Posts Tagged ‘war on drugs’

Philippines: Duterte’s Boracay closure and drug war — Self enrichment, corruption, or wooing China? — What are Duterte’s motives?

May 1, 2018

Mark R. Thompson says low-profile dealings with a Chinese company, selective prosecution of drug traffickers and targeting of political enemies suggest there may be less wholesome (and less populist) reasons for the Philippine president’s moves

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 1:12pm

With Boracay island’s white sands emptied of tourists after a six-month government-ordered closure late last week, the world again took notice of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s populist leadership style: melodramatic and personalised, with little concern for the consequences.

The shutdown played well to his fan base as another demonstration of his iron will to cleanse the country of its social ills. Promising to deal with Boracay’s “smelly waters” due to untreated sewage and other environmental hazards, Duterte again effectively portrayed himself as a strongman willing to stand up to corrupt local officials and dodgy businesses.

But his surprise decision largely ignored the local fallout, with 30,000 jobs affected in an island tourist trade worth over US$1 billion last year (with only limited compensation offered) while deflecting from his own political problems (revelations last February that the International Criminal Court had begun a preliminary investigation of his bloody “war on drugs” that has left thousands dead in his less than two years in office).

The way Duterte has dealt with Boracay’s problems is part of a larger pattern. He invokes graphic images to justify drastic decisions. He portrayed Boracay as a “cesspool” that must be closed. His 2016 presidential campaign was largely run on the narrative that drugs were ruining people’s lives and threatening to destroy the nation, with Duterte urging Filipinos to murder users and dealers whose dead bodies would fill Manila Bay until the fish grew fat. When rage is sufficiently aroused, extreme solutions become acceptable, even if the cost is lost jobs or even extrajudicial killings.

Duterte often announces his controversial decisions in speeches, usually before he gives marching orders to his cabinet. He revealed his Boracay shutdown decision in a February 9 speech, surprising his audience and the nation and leaving his cabinet secretaries scrambling to find a way to implement the order within a very short time frame.

Duterte’s decision to close Boracay is also an example of what University of Pennsylvania academic Denise van der Kamp terms “blunt force” regulation, typical of many developing countries, including China. It takes an all-or-nothing approach to a problem caused by non-enforcement of rules due to local corruption but in a manner that impacts equally those who obeyed regulations and those who did not.

In the case of Boracay, Philippine economist Solita Collas Monsod estimates that nearly two-thirds of hotels and other businesses complied with environmental regulations, but all establishments have been closed whether they played by the rules or not. Instead of working to improve the enforcement of existing regulations to deal with violators, Duterte chose a top-down solution, shutting down the entire island, leading to mass lay-offs and forgone revenues.

But there is another side of Duterte’s decision that has been overlooked. He has professed ignorance about recent government approval of plans by a Chinese firm to build a casino on the island. This raises questions of double standards, as presidential spokesman Harry Roque reported that Duterte was even threatening to dynamite structures on the island that threaten the environment. While Duterte has spoken of land reform in Boracay, returning land to the original farming community, it seems the opposite will happen, with the new casino and other high-end properties turning Boracay into a playground for the elite. 

 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte impressed many when he met and chatted to Philippine domestic workers at a Jollibee restaurant in Hong Kong in April during his visit. Photo: Facebook

In his mid-April visit to Hong Kong, Duterte generated considerable sympathy among local Filipinos by meeting domestic helpers at a Hong Kong branch of the Philippine fast-food chain Jollibee. But he also hosted a dinner for the owners of leading migrant employment agencies at a time when there was controversy around the abrupt recall of Philippine labour attaché Jalilo Dela Torre, who had investigated recruiter abuses. Despite long-standing promises to help workers in the Philippines itself, Duterte recently decided against issuing an executive order to put an end to widespread short-term contractualisation that keeps many working Filipinos poor.

Even his motives in the “war on drugs” have been questioned, with his son Paolo accused of having connections to a major drug-smuggling ring and the dismissal of charges against two major drug kingpins by his secretary of justice, whom Duterte was forced to fire.

The Boracay closure comes as the Philippines enters a political crossroads – with worries mounting that the country’s liberal institutions are being further eroded. Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom Duterte has called “an enemy” is likely to be removed from office soon, vice-president and presidential critic Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo is facing an electoral challenge from Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, and a new constitution is in the making.

It is far from clear how effective the improvised clean-up of Boracay will be and whether it can be sustained in the long term. Analyst Matt Gebbie points out that “proactive” environmental protection is a far more effective alternative to such a reactive solution. But even assuming the shutdown does bring real improvements to perhaps the country’s most famous white sand beach, the Philippines will have paid a high price in terms of local jobs and lost revenue with tourists from around the world angered by cancelled bookings through this further demonstration of Duterte’s personalistic and arbitrary rule.

Mark R. Thompson is professor


Philippines: Release of ‘narco-list’ does not violate human rights, Palace says, despite past inaccuracies and trouble caused — Is this a “license to kill list?”

April 27, 2018

Releasing a list of candidates supposedly involved in the trade of illegal drugs does not violate any human right, Malacañang said on Friday, as rights advocates and groups continue to slam the decision.

President Rodrigo Duterte is seen showing his so-called “narco-list” during one of his speeches.

The STAR/Michael Varcas
Release of ‘narco-list’ does not violate human rights, Palace says, despite past inaccuracies
Audrey Morallo ( – April 27, 2018 – 3:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Releasing a list of candidates supposedly involved in the trade of illegal drugs does not violate any human right, Malacañang said on Friday, as rights advocates and groups continue to slam the decision.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the order of President Rodrigo Duterte for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to release the government’s list of so-called narco-politicians did not violate the human rights of individuals to be named as they were running for elective government posts.

He said that the list would just “confirm” what was supposedly common knowledge among residents of a village who knew the people involved in illegal drugs in their communities.

“There’s not violation in that (decision) because what we are talking about is an elective government position,” Roque said in an interview with the state radio broadcaster.

PDEA this week said that it would release a village drug list containing 211 community officials supposedly linked to the trade of illegal drugs, just weeks before the elections on May 14.

PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon, in a phone interview with, said that the order came from the president himself amid supposed public clamor for the disclosure of the names.

Duterte, in many of his speaking engagements, brandished and bragged about his so-called “narco-list” which supposedly contained the names of politicians and officials profiting off the trade of illegal substances.

However, there have been mistakes in the past, with no less than former Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa admitting the existence of inaccuracies.

Carreon sought to assuage fears over the authenticity of the names and allegation, saying that the intelligence units of the police and the military and the Intelligence Coordinating Agency helped in the verification of the individuals.

Carreon added that charges against the to-be-named individuals would be forthcoming in the next few days.

The Commission on Human Rights and an opposition congressman both cautioned the government against its plan, saying PDEA should observe due process.

The CHR said that although it understood the reason behind PDEA’s impending release of documents the presumption of innocence and right to due process should not be compromised.

“People in the village know who’s involved in drugs. If your name is on the list, it’s just a confirmation. Let us leave the people in the village (to make the decision) because they really know their neighbors and if the list is accurate or not,” he said.

The international human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch meanwhile warned that the release of the list would result in more bloodshed.

Duterte and his government have been criticized local and internationally for their brutal crackdown on illegal drugs which has killed thousands of Filipinos most of whom belong to the country’s urban poor.



Foreign correspondents protest Philippine ‘strong actions’ vs press

April 27, 2018


The dynamism of the Philippine press has been challenged by President Rodrigo Duterte, who repeatedly hurled threats against journalists, Reporters Without Borders noted.
Foreign correspondents protest Philippine ‘strong actions’ vs press

Audrey Morallo ( – April 27, 2018 – 4:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s organization of foreign correspondents on Friday expressed “alarm” over the government’s “strong actions” that violated the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of information.

In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines cited incidents in recent days that barred its members from covering press briefings of government officials and asking them questions.

“The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) is deeply alarmed by the Philippine government’s strong actions that clearly violate Constitutional provisions on freedom of information,” the group said in a statement.

FOCAP said that the latest incident in which the government restricted access to information happened in Singapore after its members were stopped from covering a news conference on Friday by Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III who was part of the Philippine delegation in the summit of Southeast Asian leaders there.

FOCAP said that its members were barred from covering Bello’s media briefing even if its members were accredited by the government’s International Press Center.

This incident followed the restrictions FOCAP members faced in covering the media conference of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also in Singapore.

“FOCAP members were blocked from a news conference given by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. They were subsequently allowed access, but were barred from asking questions during the press event,” the group said.

FOCAP said that these were not isolated events as its members also faced press restrictions in the coverage of the five-month battle for Marawi City and the closure of the popular tourist island of Boracay.

Just this week, the country’s press freedom ranking in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slipped from 127th to 133rd this year.

The watchdog said that the dynamism of the Philippine press was challenged by the tirades of President Rodrigo Duterte against it, a charge that his spokesman denied.

“Our record will stand for itself. We have taken steps to protect the lives of journalists. We have not sent any reporter to jail,” Presidential spokesman Roque said in a press conference in the palace on Thursday, adding that it was natural for the chief executive to answer “untrue” stories published by the media.

Roque said that this year’s ranking was still better than the Philippines’ 138th rank in 2016 and its 141st place in 2015.

Duterte has been criticized for his verbal, and some claim legal, attacks on critical media organizations in the Philippines.

FOCAP is also alarmed at reports that the House of Representatives has passed a rule threatening to revoke media accreditation of outfits whose reports “besmirch the reputation” of the body.

It said that this rule gave a “wide latitude” for interpretation and could be used to limit critical press.

The group said that in a meeting with Communications Assistant Secretary Queeni Rodulfo in November 207 she agreed to allow Filipinos working for foreign media outfits “unfettered access to the president’s media events as well as other international press events.”

“Government must clarify and spell out clear guidelines on media coverage so as to avoid similar incidents in the future,” it said.



U.S. Chief Complaints With The Philippines Remain: Extrajudicial Killings, Impunity, Rule of Law, Human Rights Abuses

April 21, 2018
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Photo: Journalists and photograpphers have documented thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during the Duterte administration. AP/Bullit Marquez, File photo
State Department report: EJKs still ‘chief’ human rights concern in Philippines

Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( – April 21, 2018 – 11:21am

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged cases of summary execution in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war remains a major human rights concern in the Philippines, amid rising impunity following a dramatic surge in police killings, the US State Department said in its global rights report for 2017.

“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the antidrug campaign in 2016, they continued in 2017,” read the report released Friday (Washington time).

Duterte, who is notorious for his defiance of international pressure and rejection of criticisms on his rights record, easily won the race to Malacañang on a brutal law and order platform.

Human rights monitors say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotic drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops taking a frontline role in the lethal campaign and unknown assailants.

But the force had vehemently denied executing suspected drug traffickers in cold blood, saying deaths in police shootings were done in self-defense.

Amid the mounting death toll, critics say Duterte is waging a “war on poor,” making him liable for crimes against humanity for giving cops the “license to kill.”

Citing the 900 drug-related deaths reported by media from January to September last year, the State Department said concerns about police impunity “increased significantly.”

The US government also expressed doubt over the accuracy and legitimacy of Duterte’s list of alleged drug personalities.

“Police claimed to have begun investigations of all reports of extrajudicial killings,” the report read in part.

“Some civil society organizations accused police of planting evidence, tampering with crime scenes, unlawfully disposing of the bodies of drug suspects, and other actions to cover up extrajudicial killings,” it added.

Aside from the drug war, the report likewise flagged other “most significant” human rights issues in the country, including life threatening prison conditions, warrantless arrests, the state’s “disregard” for due process, violence against the free press and rights activists, and forced labor, among others.


The report’s release comes at a time of improving Manila-Washington ties, as US President Donald Trump cozies up to Duterte, whom the American leader said was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

In a departure from previous policy of past American leaders to call out human rights violators, Trump had also reportedly said that “Filipinos don’t have drug problem [because] they just kill them.”

Asked how the State Department report is consistent with the human rights policies of Trump—who has been criticized for his apparent affinity for leaders accused of being authoritarian like Duterte—senior State Department official Michael Kozak maintained that the report is “factual.”

“Now, does that mean that the President should never speak to these people? We’re trying to keep the report as the factual baseline for what we’re going to do in policy terms or sanctions as the secretary was mentioning. So we can learn a lot from this, and we can use it to formulate a policy,” Kozak, who helped oversee the report, said in a press conference.

“But usually part of your policy is engaging with the people whose behavior you’re trying to change at some level. And I don’t think those two things are in distinction,” he added.

“The fact is, these other governments and their populations do read the report… And when the President speaks to their leader, often he’s talking about these issues, so it’s – it’s complementary, it’s not a – two things that are in conflict.”




 (Includes FT Op-Ed)


Philippine Government Blast EU For Interfering Human Rights, War On Drugs — “What do they care how many die here? They can all go to hell.”

April 20, 2018
By:  – Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
 / 05:22 PM April 20, 2018

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / JOAN BONDOC

Where are the 12,000 drug war deaths?

Malacañang hit back on Friday at the European Parliament for issuing a resolution urging the Philippines to stop its war on drugs, claiming it is marred by alleged extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.

The EU Parliament also called on the Philippines to release Sen. Leila de Lima and give her a fair trial and remove the terrorists tag against human rights defenders in the country.

“We of course find it unfortunate that members of the European Parliament once again interfered with the affairs of the Philippine state, rehashing issues and baseless claims that have been explained adequately by the Philippine government in several official statements. ,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Image result for duterte with rifle, photo, april 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte

In this Thursday, April 19, 2018, file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte jokes to photographers as he holds an Israeli-made Galil rifle which was presented to him by outgoing Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, at the turnover-of-command ceremony at Camp Crame in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Duterte told the crowd he will not stop his so-called war on drugs until his last day in office. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

Source: AP

In their latest resolution, the EU Parliament also noted the death of 12,000 individuals in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.

Roque reiterated that the Duterte administration does not engage in extrajudicial killings .

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“Ang sabi po nila, 12,000 na raw po ang namatay. Nasaan po iyong mga bangkay, at nasaan po iyong mga demanda ng mga 12,000 victims?  Roque asked.

“Kakaunti lang po ang alam naming mga demanda tungkol dito sa mga patayan na ito, and we of course challenge them – saan po iyong mga datos, saan ang ebidensiya na 12,000 ang namatay na?” he added.

Roque reiterated that the government does not tolerate impunity.

“Impunity does not have a place in our society and we continue to follow due process and hold officers accountable for their actions,” he said.

“Hindi po natin kinukusinti ang mga patayan. Ang ating mga institusyon ay gumagalaw po para bigyan ng implementasyon ang ating batas laban sa patayan (We do not tolerate these deaths. Our institutions are working to implement the laws against killings),” he added.

The war on drugs under the Duterte administration has received international condemnation from rights groups for alleged human rights abuses by police authorities.

De Lima arrest legal

Roque also slammed the EU Parliament, saying the arrest and detention of de Lima followed strict legal procedures.

“The arrest and detention of Senator Leila De Lima on illegal drug charges which follows strict legal procedures has even been declared legal with finality by the Supreme Court of the Philippines,” he said.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday junked the plea for reconsideration of De Lima to nullify the arrest warrant against her issued by Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Juanita Guerrero.

“Ngayong linggo lang po ito, Korte Suprema na ang nagbasura noong Motion for Reconsideration ni Leila De Lima na kinukuwestiyon iyong legalidad ng information laban sa kaniya. Ano pong gagawin natin? Korte Suprema na nagsabi, dalawang beses; hindi lang isang beses na legal ‘yan,” Roque said.

The Palace official said the judicial system in the Philippines is working.

“Gumagana po ang hudikatura dito sa Pilipinas, hindi po naimpluwensiyahan ng mga pulitiko ang mga lower courts at ang Korte Supreme dito sa Pilipinas dahil ngayon po, menorya pa lang ang naa-appoint na mga justices ng ating Pangulo sa Supreme Court,” he said.

He daid the executive branch does not interfere with the decision of the judiciary.

Terrorist tag

Roque said human rights defenders tagged as terrorist by the government were being given due process and the right to be heard.

“United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is included in the list of terrorist because of intelligence information. Ms. Corpuz can submit controverting evidence linking her with the terrorist group, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army,” he said.

He said Corpuz was not yet a terrorist as her case was still in court.

“Hindi pa naman siya nababansagang terorista; kinakailangan munang magkaroon ng order sa hukuman. So binibigyan po siya ng due process, bibigyan po siya ng pagkakataon na marinig. Magsumite po siya ng ebidensiya na hindi siya terorista, at pabayaan natin ang hukuman magdesisyon,” he said.

Roque said it would be the court and not foreigner lawmakers who would decide and whether Corpuz would be tagged as a terrorist.

“We thus call on the members of the European Parliament to exercise prudence in issuing resolutions,” he said.

“We understand a number of whom have close ties with the local political opposition who tried to distort realities that we have a working democracy, where people now enjoy peace and order,” he added.

In its World Report 2018, Human Rights Watch said President Rodrigo Duterte dragged the Philippines into a serious human rights crisis since the dictatorship of late Ferdinand Marcos, whom Duterte had praised in the past. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times/World Press Photo via AP, File

PH removal from UN

Roque also addressed the plan of the EU Parliament for the removal of the Philippines from the UN Human Rights Council.

“Well that’s not a decision to be made by the European parliament. That’s a decision to be made by the UN system itself. The members of the UN Human Rights Council are elected by the general assembly, that’s a call to be made by the general assembly,” he said.



Cayetano dares HRW: Show proof 12,000 were killed in PH drug war
Read more:
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 (Includes FT Op-Ed)


All this makes one wonder: does the Philippines know what it is doing with China? In the South China Sea?  Benham Rise? Is Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ICC, and is Agnes Callamard  (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions at the UN) correct in saying the Philippines is guilty of gross illegalities under international law? Is the Philippine government being run by people who don’t understand the law? Is the move for a “Federal form of Government” based upon any good thinking?


 (No man is above the law…)


The grandmother of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, Violeta, cries beside his casket yesterday in Caloocan City. Relatives and concerned neighbors of the teenager slain by police are calling for justice. MICHAEL VARCAS
One of the fatalities, who has yet to be identified, was killed in an alleged shootout with police officers in Guiguinto, Bulacan on June 16. AP/Aaron Favila, file

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Philippine National Police chief General Ronald Dela Rosa whispers to President Rodrigo Duterte during the announcement of the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines on Jan 29, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

Jee Ick-joo, a South Korean businessman in the Philippines, was abducted by police from his home in October. It took his wife, Choi Kyung-jin, three months to learn his fate. Video: Eva Tam; photo: Jes Aznar for The Wall Street Journal

According to the Philippine National Police, there have been 6,225 drug-related deaths between July 2016 and September 2017. Despite this, the authorities claim that there has only been one extrajudicial victim under the current administration. AFP/Noel Celis
Three of five Filipinos believe that only the poor are killed in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, the Social Weather Stations said in its latest survey. AFP/Noel Celis
Photos obtained by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism show the body of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. lying flat on his back with his eyes half-open, and both of his hands empty. He was killed while in police custody during a “jail house shoot out” with police. All the police involved were exonerated and returned to duty. Image obtained by PCIJ/Nancy Carvajal



 (The Philippines seems to be siding with China, Russia and Iran)




Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kine 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.”

Image result for Boy Cruz, philippine policeman, photos

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

 (December 23, 2016)


 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

 (Philippine Star, December 1, 2016)

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

 (November 30, 2016)

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

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

 (November 16, 2016)

 (August 10, 2016)

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

Duterte’s drugs war lieutenants get key posts in Philippine police reshuffle

April 19, 2018

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a Galil sniper rifle next to outgoing Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Bato Dela Rosa during the National Police chief handover ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City, metro Manila, Philippines, April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi TawataoREUTERS


MANILA (Reuters) – Police at the helm of the Philippine war on drugs were given top posts in the national force on Thursday, indicating no let-up in a brutal crackdown that has caused international alarm, and defined Rodrigo Duterte’s 21-month presidency.

The job of national police chief was given to Oscar Albayalde, a strict disciplinarian who has been in charge of Metro Manila, where the vast majority of the thousands of drugs war killings have occurred.

He was succeeded as commander of the capital police by Camilo Cascolan, the architect of the controversial operational plan of the anti-drug campaign, “Double Barrel”.

About 4,100 people have been killed by police in the Philippines since July 2016 in what the authorities said were shootouts during anti-narcotics operations. At least 2,300 drug-related deaths have occurred separately, at the hands of what police say are unknown assassins.

Human rights groups believe the death toll has been understated, and accuse the authorities of executing suspects and staging crime scenes. Police deny that and say their more than 130,000 arrests prove their intent to preserve life.

Cascolan is the latest officer promoted to a top command post having served in the Davao region during the 22 years Duterte was a mayor there. The outgoing police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, also served in Davao.

Cascolan’s position as head of operations will go to Mao Aplasca, also from the Davao region.

Albayalde vowed no relent in the campaign and to ensure continuity of its “remarkable accomplishments”, including arresting or convincing tens of thousands of people to surrender, and the “neutralizing” of drug suspects.

“We will not relent on our war against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality. The drug menace, we must all understand, is a worldwide phenomenon,” Albayalde said in a speech.

“We will help and support each other to fight and win this war.”

The outgoing police chief, Dela Rosa, will head the bureau of corrections.

He is leaving behind a police force with “a sordid human rights record”, according to Carlos Conde, a researcher for the New York based Human Rights Watch.

In his departure speech, Dela Rosa lauded Duterte’s for his courage to order an all-out war on drugs, and pledged his “unquestionable loyalty” to him.

“It was an order I certainly could not refuse. I shared the same sentiments as the president and would not let pass the opportunity to do my share,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

‘I will arrest you’: Duterte warns ICC lawyer to steer clear of Philippines

April 13, 2018


MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest an International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor if she conducts activities in his country, arguing it was no longer an ICC member so the court had no right to do any investigating.

Hitting out at what he said was an international effort to paint him as a “ruthless and heartless violator of human rights”, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the ICC’s Rome Statute a month ago and promised to continue his crackdown on drugs, in which thousands have been killed.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in February announced the start of a preliminary examination into a complaint by a Philippine lawyer which accuses Duterte and top officials of crimes against humanity, and of killing criminals as a policy.

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Left: Rodrigo Duterte; Right: ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Duterte has cited numerous reasons why he believes the ICC has no jurisdiction over him, and on Friday suggested that any doubts about that should have been dispelled by his withdrawal.

“What is your authority now? If we are not members of the treaty, why are you … in this country?,” told reporters, in comments aimed at Bensouda.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents and police arrest an alleged drug dealer during a drug raid in Maharlika Village, Taguig, south of Manila on February 28, 2018. (AFP)

“You cannot exercise any proceedings here without basis. That is illegal and I will arrest you.”

It is not clear whether Bensouda or the ICC has carried out any activities in the Philippines related to the complaint against Duterte.

The office of the prosecutor in The Hague and the Philippine foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police have since July 2016 killed more than 4,000 people they say are drug dealers who resisted arrest. Activists say many of those were executions, which police deny.

Duterte has told security forces not to cooperate with any foreign investigators and last month said he would convince other ICC members to withdraw.

Duterte had earlier vowed to face the ICC and critics say pulling out is futile, because the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed in the period from when the Philippines joined in 2011 to when its withdrawal takes effect in March 2019.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can step in and exercise jurisdiction if states are unable or unwilling to investigate suspected crimes.

But the mercurial former mayor and his legal aides argue that technically, the Philippines never actually joined the ICC, because it was not announced in the country’s official gazette.

“If there is no publication, it is as if there is no law at all,” Duterte said on Friday.

Protests Greet Philippine President Duterte in Hong Kong — To assail what they described as the “rising tyranny and dictatorship” of Duterte

April 12, 2018


Around 50 Filipinos and Hong Kong residents held the protest in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

Alexis Romero
Alexis Romero ( – April 12, 2018 – 1:49pm

HONG KONG — Activists here on Thursday held a protest against the deaths tied to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs and his supposed failure to fulfill his promises hours before a scheduled meeting with members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong.

About 50 Filipinos and Hong Kong locals staged a protest along Middle Road in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Kowloon to assail what they described as the “rising tyranny and dictatorship” of Duterte.

The activists, who claim to be backed by 34 sectoral groups from different Asian countries, also chided Duterte for allegedly endorsing human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.

“Some people are saying that he is still very popular. But that cannot hide the fact that the economic and social conditions in the Philippines are worsening and are not getting better. His popularity cannot cover the fact that there are thousands of people who are protesting, who are fighting, his tyranny and dictatorship,” Eman Villanueva, chairman of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Hong Kong-Macau said.

“We are just here to send our message to our president. We are not terrorists. It is our president who has been killing our people in our country. We should be the ones who are given protection, not this president,” he added.

Villanueva said Duterte has failed to improve the lives of Filipinos, forcing them to work in other countries. He also accused Duterte of not respecting the independence of co-equal branches of government by calling on Congress to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“The situation also of the human rights in the Philippines is deteriorating, even much worse than the time of the former dictator Marcos. He even called on Congress to impeach and remove the Chief Justice. This is a total disrespect to the rule of law and also to the checks and balance of the government,” the activist said.

“This is even much worse than the previous record of the previous administration. We are here today to tell the Philippines that he should stop doing this,” he added.

When reminded that Duterte continues to have high trust and satisfaction ratings despite the allegations against him, Villanueva said: “There is no doubt that he is still very popular…(But) by the time the people do not have food on their tables and by the time those who supported him in the elections also lost their loved ones because of the drug war, eventually, he will lose that popularity.”

“If we reach the point that we can no longer handle our problems, his popularity and his troll army in the social media would not be able to hide the situation,” he added.

Despite the protest, Duterte is usually welcomed by large crowds of overseas Filipinos when he travels abroad.



Philippines Watches as Elected President in a Democracy Becomes Something Else Entirely — Names Supreme Court Chief Justice His “Enemy” — Rule of Law?

April 11, 2018
 / 05:10 AM April 11, 2018

President Duterte has taken the velvet glove off the iron hand.

Before he left for the Boao Forum in China, he called Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of the Supreme Court an “enemy,” and vowed he would remove her from office.

“I’m putting you on notice that I’m your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court,” an angry President said in a news conference. “I will see to it and after that, I will request the Congress go into the impeachment right away.”

“I’m putting you on notice that I’m your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court”

What triggered the President’s outright declaration of enmity? What provoked his declaration of political war?

Sereno — forced to go on indefinite leave from the Court by an unwieldy coalition of justices, facing both a patently unconstitutional quo warranto proceeding before the Court and certain impeachment in the House of Representatives — has been accepting unending invitations to speak in all sorts of public forums, and in the last one she raised the obvious question: If the President says he is not behind the twin moves to oust her, why was it Solicitor General Jose Calida, the government’s chief lawyer and a close ally of the President’s, who filed the quo warranto case against her?

Even in the polite Filipino she used, there was no mistaking the direct challenge she had laid at the President’s door: “Mr. President, kung sinabi mong wala kang kinalaman dito, paki paliwanag po bakit si SolGen Calida na nagrereport sa ’yo ang nag-file ng quo warranto?”

President Duterte took personal offense. In a mix of Filipino and English, he said: “You, Sereno, I told you I did not interfere. If you are insisting, then count me in. Count me in and I will egg Calida to do his best. I myself will do it, fight you.”

And: “Son of a bitch, I said I did not interfere. Tell her, let the world know. [Now] I will really get involved.”

And again: “I was telling you that I did not interfere. Now look what you’ve done, talking and talking, I will beat you up. I will help any investigator.”

And, one last time: “Now I will really get involved. I am asking Congress: What’s taking you too long? Do not create any crisis in this country. I will not hesitate to do what is to the best interest of my country. If it calls for your forced removal, I will do it.”

It is no secret that Sereno has been on the wrong side of the President’s personal ledger since she defended the independence of the judiciary when, at the start of the President’s signature campaign against drugs, he pinpointed judges he said were implicated in the illegal drug trade.

Speaking for the Supreme Court, Sereno calmly welcomed the President’s allegations but firmly insisted that the judiciary, being a branch of government designed to be independent of the two political branches, must follow its own procedures in determining the guilt or innocence of any accused judges. It was downhill from there.

There was even an exchange of views that led the President to exclaim, “Or would you rather I will declare martial law?”

Since August 2016, when the two heads of coequal branches of government conducted what amounted to a debate held through public forums or press conferences, Sereno had always sought not to directly challenge the President.

Her statements, while growing increasingly sharp, were still couched in polite diplomatic language.

Her speech last Monday directly challenging the President was a departure from previous practice — and it must have been deliberate.

The question then is: Why did Sereno seemingly sign her own death warrant, so to speak, by taking on the President?

Because it sharpens the issues facing Sereno. The impeachment complaint in Congress was of course a political stratagem; how else could an incoherent complaint filed by an incompetent lawyer survive a lengthy proceeding if not for the political will of the leaders running the proceeding?

Now the President himself has confirmed that he wants the House of Representatives to hurry up.

Sereno has reached the point where the only possibility of legal and constitutional salvation lies in an impeachment trial in the Senate.

By provoking the President, she has succeeded in forcing the hand of the House.

But why was the House taking so long, when impeachment is a foregone conclusion?

Because House leaders are waiting for the Supreme Court to take the unconstitutional option of unseating an official identified by the Constitution as removable only by impeachment through another means — the quo warranto case.

Sereno’s challenge has led the President to paint the justices into a corner. If they oust her, whatever reasons they use they will be seen, forever, as mere errand boys and girls, carrying out the command of an angry executive.

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Philippines’ Duterte urges ‘fast-track’ sacking of top judge

April 9, 2018



© AFP/File | Philippine Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno: under fire from Duterte

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday lawmakers must “fast-track” the impeachment of the nation’s top judge, further stacking the odds against her staying in office.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is one of several high-profile critics who have found themselves in legal trouble after battling with Duterte over his deadly anti-drug crackdown.

“I’m putting you (Sereno) on notice that I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court,” Duterte told reporters before flying to China for an economic forum.

“I held my temper before because she’s a woman. This time I’m asking the congressmen and the Speaker: ‘Do it now. Cut out the drama, or else I will do it for you’,” he added.

A committee in the legislature’s lower chamber the House of Representatives last month found “probable cause” to impeach Sereno, in a move which critics allege is part of wider efforts by Duterte to destroy foes and usher in one-man rule.

If lawmakers in the full House support the finding, Sereno would face a US-style impeachment trial in the Senate or upper house. Congress is currently in recess and is due to reconvene May 14.

The Supreme Court is set Tuesday to hear a separate petition to unseat Sereno from the country’s highest tribunal.

She has been accused of failing to pay about two million pesos ($40,000) in taxes as well as falsifying and tampering with court resolutions.

She is also alleged to have spent excessively on “opulent” hotels and a luxury official vehicle, as well as flying business or first class.

Until Monday Duterte had repeatedly denied having anything to do with the moves to sack Sereno.

He called on House Speaker and key ally Pantaleon Alvarez to “kindly fast-track the impeachment” of Sereno.

“If it calls for your forced removal I will do it,” Duterte said, referring to Sereno.

Duterte and Sereno first clashed in 2016 when she criticised his order that judges whom he linked to the illegal drugs trade turn themselves in as part of his crackdown.

Police say they have killed roughly 4,000 drug suspects who fought back during arrest since Duterte launched the war nearly two years ago. Rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher.

Other Duterte critics have also been ousted, punished or threatened including detained Senator Leila de Lima, the Commission on Human Rights, and an anti-corruption prosecutor who investigated allegations Duterte has hidden wealth.