Posts Tagged ‘Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella’

Philippine Government Says Terrorists Cannot Sustain Battle Much Longer

June 3, 2017

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Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. KING RODRIGUEZ/ Presidential Photo (FILE)

By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ

/ 03:23 PM June 03, 2017

The terrorist attack in Marawi City might have been “well-planned” but Malacañang on Saturday said the Maute Group would not be able to “sustain” fighting for a long time.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in an interview over state-run dzRB, addressed concerns that the terror group seemed to be not running out of ammunition.

“As to ammunition, as we have mentioned before, this rebellious activity turns out to have been well-planned, and adequate preparations had been made,” Abella said.

“They had also stocked up on ammunition they got from the city jail and armories that they ransacked. They have also recovered government items they foraged from other areas of the city,” he added.

The Palace official said “the enemy deliberately chose to retreat to the commercial area of the city so they can sustain themselves and their ammunition, so they could forage from there.”

READ: No proof Maute got foreign funding – military

Despite this, Abella said the terrorist would soon run out of ammunition.

“It is definite, however, that they will not be able to sustain it for long,” he said.

In a Palace briefing on Friday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said the government would never run out of ammunition despite a conventional bomb killing 10 soldiers due to a bungled airstrike, which indicates the military ran out of precision-guided missiles.

“Your Armed Forces will never run out of ammunition, my dear,” Padilla told reporters.

“We have the general arsenal to keep on producing. And even if they want to keep this fight up to the end of this month, or this week, or whatever, we are determined to take care of all these forces that have brought violence and disturbed the peace to the peace-loving community of Marawi,” he added.

Inquirer calls for support for the victims in Marawi City

Responding to appeals for help, the Philippine Daily Inquirer is extending its relief to victims of the attacks in Marawi City

Cash donations may be deposited in the Inquirer Foundation Corp. Banco De Oro (BDO) Current Account No: 007960018860.

Inquiries may be addressed to Inquirer’s Corporate Affairs office through Connie Kalagayan at 897-4426, and Bianca Kasilag-Macahilig at 897-8808 local 352,

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Philippines: Presidential Spokesman Calls 7,000 Extrajudicial Killings “Fake News” (It’s actually more like 9,000) — Further Erodes Credibility of Philippine Government, Philippine National Police (PNP)

April 21, 2017
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella called reports on more than 7,000 extralegal killings “false news.” PCOO/King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson on Friday called reports of nearly 9,000 drug-related deaths “false news,” months after media organizations and international groups used the figure in their reports.

Ernesto Abella, the presidential spokesperson, said that the persistent reports of more 7,000 killed, which is now said to be nearly 9,000, was “false news” as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the figure was much lower.

“On the number of extrajudicial deaths, the persistent news reports of 7,000 killed, which is now being said to be close to 9,000, is false,” Abella said.

The president’s spokesperson said that based on official police data there were only 6,011 homicide cases being investigated. Of the figure, only 1,398 cases were found to be drug related, contrary to reports that 9,000 have already been killed in anti-illegal drugs operations, Abella said.

Abella, meanwhile, called on organizations which report on drug incidents to be fair and not to rush to judgment as he emphasized that people appreciated the changes being implemented by the administration and the way these were carried out.

“We ask to be understood not just from a single perspective, but from the point of view of Filipinos who desire change, stability and fairness,” Abella said.

The number of murders and homicide cases, however, have risen dramatically at the start of the Duterte administration last year despite government’s denial that they are related to the brutal war on drugs. Drug experts also acknowledge that stringent law enforcement policy against narcotics have historically resulted in unnecessary violence and deaths.

Abella’s comments came days after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that public satisfaction with the government’s conduct of the war on drugs plunging by 11 points, from +77 in December 2016 to +66 in March 2017.

He also assuaged American concern on the increasing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, saying that those who breached protocol would be made to account.

“We share the concern of US Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy, who has been quoted in the media saying ‘there are elements of the drug war that are operating outside the rule of law,’” the spokesperson said.

Abella said that the PNP has an Internal Affairs Service which would probe into cases of police violations.

“This body can suspend or dismiss PNP personnel based on violations incurred and can recommend the filing of criminal charges,” he said.

He said that security forces followed procedures in conducting their operations although force may be used to protect the safety of the police.

“Local authorities follow operation protocols and the proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he said.

Not a single cop, however, has been accused by police investigators before a court of unjustifiably killing drug suspects in police operations. President Rodrigo Duterte himself said he will defend and pardon cops accused of wrongdoing in the field.


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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.


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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) talks to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa. AFP photo

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Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

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

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

 (December 23, 2016)



 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

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

 (November 30, 2016)


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

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

 (November 16, 2016)


 (August 10, 2016)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippines: Leadership plays down reduced public support for war on drugs killings

April 19, 2017


Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said majority of Filipinos are still satisfied with the government’s war on drugs despite the slight dip in satisfaction ratings. King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Wednesday said majority of Filipinos are still satisfied with the government’s war against illegal drugs despite the dip in ratings.

Abella noted that satisfaction is still high despite the “negative criticisms” received by the administration locally and abroad.
“Filipinos understand and support the campaign against hard drug traffickers and violators,” he said.
The spokesman also echoed the president’s vow and said that the drive against illegal drugs would be “relentless” until the drug apparatus is rendered useless.
The latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from March 25 to 28 showed that 78 percent of Filipino adults are satisfied with the government’s war on drugs while 12 percent are dissatisfied, yielding a net satisfaction of +66. This is an 11-point dip from the +77 rating in December 2016.
Meanwhile, 10 percent of Filipino adults are undecided.
Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.
He also noted that 70 percent of the Filipinos believe that the administration is serious about solving the problems in extrajudicial killings and cleansing the Philippine National Police of scalawags.
The survey showed, however, that 36 percent of respondents said they think the Duterte administration is somewhat serious in solving extrajudicial killing cases, while 5 percent said the government is “somewhat not serious,” and 4 percent said it is not serious at all.
The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide and has a sampling error of ± 3 percent.
Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.

Duterte targets Philippine children in bid to widen drug war — Lowering the age of criminality — “Rule of Law Has Collapsed in the Philippines”

February 14, 2017

Boys undergoing drug rehabilitation attend a lesson inside a government run drug rehabilitation centre in Bicutan, Metro Manila, in Philippines December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
By Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall | MANILA

Before Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs had even begun, allies of the Philippines president were quietly preparing for a wider offensive. On June 30, as Duterte was sworn in, they introduced a bill into the Philippine Congress that could allow children as young as nine to be targeted in a crackdown that has since claimed more than 7,600 lives.

The bill proposes to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old to prevent what it calls “the pampering of youthful offenders who commit crimes knowing they can get away with it.”

“You can ask any policeman or anyone connected with the law enforcement: We produce a generation of criminals,” Duterte said in a speech in Manila on December 12. Young children, he said, were becoming drug runners, thieves and rapists, and must be “taught to understand responsibility.”

The move to target children signals Duterte’s determination to intensify his drug war, which faces outrage abroad and growing unease at home. The president’s allies say his support in Congress will ensure the bill passes the House of Representatives by June.

The House would approve the bill “within six months,” said Fredenil Castro, who co-authored the legislation with the speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez. It might face opposition in the Senate, but would prevail because of Duterte’s allies there, added Castro.

National police chief Ronald Dela Rosa recently announced that he was suspending anti-narcotics operations, which have killed more than 2,500 people, while the force rids itself of corrupt cops. The announcement came after it emerged last month that drug squad officers had killed a South Korean businessman at national police headquarters.

The killing of drug suspects has continued, albeit at a slower pace, with most following the pattern of killings that police have blamed on vigilantes. Human rights monitors believe vigilantes have killed several thousand people and operate in league with the police – a charge the police deny.

Duterte has signaled he intends to continue his drug war. In late January, he said the campaign would run until his presidency ends in 2022.


Lowering the age of criminality was justified, Castro told Reuters, because many children were “in cahoots with drug users, with drug pushers, and others who are related to the drug trade.” He said he based his support for the bill on what he saw from his car and at churches – children begging and pickpocketing. “For me, there isn’t any evidence more convincing than what I see in every day of my life,” he said.

A controversial bill to restore the death penalty, another presidential priority, is also expected to pass the House of Representatives by mid-year, according to Duterte allies in Congress.

Supporters of the bill to lower the age of criminality say holding young children liable will discourage drug traffickers from exploiting them. Opponents, including opposition lawmakers and human rights groups, are appalled at a move they say will harm children without evidence it will reduce crime.

There is also resistance inside Duterte’s administration. A member of Duterte’s cabinet who heads the Department of Social Welfare and Development opposes the move. And a branch of the police responsible for protecting women and children disputes the claim that children are heavily involved in the drug trade – a claim not supported by official data.

Opponents warn that lowering the age of criminality would further strain a juvenile justice system that is struggling to cope. At worst, they say, with a drug war raging nationwide, the bill could legitimize the killing of minors.

“What will stop them from targeting children?” said Karina Teh, a local politician and child rights advocate in Manila. “They are using the war on drugs to criminalize children.”


The drug-war death toll includes at least 29 minors who were either shot by unidentified gunmen or accidentally killed during police operations from July to November 2016, according to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) and the Network Against Killings in the Philippines, both Manila-based advocacy groups.

Dela Rosa said the Philippine National Police “fully supports” the new bill. It is “true and supported by data” that minors are used by drug traffickers because they can’t be held criminally liable, the police chief said in a submission to the House of Representatives.

Some police officers working on the streets agree with Dela Rosa. In Manila’s slums, children as young as six act as lookouts for dealers, shouting “The enemy is coming!” when police approach, said Cecilio Tomas, an anti-narcotics officer in the city. By their early teens, some become delivery boys and then dealers and users, said Tomas.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the bill would protect children by stopping criminals from recruiting them. “They will not become targets simply because they will no longer be involved,” he said.

Child rights experts say the legislation could put children in the firing line. They point to the deadly precedent set in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte pioneered his hard-line tactics as mayor. The Coalition Against Summary Execution, a Davao-based rights watchdog, documented 1,424 vigilante-style killings in the city between 1998 and 2015. Of those victims, 132 were 17 or younger.

For all but three years during that period, Duterte was either Davao’s mayor or vice-mayor. He denied any involvement in the killings.


Althea Barbon was one of the children killed in the current nationwide drug war. The four year old was fatally wounded in August when police in an anti-narcotics operation shot at her father, the two Manila-based advocacy groups said. Unidentified gunmen shot dead Ericka Fernandez, 17, in a Manila alley on October 26, police said. Her bloody Barbie doll was collected as evidence. And on December 28, three boys, aged 15 or 16, were killed in Manila by what police said were motorbike-riding gunmen.

If the bill passes, the Philippines won’t be the only country where the age of criminality is low. In countries including England, Northern Ireland and Switzerland it is 10, according to the website of the Child Rights International Network, a research and advocacy group. In Scotland, children as young as eight can be held criminally responsible, but the government is in the process of raising the age limit to 12.

Critics of the Philippines’ bill say lower age limits are largely found in countries where the legal systems, detention facilities and rehabilitation programs are more developed.

Statistics from the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the government’s top anti-narcotics body, appear to contradict the Duterte camp’s claim that there is a large number of young children deeply involved in the drug trade.

There were 24,000 minors among the 800,000 drug users and dealers who had registered with the authorities by November 30, according to police statistics. But less than two percent of those minors, or about 400 children, were delivering or selling drugs. Only 12 percent, or 2,815, were aged 15 or younger. Most of the 24,000 minors were listed as drug users.

The number of minors involved in the drug trade is “just a small portion,” said Noel Sandoval, deputy head of the Women and Children’s Protection Center (WCPC), the police department that compiled the data.

The WCPC is not pushing to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, said Sandoval, but if the age is to be lowered, his department recommends a minimum age of 12, not 9.

Between January 2011 and July 2016, 956 children aged six to 17 were “rescued nationwide from illegal drug activity,” according to PDEA. They were mostly involved with marijuana and crystal methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug also known as shabu, and were handed over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Of these, only 80 were under the age of 15.


Asked for evidence that younger children are involved in the drug trade, Duterte’s legal counsel Panelo said the president had data from “all intelligence agencies.” Panelo declined to disclose those numbers.

Among the opponents of the bill is a member of Duterte’s cabinet, Judy Taguiwalo, secretary of the DSWD. The legislation runs counter to scientific knowledge about child development and would result not in lower crime rates but in more children being detained, Taguiwalo wrote in a letter to the House of Representatives in October.

Hidden by a high wall topped with metal spikes, the Valenzuela youth detention center in northern Manila is already operating at twice its capacity. Its 89 boys eat meals in shifts – the canteen can’t hold them all at once – and sleep on mats that spill out of the spartan dorms and into the hallways.

The government-run center, which currently houses boys aged 13 to 17 for up to a year, is considered a model facility in the Philippines. Even so, said Lourdes Gardoce, a social worker at the Valenzuela home, “It’s a big adjustment on our part if we have to cater to kids as young as nine.”

(Reporting by Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall. Edited by David Lague and Peter Hirschberg.)


 (Includes commentary by former President of Columbia Gaviria)

Police reports showed 10 alleged drug personalities were shot to death in Metro Manila and two more in Bulacan – all by unidentified men on motorcycles – in what appeared to be targeted hits. STAR/Joven Cagande
Deadly Milestone in Philippines’ Abusive ‘Drug War’

7,000 Filipinos Killed Since July Shows Rule of Law Collapse

By Phelim Kine
Human Rights Watch
January 24, 2017

The Philippine National Police confirmed that this week the death toll of Filipinos killed as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s abusive “war on drugs” surpassed the 7,000 mark.

Those 7,028 people – an average of more than 30 killed each day since Duterte assumed office on June 30, 2016 – include 2,503 suspected drug users and drug dealers killed by police and 3,603 killings by “unidentified gunmen.” Those numbers are the appalling but predictable result of Duterte’s vow that as president he would, “Forget the laws on human rights.”

A family friend weeps after Nora Acielo, 47, was gunned down by unidentified men while escorting her two children to school in Manila, Philippines December 8, 2016.

A family friend weeps after Nora Acielo, 47, was gunned down by unidentified men while escorting her two children to school in Manila, Philippines December 8, 2016.

They also symbolize the wider systems-failure that has exposed thousands of Filipinos to the threat of summary killings. Police justify those 2,503 killings, saying that the victims “resisted arrest and shot at police officers.” But police have not provided further evidence that officers acted in self-defense. There are allegations that “death squads” composed of plainclothes police personnel are behind some of the “unidentified gunmen” killings. Revelations last week that police officers kidnapped and then strangled to death a South Korean businessman – after raiding his home using a fake arrest warrant falsely implicated him in illegal drug activities – have deepened such suspicions.

Pro-Duterte lawmakers scuttled a Senate probe into the drug war killings in September. And by subjecting the drug war’s most prominent critic, Senator Leila de Lima, to a torrent of harassment and intimidation, Duterte and senior government officials have stifled meaningful scrutiny by lawmakers. An army of pro-Duterte internet trolls systematically harasses, intimidates, and threatens into silence individuals who question the drug war’s logic or legality.

Meanwhile, some foreign governments with close ties to the Philippines, such as Japan, have turned a blind eye to the bloodshed. During his mid-January visit to the Philippines, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a five-year US$800 million Japanese government Overseas Development Assistance package to “promote economic and infrastructure development.” But while promising financial support for drug rehabilitation projects in the Philippines, he made no mention of the brutal impact of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign on people who use drugs and their families.

Until there is concerted domestic and international opposition to the carnage, the death toll of Duterte’s drug war will only continue to rise.

Philippine Palace refutes Ramos: Duterte ‘visionary,’ not insecure

February 11, 2017
By: – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 07:49 PM February 11, 2017

Rodrigo Duterte-Fidel V. Ramos-King Rodriguez-PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte and former president Fidel V. Ramos have a private talk in this July 14, 2016 file photo (KING RODRIGUEZ/ PPD)

Do not take President Rodrigo Duterte’s “different” approach as a sign of insecurity.

That was how Malacañang reacted to former president Fidel Ramos’ comments that Duterte had a “one-way kind of decision-making in law enforcement” and that he was “insecure.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that while Duterte may have a “different working style” compared to Ramos, he still listens to opinions and advice from others.

“[Ramos’] approach is more managerial and more corporate while the President himself is more visionary,” Abella said in an interview over state-run dzRB radio.

“That doesn’t mean he’s insecure. What’s clear to me is that he’s a leader who listens,” he added.

The Palace official said Duterte may act on his own but that doesn’t mean he’s not listening.

“At the end of the day, kanya pong, siya mismo ‘yung ano, siya ‘yung mismong… ang kumikilos ‘no. But it doesn’t mean to say that he’s not listening, but siya mismo ang gumagawa ng desisyon,” he said.

(At the end of the day, he does things by himself. But it does not mean to say that he’s not listening, but he is just the one making the decisions.)

Abella called Duterte a “transformational leader.”

“Si PRRD po is what you would call a transformational leader…’yun bang out of nothing may nagagawa siya (the type who, out of nothing, gets to do things),” he said.

He noted that there has been a major leap on Duterte’s policies because “he has been acting out of the box.” He, however, assured that the President was following rules in his decisions.

“He has to follow the rules but he has been acting out of the box, but he’s truly a visionary leader, he’s really what would you call a transformational leader,” he said.

On Thursday, Ramos told Duterte to consult the public when making policy decisions.

“A lot of these fears being generated by him is because he is afraid of fear or he is not secured. He is insecure. Pardon me for saying this, Mr. President Duterte, but you must be at peace with yourself, do not talk about dying soon or being killed or not caring about your life,” Ramos said in an interview with Rappler.

Duterte has repeatedly said in his public speeches that it was Ramos who convinced him to run in the May 2016 elections.

READ: Now it can be told: FVR pushed Duterte to run

He said Ramos was the first person to fly to Davao City to ask him to run for president.

The former and present leaders, however, have not seen eye-to-eye since. Ramos earlier criticized Duterte for his anti-American sentiments, his use of foul language, and his decision to allow the hero’s burial for former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. IDL

READ: Ramos split with Duterte widens

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 (Includes commentary by former President of Columbia Gaviria)

Philippines Presidential Spokesperson: Three of every five statements made publicly by President Duterte mere ‘foolishness’

February 9, 2017

By: – Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 12:39 AM February 10, 2017
Ernesto Abella

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. TOTO LOZANO/Presidential Photo

Listen to us more, not to the President.

That’s practically the advice of presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella to journalists covering President Duterte, who had told reporters that three of every five statements he had made publicly were just wisecracks.

Abella himself, however,  seemed to doubt the President’s remarks, many of which had stirred up controversies and drawn condemnation from local and international groups.

During a regular news briefing in Malacañang on Thursday, Abella noted that Mr. Duterte “is very serious,” although he “can be quite humorous.”

‘Listen to us’

“Listen to [us during our] press conferences,” he said after being asked how to determine if the President was serious or just joking.

Pressed to explain, Abella replied: “Well, technically, what we do emphasize in the press conferences are vetted and properly vetted.”

He added: “I’m not saying [the President’s statements are] not properly vetted. I’m simply saying that at this stage, when we say it, it simply means to say we have gone through the process of discerning whether it was a joke or not.

“When there’s a particular statement that needs to be, for example, if it tends to be a policy… it would be underlined during the press conferences.”

Addressing employees of the Bureau of Customs on Wednesday, Mr. Duterte said reporters were “not really attuned to my character.”

“Of the five things I say, only two of those are true. The three others are just foolishness,” he said. “And so I’m just fond of doing it. I just want to laugh… at the expense also of myself sometimes.”

Very consistent?

Abella stressed that the President was “very consistent in his statements.”

But a review of Mr. Duterte’s speeches showed that he had  flip-flopped on several major policy statements.

For one, Mr. Duterte once said the Abu Sayyaf bandits were not criminals but just “driven to desperation” because of the government’s “failed promises.”

Later he took his statement back, even warning he would eat the bandits alive if they continued kidnapping people and setting off bombs in Mindanao.

Mr. Duterte had also said he was willing to be killed if he failed to deliver on his campaign promise of stamping out illegal drugs within the first six months of his presidency, or until last December.

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Philippines: Better ties possible with Trump-led US — Hear Trumps Words, “America will not impose its way of life on other nations.”

January 21, 2017
Abella said that the government’s priority in foreign relations is “the common good of the Filipino people and the national interest.” File photo
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines welcomes a change in US foreign policy under President Donald Trump, who said in his inauguration speech that America will not impose its way of life on other nations, a Palace official said.
In a statement released to the media, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that the Philippines and the US can have a “placid and mutually beneficial relationship” as longtime allies.
“Our diplomatic ties need to reflect our long-standing relationship but under terms and conditions that protect our people’s interests,” Abella said.
Relations between the Philippines and the US have been strained in recent months, especially over concerns raised by the Obama administration over potential human rights violations in the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that the Philippines will seek an independent foreign policy and closer ties with China, Russia and with Asian neighbors. He has also announced the country’s “separation” from the US, its former colonizer and longtime ally.
Trump said Friday night (Manila time) that his administration “we will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
He said that the US does not “seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”
Trump, who has promised more protectionist policies for the US, said that he will bring jobs that have been outsourced to other countries back to the US.
“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he said.
Abella said that better relations with the US are possible but also said that the Philippines will continue to strengthening ties with “other friends and partners in the international community.”

Philippines: Media Told To Use “Creative Imagination.” The New York Times Calls President Duterte, “The Wild Card in U.S.-Filipino Relations”

October 5, 2016

By Nestor Corrales
11:23 PM October 5th, 2016

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

USE your “creative imagination.”

This is what a Palace official had to say when asked to clarify President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement that he would eventually “break up with America.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella  told reporters not to literally interpret the statements of the President.
“If we follow his style, let us not put a period at the end of his statements,” Abella said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Abella said the media should learn to “understand” Duterte instead of “taking him literally.”

In his speech before the Jewish community in Makati City on Tuesday night, Duterte said he would eventually cut ties with the country’s longtime ally – the United States.

Asked for clarification, Abella said the President’s statement was part of the government’s independent foreign policy and a “broadening of options” in terms of alliances with other countries.

He admitted that the Philippines “might” sever ties with the US in the future.

“Okay, siguro ang mahalaga diyan, is dapat intindihin natin ‘yung word na ‘cut ng ties.’ Sabi niya it’s a possibility that he could, that he might. Hindi ba ‘yun pagkakasabi kanina, ‘might,’ that he might, okay? So but let’s try to use our creative imagination, okay? Huwag tayo masyadong tayong literal,” he said.

The Palace official said the President’s pronouncements may only be considered as policy statement when followed by “an official action.”

“A number of his statements are not really—are basically expressions of frustration and a desire to express the independence of the Philippines. But at this stage, there are no official statements or moves regarding this matter,” he said.

In the case of his statement of severing ties with the US, Abella said there were no “official moves” yet to sever ties with the superpower nation.

During his previous speeches, Duterte has often issued statements which he does not elaborate.

Ask for clarification on his pronouncements, the Palace and Duterte’s Cabinet secretaries would sometimes issue conflicting statements.

To address this concern, the Palace has released a memorandum on September 21, saying “official statements of the President on significant national and international issues” should only be issued by the presidential spokesperson.

In his absence, all statements on behalf of the President would be delivered only by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Despite the memorandum, Malacanang assured that Cabinet secretaries were still free to issue statements concerning their offices.

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Hardly a day goes by that President Rodrigo Duterte fails to come up with some new way to poison the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

On Tuesday, the Philippines began annual joint military exercises with the Americans, but Mr. Duterte has threatened that this will be the last time. He has also favorably compared his extrajudicial killings of drug addicts to the Holocaust, drawing so much condemnation that he later apologized. Still, the allusion suggested a new wave of vigilante deaths to come, on top of the more than 1,300 victims tallied so far.

Riding high in the polls, Mr. Duterte, a bullying leader with a vulgar mouth and volatile temperament, has been compared to Donald Trump and seems determined to shake up Filipino foreign policy as much as domestic policy. In so doing he could undermine not only relations with the United States but, more broadly, stability in Asia, which is already threatened by China’s increasingly aggressive efforts to assert control over most of the South China Sea.

The United States has a long history with the Philippines, a former colony that became independent in 1946 and signed a mutual defense treaty with Washington in 1951. The relationship has had its ups and downs, including controversy over two key naval bases that lately have been reopened to American forces. With the Obama administration rebalancing American interests in Asia as a counterweight to China, the relationship with the Philippines is more important than ever.

In the three short months since he took office, Mr. Duterte has called President Obama a “son of a bitch,” threatened to evict American special operations forces training Filipino troops to fight terrorists on the southern island of Mindanao, and hinted at new alliances with China and Russia.

This could all be bluster. Mr. Duterte’s senior aides have assured American officials that nothing will change, and so far there has been no effort to remove the special forces. And despite Mr. Duterte’s flirtation with China, Beijing is still blocking Filipino fishermen from their traditional waters in the South China Sea. The Philippine peso has fallen, and credit rating agencies have warned that they could soon downgrade the country’s creditworthiness. Some American lawmakers, meanwhile, have suggested cutting aid to Manila.

So far, the Obama administration has held fast, reaffirming its commitment to the alliance while issuing statements against Mr. Duterte’s violation of the rule of law and disregard of human rights. It is not an easy situation to manage, however, given Mr. Duterte’s volatility and erratic ways. The hope is that in time he will temper his ideas. But a lot of damage could be done to his country and its ties to America in the meantime.

Philippines says Duterte’s New Foreign Policy Won’t Make Filipinos China’s Lap Dogs

September 15, 2016
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar stressed the Philippines would definitely continue to honor its security commitment with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the 1950s-era Mutual Defense Treaty. PPD/Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines – An independent foreign policy does not mean playing lackey to China, a Palace official said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar made this clear yesterday as he defended President Duterte’s plan to acquire military equipment from China or from Russia. The US is the Philippines’ traditional source of weapons and other military equipment.

“When you create an independent foreign policy, it’s really just saying that we are a sovereign state, we are not beholden to any country and, once and for all, we can say to ourselves that we are standing up on our own two feet. That’s just it. We are not severing ties with our allies,” Andanar said at a press briefing at Malacañang.

Duterte earlier said he was sending Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and several technical experts to China and Russia to scout for cheaper but dependable military equipment.

Andanar stressed the Philippines would definitely continue to honor its security commitment with the US like the Visiting Forces Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the 1950s-era Mutual Defense Treaty.

“Our friendship with Americans goes a long, long way. It cannot be (just severed). We have many allies including the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” Andanar added.

But he said “there’s nothing wrong” with acquiring weapons and defense equipment from sources other than the US “if they’re free, inexpensive or offered at lower interest.”

Asked why Duterte would consider acquiring military equipment from China when he had already criticized the quality of Chinese-made products, Andanar said, “not all China products are bad.“

“In fact, maybe most of your laptops here are being produced in China. Most of the things that we use here, maybe this microphone is also made in China,” he added.

“But there are also products which are not that good. So, it would all depend on the product. Maybe what was mentioned by the President are the products that didn’t pass the standards,” Andanar explained.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, for his part, said Philippine-China relations are at a new turning point.

“According to China vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin the two countries may be on track to dialogue, consultation and friendly cooperation. In this connection, the President has also tasked the defense and military establishment to study the options through sourcing military equipment from either China and/or Russia. But they’re not closing the options to these two alone,” Abella stressed.

He added there are no preconditions to talks with China, adding that their only purpose is to establish “warmer relationships” between the two countries.