Posts Tagged ‘supreme court’

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

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

Palace clashes with Morales, SC over deputy ombudsman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unconstitutional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presumed right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panelo emphasized the President respects the independence of the judiciary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/01/1783430/showdown-over-suspension-deputy-ombudsman-carandang

Related:

Part I:

Advertisements

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

January 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/01/31/1783226/defying-palace-ombudsman-refuses-enforce-carandangs-suspension

New Constitution for the Philippines? Or a scheme for expense-free stay in power with no elections by our “lawmakers”?

January 22, 2018

It takes two to cha-cha. But in Charter Changing (Cha-Cha) the Senate and House of Reps are going their separate ways. Senate President Koko Pimentel and

see a need to switch from the present unitary to federal-type government. President Rodrigo Duterte warns of worse fighting than witnessed in Marawi if the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which requires federal set-up, is not enacted. No time to lose.

Alvarez asked senators to a joint session to draft a federal Constitution. In such gathering, though, the voting too would be joint, he said. That’s the congressmen’s interpretation of Article 14, “Any amendment to or revision of this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”

No way, senators declined. Such notion would trivialize them. The House has 296 seats, the Senate 24. Three-fourths of their combined 320 is 240. The House supermajority easily can muster that magic sum of 240; in fact it has 278 members. Senators would be outvoted at every turn.

Senators need not fret, congressmen said in hinting at a prize. A shift to federal type would take years; incumbent senators – and congressmen, of course – may scrap pesky elections in 2019; all their terms can be extended till 2022 or beyond.

That’s selfish interest, senators gasped. That’s all the congressmen want after all: expense-free stay in power.

Image result for duterte, with military leaders, fist out, photos

Look who’s talking the congressmen sneered. The senators know that congressmen are contemplating corollary shifts from bicameral to unicameral legislature, and presidential to parliamentary form; thus abolishing the senate. “The senators should look at the nation’s interest, not theirs,” Alvarez shot back.

The senators pre-empted Alvarez and agreed to convene soon as a constituent assembly. They’d Cha-Cha on their own. The senators also warned each other: whosoever saunters over to the House to Cha-Cha there would be expelled.

In that case, congressmen would Cha-Cha alone too, and come up with the three-fourths vote. Not only that, they’d proceed with a plebiscite in which they’re comfortable to get the electorate’s majority to ratify a new Constitution. For good measure, they’d make local officials campaign and clap to their Cha-Cha, or else lose their internal revenue allotments. After all, all tax measures emanate from the House.

Not so fast, senators glared. It takes congressional budgeting to hold a plebiscite. If senators withhold any allocation, the House Cha-Cha jukebox would stop playing. What then?

Kung gan’un, e di rebolusyon na lang!” Alvarez remarked in the Sapol radio show last Saturday.

What does that mean? Revolutionary government? Declaration of all government positions vacant? The President alone to remain, maybe reappoint some officials, and reform the Constitution? One-man rule with a handful of cronies?

Perhaps the senators and congressmen must come back to the dance floor and start over. Their discordant Cha-Cha is tearing up the Republic.

*      *      *

What’s wrong is wrong, the Securities and Exchange Commission insisted in the case of Rappler. It had cancelled the online news group’s incorporation on discovery of two American owners. That violates the Constitution, which limits media ownership only to Filipinos. (A sillier proviso limits advertising firms to only up to 30 percent foreign!) Rappler had claimed that the foreign investors are non-voting anyway. It doesn’t matter, the SEC said, it’s still wrong.

Rappler in turn decried two constitutional breaches. Supposedly the SEC deprived it of due process in disenfranchising it without affording it the chance to correct its lapse. Supposedly too freedom of the press is abridged, as the SEC followed presidential dictates. Rappler recounted that President Duterte, smarting from its constant criticisms, had hinted in his State of the Nation last July about exposing the news outfit’s foreign ownership. And it has happened in the SEC action. Duterte sighed that he had nothing to do with it; he has appointed only one of the SEC’s five commissioners to date, while the rest are from the past Aquino admin that Rappler had supported.

The Secretary of Justice butted in that he would study what raps to file against Rappler. Then the National Bureau of Investigation under him summoned Rappler’s chief executive and an ex-reporter to its headquarters on a complaint of cybercrime. It has to do with a Rappler report on May 2012 about a Chevrolet Suburban, plate number ZWK 111, of Filipino-Chinese businessman Wilfredo Keng. Then-Chief Justice Renato Corona had been impeached, and reportedly was using the luxury SUV to attend the Senate trial. Keng reportedly had a pending case with the Supreme Court at the time. He admitted owning the ZWK 111 plate but not the vehicle. And so the cyber-libel.

But wait a minute. Congress had passed the Cybercrime Prevention Law or R.A. 10175, on Sept. 12, 2012. Its Implementing Rules and Regulations were issued Oct. 15, 2013. No ex post facto law may be passed, the Bill of Rights guarantees. How can Rappler be accused of cybercrime in May 2012 under a law enacted in Sept. 2012 and effective Oct. 2013? What’s wrong is wrong.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2018/01/22/1780120/frank-talk-can-end-cha-cha-tit-tat

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

Related:

Judges revolt against chief justice of India

January 13, 2018

The Indian Supreme Court building. (AFP)
NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, four sitting senior Supreme Court judges have revolted against the chief justice of India (CJI), accusing him of compromising the spirit of democracy in the country, and demanding corrective measures to preserve judicial autonomy.
.
A press conference in New Delhi on Friday by justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph highlighted the growing rift between senior judges and CJI Dipak Misra.
.
“This is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, and an extraordinary event in the institution of the judiciary,” said Chelameswar, the second-most-senior judge.
.
“We’re all convinced that unless this institution is preserved… democracy won’t survive in this country,” he added.
.
“The hallmark of a good democracy is an impartial and independent judiciary, and we don’t want to be blamed for selling our souls.”
.
Ever since taking charge in August 2017, the chief justice has moved cases on numerous occasions from one bench to another on a whim.
.
Protesting judges say Misra is using his power to allot cases arbitrarily, not in the spirit of constitutionality and democracy.
.
The matter came to a head with the death in 2014 of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Three years later, a New Delhi-based magazine raised doubts about the manner in which he died.
.
The Mumbai High Court was supposed to hear a petition for a probe into his death on Wednesday, but the CJI gave the case to two junior judges in the Supreme Court. Judges wanted the case to be given to senior peers, considering the gravity of the case.
.
“We all want the judiciary to survive, and this is the only top institution of the country that can safeguard you and me,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising.
.
Prominent lawyer Prashant Bushan said: “This is a serious matter. The judges who came out protesting are highly reputed and very conservative. They are known for their wisdom.”
.
Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News: “The unprecedented development today is a direct indictment of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s regime.”
.
Mukhopadhyay added: “It proves beyond doubt what civil society members have been alleging for the past few years, that Modi has been eroding the autonomy and credibility of constitutional bodies in a systematic manner ever since he came to power.”
.
He said the only way out of this crisis is for Misra to resign, adding: “My feeling is that the government will allege that protesting judges are in cahoots with forces that are trying to destabilize the country or the government, as they’ve done with civil society members who have criticized the government’s divisive and sectarian agenda.”
.
The opposition Congress Party’s President Rahul Gandhi said the points raised by the judges are “extremely important” and “must be looked into carefully.”
.
India’s Attorney General K. Venugopal, the government’s chief legal adviser, said if the protesting judges had “avoided going to the press,” the matter would have been resolved “in a day or two.”
.
.
Related:
.

Philippines: Legal Battle Aims To Keep Records of 3,800 Drug War Deaths From Supreme Court

January 12, 2018

Solicitor General Jose Calida said that the documents on the thousand deaths under investigation are “irrelevant” from the petition challenging President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.

Facebook/Presidential Communications, File
.

By Kristine Joy Patag (philstar.com) – January 12, 2018 – 7:01pm

.
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Solicitor General said that the voluminous police records on the thousands of deaths under the police’s anti-drug war “are not relevant” to the current petition challenging the campaign’s constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a motion for reconsideration, asking the SC to “recall” its earlier directive to the OSG to submit documents relevant to the petition filed by the kin of drug war victims and residents of San Andres Bukid, Manila.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said he wants documents on the 3,800 deaths related to the drug war that are under investigation of the Philippine National Police.

The SC also ordered Calida to submit the following documents:

–list of persons killed in legitimate police operations from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30 2017
–list of deaths under investigation from July 1, 2016 to Nov. 30, 2017
–list of Chinese and Filipino-Chinese drug lords who have been neutralized
–list of drugs involved whether shabu, cocaine, marijuana, opoids, etc.
–comparative tables on index crimes
–statistics of internal cleansing within the police force
–drug watchlist in the affected areas
–list of warrants and warrantless arrests in [high-value target] police operations
–list of cases under investigation under Internal Affairs Service

.
Calida, during the oral arguments last year, said that “he will comply” with the orders of the court. He also asked the SC to extend the deadline, from 30 to 60 days, enough to collate the documents.

In his pleading, Calida said that he felt the need to file the motion for reconsideration since he found the documents to be irrelevant to the two government circulars on the anti-drug war.

He added that the motion was filed not to defy the order of the court but “to strengthen the rule of law and prevent abuse of judicial processes.”

Central to the petitions are the Philippine National Police Command Memorandum Circular 2016-16 for Project Double Barrel and the Department of Interior and Local Government memorandum circular 2017-112 on Masa Masid or the community drop box project.

Image may contain: 1 person

Philippine National Police Director  dela Rosa

A copy of the motion for reconsideration filed by the OSG was sent to reporters by the SC Public Information Office on Friday.

Through the order, Calida said that the SC “ventured into unwarranted factual inquiries” since the petitions only question the constitutionality of the circulars.

“It cannot go beyond determining the textual commitment of the PNP CMC No. 16-2016 and DILG MC No. 2017-112 to the Constitution,” he said.

According to Calida, the required documents contain “legitimate police operations that were not undertaken pursuant to the assailed CMC,” among others.

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

National security may be put at risk

.
Calida pointed out that the Constitution provides “guarantees” such as the right to information and right to access to official records but imposes limits on matters such as national security.

“The production of documents required…in the court order involve information and other sensitive matters that in the long run will have an undeniable effect on national security,” Calida said.

Last year, the SC held oral arguments on petitions challenging the constitutionality of martial law in Mindanao. On the third day of oral arguments, the SC en banc held an executive session with Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana and other military officials.

The court said that while an oral argument was set for the day, it opted to conduct the last day of hearing in an executive session, citing that national security issues will be discussed among the justices.

But Calida, for the drug war petition, argued that the submission of the documents “would not only compromise ongoing police anti-drug operations but likewise put at risk the lives of informants who provide such information.”

He also lamented that the submission “would require significant utilization of man-hours and other scarce resourced by the PNP.”

“With the return of the anti-drug program to the PNP, its current authorized personnel would be hard pressed in performing its mandate of enforcing law and order,” Calida said.

Other than the PNP, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the National Bureau of Investigation are also empowered and tasked to carry out the administration’s war against drugs.

RELATED: Carpio asks: Were there Chinese drug lords killed by the PNP? | Justices ask: Did Oplan Tokhang, Masa Masid violate any law?

Read more at http://beta.philstar.com/…/calida-moves-bar-sc-obtaining-da…

 

The ‘Stupidity’ of Donald Trump — Calling or even thinking someone else stupid is virtually guaranteed to give them the last laugh.

December 26, 2017

He’s had far more success than Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura.

President Trump departing from the White House, Dec. 22.
President Trump departing from the White House, Dec. 22. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

This time one year ago, the assumption dominating political coverage was that the only people more stupid than Donald Trump were the deplorables who elected him.

Since then, of course, President-elect Trump has become President Trump. Over his 11 months in office, he has put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and four times as many judges on the appellate courts as Barack Obama did his first year; recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; withdrawn from the Paris climate accord; adopted a more resolute policy on Afghanistan than the one he’d campaigned on; rolled back the mandate forcing Catholic nuns, among others, to provide employees with contraception and abortifacients; signed legislation to open up drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; initiated a bold, deregulatory assault on the administrative state—and topped it all off with the first major overhaul of the tax code in more than 30 years.

And yet that Mr. Trump is a very stupid man remains the assumption dominating his press coverage.

Let this columnist confess: He did not see Mr. Trump’s achievements coming, at least at first. In the worst sense, populism means pandering to public appetites at the expense of sound policy. Too often populists who get themselves elected find either that they cannot implement what they promised, or that when they do, there are disastrous and unexpected consequences.

Add to this the sorry experience America had recently had with men, also outside conventional politics, who ran successfully for governorships: former pro wrestler and Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura in Minnesota and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Their respective administrations each began with high enthusiasm but ended in defeat and disillusionment. What would make anyone think Mr. Trump would do better?

Start with Mr. Ventura. His populism, like Mr. Trump’s, featured open ridicule of the press. At one point he issued press cards listing them as “official jackals.” Also like Mr. Trump, he was treated as simple-minded because he was not a professional pol. When David Letterman listed his top 10 campaign slogans for Mr. Ventura, No. 1 was “it’s the stupidity, stupid.”

In his first year Mr. Ventura’s approval rating soared to 73%, and while in office he did manage to push through tax rebates and a property-tax reform. By his last year, however, his vetoes were regularly overridden, spending had shot up, and the magic was gone. In the end, he decided against seeking a second term.

Next came Mr. Schwarzenegger, who in 2003 announced his run for governor on “The Tonight Show.” Mr. Schwarzenegger’s pitch was essentially Mr. Trump’s: The state’s politics had been so corrupted by the political class that Californians needed a strongman from the outside to shake it up.

The Governator did succeed in getting himself re-elected three years later, which is more than Mr. Ventura did. In the end, however, he was defeated by those he’d denounced as the “girlie men” of Sacramento, and his package of reforms went nowhere. The man who entered office promising to cut spending and revive the state’s economy ended up signing a huge tax increase, while debt nearly tripled under his watch.

Now we have President Trump. In one sense he is not unique: Almost all GOP presidents are stereotyped as not very bright. Ask Ike, or George W. Bush, or even Lincoln. Nor is it uncommon, in the headiness of a White House, for even the lowliest staffer to come to regard himself as the intellectual superior of the president he works for.

In Mr. Trump’s case, critics equate lowbrow tastes (e.g., well-done steaks covered in ketchup) as confirmation of a lack of brainpower. It can make for great sport. But starting out with the assumption that the president you are covering is a boob can prove debilitating to clear judgment.

Quick show of hands: How many of those in the press who continue to dismiss Mr. Trump as stupid publicly asserted he could never win the 2016 election—or would never get anyone decent to work for him in the unlikely miracle he did get elected?

The Trump presidency may still go poof for any number of reasons—if the promised economic growth doesn’t materialize, if the public concludes that his inability to ignore slights on Twitter is getting the best of his presidency, or if Democrats manage to leverage his low approval ratings and polarizing personality into a recapture of the House and Senate this coming November. And yes, it’s possible to regard Mr. Trump’s presidency as not worth the price.

But stupid? Perhaps the best advice for anti-Trumpers comes from one of their own, a Vermont Democrat named Jason Lorber. Way back in April, in an article for the Burlington Free Press, the retired state politician wrote that “while it may be good for a chuckle, calling or even thinking someone else stupid is virtually guaranteed to give them the last laugh.”

Is that not what Mr. Trump is now enjoying at the close of his first year?

Write to mcgurn@wsj.com.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-stupidity-of-donald-trump-1514233232

Catalan ex-VP, three other separatist leaders remain jailed as six to be freed on bail

December 4, 2017

AFP

 

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-04

Catalonia’s sacked vice president and three other separatist leaders will remain in prison pending a probe over their role in the region’s independence drive, a Supreme Court judge decided Monday.

 Image result for catalonia, photos

Oriol Junqueras, who was sacked as vice-president when the Catalan parliament declared independence on October 27, Joaquim Forn, who used to be in charge of interior matters in Catalonia, and the leaders of two pro-independence associations will stay in prison, the court said.

Six other former ministers who were also remanded in custody will be released on bail as an investigation into charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds continues, it added in a statement.

Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena, who had taken on their case late last month, said he believed there was a risk that Junqueras and the three others would repeat their alleged offences.

This, he added, meant there was a “possibility that acts could happen again with serious, immediate and irreparable consequences for the community.”

He noted as an example a demonstration in Barcelona in September called when police raided a building in a probe into the upcoming banned referendum.

The protest saw angry demonstrators gather outside the building in the city centre late into the night, trapping police inside for hours.

Independence supporters had hoped that all 10 leaders would be released on Monday just as the official campaign for Catalan elections on December 21 is due to kick off at midnight.

The decision comes as former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four other ex-regional ministers face an extradition hearing in Belgium where they fled to after Catalonia declared unilateral independence.

(AFP)

Kenya bans opposition protests as election crisis deepens

October 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Tristan MCCONNELL | The ban on protests came a day after opposition supporters in Kisumu blocked streets and burned tyres. Several people were injured in clashes with police

NAIROBI (AFP) – Kenya’s government on Thursday banned protests in main city centres, citing lawlessness during opposition rallies against the electoral commission ahead of a scheduled presidential poll re-run.

The move comes as opposition leader Raila Odinga called for daily protests next week to keep up pressure on election officials to reform, after his refusal to take part in the October 26 vote plunged the country into uncertainty.

“Due to the clear, present and imminent danger of breach of peace, the government notifies the public that, for the time being, we will not allow demonstrations within the central business districts of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu,” said Security Minister Fred Matiangi.

“The inspector general of police has been advised accordingly.”

Opposition MPs said they would defy the order and continue the protests which have seen hundreds of opposition supporters march through the streets, sometimes burning tyres and clashing with police who have used tear gas to disperse crowds.

Though relatively small, the protests have caused outsized disruption, forcing shops to close up and deterring some from visiting city centres on demonstration days.

There have also been incidents of pickpocketing and muggings on the edges of the protests.

Matiangi said the protests had resulted in “attacks on police stations, attacks on police officers occasioning grievous bodily harm, serious disruption of normal business, assault on innocent civilians, destruction and looting of property,” and threatened legal action.

“It is the responsibility of the organiser that all participants remain peaceful. The organisers shall be held personally liable for any breach of law during the demonstrations,” he said.

– Stage set for clashes? –

Odinga said this week that he was withdrawing from the scheduled re-run, against President Uhuru Kenyatta whose victory in the original August poll was annulled last month by the Supreme Court citing widespread irregularities.

Odinga said that without fundamental reforms to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the vote would not be free and fair.

“All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one,” he said, announcing his withdrawal Tuesday.

The IEBC has dismissed most of Odinga’s demands and on Wednesday said that he had not filled in the appropriate form withdrawing from the re-run and therefore was still a candidate alongside Kenyatta.

The commission also agreed to add six candidates who contested the original poll after the High Court ruled they should not be excluded.

In the most recent protests, on Wednesday, several people were injured in the western city of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, where protesters clashed with police.

The banning of demonstrations sets the stage for more violence if NASA leaders push ahead with their threat to protest, with the next one promised on Friday.

Violence in the days following August’s vote left at least 37 dead, according to a rights group, with almost all of the victims killed by police, according to a local human rights group.

by Tristan MCCONNELL
.
Related:
.
.

Philippine lawyers ask Supreme Court to halt ‘illegal’ war on drugs that lets police kill and circumvent legal procedures

October 11, 2017

Reuters

MANILA (Reuters) – A group of Philippine lawyers on Wednesday filed an injunction with the Supreme Court to try to stop President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, calling it as an illegal campaign that lets police kill and circumvent legal procedures.

Image result for Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno from the Free Legal Assistance Group, photos

 Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), speaks during a news conference in metro Manila, Philippines October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The government’s directive for the fierce 15-month-old crackdown permits police to “negate” and “neutralise” targets, effectively granting them a license to kill suspected users and dealers, without gathering evidence or building a case, the lawyers said.

A practice of compiling lists of “drug personalities” and encouraging citizens to anonymously provide names was tantamount to drawing up a hit list, the petition said. It called for judicial intervention in thousands of cases where Filipinos were killed by police.

 Image result for Jose Manuel Diokno, photos
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa and Jose Manuel Diokno

“The present war on drugs being waged by the government is not going to stop illegal drugs, crime and corruption,” Jose Manuel Diokno, chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), told a news conference.

“(It) will only result in the killing of more and more people especially the poor.”

The petition comes as public scrutiny intensifies on Duterte’s signature campaign, which he insists will not stop, regardless of the bloodshed. He says he is prepared to go to jail to protect Filipinos from crimes fueled by addiction.

Duterte rejects criticism that his notoriously bellicose public remarks have been interpreted by some police as veiled instructions to kill drug users, with impunity.

Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Dionardo Carlos said police “welcome the filing of the petition before the Supreme Court”. He did not elaborate.

Though Filipinos are largely supportive of Duterte’s iron-fisted approach, recent opinion polls indicate public doubts that his drugs war is above board and effective as the government says. Analysts say unease about the campaign has contributed to Duterte’s ratings decline.

PNP data shows 3,900 people have been killed in operations in which police say armed suspects violently resisted arrest. Duterte’s opponents and activists dispute that and say executions and cover-ups are commonplace, which police deny.

The petition by FLAG, which is comprised of around 200 pro-bono human rights lawyers, was filed on behalf of three people whose relatives were killed by police.

FLAG has also represented two men who testified before the Senate that they were part of an alleged “death squad” that killed drug dealers and criminals at Duterte’s behest when he was Davao City mayor, long before his presidency.

Duterte dismisses the allegation as nonsense.

The latest petition seeks to compel the PNP and the interior ministry to halt the campaign and wants killings to be examined by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which would take charge of evidence, including guns that police say were used by victims.

It said house-to-house visits by anti-drugs police followed unverified tip-offs from unknown informants and were not based on evidence. It argues police had no intent to persuade suspects to surrender and would kill anyone who refused to cooperate or denied involvement.

“The government’s war on drugs is short-cutting the justice system by dispensing justice from the barrels of guns,” the petition said.

Police teargas Kenyan vote protesters, crowds gather in cities — Re-run election scheduled October 26

October 6, 2017

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Police fired teargas at opposition activists in Kenya’s capital on Friday as demonstrators, who also held protests in three other cities, called for the sacking of election board officials involved in August’s canceled presidential vote.

Crowds gathered in Nairobi, the western opposition stronghold of Kisumu and the port of Mombasa for the second time this week.

Last month, Kenya’s Supreme Court voided the Aug. 8 presidential election, citing irregularities, but did not criticize any specific individual at the election board.

Image may contain: 1 person, crowd

 Supporters of the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition demonstrate near riot policemen in Nairobi, Kenya October 6, 2017. REUTERS-Thomas Mukoya

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who officially won by 1.4 million votes only to have his victory annulled, has accused the Supreme Court of bringing the country close to “judicial chaos”.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga and his supporters have turned their ire on the election board for its role in the canceled poll.

With three weeks to go until a scheduled re-run of the vote, politicians from both sides have traded insults and accusations, raising fears of further turmoil in the regional economic and transport hub.

The opposition is threatening to boycott the Oct. 26 re-run if election board officials are not removed and if parliament passes a proposed amendment to the election law that could prevent the Supreme Court from annulling the results on procedural grounds again.

Parliamentarians are due to return from recess next week and may pass the bill then, an action likely to spark further protests from the opposition.

Earlier on Friday, the Nairobi county police commander said people would be allowed to protest, but anyone who tried to destroy property would “be dealt with firmly”.

Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Richard Balmforth; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens