Items filtered by date: Thursday, 16 March 2017

Gloria Arroyo ousted as deputy speaker; 11 chairmen lose committees

Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the deputy speaker for Central Luzon, and the committee chairpersons who voted against the death penalty bill have been removed from their posts.
In a surprise move on the last session day before Congress goes on recess, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas took the floor to move to declare as vacant Arroyo's post as deputy speaker and the chairmanships of the following:
· Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao (People Participation)
· Gabriela Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus (Poverty Alleviation)
· Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero (Basic Education)
· Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Civil Service)
· ACT-Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio (Public Information)
· AMIN Party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman (Muslim Affairs)

· Buhay Party-list Rep. Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. (Overseas Workers Affairs)
· Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate (Natural Resources)
· Batanes Rep. Dina Abad (government reorganization)
· Diwa Partylist Emmeline Aglipay-Villar (Women and Gender Equality)
· Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte (special committee on land use)
There were no objections and the motion was carried.
Fariñas then moved to replace Escudero as Basic Education committee chair, with Cebu Rep. Ramon Durano VI. The Sorsogon representative has been demoted to vice chairperson of the said committee.
Afterwards, the majority leader moved to adjourn the session.
These happened even after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said that the anti-death penalty House leaders will be replaced when session resumes in May. – GMA News


After days of silence, Dela Rosa debunks Lascañas claim

MANILA – In a House hearing, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa broke his silence over one of the many allegations of self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas, in particular former Davao City mayor President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed orders to have a suspect killed.
"I know him as a policeman from Davao. He was a member of the heinous crime division of the Davao City Police Office," said Dela Rosa during a House of Representatives briefing on the police's Project Double Barrel Reloaded, its campaign against illegal drugs, on Tuesday, March 14.
Dela Rosa had previously chosen to stay mum on Lascañas' claims, saying he would only answer the allegations before the Senate. He was invited to the March 6 hearing on Lascañas, but skipped it because of the relaunch of the PNP's campaign against illegal drugs.
Lascañas, a retired Davao policeman, is the latest whistle-blower to claim the existence of the notorious death squad.
In a turnaround of an earlier claim made under oath before the Senate, Lascañas said Duterte had ordered police who were supposed members of the death squad to kill suspects and even his political and personal enemies.

The former Davao cop had claimed that when Dela Rosa was city director of the Davao City Police Office, the group targeted the "most wanted criminal" of Davao del Sur, a certain Felicisimo Cunanan Jr alias "Sergeant Sisi." Lascañas claimed "Sergeant Sisi" was killed during the operation because he was armed and refused to raise his hands.
The suspect supposedly had two companions, one who surrendered and another who was unarmed.
Lascañas said they brought the two men back to the heinous crime office and claimed Duterte and Dela Rosa visited them close to midnight.
"[Duterte] cursed at the two, he got mad at them," recalled Lascañas during his March 6 appearance before the Senate.
The cop claimed that Duterte ordered them to kill the two, then left. He said when Dela Rosa returned after bringing Duterte to his car, the former Davao City police chief ordered them not to kill the two because "kawawa 'yan (they're pitiful)."
Dela Rosa supposedly told Lascañas to file a case against the armed companion and release the unarmed driver.
Dela Rosa denied the claim about Duterte on Tuesday.

What kill orders?
"'Yung sinabi niya do'n sa may gustong ipapapatay si Presidente doon sa opisina nila, nandoon ako sa opisina… sabi ko file-an 'nyo ng kaso iyan. Hindi ko po nakita si Presidente nandoon at nagbigay ng instructions na patayin. Hindi ko nakita si Presidente," said Dela Rosa, who insisted the meeting was only between himself and Lascañas.
(This claim that President Duterte was in their office, I was there. I told him to file a case. But I did not see the President there, giving instructions to kill. I did not see the President.)
Dela Rosa, however, did not give a blanket denial for all of Lascañas' claims, saying he could not comment on things he does not have personal knowledge of.
Lascañas, who is now under the protection of Duterte nemesis Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, earlier claimed the so-called Davao Death Squad was formed the first year Duterte was elected mayor. He said they initially targeted suspected criminals, until they eventually began targeting Duterte's personal and political enemies.
The Palace and Duterte have dismissed Lascañas' claims as lies. –


PH, China squabble over Benham Rise


MANILA – A 13-million-hectare underwater plateau known as Benham Rise has become the latest cause of a squabble between the Philippines and China after it was learned that a Chinese vessel had intruded there recently.
On Monday, March 13, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a statement over the Chinese presence in the area off Aurora province, in conflict with at least two of his Cabinet secretaries. The president initially said that he had granted permission for the Chinese vessel to conduct a survey of the area, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he found the incursion “very concerning.”
Mr. Duterte then added that he did not want to pick a fight with China over Benham Rise. He, however, admitted that China was laying claim to the disputed area, not unlike its claim of ownership of Scarborough Shoal.
“Let us not fight over sovereignty or ownership at this time,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that “things are going great for my country” vis-à-vis its relations with China.
On Tuesday, March 14, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino people.”
The commotion was triggered last week by a statement from China that the Philippines cannot take Benham Rise “as its own territory.”
By Tuesday, this week, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said her country “fully respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in the Benham Rise, and there is no such thing as China challenging those rights.”

She added that China merely sought to enjoy the freedom of navigation in the area.
It was another spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, who had said that the Philippines had no right to claim Benham Rise as its own.
While part of the Philippine Sea, the country cannot claim “ownership” over the plateau, but can only claim exclusive rights to develop the area under international law.
It is believed that besides being rich with minerals, Benham Rise may have commercial quantities of natural gas, which China’s booming economy desperately needs as a source of power.
A large portion of Benham Rise falls within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, as recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.
The previous administration of President Benigno Aquino III had taken China to international court over its claim over Scarborough Shoal, winning the case in 2012.
Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday noted "recent negative observations" on Benham Rise as well as the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
In a statement, Del Rosario said this shows that "promoting national security, including protecting what is ours, must be paramount."
"Under no circumstances would it be wise for us to trade away our national security," Del Rosario said. – With an additional report from Rappler


Del Rosario pushes for Manalo as permanent DFA chief

MANILA – Former Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario on Tuesday, March 14, pushed for the "permanent appointment" of seasoned ambassador Enrique Manalo as the Philippines' top diplomat.
In a statement, Del Rosario said of acting Foreign Secretary Manalo, "Having worked with the acting secretary for 5 years, it is my belief that it would be in the best interest of our country if he would be considered for permanent appointment."
Manalo was earlier viewed as a "transition man" because President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly eyed his running mate, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) by May.
Duterte, however, said on Monday, March 13, that Cayetano should probably stay in the Senate where he is more needed.
In his statement, Del Rosario pointed out that Manalo "is a professional career diplomat with 38 years of training and experience in foreign affairs."
Del Rosario said that Manalo "commands the respect not only of his peers at DFA but also of his counterparts in the global diplomatic community."

Manalo, after all, was DFA undersecretary for policy during parts of the Arroyo, Aquino, and Duterte administrations. He was also once Philippine ambassador to the UK and Belgium, among other assignments.
Del Rosario also said on Tuesday: "Moreover, while we fully appreciate that our president is our chief architect of our foreign policy, a direct communication protocol between a career secretary of the DFA and the Palace, at all times, would be key and extremely helpful. This would enable our acting secretary to provide the best possible advice on the merits and ramifications of all considered options related to foreign policy."
Del Rosario had earlier criticized Manalo's predecessor, Perfecto Yasay Jr, whom the Commission on Appointments (CA) eventually rejected over citizenship issues.
Del Rosario, who served as DFA chief from February 2011 to March 2016, is best remembered for the historic case filed by the Philippines against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Del Rosario's immediate successor, former foreign secretary Jose Rene Almendras, said he also believes Manalo "is a very good choice" as secretary of foreign affairs (SFA).
"He has the training, experience, and appropriate perspective to be a very good SFA," Almendras said. –


Advice to Duterte: Don't micromanage PNP

MANILA – Did President Rodrigo Duterte “micromanage” the police when he intervened in the re-appointment of a cop who later led an operation that resulted in the death of a suspected drug lord?
According to a joint senate committee report on the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr., Duterte should “not be micromanaging the affairs of the government and should place his trust in the sound discretion of all his appointee, including [Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa]." The report was released on Monday, March 13, almost 4 months after Espinosa was killed inside his own jail cell.
Espinosa was killed on November 5, 2016, in what operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 claim was an operation to serve a search warrant against the mayor and another inmate.
He allegedly had guns and illegal drugs inside prison. Cops claimed he shot at cops during the operation, which eventually resulted in his death.
But that version of the story has been disputed by PNP officials, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Senate committees on public order and dangerous drugs and on justice and human rights.
Former CIDG 8 chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos, his men, and some personnel of the local Maritime Group allegedly planned the killing of Marcos, mainly to rid all traces of their supposed ties to the illegal drugs network in Eastern Visayas.
Espinosa was among the first chief executives that Duterte accused of having ties to illegal drugs. His son, Kerwin, is an alleged drug lord.

Duterte's hand
But Duterte’s ties to the case became more complicated after it was revealed that Dela Rosa had ordered Marcos relieved prior to the jail incident, based on reports he was linked to drugs. The PNP chief’s plans, however, were thwarted when a “higher up” intervened.
After a few days of refusing to name the “higher up,” Duterte admitted that he stopped the relief of Marcos, supposedly because he was investigating the cop’s ties to illegal drugs.
“The Chief [of the PNP] should be given full authority and control on how he will manage the day-to-day affairs of the organization subject to the limitations set by law. He should be given a free hand to decide on how to run the PNP and his decisions should be recognized and respected and should be countermanded or reversed only by the Chief Executive in case of a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion of the part of the Chief, PNP,” read the Senate report, which was submitted and sponsored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the police force.


Cardinal Tagle lauds ‘The Messiah’ musical

MANILA– “The Messiah”, a Jamaican reggae musical, opened in Manila on Friday, gaining an ecstatic response from the crowd including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle.
The musical received a standing ovation after its first showing at the Star Theatre in Pasay City with the cardinal noting how the characters “have been treated with so much compassion, love, and mercy”.
“Every movement, every dance, every note was done executed with love specially for the poor whom Jesus love,” Tagle said.
Produced by the Missionaries of the Poor and was first shown in Jamaica in 2012, the musical looks into the life and work of Jesus.
For its Manila show, the musical features some of its original casts including MOP’s founder, Father Richard Ho Lung, and more than 70 local actors, singers and dancers.

Fr. Lung was the recipient of the 2016 Nelson Mandela Human Rights Achievement Sunshine Award in New York, USA, for his service to humanity, especially to the poor.
“No matter how often the story is told and no matter what form the story is presented to us, it never fails to touch us because it is about love, love eternal,” Tagle said.
“And it is never finished and it will continue and hopefully through us the Messiah will again become flesh in love, in concrete actions of love,” he added.
Over the years, the MOP have been assisting the poor and destitute across the world by staging theatre productions to raise funds.
In the Philippines, all proceeds are in aid of their works with the poor and homeless, and the completion of the Divine Mercy Apostolate Center in San Andres Bukid, Manila. – CBCP News


"Rainbow Traveler " by Fitz Herrera for Art in the Park

Art in the Park bird turned into sculptures for the fair’s 2017 edition
This year's Art in the Park will feature 57 galleries, art collectives, independent art spaces, and student groups—a big leap from 12 art galleries in its inaugural outing in 2006.
In addition to the white booths teeming with artworks, Art in the Park has partnered this year with Secret Fresh to create a resin sculpture of the fair's iconic logo. The resin birds will be customized by different artist, rendering each piece unique.
The limited edition sculptures will be sold at Art in the Park on April 2 at the Museum Foundation of the Philippines booth. Prints by Mark Justiniani ("Kumpas") will also be sold in the booth. The sales fund the projects and programs of the National Museum of the Philippines and its network.

As an affordable art fair, Art in the Park continues its mission to help art lovers start their collection by setting a price cap on the works (at P50,000 this year). However, through the years, the fair has also become an annual art appreciation destination for friends, couples, and family.
Bringing art closer to the public, the fair will also feature an installation by Carzen Esprela: "Bag in a Boat" has a headless figure sitting in a 14-feet long boat with arms for oars—a perfect conversation piece while enjoying the music of featured band Brat Pack.
Mark your calendars and enjoy a day of art on April 2 at Jaime Velasquez Park, Leviste corner Tordesillas Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. — GMA News

Photo Caption: Customized acrylic and spray paint on resin, 9 x 12.5 inches by JJ Zamoranos and Nemo Aguila in collaboration with Secret Fresh Gallery. Photo from Art in the Park Facebook page.


5 labor attachés face recall for inaction on OFW issues

Five labor attachés from Taiwan and the Middle East have been ordered to report back to Manila to explain before Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III how they are addressing the "criticial issues" of OFWs in their areas of assignment.
“I instructed them to report here not later than March 15 because I want them to answer me personally on what they are doing on the critical issues of OFWs,” said Bello in a statement Wednesday.
Those ordered to report back to Manila were:
· Ophelia N. Almenario of POLO-Abu Dhabi
· David Des Dicang of POLO-Qatar
· Rodolfo Gabasan of POLO-Israel

· Nasser Mustafa of POLO-Oman, and
· Nasser Munder of POLO-Taichung
“Kakausapin ko sila at sasabihin ko na aksyunan ang mga isyu ng OFW sa kanilang lugar, lalo na iyong mga distressed at displaced,” Bello said. “Kung hindi pa sila susunod at maka-receive ako ng reklamo, ipapa-recall ko sila.”
Bello issued the instruction after receiving reports that some labor attaches are not mindful of the issues and situation of distressed OFWs in their posts.
He said one of the issues reported to him was the violation of the bilateral agreement between the Philippines and host countries in the Middle East, particularly on the $400 minimum wage of household service workers, by some employers.
“Dapat kapag may nalaman silang violation, i-blacklist na kaagad ang employer. Ang trabaho nila sa POLO ay bigyan ng tama at sapat proteksyon ang ating mga OFW,” said Bello. — GMA News


NBI back in war on illegal drugs

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is back in the Duterte administration's war on illegal drugs after a month-long absence brought about by the implication of some its people in the killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said the NBI resumed its anti-illegal drugs operationson Tuesday after securing the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.
"I asked the President to allow the NBI to resume operation. Malaking kawalan ang NBI. You should remember that only last December the NBI seized the biggest shabu haul in history of almost 900 kilos worth P6 billion in San Juan City," Aguirre said.
Prior to this development, Aguirre indefinitely suspended the authority of the NBI to probe drug cases following the verbal directive of the President last month.
Aguirre issued Memorandum Circular 5 suspending Department Order 554 dated August 25, 2016, which mandates the NBI to conduct build-up of cases falling under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act or Republic Act 9165.
On February 2, Duterte announced that he had lost trust in the NBI, calling it a "corrupt" agency just like the Philippine National Police (PNP), whose controversial anti-drug operations had also been suspended for a month following the involvement of policemen in the Jee kidnap-slay last October 18.
The crime was reportedly carried out in the guise of the government's war on illegal drugs.
Some NBI people have also been implicated in the crime, prompting NBI Director Dante Gierran to relieve four of his men pending investigation by the PNP and NBI on the heinous slay. — GMA News

PNP asks Leni Robredo for details of ‘palit-ulo’ scheme in war on drugs

The Philippine National Police on Wednesday asked Vice President Leni Robredo to provide details on the alleged ‘palit-ulo’ scheme so that the PNP could take action and investigate.
Robredo, in a video message, adverted to instances when loved ones of drug suspects were apprehended when police couldn't get to the suspect.
The police allegedly urge the suspect to surrender before the family member is released.
“Kung merong ganitong ulat, we ask them to be more specific and let us allow those allegedly who has done this to answer for it,” PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said in a press conference.
“Let us be more specific saan nangyari, sino itong mga ito,” he added.
Carlos said the ‘palit-ulo’ scheme, if true, was not condoned by the PNP.
“Hindi nga ito sanctioned, wala doon sa polisiya. Hindi iyan norm, hindi iyan practice
," Carlos said.
"Ina-attach natin ito sa Oplan Tokhang which is not part of the Oplan Tokhang. Sana ay maging more specific kung nangyayari hindi yung it will appear that it is the practice which is not,” he added.
He said police officers involved in such a scheme would be investigated either by Internal Affairs Service or the local police.
“Kung may pananagutan yung pulis, bawat isang insidente na may nangyari andyan na agad ang IAS. Kasabay nyan magsasagawa ng investigation ang police station kung saan nangyari yung krimen,” Carlos said.
Robredo, in a recorded speech posted on YouTube by anti-drug network DRCNet Foundation on March 13, said the spouse or relative of a person in a so-called drug list would be taken if the person himself could not be found.
She said that because of these instances, the people have allegedly lost trust in the police.
"Some of those have told us that when there's crime, they normally go to the police. Now they don't know where to turn to. Our people feel both hopeless and helpless—a state of mind that we must all take seriously," Robredo said.
But according to Carlos, Robredo should have coordinated with their office first regarding the alleged scheme before it was made public.
“Sana nga naiparating [muna] hindi ‘yung broadcast kaagad. The same way with sinasabi natin doon sa mga ulat na paglabag sa karapatang pantao, meron ho kaming opisina para doon," he said.
“May nabanggit na 500 na kaso na paglabag sa karapatang pantao at inihain sa tamang ahensya ng gobyerno. Ang tanong is how extensive these investigations are that would warrant a case against those who made a violation. Ganun ‘yung tanong hindi ‘yung we float the numbers and then make it appear as if it is the general situation,” Carlos added.
He cited the alleged 7,000 summary killing cases being mentioned. He said of the number, 4,435 were murder cases under death under investigation and of this, 1,409 have been resolved where charges have been filed before the court.
Carlos said they have arrested 800 suspects while 500 others have been identified.
“Hindi ho natin iniwanan itong mga kasong ito pagkatapos nung tayo ay pinatigil nung January 30, nagtuloy-tuloy ‘yung imbestigasyon, pag-monitor natin ng kaso,” he said.
He said the PNP figures “have been used to represent something which is not really the entire situation.”
“We hope they present more specific details on their data. Kasi if you look at the different reports they will always say over 7,000 cases, iba-iba nagsasabi niyan,” Carlos said. — GMA News
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