Posts Tagged ‘President Rodrigo Duterte’

Philippines: Highlights from the Supreme Court oral arguments on the drug war

December 7, 2017
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

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court held three days of hearings, through oral arguments, on the petitions challenging the constitutionality of the drug war on November 21 and 28, and on December 4.

Two groups of petitioners are seeking a protection order from the high court over the ruthless killings of their loved ones and of people in their community.

Aside from the writ of amparo against the police, petitioners are also asking for the issuance of a temporary restraining order on the PNP’s drug war operations.


Aileen Almora asked the SC to stop extrajudicial killings that critics attribute to the nationwide war on drugs. Almora’s brother, Ryan Dave, was killed in an anti-dug operation.

Rowena Appari’s son was killed in a home invasion. Jefferson Soriano was shot several times, but survived.

They were represented by lawyer Chel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group.

A second petition was filed by members of a religious order in San Andres Bukid, Manila, where 38 petitioners claim the existence of “systemic violence”.

They were represented by Center for International Law.

Lawyer Rommel Butuyan faced the high court for the oral arguments.


The respondents in the petition are:

  • Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, Chief of the Philippine National Police
  • Undersecretary Eduardo Año of the Department of Interior and Local Government
  • Director General Aaron Aquino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Superintendent Joel Coronel, chief of the Manila Police District
  • Other members of the PNP

Solicitor General Jose Calida represented the petitioners.

In his comment filed before the SC began oral arguments, the government’s chief legal counsel said that the drug war is being “emasculated and undermined” by petitions of the families who lost their loved ones in the violent police operations.

He reiterated this statement before the high court and claimed the petitions are destabilization acts against the Duterte administration.

The court summoned Dela Rosa, Aquino, and Undersecretary Catalino Uy, as well as the other members of the police force and PDEA for the second day of the oral arguments

Central to the petitions are PNP CMC 2016-16 for the Project Double Barrel and the DILG memorandum circular 2017-112 on Masa Masid.

Here are some of the issues debated by the justices, petitioners and respondents:

Barangay list

Under the DILG “Masa Masid,” a list of suspected drug users and sellers is drawn up from names put in a community drop box.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio raised: “The barangay chair can include his political enemies there?”

Butuyan said yes, since the list is submitted in confidence. He added that the residents would not know, except for some instances, about their names being included in the list.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also quizzed Calida on the list.

She asked: “Is the list subject to habeas data petition? If a person feels he is on the list, can he file a habeas data petition?”

The writ of habeas data is a remedy for any individual “whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act of any official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information.”

Calida said that the government “will invoke national security,” adding “there are certain matters like top secrets that cannot be divulged.”

What does ‘neutralize’ in the memorandum mean?

The Execution section of the PNP memo states: “The PNP intends to equally address illegal drug problems in the barangays and at the same time pursue the neutralization of illegal drug personalities.”

Diokno raised before the justices: “What we question is why they have to add the word negation… which has no counterpart in law.”

“By its language, it can be construed by the officers on the ground to authorize killing that is not allowed in our system,” Diokno also said.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said: “You have a situation where a government circular contains vague terms which can be taken to mean as license to kill, and you are saying that is unconstitutional, yes?”
Diokno answered in affirmative.

Dela Rosa, during the third hearing of the consolidated petitions, told justices that he has never ordered his officers to kill anyone.

Verbal orders?

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio started his interpellation of Calida on the third day of the hearing, remarking on several pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte telling the police to go ahead and kill drugs suspects. The justice asked if these orders, delivered in Duterte’s trademark freestyle speeches, are guidance for the police.

Calida replied that he has no personal knowledge of the pronouncements and is not in place to answer the question.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, while grilling Calida, pointed out that the the memorandum explicitly states that it emanated from a verbal order from Duterte.

Listed as the first item of reference in the PNP memorandum is: “Pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte to get rid of illegal drugs during the first six months of his term.”

Street peddlers vs. drug lord

Section 3 of the PNP memorandum circular on Oplan Double Barrel explicitly states that there are three transnational drug organizations operating in the Philippines.

“Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug syndicates dominate the drug market in the country,” the PNP memorandum stated. It added that these Chinese syndicates “facilitate production, manufacturing and bulk smuggling of dangerous drugs in the country.”

Carpio, in his interpellation of Calida, asked if there have been Chinese or Filipino Chinese drug lords neutralized by the police since July 1, 2016.

Calida said 418 Chinese suspects have been arrested, stressing none have been killed.

Violations of rights

PNP’s Operation Double Barrel pertains to two projects: Oplan Tokhang (house-to-house visitation) and Project High-Value Targets.

The justices asked the petitioners if the execution of the two orders violates the Bill of Rights.

Carpio asked Diokno: “When the police conduct case build up just because you refuse entry, that violates the right to privacy because you may refuse entry, correct?”

Diokno answered in the affirmative.

Leonen, meanwhile stated that the Oplan Tokhang setup violates the right against self-incrimination, right to custodial interrogation, and the right to domicile.

He also said that if threats are given to those who refuse entry to their residence, it may be violation of the anti-torture law.

Calida, however, stressed that the police, during visitation, only stay at the gates.

He added that if the residents refuse entry, the police will move to the next door.

Death investigation

Carpio ordered the solicitor general to submit the records of the 3,800 “deaths under investigation” that the police are looking into.

He asked the following information to be submitted with the memoranda:

  • gender, ages of the killed
  • place and time of operations
  • name of police leader and members who participated
  • pre-operations plan
  • post-operation report
  • whether search warrants or arrest warrants were issued
  • names of the representatives issued

The Court allowed the parties to submit their respective memoranda 60 days from December 5, the last day of the hearings.

After the parties submit their memoranda, the case is deemed submitted for decision.


Philippines President Duterte Puts Philippine National National Police (PNP) Back Into Drug War — They have a human rights app now — Returning to dead body counts?

December 6, 2017
The Catholic Church sees the President’s order as a ‘bad move,’ but presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the PDEA remains the lead agency in the war on drugs, with the police only providing active support
 / 07:28 AM December 06, 2017
PNP, other law enforcement agencies ordered to help PDEA in drug war

Saying there was a “notable resurgence in illegal drugs,” President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the Philippine National Police to actively support the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the war on drugs.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the PDEA remained the lead agency in the war on drugs.

The PNP, the military and other law enforcement agencies would only provide “active support” to the PDEA, Roque told a news briefing.

Mr. Duterte’s order on Tuesday, he said, “supersedes the earlier memorandum that designated the PDEA as the sole agency that will deal with the entire illegal drug operations.”

Roque said that if the PNP wanted to revive “Oplan Tokhang,” it should coordinate first with the PDEA.

“Well, it’s very clear the PDEA is the lead so if Tokhang will be implemented by the PNP, I would suppose there would have to be coordination with the PDEA,” he said.

“If they want to resume Tokhang, they need to confer with the PDEA on how to implement it. The PDEA must be consulted and the PDEA must not be deprived of its role in the implementation of the Dangerous Drugs Act,” Roque added.

Thousands of people have been killed in the PNP campaign, drawing expressions of concern from the United States, European Union, United Nations and international groups about human rights violations in the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte badmouthed them all, accusing them of meddling in Philippine internal affairs.

On Oct. 11, Mr. Duterte designated the PDEA as the “sole agency” in the antidrug campaign after a series of killings of teenagers in northern Metro Manila, which was blamed for the drop in the President’s public approval ratings.

It was the second time that the PNP was stripped of its lead role in the drug war.


In January, the President ordered the PNP to suspend its antidrug operations after narcotics police allegedly kidnapped South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo and killed him inside Camp Crame, where the PNP headquarters is located.

The President allowed the PNP to resume the war on drugs after more than a month due to reports that the country’s drug problem had worsened.

This time around, Mr. Duterte said the PDEA had made significant strides but there was a resurgent drug problem and crimes related to it.

“PDEA has made significant strides in the government anti-illegal drug campaign since Oct. 11, 2017, with only one drug suspect killed in the course of its anti-illegal drug operations,” the President said.

“[However, it] has been seriously hampered in performing its huge mandate by the lack of resources, specifically agents and operatives, who can penetrate drug-infected areas down to the municipal and barangay levels,” he said.

The President noted that the PDEA had only about 2,000 personnel to deal with the drug problem in the entire country.

“There is a clamor from the public to restore to the PNP and all other law enforcement agencies the responsibility of providing active support to PDEA in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations,” he said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

The President directed the PDEA to submit a monthly report on the progress of the campaign while the Dangerous Drugs Board would remain the policymaking and strategy-formulating body.

“So now, the President clearly wanted the PDEA to take the lead but it wants to avail [itself] of the manpower resources of all other agencies of government, not just the PNP,” Roque said.

‘Bad move’

The Catholic Church warned that Mr. Duterte’s allowing the police to rejoin the war on drugs was a “bad move.”

Speaking on Church-run Radio Veritas, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez called the faithful to pray.

Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said Mr. Duterte’s decision raised questions, especially after the PDEA had achieved gains and implemented reforms in the war on drugs.

“After all, the President said 40 percent of the PNP was corrupt and he replaced them twice. There have not been significant reforms. He is interested in dead body counts,” Bacani said.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the decision only showed Mr. Duterte’s fickle-mindedness.

“Didn’t he see that the PNP was already a failure? He did not give the PDEA a chance to prove itself. He did not even give it time,” Pabillo said. —With a report from Tina G. Santos

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Image result for duterte, dela rosa, together, photos

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: RevGov rallies in the provinces: Where’s Duterte? Where are the crowds? — Fizzled out ?

December 1, 2017

Here’s how planned rallies in the cities of Davao, Tagbilaran, Baguio, and Tuguegarao have turned out

Published 12:59 AM, December 01, 2017
Updated 1:00 AM, December 01, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – The hype on social media was that, in at least 18 other cities and municipalities across the country, supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte would hold rallies simultaneous with the one in Manila on Thursday, November 30, to push for the establishment of a revolutionary government (RevGov).

From reports gathered by Rappler journalists, it appeared plans fizzled out in some areas.

MNLF crowd in Davao

Photo by Mick Basa/Rappler

Photo by Mick Basa/Rappler

While the pro-Duterte crowd peaked at 5,000 in Mendiola in Manila, the second biggest gathering was in the President’s home city of Davao, where hundreds gathered at the Crocodile Park Concert Grounds, owned by his friend, businessman Philip Dizon.

Duterte, however, didn’t grace the event, even though organizers said they had invited the President.

The event, which organizers initially said would gather “millions” of participants, mustered hundreds instead, most of them members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who are supporting the administration’s initiative to shift to a federal system of government.

Some participants came from as far as Lanao Norte, bringing with them posters that bore the names of different states and substates, among them “Iranun Substate,” “Kutawatu State,” and “Mt Apo Substate.”

“At least this is the people’s initiative,” Rolando Olamit, a Davao City-based leader of the MNLF and one of two people who wrote to Duterte on November 6, asking him to be at the November 30 rally at 3 pm.

Olamit said despite Duterte’s absence, they would continue to urge him to declare a revolutionary government.

Small gatherings in Bohol

There was no organized rally in Bohol in Central Visayas, from where Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr hails. Donald Borja Sevilla, a leader of Evasco’s Kilusang Pagbabago grassroots movement, told Rappler that the idea of a grand rally discussed by certain individuals a week ago fizzled out.

Bohol police director Senior Superintendent Felipe Rivera Natividad said they had been monitoring the province’s 47 towns since Thursday morning, November 30, but received no reports of rallies.

Superintendent Patricio Degay Jr, Tagbilaran City police chief, said no group or individual applied for rally permits at city hall.

There were, instead, a couple of small gatherings reported.

In the afternoon, some students from the Bohol Institute of Technology were seen marching around Tagbilaran’s Plaza Rizal, but authorities couldn’t ascertain if it was a political activity. BIT is owned by Bohol Vice Governor Dionisio Balite, a Duterte supporter.

In Dauis town, about 100 members of the Philippine Guardians Brotherhood (PGB) converged late afternoon on Thursday at the public plaza. It was a show of support for President Duterte, said University of Bohol professor Nelson Vargas, regional founder of the PGB.

He said their group backs the idea of giving Duterte “provisional extraordinary powers to help him accomplish his promises.”

“I believe he is our last man standing for the masang Pilipino (Filipino masses),” Vargas said.

Dozens in Baguio

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

In Baguio City, the pro-Duterte activity started with a motorcade of 10 private cars with their windows closed and bearingn small RevGov posters on the sides.

Their rally was transferred from People’s Park (which became unavailable as the city was setting up for its Christmas lights and sounds show) to the Igorot Park beside Burnham Park.

The rally started at 3 pm with a country and western band playing until 4:30 pm to await the arrival of their guest speaker, lawyer Larry Gadon, the complainant in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

The rally was organized by former Councilor Bong Tabora, Harry Dominguez, and Larry Madarang.

There were 50 people wearing red shirts, the color of choice for the RevGov rally in Manila. The rest of the people were the usual park habitués, like the manicurists, chess players, and those lining up for their jeepney ride back home.

Federalism forum in Tuguegarao

Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

What appeared to be the biggest pro-government gathering outside of Manila on Thursday was not a rally. In Tuguegarao City in Cagayan, thousands attended the federalism seminar at the People’s Gym in Tuguegarao City.

A source from the Tuguegarao city government said around 2,500 people attended.

Mayor Jefferson Soriano said the seminar was organized by his local political party in support of the administration of President Duterte. It would be the first of a series of seminars to “discuss the salient points” of federalism, to be conducted in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The event was titled “Tapang at Malasakit pasa sa Mabilis na Pagbabago,” borrowing the first phrase from the name of a movement launched by presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Meanwhile, members of the Hukbong Federal Movement of the Philippines-Cagayan Valley chapter held a caravan in Camalaniugan town to express their support to the revolutionary government. – with reports from Mick Basa, Michael O. Ligalig, Frank Cimatu, and Raymon Dullana/Rappler. com

Philippines House Speaker Says “We Can Sweep Away The Congress” — “It’s not like we can say no” — Is Dictatorship Next for President Rodrigo Duterte?

December 1, 2017
In this March 13 photo, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez speaks with reporters together with President Rodrigo Duterte at the Palace. PPD/Toto Lozano, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is open to the idea of abolishing Congress if ever President Rodrigo Duterte declares a revolutionary government.

The proposal to declare a revolutionary government is not new as Duterte had already mentioned it in his campaign for the presidency, Alvarez said in an interview with radio dzMM Friday.

“Halimbawa dadating tayo sa panahon na ‘yun at kinakailangan talaga, pwede naman tayo magsakripisyo,” Alvarez said when asked about the possibility of abolishing Congress.

“Mas gustuhin ko ‘yun… para wala nang trabaho,” he joked.

Alvarez added that Duterte’s victory in the May 2016 national elections can be considered as proof that the Filipino people are in favor of a revolutionary government as the president had suggested it.

“Ang sabi niya gagawin niya ang tunay na pagbabago sa bansa at kung ito ay hindi niya magagawa dahil maraming humaharang, ‘yung option ng revolutionary ay nandodoon,” the speaker said.

Duterte had made confusing statements on the possibility of declaring a revolutionary government.

Last month, the president threatened that he would declare a revolutionary government to counter supposed threats to his administration. Duterte, however, also told the military to ignore talks about a revolutionary government.

RELATED: Yes RevGov? No RevGov? Duterte sending mixed signals



Alvarez on revolutionary gov’t: Duterte has people’s mandate

‘What can we do? It’s not like we can say no,’ says House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in jest

Published 3:10 PM, November 28, 2017
Updated 3:55 PM, November 28, 2017

WHAT'S NEW. Amid criticism from different sectors, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (right) and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (left) downplay President Rodrigo Duterte's revolutionary government threats. Photo from the Office of the House Speaker

WHAT’S NEW. Amid criticism from different sectors, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (right) and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (left) downplay President Rodrigo Duterte’s revolutionary government threats. Photo from the Office of the House Speaker

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Tuesday, November 28, downplayed concerns over President Rodrigo Duterte’s on-again, off-again threats to declare a revolutionary government.

“If you would recall, during the campaign, the President already said that,” said Alvarez in a press conference.

Back in March 2016, when he was merely a presidential candidate, Duterte said he would close down Congress and declare a revolutionary government if legislators would block the budget over the scrapped pork barrel system.

“If we reach that scenario, what do you think will happen? I will declare a revolutionary government. I will close Congress. Then I will tell them, we will talk elections about two years from now. We will amend the Constitution. I will call for a constitutional convention and that’s it. They better not threaten me with impeachment,” he said then.

On November 21 this year, Duterte denied plans to establish a revolutionary government as he spoke before soldiers.

Still, Alvarez said that should Duterte push through with this plan, it would be justified.

“For me, the President has spoken about [declaring a revolutionary government] for a long time. And on the basis of the 2016 election results, he got a huge mandate. That means the people approve of this,” Alvarez added.

Duterte got more than 16 million votes in the May 2016 elections, at least 6 million votes over his closest rival, Manuel Roxas II.

Both Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas seemingly belittled the threat of a revolutionary government, joking about it in the press conference.

“He even said he’d shut down Congress,” quipped Fariñas.

“What can we do? It’s not like we can say no,” said Alvarez, laughing.

“It’s fine for me. I won’t have a job anymore. Majority Leader and I will just go around. A road trip sounds fun,” added the House Speaker.

If a revolutionary government is declared, that means all branches of government – including the judiciary and executive – will be sacked and the Constitution, rejected. The leader of the government then decides on how the government will work. –


South China Sea: Philippine President calls For a Legally Binding Agreement

November 16, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center on November 14, 2017. Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte will push for a legally binding Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, Malacañang said yesterday as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) welcomed the adoption of a framework that would pave the way for negotiations on a “substantive and effective” COC with China.

ASEAN and China have agreed to start talks on the COC. Encouraged by the “positive momentum,” the chairman’s statement of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila said the leaders of the regional bloc look forward to the start of negotiations at the 20th ASEAN-China Summit and the subsequent convening of the 23rd ASEAN-China Joint Working Group Meeting on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Vietnam in early 2018.

The framework that was agreed upon in August seeks to advance the DOC, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

The chairman’s statement was released as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang concluded his visit to Manila after the ASEAN events and official visit in the country.

In the statement, the leaders took note of the improving relations between ASEAN and China, reaffirming their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety and the importance of undertaking confidence building and preventive measures to enhance, among others, trust and confidence among parties.

The leaders also welcomed the successful testing of the hotline between the ministries of foreign affairs of China and the 10 ASEAN countries or MFA-to-MFA Hotline to Manage Maritime Emergencies in the South China Sea and “looked forward to the operationalization of the Joint Statement on the Observance of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in the South China Sea.”

“In our view, these are practical measures that could reduce tensions and the risks of accidents, misunderstandings and miscalculation,” the statement said.

ASEAN reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

“In this regard, we further reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea,” the leaders said.

The leaders stressed the need to adhere to the peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They welcomed positive developments in maritime cooperation among ASEAN member-states, including through continued constructive dialogues on issues of common interest and concern, marine scientific research, maritime domain awareness and marine environment and protection.

During the meetings in Manila this week, leaders of the ASEAN, European Union and the United States committed to ensure maritime security, the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight, non-militarization in the South China Sea and other lawful uses of the sea.

Binding COC

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque gave assurance that Duterte and other ASEAN leaders want to work on a legally binding COC.

Roque said Duterte tried to negotiate with all the ASEAN member-nations to work for a code that would govern the behavior of countries at sea.

“I think the consultations on the (COC) was rather substantial because the different countries contemplated a (COC) that would in fact be legally binding,” Roque said.

“Otherwise, if it’s merely aspirational, then it will not promote the kind of peace and stability that they are hoping for. But anyway, we are only about to commence the process of negotiating a (COC). So we will see,” he added.

Roque said it was clear from Duterte’s statement that he wants the COC to be agreed upon by all parties to ensure peace and stability in the region.

“I think this was clear from the language also of the framework agreement that they previously entered into… which signaled the commencement of the talks for the (COC),” Roque said.

“I think that was a priority of the President because unless it becomes legally binding, we would not achieve the kind of predictability that all the countries want in order to achieve peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Asked what was substantially achieved during the ASEAN summit, Roque said it became clear that there was a consensus among all claimant countries and among Southeast Asian countries to ease the tension over the South China Sea.

“I think the fact that parties have now adopted the calm positions has led to stability in the region and has led to a tremendous reduction in tension as far as claimant countries are concerned,” Roque said.

Roque said Duterte is also open to bilateral talks as far as resolving the conflict is concerned and has said “time and again that he does not see any utility in talking to third parties who are not parties to the conflict.”

Roque said he does not think that the United Nations arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines’ maritime claims would “figure” in the drafting of the COC.

“As I said, the arbitral ruling is binding on China and the Philippines only,” he said.

“Well, even from my limited engagement in treaty drafting, I don’t see how it can figure actually. Considering that the (COC) is going to be applicable to all claimant countries and to all countries in Southeast Asia including China,” he said.

Bilateral solution: No use of threat or force

While negotiations for a code will commence, Roque said Duterte would also continue dealing with China bilaterally with regard to the South China Sea issue.

“And yes, I can confirm the report that the President has articulated preference for bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks in resolving the dispute. However, China… also stated that they have very good bilateral relations with all the claimant countries,” he said.

Following Premier Li Keqiang’s official visit in Manila last Wednesday, Manila and Beijing agreed not to resort to the threat or use of force in the South China Sea.

Instead, the two sides said the dealings should be based on friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned.

As this developed, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the Philippine Coast Guard will continue to take the lead role in conducting patrols in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine (Benham) Rise.

Esperon was one of the officials who met with PCG officer-in-charge Commodore Joel Garcia yesterday morning, during the visit of Kentaro Sonoura, special advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security of Japan, at the PCG headquarters.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, on the other hand, would take charge of developing and conserving the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources.

‘Fantastic team’

All ASEAN delegates had left the country as of noon yesterday, the ASEAN Security Task Force (ASTF) said.

ASTF commander Director Napoleon Taas said the Chinese leader was the last delegate to the ASEAN Summit to leave the country.
“…we have successfully secured the country’s hosting of the 31st Summit and the 50th anniversary of ASEAN,” Taas said in a statement.

Taas and Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy said the government led by Duterte received all praises for the successful hosting of the ASEAN events, including security arrangements.

“US President Trump described his experience as fantastic. The Singaporean (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) calls it a tough act to follow. (Duterte) refers to all of us as his ‘Fantastic Team,’” Taas noted.
Taas, however, said credit should be given to the thousands of personnel who contributed their best to ensure the success of the events.
“To the greatest security team that I had the privilege to lead, this is indeed a proud day for the nation. A day made possible by the nameless, selfless and dedicated men and women of the ASTF 2017,” Taas said.
Cuy said the country’s hosting of the 31st ASEAN Summit was a success, without even a single untoward incident recorded.

Cuy said a total of 60,000 troops were deployed and mobilized to provide security and safety to the world leaders, delegates and the general public during the summit.  
Cuy said the preparations for the summit were not a walk in the park but the Multi-Agency Coordination Committee was able to deliver what was expected through hard work with the numerous drills, simulation exercises, critiquing activities and rehearsals.

–  With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Peace and Freedom Note: The South China Sea already had a “legally binding” decision that China did not like — so China ignored the legally binding finding….

No automatic alt text available.

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.

Donald Trump, North Korea, South China Sea: Your Thursday Briefing

November 8, 2017

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:


CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

• President Xi Jinping of China showered President Trump with hospitality, leading him on a tour of the Forbidden City on Wednesday, but experts say the personal contact may not alter their divisions on pressuring North Korea.

The two meet again today, and are expected to give a joint statement. Our reporters in China and Washington note that business deals are likelier outcomes than policy shifts, and our video team tracks how Mr. Trump has shifted over time from targeting China’s trade policy to praising Mr. Xi.

In a bit of unfortunate timing, three U.C.L.A. basketball players were reportedly detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting and will not play an exhibition game in Shanghai on Friday.


• President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a halt to construction on a sandbar in an area of the South China Sea that was putting the Philippines into conflict with China.

This concession, a contrast to repeated Philippine challenges to China’s territorial claims, signals an effort to improve ties before a regional summit meeting in Vietnam this weekend.


• China’s projection of power is evident online, as well.

Beijing spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to buy ads on Facebook, a platform it blocks within China’s borders. Its propaganda videos target English-speaking audiences.

But rather than the divisive content Russia spread to influence the U.S. presidential election, China highlights its own prosperity — and chaos and violence in the rest of the world. Our reporter’s conclusion: China is offering itself globally as an alternative to Western media.


• American votersshunned Republicans up and down the ballot in off-year elections, pushing a diverse class of Democrats into office. The Virginia governor’s race ended in a particularly forceful rebuke of President Trump.

Our political correspondents outlined key takeaways from Tuesday’s races, and we collected reactions from writers on the right and left.



CreditRajat Gupta/European Pressphoto Agency

• New Delhi’s air quality worsened yet again, prompting the Indian authorities to close schools for nearly a week. A toxic cloud has lingered over the capital since Tuesday.

“The health of children cannot be compromised,” a shocked official wrote on Twitter after seeing two children throwing up from the window of a school bus.



Credit  David Maurice Smith for The New York Times

• A suburb of western Sydney, Australia, has shed its violent image, thanks to aggressive policing, government intervention and, not least, the vibrant Vietnamese food scene.

Cabramatta has always been a good place for me,” said one of its many residents who arrived in the 1970s as a refugee from the Vietnam War. “I feel very homey here.”




Credit Patrick Wack for The New York Times

• Workers at an American auto-glass plant owned by Fuyao Glass of China are voting on whether to unionize, a test of transnational labor relations and a personal challenge to the paternalism of Fuyao’s billionaire owner, the philanthropist Cao Dewang, above.

• The U.S. Congress is considering subjecting foreign investments to greater scrutiny, a move focused on China. At the same time, China released new details about a regulatory body with uncertain powers to calm its financial system.

• Tencent, the Chinese internet giant that owns WeChat, increased its stake in Snap, the parent of Snapchat. The boost came after Snap posted losses that pushed its shares down as much as 20 percent.

• The U.S. Justice Departmentcalled on Time Warner to sell assets, potentially including CNN, according to people briefed on the move. That invites a politically tinged legal battle over a pending merger with AT&T.

• Amazon taught Alexa, its digital assistant, the Hindi-English hybrid known as Hinglish. Here’s how the device fared with Bollywood lingo and Indian humor.

• U.S. stocks were mixed. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Philippine President Duterte says he hopes China will not build on Scarborough Shoal

November 8, 2017

By Carmela Fonbuena

Published 7:48 PM, November 07, 2017
Updated 8:55 PM, November 07, 2017

‘I wish he will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,’ says President Rodrigo Duterte

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

TRUST IN CHINA. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks during the 58th Philippine Army Change of Command Ceremony at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City on October 5, 2017. Presidential file photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte said he hopes China will “honor” its commitment to not build on Scarborough Shoal, the rocky sandbar off Zambales province that China occupied in 2012.

The statement comes after a command conference where Duterte was briefed on the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), part of his preparation for his trip to Vietnam where he will meet with world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping for the Asia Pacific Economic Summit.

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Scarborough Shoal is one of the richest fishing ground remaining in Philippine waters after the Chinese takeover. A Chinese takeover here would make in next to impossible to challenge China in the South China Sea. According to military experts, “IF China takes Scarbourough, that slams shut the door on any military operations against China for a long time.”

It was a reiteration of a statement he made in Davao last October when he said he is holding on to China’s promise it wouldn’t build anything on Scarborough Shoal.

Duterte claimed China gave his government the assurance it “will not be building something in Scarborough Shoal.”

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“I wish he (President Xi Jinping) will honor it because it will change the entire geography. If war starts, I don’t know what will be the next geographical division of Asia,” Duterte said.

Renewed concerns are raised as China launched a massive dredger ship that can build artificial islands similar to what it had already built in the South China Sea.

International security observers fear that the “island-maker” could be deployed to construct facilities on Scarborough Shoal, which is widely believed to be a red line for the US.

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China unveils ‘magic island maker’ ship – The Straits Times

Duterte spoke about his administration’s friendship with China during the 67th anniversary of the Philippine Marines, the unit in the frontlines protecting Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Laro ito ng geopolitics (It’s a game of geopolitics),” Duterte told the Marines.

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A Chinese H-6 bomber circles Scarborough Shoal

Duterte hinted at another trip to China. “You will have to trust me. Pupunta ako doon (I’m going there) and I will assert something and I will try one day, we’ll put a stake on what we think is ours,” said Duterte.

In the same speech, Duterte said the Philippines remains the “best friend” of the US as the thanked the country’s ally for its assistance in fighting local armed groups in Marawi City. –


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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.

Philippines scraps sandbar plan after China anger: defence chief — Philippines must dance to China’s music

November 8, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File | The Philippines, under President Rodrigo Duterte, has chosen to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investments and aid from President Xi Jinping’s China

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered troops to scrap plans of building a fishermen’s shelter on a sandbar in the disputed South China Sea after Beijing complained, his defence chief said Wednesday.

The military in August brought bamboo and palm roofing materials to one of three sandbars that emerged near one of their garrisons in the Spratlys archipelago in the contested sea, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

“We tried to put some structures (on) one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted,” Lorenzana told a regional security forum.

“And so the president came to know about this and he said: ‘Let’s pull out’.”

The apparent reversal comes at a time of improving relations between China and the Philippines, which until recently had bitterly contested their overlapping claims to the sea.

Lorenzana later told reporters that Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano advised Duterte there was an agreement between the two nations not to put up structures on new South China Sea features.

“We did not occupy it but some of our fishermen would like to establish a shelter there. They (China) saw it and they complained, so we had to pull out,” Lorenzana said.

China claims most of the strategically vital sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes, and which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

It has been turning reefs in the sea into islands, installing military aircraft and missile systems on them.

China’s sweeping claims overlap with those of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.

The Philippines had for many years been one of the region’s strongest opponents to Chinese expansionism.

A United Nations-backed tribunal ruled last year that China’s territorial claims in the sea were without legal basis.

But the Philippines, under Duterte, decided not to use the verdict to pressure China, instead electing to build closer ties in return for billions of dollars in investments and aid.

Lorenzana said the sandbar the military had planned to build the shelter on was a 500-square-metre (5,382-square-foot) outcrop located 4.6 kilometres (2.9 miles) from Philippine-held Thitu island.

Thitu is located about 26 kilometres (16 miles) from one of the artificial Chinese islands.

Lorenzana said the sandbars were now empty and that Manila was not worried China would occupy them in turn.

Nevertheless, he said he was concerned over the potential for future confrontation as Chinese fishing fleets escorted by maritime patrol vessels showed up in waters considered a traditional Filipino fishing ground.

“We have troops there, we have ships. Their troops could confront ours. That’s the kind of encounter I’m talking about. Now if there’s a mis-encounter, misunderstanding or miscalculation it could result into violence,” Lorenzana said.




Philippines, Japan sign $6B worth of business deals

October 31, 2017
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stand between the countries’ flags as they review a guard of honor at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Duterte is on a two-day visit to Japan. Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP
TOKYO — At least 18 business deals that will yield $6 billion worth of new investments were signed here Monday by Philippine and Japanese firms in a development that officials said affirmed investor confidence in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing of the agreements, which are expected to pour in Japanese investments in manufacturing, shipbuilding, iron and steel, agribusiness, power, renewable energy, transportation, infrastructure, mineral processing, retailing, information and communication technology, and business process management.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte met several Japanese companies and witnessed several B-B MOUs (business-to-business memoranda of understanding) and letters of intent on Investment plans, joint ventures and expansion of operations in the Philippines,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement.
“Total new investments (are expected to reach) $6 billion,” he added.
A list of companies that signed the agreement was not available as of Monday but incoming presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the deals would be undertaken by “big multinational” and “Filipino giant” corporations.
“If I’m not mistaken, there were at least 25 agreements that were witnessed by the president today,” Roque said in a chance interview here.
“I think it’s because there is number one, commercial predictability, number two there is peace and order in the Philippines and there is conducive business environment where businesses are safe from unjust taking,” he added.
Roque said the signing of business deals also highlighted the “very strong” relations between the Philippines and Japan.
“It also proves that Japan continues to be one of our most active trading partners,” the incoming presidential spokesman said.
Among the companies that signed business deals are the Steel Asia Manufacturing Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments, which forged agreements with Hitachi and Itochu. The group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan was also scheduled to meet with Japanese firms NTT, Rakuten, Itochu, Mitsui, Marubeni, Densan and Hitachi.
Lopez said he also met with his Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko to discuss ways to improve market access and lowering tariff of Philippine agricultural products like banana, pineapple and mango.
Asked about the Japanese trade minister’s reaction to his request to lower the tariff for Philippine agricultural exports, Lopez replied: “They took note of that and to be discussed in detail in the technical working groups under JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement).”
JPEPA is the bilateral trade agreement between the Philippines and Japan.
It was signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki, Finland, in September 2006.
The agreement assures zero duties for more than 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan and is expected to enhance the access of Filipino service workers to the Japanese market. It also requires the removal of tariffs by both Japan and the Philippines on almost all industrial goods within 10 years from the date of its implementation.
Lopez said he and Seko also discussed Japan’s support to reach a substantial conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The two trade chiefs also tackled the Industrial Cooperation Dialogue and ways to improve the supply chain for Japanese companies to benefit Philippine small and medium enterprises.

Philippines, Russia sign two military deals

October 25, 2017

MANILA (Reuters) – Thousands of assault rifles and helmets were among the military gear Russia donated to the Philippines in a bid to widen its arms market in Southeast Asia at a time when Manila is seeking to diversify weapons systems, officials said on Wednesday.

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Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte holds a AK-47 assault rifle during a inspection of donated firearms and trucks onboard the Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev docked at the port in Metro Manila, Philippines October 25, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

Manila received about 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 5,000 steel helmets, about a million rounds of ammunition for the rifles and 20 army trucks in a ceremony attended by President Rodrigo Duterte, who also toured one of five visiting Russian warships.

The gift came a day after Russia and the Philippines signed two military pacts, including a sales contract with Rosoboronexport, a state-owned vendor of Russian defense equipment.

“We are looking at acquiring some equipment for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, but there are no specifics yet,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Reuters. “We are still discussing.” .

Lorenzana said the Rosoboronexport contract was not a sales deal but signaled the Philippines’ intention to acquire small arms, vehicles and special equipment for disaster operations.

But the Philippines’ biggest source of arms, the United States, was not worried at the prospect of equipment donated by its rivals China and Russia.

“I don’t attach very much significance to it, some trucks or guns being dropped off to a country that’s fighting terrorists right now,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on the plane to Bangkok.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte troops the line of Russian sailors before boarding the Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev docked at the port in Metro Manila, Philippines October 25, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.

“It’s a sovereign decision by the Philippines,” he added. “So it’s not a big issue…other nations are coming to their help.”

The United States and China dominate regional arms trade.

Since 2000, the United States has donated close to $1 billion worth of military equipment to the Philippines, ranging from surveillance planes, drones and boats to small arms.

China, which promised to donate a third shipment of small arms after a meeting on Wednesday between Lorenzana and his Chinese counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, has already given the Philippines about $7 million in small arms.

The deals with the Philippines will allow Russia to expand its arms market in the region, said another senior Philippine official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The Philippines is now open to buying Russian arms as Manila cultivates closer ties with Moscow, he added, particularly as the military looks to diversify its equipment, reining in costs while maintaining quality.

“Moscow has been offering to sell arms to us since the mid-1990s and they are willing to barter guns for bananas,” he said, adding that Russia was selling fighters, helicopters and submarines to the Philippines.

Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Clarence Fernandez