluded in his statement.

Duterte also recently sought to dispel speculation that he had ordered his loyalists in Congress to change the constitution in such a way that it would let him stay on in power beyond 2022, when his single term ends.

“If I overstay and wanted to become a dictator, shoot me, I am not joking,” Duterte told soldiers during an army base visit in January. “It is your job to protect the constitution and to protect the people. Remember, it is your solemn duty,” the president said, adding that security forces should not allow anybody to mess with the constitution.


Philippine President’s Plan to Allow China to Secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas, Even Approaches to the Malacca Strait, Called “Careless and Ignorant”

February 1, 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier suggested that China should help  secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists. Google Earth

MANILA, Philippines — Allowing China to secure the Sulu and Celebes Seas from pirates and terrorists would be tantamount to encouraging “a threat to your own backyard,” a lawmaker said Thursday.

Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano made this statement in reaction to the suggestion of President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for Chinese presence in the Philippine waters, where pirates freely pass through.

“It is careless and ignorant to encourage a threat in your own backyard. The President should not be crass on dropping such suggestions without looking at the whole situation in that area,” Alejano said in a statement.

Prior to his flight to New Delhi last week, Duterte said that China would help secure the Philippine waters like what the did in addressing the piracy problem in Somalia.

“Sasabihin ko sa inyo, kung hindi natin kaya, we’ll just have to call China to come in and blow them off just like Somalia, that Aden Strait there. Were it not for the presence of the Chinese, hindi mahinto ‘yung piracy doon,” Duterte said.

Alejano, however, said that attributing the curbing of piracy in Somalian waters would be an exaggeration as US and European ships also conducted patrols and anti-piracy operations in the region.

The Philippines should instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia to secure the Celebes and Sulu Seas from the threat of piracy, the lawmaker added.

“I agree that we should have a hardline policy against piracy and terrorism. However, rather than immediately running to China, let us instead develop maritime cooperation with Malaysia and Indonesia. Their borders are included in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, so it would make more sense geographically for them to be involved,” Alejano said.

RELATED: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint air patrols

The Philippine government should also focus on the modernization of the Coast Guard and the Navy in combating piracy before asking assistance from an outsider.

“I subscribe on having an independent foreign policy. However, as we are seeing now, it is not an independent foreign policy which the Duterte administration is going for. It is a dependent-to-China policy,” the Magdalo lawmaker said.

Duterte had been suggesting to request China to patrol areas in international waters leading to Malacca Strait and the Sulu Sea since last year.

In February 2017, the president said that Beijing could deploy its coast guard cutters, but not its “gray ships” or naval assets, into the country’s territorial zones.

RELATED: Duterte: Philippines, China can have military exercises in Sulu Sea


Part II: Philippines Stand-Off Over President Duterte’s Mysterious Wealth — Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV accused the Chief Executive of plunder

January 31, 2018
The showdown was triggered by Malacañang’s order for the immediate 90-day suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for releasing bank records of President Duterte and his family, which Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV used as basis to accuse the Chief Executive of plunder.  File

Palace clashes with Morales, SC over deputy ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines — Battle lines are drawn as Malacañang insists on its authority to suspend a deputy ombudsman despite a Supreme Court (SC) rebuff and defiance from the ombudsman.

The showdown was triggered by Malacañang’s order for the immediate 90-day suspension of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang for releasing bank records of President Duterte and his family, which Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV used as basis to accuse the Chief Executive of plunder.

Solicitor General Jose Calida defended the legality of the suspension order, saying the Constitution does not bar the President from disciplining a deputy ombudsman. Calida had expressed confidence that the SC would uphold the suspension order.

In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales declared she would “not enforce” the suspension issued through the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Reacting to Morales’ statement, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo warned she could be held administratively and criminally liable – or even face another impeachment complaint.

Belying Calida’s claim, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te e-mailed to reporters the entry of judgment in a 2014 final decision of the SC in the case of former deputy ombudsman for the military and other law enforcement offices (MOLEO) Emilio Gonzales III.

The case provided the jurisprudence that the Palace reportedly violated in ordering the suspension of Carandang.

The two-page order dated May 7, 2014 stated that the Jan. 28 ruling in the same year on the Gonzales case had become “final and executory.”

This means the decision was already recorded in the high court’s book of entries of judgments and can no longer be appealed or revised.

In the Gonzales case, the high tribunal took away the disciplinary power of the President over the deputy ombudsman post.

Voting 8-7, the high court ruled then that the administrative authority exercised by the Office of the President over the position of deputy ombudsman was unconstitutional.

The SC specifically voided Section 8 (2) of the Ombudsman Act of 1989, which granted the president the power to remove a deputy ombudsman.

It ruled that such provision diminished the authority and independence of the ombudsman’s office.

It held that of the appointed officials in the Office of the Ombudsman, only the special prosecutor was covered by the Palace’s power of discipline.

Morales – an appointee of the previous Aquino administration – was at the helm of the Office of the Ombudsman when Gonzalez was dismissed sometime in 2012.

She took over the place vacated by her predecessor Merceditas Gutierrez after the latter’s resignation.

Gonzales was dismissed in 2011 by then president Benigno Aquino III over the bloody hostage-taking incident in Rizal Park on Aug. 23, 2010, but was later reinstated by the SC.


In her statement, Morales slammed the suspension order as “unconstitutional” and an “impairment” of the Office of the Ombudsman’s constitutionally enshrined independence.

“Like any government official, the ombudsman has sworn to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land,” Morales said.

“The ombudsman cannot, therefore, seriously place at risk the independence of the very Office which she has pledged to protect on the strength of the constitutional guarantees which the high court has upheld,” she added.

Asked by reporters what Morales meant by this statement, the Public Information and Media Relations Bureau (PIMRB) of the ombudsman categorically answered that Morales “will not enforce” the suspension order.

The PIMRB, however, has yet to confirm if Morales’ office will file an appeal before the Office of the President or elevate the matter before the SC.

Carandang’s suspension was for administrative offenses of grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for allegedly disclosing false information about the bank transactions of Duterte and his family.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the suspension order is “immediately executory.”

The suspension stemmed from a complaint filed by lawyers Manolito Luna and Elijio Mallari, who accused Carandang of “falsely and maliciously claiming” that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) had released a report on Duterte’s alleged bank deposits.

The AMLC denied releasing a report on the President’s bank accounts. The AMLC further said it has yet to evaluate if there is ground to initiate an investigation on Duterte’s bank transactions.

Carandang, in an interview in September last year, said that Morales had authorized him to probe Duterte’s bank transactions when the latter was still mayor of Davao City.

He claimed that his office had obtained bank documents from AMLC showing Duterte’s and his family’s over P1 billion worth of transactions in several banks from 2006 to 2016.

“It has become clear that the act of the Office of the President in taking cognizance of the complaints against the Overall Deputy Ombudsman and ordering his preventive suspension was not an inadvertent error but a clear affront to the Supreme Court and an impairment of the constitutionally enshrined independence of the Office of the Ombudsman,” Morales said in her statement.

Morales maintained that the SC, in a previous ruling, had already declared that the Office of the President has no administrative disciplinary jurisdiction over deputy ombudsmen.

She also cited the SC’s ruling on the case of Gonzales.

“The ombudsman will thus not allow herself to betray her sworn duty to uphold the Constitution by recognizing what is patently unconstitutional as ordained by the Supreme Court en banc in Gonzales III v. Office of the President,” Morales said.

“In Gonzales III, the Supreme Court categorically declared unconstitutional the administrative disciplinary jurisdiction of the President over deputy ombudsmen,” she pointed out.

Morales also took a swipe at Calida for voicing confidence “that the Supreme Court will reverse its 2014 ruling.”

“In a society founded on the rule of law, the arbitrary disregard of a clearly worded jurisprudence coupled with a confident stance that it will be changed should never be countenanced,” Morales maintained.

Presumed right

Panelo, meanwhile, said Morales should give the President the presumption of regularity.

“Until a competent court declares that such official act is in violation of the law and the Constitution, President Duterte’s order of preventive suspension from office of Deputy Ombudsman Carandang is presumed to be valid and legal,” Panelo said.

“It behooves therefore the public official authorized to implement the order to enforce the same against respondent Carandang. Any willful refusal to do so or any deliberate act impeding such enforcement may open the said official to administrative and criminal sanctions,”  Panelo said in a statement.

Roque, for his part, maintained that the President has jurisdiction over Carandang, a presidential appointee.

“The Office of the President has given Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang 10 days to file his answer on the ‘Resolution and Order’,” Roque said in a statement. He had earlier said the order was final and executory.

A lawyer like the President, Roque underscored the importance of Carandang being accorded due process.

“It is incumbent upon Mr. Carandang to submit his answer within the required period,” he said. “After the lapse of the period provided, the Office of the President shall decide on the matter.”

Panelo emphasized the President respects the independence of the judiciary.

“The President has no desire or intention to intrude upon the constitutionally enshrined independence of the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.

In suspending Carandang, Panelo explained that the President was in fact protecting and preserving the constitutional provision on public accountability.

“Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives,” he said.

“Thus, the President is just adhering to his mandate to ensure that all laws are faithfully executed, including the Constitution,” Panelo said.

Panelo explained that the circumstances behind Carandang’s suspension were different from the case involving Gonzales.

“As to the validity of the suspension of ODO Carandang, while the Supreme Court may have previously ruled on the circumstances of Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales III in 2014, the circumstances of ODO Carandang differ,” Panelo said.

He also called on Carandang to contest his dismissal before the proper courts.

“Thus, prior to any determination by a court of competent jurisdiction as regards the suspension of ODO Carandang, such suspension should be treated as a lawful and operative act,” Panelo added.

“Anyone who disagrees with the suspension is free to question the same before the courts,” he said. “In the meantime, the suspension should be implemented by the Office of the Ombudsman. Otherwise, its officials risk violating the same legal process that they assume to adhere to.”

Meanwhile, senators called on Malacañang and the ombudsman to work on breaking the impasse as soon as possible to avert a constitutional crisis.

“The SC, as the final arbiter of all questions of law, has the power to decide between the competing interests/interpretations of the government and an independent constitutional body,” Sen. Francis Escudero said.

He said bringing the matter to the SC is the legal, peaceful and best course of action on the part of either or both the government and the ombudsman “instead of sending the police to serve and effect the suspension order, given the ombudsman’s divergent interpretation of the law from that of government.”

“This is the best course of action on the part of either or both the government and the ombudsman to avert a standoff or constitutional crisis,” Escudero said.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of the minority bloc, said Morales was simply enforcing an SC decision that says the president cannot suspend the ombudsman nor his or her deputies.

He said Supreme Court rulings form part of the law of the land.

“She (Morales) is upholding the rule of law and for this she has our support,” Pangilinan said. – Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero


Part I:

Philippines Ombudsman Will Not Implement the “Unconstitutional” Order from the Office of the Executive Secretary in Tussle Over Bank Transactions in the Accounts Owned by President Rodrigo Duterte and his family

January 31, 2018

Philippines: Defying Palace, Ombudsman refuses to enforce Carandang’s suspension

Slams the “hypocrisy” of Duterte’s anti-corruption drive…

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said on Wednesday that she would not implement the “unconstitutional” order from the Office of the Executive Secretary suspending Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang for 90 days. AFP/Noel Celis, File

MANILA, Philippines — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales will not enforce the suspension order of the Office of Executive Secretary Medialdea on Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang which stemmed from allegations that he disclosed unverified information on the supposed multimillion bank transactions in the accounts owned by President Rodrigo Duterte and his family.

According to Morales, the order of Medialdea’s office is “patently unconstitutional” as the Supreme Court, in its en banc decision in Gonzales III vs. Office of the President (G.R. 196231), declared as illegal the administrative disciplinary jurisdiction of the president over deputy ombudsmen.

“Not enforce,” Morales answered when asked by reporters if she would implement the decision handed down on Monday.

READ: Can the Office of the President suspend Deputy Ombudsman Carandang?

Morales said that she could not imperil the independence of the very office she pledged to protect on the strength of Constitutional guarantees that the High Court had upheld.

“The Ombudsman will thus not allow herself to betray her sworn duty to uphold the Constitution by recognizing what is patently unconstitutional,” a statement from the office of Morales said.

Malacañang on Monday meted a 90-day suspension on Carandang for grave misconduct following his disclosure of the alleged bank account records of Duterte and his family.

According to the Palace, Carandang committed grave misconduct and grave dishonesty for misuse and revelation of confidential and false information.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in announcing the decision, expressed confidence on the legality of the decision, despite the 2014 ruling that deemed the provision in the Ombudsman Act of 1989 that gave the Office of the President administrative powers as “unconstitutional.”

The Office of Solicitor General Jose Calida also defended the legality of the suspension order and stressed that the president had authority to discipline deputy ombudsmen despite existing jurisprudence stating otherwise.

“The Supreme Court (SC) has held that the power to discipline is lodged in the same authority in whom the power to appoint is vested,” Calida said.

Opposition senators assailed the decision and claimed that Carandang’s suspension was meant to cover up the truth behind Duterte’s supposed unexplained wealth.

Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo) also slammed the suspension directive and said it exposed the “hypocrisy” of Duterte’s anti-corruption drive.

Morales said that the act of the Office of the President in taking cognizance of the complaints against Carandang and ordering his preventive suspension was an “affront” to the Supreme Court and an “impairment” of the independence of her office.

She also added that the actions were not simply an “inadvertent error.”

“In a society founded on the rule of law, the arbitrary disregard of a clearly worded jurisprudence coupled with a confidence stance that it will be changed should never be countenanced,” Morales said.