Posts Tagged ‘rule of law’

Trump trade tsar warns against China ‘market economy’ status

June 22, 2017
Robert Lighthizer says a change in standing of country by WTO would be ‘cataclysmic’
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China: Could the world’s new superpower be on the verge of collapse? — China must step up

June 21, 2017

By Paul Wilson   news.com.au

COULD China be witnessing the beginnings of its own end?

The vast majority of commentators say chances are slim. Most are as dismissive of China-sceptics as Nikita Krushchev was of USSR doom-mongers in the late fifties. Yet within three decades of “We will bury you!” Krushchev was proved wrong. History was not on his side and the only grave being dug was for the Soviet Union itself.

But, surely, this is the beginning of the great “Chinese Century”? The People’s Republic is completely different to the USSR? It’s all about economics now? Well, yes and no …

Historical map of China. Picture: Thinkstock

Historical map of China. Picture: Thinkstock Source:News Limited

A ‘NATION STATE’?

Pull out a map of the Orient. Not a Chinese Communist Party standard issue, but one from history. Whether you go back a hundred years or a thousand, the image that greets you is strikingly similar: a far, far smaller “China”, centred on the old Han Chinese heartlands. Much of what lies within “Chinese” borders today was not so long ago a mosaic of very separate, non-Chinese states, only absorbed by force.

Travel around China, and as you leave the booming cities of the east, the picture becomes clear. Fewer people look “Chinese”, speak Chinese (either Mandarin or Cantonese), or act “Chinese” (mosques instead of Mao, chortens instead of chopsticks). It is not so much “ethnic minorities” living in “autonomous zones”, more non-Chinese majorities whose homelands have been swiped from beneath their feet. The contrast with Beijing and Shanghai is stark, despite millions of Han Chinese families being forcibly relocated to live in these regions, or bribed with government jobs.

If it was inevitable Soviet Republics like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would one day seek self-determination, is it so hard to believe Tibetans and Uighurs won’t do the same? Or that Inner Mongolians wish reunification with their “Outer” cousins?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inspects the troops with Premier Li Keqiang outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on his first official visit to China. Picture: Stephen Cooper

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inspects the troops with Premier Li Keqiang outside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on his first official visit to China. Picture: Stephen CooperSource:News Corp Australia

THE WAR IS OVER?

China may not face the threat of a cold war, yet it is still embroiled in major conflict. Trump, Putin, even Kim Jong-un could be roll-called as potential adversaries, but foreign opponents are the least of Party Leaders’ worries. The reality is they are already at war on three home fronts:

Xinjiang

This is the Mandarin name for the enormous province that makes up northwest China. However, a significant minority of the region’s (primarily Muslim) inhabitants use “East Turkestan” or “Uighurstan”. The area’s history is of mixed fortune but for much of the past it was made up of rich independent kingdoms like Khotan or Kashgar. As recently as 1949, East Turkestan existed as an independent republic. Today, the largest ethnic group is the Uighurs, and many are in conflict with Beijing. Suicide bombings, embassy attacks and plane hijackings are regularly carried out by groups demanding their own nation state. A 2014 attack at the Kunming Railway station killed 31 and injured 141.

Tibet

The Tibetan struggle may be the most peaceful “war” on the planet, but this does allow the Dalai Lama to retain broad international sympathy. Historically, Tibet also included much of the modern Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan, and ethnically and culturally Tibetans have always been completely at odds with their Chinese neighbours. This whole region is still primarily “Tibetan”, despite 150,000 Tibetans living in exile. Recent protests have turned violent, sometimes deadly.

Taiwan

Technically, China is not at war with this nation but that is only because Taiwan has never formally declared nationhood. If Taipei does, Beijing has vowed it will launch an immediate military attack. As recently as March 2017, Taiwan’s Defence Minister talked of “warfare” against mainland China. With hostilities in the South China Sea steadily increasing, and Washington using Taiwan as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Beijing, developments in Taipei could yet be a major catalyst for change.

Workers install the ‘Golden Bridge of Silk Road’ outside a summit showcasing President Xi Jinping's signature foreign-policy plan ‘One Belt, One Road’. Picture: AP

Workers install the ‘Golden Bridge of Silk Road’ outside a summit showcasing President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign-policy plan ‘One Belt, One Road’. Picture: APSource:AP

ECONOMICS OR POLITICS?

If economics as much as politics proves instrumental in the unravelling of modern China, Hong Kong holds the key. Beijing has made every effort to integrate the former colony into the mainland economy, but fundamental obstacles remain. Uncompromising protests frequently denounce Beijing for reneging on promises, with many “islanders” demanding full democratic rights and an end to the one-party system.

Dissent is spreading across southern China and many protesters, like their Hong Kong counterparts, are Cantonese — or Hokkien-speaking Han. Those south of the Yangzte River may share ethnic and cultural ties with their Mandarin-speaking cousins in the north, but they have long considered themselves different. Traditionally this might have only been a preference for rice over noodles, but increasingly debate is about more than what food’s on the table.

Will China collapse? Ask this guy.

Will China collapse? Ask this guy.Source:AP

PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS

The world’s new “superpower” hopes investment in the provinces will convince locals that life under CPC rule is preferable to any breakup. In particular, President Xi Jinping is staking billions on his “One Belt, One Road” policy, aimed at creating a “New Silk Road” to bring trade and prosperity. Nevertheless, the economy is increasingly volatile. Could a 9/11-type terrorist event cause it to implode? Under such circumstances, might the Han Chinese call for their Uighur, Tibetan and Mongol “compatriots” to be cut loose? This is a country famous for turning its back on the outside world.

Tellingly, the Kremlin also ordered mass migrations. Stalin sent thousands of native Russians to “modernise” his newly created Soviet Republics, yet following the breakup of the USSR the vast majority quickly returned. Successive leaders tried similar “economic solutions” but the likes of Perestroika and Glasnost proved too little too late.

Will China collapse tomorrow? Probably not. In the next 30 years? Ask Mikhail Gorbachev.

Paul Wilson has been travelling through Central Asia and China since the late 1990s. His book, The Silk Roads (Trailblazer), is in its third edition. He is a regular speaker at the UNWTO’s Silk Road Programme and Open Central Asia Literary Festival.

http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/could-the-worlds-new-superpower-be-on-the-verge-of-collapse/news-story/46a688923e23434cb8bb32e8fa576b74

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China’s “Belt and Road” plan would be the world’s largest infrastructure program.

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 (The “Project of the Century” is, at heart, an imperial venture.)

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Pakistan PM hits out at ‘slandering’ of his family over wealth

June 15, 2017

Reuters

By Drazen Jorgic and Saad Sayeed | ISLAMABAD

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday lashed out at what he called the “slandering” of his family in connection with an investigation of their wealth, and said unidentified people with agendas against him posed a danger to the country.

Sharif was speaking after being grilled by a powerful panel investigating him and his family in an inquiry ordered by the Supreme Court that has gripped Pakistan and become increasingly politicized.

“What is happening here is not about corruption allegations against me, it is about slandering the businesses and accounts of my family,” a defiant Sharif, clad in traditional shalwar kameez tunic and trousers, said as he read from a statement.

Sharif, 67, spent about three hours at the offices of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in the capital, Islamabad, becoming the first Pakistani prime minister to be questioned by an investigative agency.

“No corruption charges have been proven against me in the past and, inshallah (God willing), it will not be so once again,” he said.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore wealth after the opposition threatened protests after the leaking of the “Panama Papers”.

Documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy luxury properties in London.

The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office over corruption allegations leveled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

Sharif, whose father was a prominent industrialist, has said his family wealth was acquired legally.

A three-time prime minister, Sharif was ousted twice in the 1990s, including in a 1999 military coup. He later lived in exile, mostly in Saudi Arabia.

He swept back to power in an election in 2013 but rumors of tension between his government and the powerful military, which oversees the foreign relations and national security, occasionally circulate.

‘SUSPICIOUS’

Sharif suggested that unidentified enemies acting behind the scenes should be stopped from trying to subvert the wishes of the electorate that handed his party victory in a 2013 general election.

“If the factories that produce agendas and silence the decisions of the people are not closed, then not only the law and constitution, but the safety of this country will also be jeopardized,” he said.

Pakistan has been plagued by pervasive corruption for decades, with politicians often accusing rivals of underhand dealings.

The Supreme Court has given the panel two months to investigate the family and then deliver its findings.

The six-man panel, made up of members of civilian investigative agencies and military intelligence officers, are examining three generations of Sharif family wealth.

The team has accused government departments of tampering with old records, but Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday rejected such allegations, adding that the team’s claims meant the process was becoming “suspicious”, media reported.

Sharif’s camp has sought to remove two members of the investigation team and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party voiced outrage over a leaked photograph taken from security camera footage showing Sharif’s son, Hussain, appearing before the panel.

Opinion polls suggest Sharif’s party is likely to win the next election, due next year.

A senior PML-N official told Reuters the party was unlikely to call an early election if Sharif was ousted by a Supreme Court ruling, and would select a new prime minister to take over until the general election.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Trump assassination play — Shooting at Republicans during baseball practice — American left unhinged? — Political Disorder Syndrome

June 15, 2017

AP

 

By Daniel Henninger
The Wall Street Journal
June 15, 2017

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James T. Hodgkinson, who on Wednesday shot Republican Rep. Steve Scalise and four others, posted this on his Facebook page March 22: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”

Sitting in the dying light of World War I, the poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “I had not thought death had undone so many.” What’s our excuse? Displays of political or social excess seem to be everywhere. Whatever once fastened the doors of people’s minds to something secure and stable has become unhinged.

Some thought the apotheosis of political derangement had been reached when celebrity Kathy Griffin posted a video of herself holding the bloody, severed head of Donald Trump.

But that wasn’t the end of it. We may assume that as Ms. Griffin was creating her video, the artists at New York’s Public Theater were rehearsing their production of “Julius Caesar, ” the one in which Central Park audiences watch Caesar as a blond-haired Donald Trump, who is pulled down from a podium by men in suits and assassinated with plunging knives.

The news site Axios runs stories regularly about journalists who have been suspended or fired because of their unhinged postings on Twitter . After Donald Trump used a tweet to revive his long-running feud with the mayor of London amid the June 3 killings, CNN personality Reza Aslan tweeted that Mr. Trump was a “piece of s—.”

Some take comfort that these displays did not go unpunished. CNN wrist-slapped Ms. Griffin by dropping her as co-host of its New Year’s Eve show with Anderson Cooper. Delta Air Lines , American Express and Bank of America withdrew their sponsorship of “Julius Caesar,” though New York City’s Democratic Comptroller Scott Stringer said their pullout “sends the wrong message.”

Advertisers must wake up every morning wondering what political meteorite will hit them next. J.P. Morgan Chase pulled its ads this week from NBC News rather than be associated with Megyn Kelly’s prime-time interview with Alex Jones to discuss “controversies and conspiracies,” such as his notion that the Sandy Hook murders were a hoax. Ms. Kelly justified the interview in part on Twitter because Donald Trump appeared on Mr. Jones’s show and “our job is 2 shine a light.”

Donald Trump’s election has caused psychological unhingement in much of the population. But the Trump phenomenon only accelerated forces that were plummeting in this direction before the 2016 election.

Social media—a permanent marinade for the human brain—is causing a vast, mysterious transformation of how people process experience, and maybe someday a future B.F. Skinner will explain what it has done to us.

Impossible to miss, though, is how jacked up emotional intensity has become in American politics. The campaign rallies of both Mr. Trump and Bernie Sanders often sat on the edge of violence. Reporters describe political town hall meetings as full of “angry” voters. Shouting down the opposition in these forums or on campus has been virtually internalized as standard behavior. Refusal to reason is the new normal. And then the unreason is euphemized as free speech.

Investigators stand at the site of the shooting in Alexandria, Va., June 14.

Investigators stand at the site of the shooting in Alexandria, Va., June 14. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Explaining away these impulses as a routine turn of the populist political cycle is insufficient. Something more permanent is happening.

I remain fascinated with the case of the 10 incoming Harvard freshmen who celebrated their achievement by posting a series of remarkably repulsive, violent photographic memes on Facebook. One said abusing children was sexually arousing; another described the hanging of a Mexican child as “piñata time.”

What those no-longer Harvard students had done was create a “private” Facebook messaging board, where they somehow felt free to mock and subvert current social convention. They aren’t alone. The website Reddit, which has about 500 million monthly visitors, became known for similar “anonymous” bulletin boards on which men, for example, exchange outrageous sexual postings.

We negotiate much of daily life now in tense, parallel universes: One is overflowing with individual political and social behavior that is deviant—flights from the norm—at a time when broader norms of political and social behavior are enforced with a vengeance. Today you can get shamed, sued or fired for almost any conceivable offense.

In reaction, millions of people—including the president—seem to regard social media as a kind of wildlife refuge, where they can run naked against society’s dammed-up personal and political opinions.

The possibilities for psychological dislocation are limitless. Kathy Griffin justified her beheaded-Trump stunt by arguing, “I’ve dealt with older white guys trying to keep me down my whole life. . . . This is a woman thing.”

We know that political anger and violence can become mystical in its attraction, especially at the margin for people like political shooter James Hodgkinson. This is a good moment to dial it back. The Public Theater’s management could cancel their staged Trump assassination in Central Park. But they won’t. Like so many others with political disorder syndrome, they no longer can.

Write henninger@wsj.com.

Appeared in the June 15, 2017, print edition.

Read the rest:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/political-disorder-syndrome-1497482088

Tillerson, In Australia, Critical of China on South China Sea — “Failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.” — “We cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems.”

June 5, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Thomas WATKINS | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop leave at the end of a press conference in Sydney on June 5, 2017

SYDNEY (AFP) – 

China and other nations must strengthen efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday, while also calling out Beijing over its South China Sea activities.

America’s top diplomat, speaking after talks in Sydney, also gave a brief response to the unfolding crisis in the Gulf, where Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have all announced they are severing ties with gas-rich Qatar.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has spent recent weeks trying to reassure allies it can maintain a tough line against China’s “militarisation” of the South China Sea while at the same time seeking help from Beijing.

President Donald Trump — who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail — has turned to Beijing to help rein in ally North Korea’s weapons programme, prompting concern among Asian allies that America might go easy on the South China Sea territorial dispute.

“We desire productive relationships,” Tillerson said after annual discussions with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Sydney.

“But we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarising islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.”

He said China and other regional partners should “step up” efforts to help solve the North Korea situation, because it presents a threat to the “entire world.”

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

It has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

Tillerson reiterated US and Australian commitment to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to “ensure unimpeded flow of lawful commerce in a rules-based order”.

But reporters asked Tillerson if America was applying a double standard in telling countries to adhere to the international order while simultaneously pulling out of a trans-Pacific trade deal and the Paris climate accords — moves that prompted even longstanding allies to question whether America was retreating into isolationism.

“That’s why we’re here, that’s why we travel to the region, that?s why we engage with our counterparts,” Tillerson said, standing alongside Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Bishop and Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne.

We “travel to the region to meet with our counterparts and talk about all the issues that are important to them and hear from them concerns about where the (Trump) administration is positioned”.

– ‘Remain united’ –

Addressing the situation in the Gulf, Tillerson called on countries there to stay united and work out their differences.

“We certainly would encourage the parties to sit down together and address these differences,” he said.

“If there’s any role that we can play in terms of helping them address those, we think it is important that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) remain united.”

Riyadh cut diplomatic relations and closed borders with its neighbour Qatar to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism”, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Tillerson and Mattis both said they did not anticipate any impact on efforts by a US-led coalition to battle the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The coalition currently conducts much of its operational planning and coordination from Al-Udeid air base in Qatar.

“I am confident there will be no implications coming out of this diplomatic situation at all, and I say that based on the commitment that each of these nations… have made to this fight,” Mattis said.

The US defense secretary blasted Iran for its “various destabilising efforts” in the region, referring to Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran’s involvement in the Yemen war.

by Thomas WATKINS

Philippines: Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights Lost; Dictatorship Found?

May 31, 2017

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte has been talking about military junta and martial law for years — Now he has it — COMMENTARY

OPINION

B (The Philippine Star) |

As early as a year ago, then front-running presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was foreboding about the brewing prospects of Mindanao. Mayor Duterte in fact, succinctly described Mindanao as a powder keg on the brink of violent explosion. At that time, the Mayor already expressed his fears and apprehension on the danger signs in the horizon as far as he sees Mindanao up close and personal from where they live in Davao City.

The last to join the presidential race, Mayor Duterte noted with concern that none of the four candidates have taken up the cause of Mindanao folks who have to bear the festering Muslim secessionists and other peace and order problems in Southern Philippines. This was one of the reasons why then 71-year-old Davao City mayor repeatedly says he decided to join the presidential contest despite the constraints of his age and state of health.

At that time last year, the outgoing administration of former President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III failed to deliver its promise to push his allies in Congress to pass the enabling law to create the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The creation of the BBL was one of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that the Aquino administration forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Rodrigo Duterte speaks to Filipino community in Singapore - 16 Dec 2016
President Rodrigo Duterte (Photo by WONG MAYE-E/AP)

Although the Aquino administration succeeded to make the MILF enter into this peace agreement with the government, they failed, however, to bring in the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by its erstwhile chairman Nur Misuari. Misuari has a standing peace agreement with the government entered into in 1996 with former President Fidel Ramos.

It was September 2013 when the infamous Zamboanga siege flared up. Misuari was charged for inciting to his MNLF loyalists into armed rebellion. It took two weeks and six days for the government authorities led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to put a peaceful end to the Zamboanga siege. From then on, Misuari became a fugitive from justice.

“Please watch out for Mindanao, it might explode if people here in Manila will not properly handle the situation there,” presidential candidate Duterte warned.

 

Mayor Duterte echoed these concerns when he was the last guest in the presidential forum organized by The Philippine STAR among the five candidates during the May 9 elections. And the rest, as we say, is history.

As if the presence of troublemakers in Mindanao were not enough, here comes the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) announcing their rebel insurgents have been ordered to fight government forces implementing martial law. The announcement was issued a few days before the resumption of the 5th round of peace negotiations of the government with their Netherlands-based leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

An irked President Duterte derided the CPP-NPA for its latest pronouncement. Through the 50 years of insurgency history in the Philippines, the President twitted CPP-NPA for not being able to occupy one barangay unlike the Maute that overran Marawi City last May 22. This is not to mention, the self-confessed socialist President Duterte has accommodated the left-wing groups into his administration, including appointment of at least four known communist-leaning members in his Cabinet.

A little Palace birdie told me President Duterte excluded his left-leaning Cabinet members during the emergency meeting in Davao City to discuss his martial law declaration last week a day after his arrival from Moscow.

This, however, did not stop Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and his panel of government peace negotiators led by Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III to proceed to The Netherlands. And why?

Dureza posted this on his Facebook account on May 26 while seemingly exasperated for the long wait of their aircraft to take off: “SORRY, SO DELAYED ( 3 hours late) AND WE ARE STILL SITTING HERE AT NAIA TARMAC ON BOARD EMIRATES FLIGHT MLA TO DUBAI ENROUTE TO AMSTERDAM FOR 5th ROUND PEACE TALKS. We may not be able to connect.”

But that’s another long-running story on the problems at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) still besieged by air traffic and its other operational woes. Only yesterday, NAIA did emergency repair of potholed runways that caused massive air traffic, flight diversion to Clark airport, if not cancelled flights.

Although fretting over their delayed flight to The Netherlands, Dureza was obviously gung-ho to resume the next round of peace talks with their NDFP counterparts. The 5th round of peace talks, as sponsored by the Norwegian government, were being held at the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel Noordwijk Aan Zee at The Netherlands.

Aside from Dureza and Bello, the other government panel include former Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento, ex-Pangasinan Rep. Hernani Braganza, CHED commissioner Popoy de Vera, to name a few of them now cooling their heels at Armsterdam at Filipino taxpayers’ expense.

Dureza was already aware that President Duterte had made up his mind to put on hold the government’s peace talks with the NDFP. Then, why did Dureza and company had to embark on this face-to-face meeting just to relay this message to their NDFP counterparts?

Can long-distance telephone calls not suffice if Dureza wishes only to personally relay the demand to their NDFP counterparts to rescind the call to arms of the CPP against the government’s martial law in Mindanao?

It was only until President Duterte came into office at Malacanang Palace in July last year that he was able to convince Misuari to come out from his hiding and help negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao.

If President Duterte can find a way to reach out and talk with Misuari, then how come his peace negotiators can not do the same thing?

All these memories flooded back while listening to President Duterte “Talk to the Troops” last Saturday in Tawi-tawi. In his pep talk with government troopers, the President retraced the entire Philippine history until why his hands were forced into declaring last week a Mindanao-wide martial law for at least 60 days.

It was less than a year after ex-Davao City Mayor Duterte predicted it will happen.

Prophetic? The Mindanao powder keg was lit up after the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom bandits joined forces with Maute crime group now laying siege in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Or is it a self-fulfilling prophecy of former Davao City Mayor now President Duterte?

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/05/31/1705219/rodys-self-fulfilling-prophecy

Related: Junta, Martial Law

 (with links to related reports)

Related: South China Sea

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Related: War on Drugs and Human Rights

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In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, people and a policeman looking at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag of her child, are reflected in a pool of water after she was shot by still unidentified men while walking with her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
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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.”

Venezuela protest seeks greater press freedom

May 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Demonstrations in Venezuela that got underway in late March have claimed the lives of 58 people

CARACAS (AFP) – Protesters descended Saturday on the offices of Venezuela’s state media regulator, the latest in nearly two months of often-violent protests demanding the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.

Demonstrations that got underway in late March have claimed the lives of 58 people, as opposition leaders seek to ramp up pressure on Venezuela’s leftist president, whose already-low popularity has cratered amid ongoing shortages of food and medicines, among other economic woes.

Saturday’s protest in Caracas was held to mark 10 years since the government shuttered a popular television station seen as having anti-government leanings.

The network, RCTV, was shut down by Maduro’s predecessor, the late populist leader Hugo Chavez, after more than a half-century on the air, for its outspoken criticism of his government.

The move “was an atrocious act against freedom of expression”, Julio Borges, leader of the opposition-led legislature, said at the protest.

At the time, officials said the move to close RCTV aimed to “democratize” the airwaves in Venezuela.

Since its demise, a state television broadcaster, TVES, was founded and has been operating in its stead.

On Friday, riot police greeted throngs of protesters who took their demonstration to the complex of buildings housing the defense ministry in in Caracas.

Demonstrators had hoped to sway the support of the armed forces against Maduro, who has been resisting opposition calls for early elections.

Organizers said more protests are planned for Monday.

 

Philippines: Town police chief not beheaded — President Duterte Keeps Going on Martial Law Anyway (Farce or Hoax? — Should We Be in Martial Law?)

May 25, 2017
/ 01:41 AM May 26, 2017

DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte may have been misinformed when he reported that terrorists who had rampaged through Marawi City beheaded the police chief of Malabang town in Lanao del Sur.

Mr. Duterte said on Wednesday that the police chief, whom he did not identify, was stopped at a checkpoint on Tuesday by the gunmen who decapitated the officer “right then and there.”

Still alive

The Malabang police chief, however, is still at his post he had occupied just two months earlier.

“I’m still alive,” Senior Insp. Romeo Enriquez told the Inquirer by phone on Thursday.

Authorities said five soldiers and two police officers were killed in clashes with Abu Sayyaf and Maute group fighters.

Enriquez said he had replaced one of the slain officers — Senior Insp. Freddie Manuel Solar — as police chief of Malabang two months ago. Solar was shot, not beheaded by his killers.

The body of the other officer, Insp. Edwin Placido, deputy police chief of Marawi still has not been retrieved as of this writing.

Solar was a graduate of Philippine National Police Academy Class 2007 and served as Marawi police intelligence chief.

He was outside Amai Pakpak Medical Center in a police car when the gunmen seized him. His abductors later shot him dead. —NICO ALCONABA

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/899751/town-police-chief-not-beheaded#ixzz4i78MVhAV
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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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Philippines: A look into Duterte’s reasons for martial law in Mindanao

May 25, 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he answers questions from reporters as he arrives at Manila’s international airport, Philippines, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Duterte warned Wednesday that he’ll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country’s south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have taken hostages. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte cited rebellion as motive for declaring martial law and suspending the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao through Proclamation 216.

This was after state forces attempted on Tuesday to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. Gunmen, belonging to allied Maute group inspired by the so-called Islamic State, then entered the city at Hapilon’s beckoning.

The proclamation cited Article 7, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution granting the president the power to declare martial law in cases of “invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it” for a maximum of 60 days.

It also cited a provision under the Revised Penal Code setting the conditions for the crime of rebellion, as:

Committed by rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.

Proclamation 216 further notes that the Maute militants started flying the flag of the Islamic State in several areas, “thereby openly attempting to remove from the allegiance to the Philippine Government this part of Mindanao.”

Experts, however, aired concerns on the government’s rationale for what is perceived to be an extreme policy.

Security questions

The ISIS factor

Flying the black flag linked to ISIS is characteristic of extremist organizations around the world that have pledged allegiance to the terror group. It does not, however, indicate that ISIS channels resources to the local militants.

Upon arriving from Russia on Wednesday, Duterte also announced that he is considering military rule throughout the country, declaring that the Islamic State is here and may gain footholds in Luzon and Visayas.

While the spread of Islamic extremists in Southeast Asia is a major security concern due to ISIS propaganda, Duterte’s remarks contradict the military’s stance that the ISIS has no known presence in the Philippines

“When we call them ISIS, we are making them famous. We don’t have ISIS in the Philippines,” military spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said on Wednesday.

Maute as a force

For Zachary Abuza, expert on Southeast Asian security and a professor at the National War College in Washington, the Maute is not a terrible force for the military to reckon with despite belonging to a terrorist network in the region.

“Maute group is a small group. It is manageable. They feed off of or recruit from disaffected (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) combatants,” Abuza told Philstar.com.

“Though they have pledged their allegiance to IS, there is no evidence to date that IS has given them any resources. This is a manageable threat, but it has been repeatedly mismanaged,” he added.

He pointed out that Marawi is a heartland of the MILF rebel group that has became a government partner in a concluded peace process. Implementation of the agreement is yet to be seen, with Duterte vowing to include it in his ambitious plan to shift the country to a federal system.

Duterte, meanwhile, has reached out in friendship to Moro National Liberation Front  founding chairman Nur Misuari, who has in the past rejected the peace agreement with the MILF. He has said that the new agreement sets aside a 1996 final peace agreement with his group. Other factions of the MNLF have agreed to work with the MILF on a common roadmap for peace.

“You can’t have multiple peace processes for the same plot of land. The [agreements] were inclusive, there were ample opportunities for Misuari to engage… As long as the MILF have no hope at a peace process, they have no incentive to act as responsible stakeholders and police their territory,” Abuza said.

“The Maute group has targeted Davao, Manila, launched brazen jail breaks. Without MILF giving the government security cooperation, the Maute group has ample sanctuary,” he added.

As a 60-day recourse

Doubts have also been raised on whether state actors can suppress Maute or the ISIS threat within the 60 days of martial law.

Government troops patrol the outskirts of Marawi city three days after Muslim militants lay siege in the city in southern Philippines Thursday, May 25, 2017. The exodus of thousands of residents has continued amid continuing gunbattle between Government forces and Muslim militants occupying several buildings and houses in the city where they hoisted IS style black flags. AP/Bullit Marquez

“I doubt if the 60-day martial law in Mindanao is enough time to fix the problem of extremism,” Julkipli Wadi, professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, said on Wednesday.

The Maute group, whose members evolved from petty criminals to militants, has been blamed for several attacks in Lanao del Sur and Davao City and is suspected to be behind an explosive device found near the United States Embassy in Manila in November last year.

But Duterte has weighed the idea of martial law since August of last year, and has mentioned it publicly at least 35 times in his presidency. Reasons he cited included illegal drugs, crime and terrorism.

Legal questions

‘Rebellion’

For a framer of the current constitution, terrorism, or even lawless violence, does not qualify as “rebellion,” which is among the two conditions for the declaration of martial law, along with invasion.

Constitutional expert Christian Monsod said that terrorism, unlike rebellion, is a crime without “political purpose of taking out a part of the Philippines or a part of the armed forces from the jurisdiction of the Philippines.”

An essential element of rebellion, according to penal law, is a public uprising or taking up of arms against the government. The action is to overthrow or supersede the government or deprive the president or Congress of exercising their powers.

Proclamation 216, however, calls the Maute both a “terror group” and among “rebel groups” that “sow terror, cause death and damage to property not only in Lanao del Sur but also in other parts of Mindanao.”

Monsod said Duterte’s proclamation seems similar to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s call in 2009 after a massacre in Maguindanao. Martial law was used to quell what was claimed to be rebellion in the murder of political opponents and journalists.

“If you look at the facts that she (Arroyo) was enumerating, it was as if there really was a rebellion. But, as it turned out, it was not a real rebellion that calls for martial law,” he told Philstar.com.

“It’s so very easy to make the facts (to point to rebellion), like Arroyo did,” the lawyer said.

Scope

President Duterte could also opt to isolate the state of martial law instead of expanding it to cover all other areas in Mindanao, and, potentially, throughout the country.

“You can sow terror [when you have] a terrorist attack in Ilocos or if there is a terrorist attack in Leyte, and so on, does that mean that you will declare the entire country in a state of martial law?” Monsod said.

This May 23, 2017, handout photo provided by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signs Proclamation No. 216, declaring Martial Law and suspending the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the whole of Mindanao during his visit to the Russia Federation. PCO via AP

Presidential powers under martial law, especially when coupled with a grant to authorities to arrest those suspected of rebellion without court warrant, are encompassing, arbitrary and—for the most part in recent history—unexplored. This was because martial law was crafted in the 1987 Constitution that upholds democratic checks and balances as a measure of ‘last resort,'” Monsod said.

Ateneo de Manila University law professor Tony La Viña, for his part, is giving the president the benefit of the doubt in declaring military rule, but identifies dissonance in the government’s take on the situation.

“I would want to know though why this was resorted to even after the military repeatedly assured the public that things were under control. I also would like to know why the whole of Mindanao was included given the limited area affected by the Maute rebellion,” he said in a television interview.

If the majority of Congress, voting jointly, decides not to revoke martial law in Mindanao, it is up to the Supreme Court, if asked to by a petitioner, to assess the facts behind its declaration.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/25/1703505/rodrigo-duterte-reasons-martial-law-mindanao

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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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Philippines denies gov’t orchestrated Marawi terror attack — “How Better To Silence Duterte’s Critics?” — “This is all ‘cover’ so Duterte can invoke martial law… Police and army are corrupt.”

May 25, 2017

Our sources tell Peace and Freedom that the Islamic State inspired action in Marawi, the Philippines, was “manufactured in Manila to allow Duterte to impose martial law.” .

Our sources gave us several pieces of evidence supporing their claim. One informant said, “We noticed soldiers not wearing combat boots but slippers instead.”

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Philippine Inquirer

/ 06:33 PM May 25, 2017
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The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday quelled speculation that the terror attack in Marawi City was orchestrated by the government to justify President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial rule in Mindanao.

“What would we get from (doing that)?” Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, PNP spokesperson, said in a news conference at Camp Crame.

He said those accusing the Duterte administration of plotting the attack should back their claim with evidence.

“Huwag tayo mag-isip ng masama,” he said. “Mag-isip tayo kung paano maayos ‘yung bansa.“

(“Let’s not be negative in our thinking. Let’s think kof how we can put the country in order.”)

“If we keep on dividing the people by speculation, they should come out and show proof,” he added.

Carlos also stressed that PNP and military personnel on the ground had been doing their best to protect the people of the terror-stricken Marawi and restore normalcy in the city.

“Mas mapapabilis kapag tayo ay nagtulong-tulong na alisin ang Maute at Abu Sayyaf groups,” he said.

(“Things will work out faster if we can help each other eject the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.”)

Since being elected president in July, Duterte has mentioned several times in his public speeches about the possibility of his declaring martial law in the country.

On May 23, he placed all of Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities under martial law following the armed clashes between government forces and Maute bandits, who had pledged allegiance to the international terrorist group Islamic State.

Under the Constitution, martial law would only be in effect for 60 days. But Duterte said he might consider extending it for a year and expanding its coverage to the Visayas, and even Luzon, if the terrorists should reach those areas. /atm

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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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