Government ready to punish those who commit abuses under martial law

By Alexis Romero (philstar.com)

Photo: Armored Personnel Carriers drive to the frontline in the continuing assaults to retake control of some areas of Marawi city Sunday, May 28, 2017 in southern Philippines. Philippine forces launched fresh airstrikes Sunday to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city. AP/Bullit Marquez


MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is ready to prosecute and to punish those who commit abuses under the martial law in Mindanao even as it urged critics to be “considerate” in their judgment of the efforts of security forces on the ground.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Lanao del Sur Chapter has claimed that the military rule in Mindanao, which was imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte last May 23 after a series of terrorist attacks in Marawi, has led to abuses like warrantless searches of houses and commercial establishments.

The lawyers’ group said government forces in Mindanao also ransacked and illegally intruded into residential and commercial establishments and disregarded the plain view doctrine in searches and seizures.

According to the group, the military and police disregarded the right against deprivation of property without due process of law, the right to be secure in one's person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and the privacy of communication and correspondence of innocent civilians.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella maintained that the government does not condone any form of abuses or illegal activity.

“We will investigate and if evidence warrants, prosecute and punish all those who committed abuses, especially sexual violence against women,” Abella said in a statement on Saturday.

“The President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Department of National Defense Secretary, who is the Mindanao administrator for martial law, do not encourage or tolerate abuses by the military or the police in Mindanao or elsewhere,” he added.

Abella cited a recent statement by the Commission on Human Rights that it has yet to find evidence of abuse in areas under martial law.

“Should there be, proper complaints must be properly filed,” the presidential spokesman said.

Abella appealed to critics to support the government forces’ efforts to secure the areas plagued by terrorists.

“Unless based on fact and evidence, we ask critics and advocates to be more considerate in their judgment of the efforts and context of our soldiers’ challenges and be more supportive of their efforts to protect the Filipino way of life,” he said.

In a press conference in Davao City last Friday, Abella called on critics to “grow up” and to be “more sophisticated.”

“We are actually supposed to be united against a common enemy. And actually, what we are having is, somebody trying to establish a state within a state,” Abella said, referring to the Islamic State.

“That is a clear and present danger. You know, what don’t you get about that? You know, I think it is about time that we really just grew up and became more mature, and became more politically more sophisticated and actually, aside from that, we’re really just more concerned and supportive of one another,” he added.

Abella also clarified that the government is providing enough support to security forces in Marawi after the military launched its “Support our Troops” campaign.

The campaign, which was being led by the Armed Forces Civil Relations Service, involves the selling of statement shirts meant to drum up public support for soldiers in the battlefield.

“The government has provided enough assistance to the families of our fallen soldiers,” Abella said.

“The Support Our Troops Campaign is an initiative of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to boost the morale of our soldiers in the battlefield by showing that fellow Filipinos rally behind Filipino soldiers in fighting the terrorist rebels in Marawi,” he added.

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PCOO supports probe on fake news but...

By Alexis Romero (philstar.com)

Photo: PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said it is important to distinguish between legitimate media organizations and fake news sites. PPD/File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Communications Operations Office is supportive of a congressional probe on the proliferation of fake news but believes that the government should not regulate the media.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said it is important to distinguish between legitimate media organizations and fake news sites that peddle false information.

“The problem with fake news is about determining the fake organizations and the bona fide media organizations. That is what we should do first. Once we identify them, let us look at the cause,” Andanar told radio station dzBB in Filipino on Saturday.

“I support calls in the Senate and Congress to conduct a hearing in aid of legislation on fake news,” he added.

Andanar noted that it is possible that the relaying of inaccurate information was unintentional.

“If it is an inaccurate information from legitimate media organization, perhaps the reason is shortcoming in the workflow and procedure. Definitely, it is not intentional,” he said.

Asked if he thinks a law is needed to curb fake news, Andanar said: “Well, it depends. Of course, it will be crafted by the Senate and Congress. What is important is identify first the fake and the legitimate.”

Andanar, a former news reader for TV5, said the media should remain free from government regulation.

“The media is self-regulated. We are not covered by the PRC (Professional Regulation Commission)…It is just right that we are not covered by PRC. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press should not be regulated by the government,” he added.

Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, called for an inquiry on the proliferation of fake news in the Internet.

Trillanes filed Senate Resolution no. 259 which aims to look into the spread of false information and the emergence of “social media trolls.” The senator defined trolls as those who deliberately create or foments discord and conflict on social media sites through the posting of controversial and inflammatory messages.

Sen. Joel Villanueva has also filed Senate Bill no. 1492, which aims to impose stiffer fines and penalties on those who produce and peddle fake news. Under the bill, the fines and penalties are stiffer if the purveyor of fake news is a government official.

Some government officials have been accused of being sources of fake news. Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre accused opposition Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV of meeting with the Lucman and Alonto clans in Marawi weeks before terrorists attacked the city.

The justice chief later on claimed that he was misquoted by the media.

State-run Philippine News Agency recently drew flak for using a wrong photo in a story about the Marawi crisis. The government news agency used a Vietnam War photo from media file repository Wikimedia Commons.

PCOO Assistant Secretary and Duterte administration flamethrower Mocha Uson was also heavily criticized for using a photo of the Honduras police in a social network post urging the public to pray for Filipino troops in Marawi.

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Navy deploys newest war vessel near Marawi

By Roel Pareño (philstar.com) 


Photo: An Indonesian flag flutters from the rear deck of the new Philippine Navy ship named BRP Davao del Sur as it docks at Manila's South Harbor Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The Philippine Navy welcomed Wednesday the second Indonesian-made amphibious landing dock as part of the military's modernization program. AP/Bullit Marquez

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Navy is deploying its newest landing dock BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) in Cotabato to be used as instrument by military forces in battling the Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi City, an official said here.

The 404-footer supply and operation ship, constructed by the Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL, made a two-day port call in the city. It will also deliver military logistics, supplies for soldiers and relief goods for the displaced civilians of Marawi.

Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of Naval Force Western Mindanao (NFWM), visited the ship docked at the Zamboanga port. He said its presence will help secure the coastal water in the Cotabato area while it serves as staging pad of the Augusta Westland attack helicopters.

“Its presence will boost the security in the area,” Medina said.

There were reports that members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups who led the Marawi siege may slip and find its way out of the besieged city, by using the seawaters of Cotabato towards the island provinces.

BRP Davao del Sur had its open house for two days, showing its capability as a landing platform dock. It also gave the opportunity for residents to have a guided tour of the ship.

Captain Richard Gonzaga, BRP Davao del Sur commanding officer, said the ship has its own medical facility where wounded soldiers can receive treatment.

Gonzaga said the Naval Reserve Center and NFWM also conducted recruitment activities aboard ship for interested individuals who wish to join the roster of the Philippine Navy.

Gonzaga said the presence if the LD602 was aimed at promoting peace, developing friendly relations and bringing the Philippine Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines closer to the hearts of the people here and Filipinos in general.

BRP Davao del Sur, commissioned in the service of the Philippine Navy last May 31, was the second landing dock after BRP Tarlac (LD-601) was delivered and commissioned on the same month last year.

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Muntinlupa solon seeks court's nod for trip to Italy, Switzerland

By Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) |

Photo: A hold departure order was issued against Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon in connection with his cases of graft, malversation of public funds and direct bribery over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam. Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon has asked permission of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to allow him to leave the country next month to join his fellow congressmen in an official visit to Italy and Switzerland.

In his four-page motion filed before the court's Seventh Division, Biazon through his lawyer, said he and the members of the House of Representative committee on foreign affairs are set to visit the electronic passport production sites in Milan, Italy and in Zurich, Switzerland from July 7 to July 16.

Biazon said the members of the House panel are also set to visit the consular sections of the Philippine Embassies in Milan and Zurich to observe the implementation process of the e-passport system.

Biazon said their scheduled visit is in relation to the House committee's deliberation on pending bills that seek to extend the validity of Philippine passport to ten years from the current five years.

“Being a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as the duly elected representative of the lone district of Muntinlupa, accused would want to be informed and be educated on the salient and security features of the ePassport System to enable him to actively participate and protect the concerns and interest of his constituents during deliberations...as regards the amendments to the 1996 Passport Law,” Biazon's motion read.

After the official visit, Biazon said he wishes to extend his trip for another three days or until July 20 for a personal tour with his wife in the scenic places of Switzerland.”

Biazon assured the court that “no government funds will be spent for the official travel” while expenses for he and his wife's personal tour will be shouldered by him.

Biazon also maintained that he is not a flight risk.

“He is incumbent representative of the Lone District of Muntinlupa, his family are staying here in the Philippines and he has no reason to abscond,” Biazon said in his motion.

It was in May 2016 when the Seventh Division issued a hold departure order against Biazon to prevent him from leaving the country unless there is a prior written approval from the court.

The HDO was issued in connection with his cases of graft, malversation of public funds and direct bribery over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam.

Biazon is accused of allocating P3 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel in 2007 to one of the fake foundations linked with the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for P1.950 million worth of kickbacks.

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P10-M shabu in ex-Marawi mayor’s house affirms narco terrorism — Palace

By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) |

Photo: Government troops on Friday recovered two kilos of shabu worth P10 million from a house owned by the former mayor of Marawi City. Philstar.com/John Unson/File photo

MANILA, Philippines — The recovery of P10 million worth of shabu in the house of former Marawi mayor Omar Solitario Ali affirmed the link between the ongoing crisis in the city and illegal drugs, Malacañang said on Saturday.

Security forces seized two kilos of shabu worth P10 million from a house of Ali while conducting clearing operations in battle ravaged Marawi City last Friday. Authorities are convinced that the house was used by the Maute terrorists as a safe house.

“This development will hopefully bring to bear the realities existing in the area about the close relation between the illegal drug trade and this ongoing rebellion,” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Ali is one of the persons in the arrest order issued by the Defense department after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23. He was also one of the politicians accused by Duterte of having ties with the illegal drugs trade.

Ali’s brother Fajad Salic, also a former mayor of Marawi, has been charged with rebellion for allegedly supporting the Maute terrorists that occupied Marawi City last month.

Duterte has repeatedly claimed that money from illegal drugs is funding the terrorist activity in Mindanao.

“Drugs fueled martial law…And it’s because of the drug money, they were funding the terrorism. It’s part of rebellion,” he said in a speech in Tacurong City last June 7.

In a report on martial law that he submitted to Congress, the president said the Maute militants have ties to foreign armed groups and are benefitting from illegal drug money.

“Reports abound that foreign-based terrorist groups, the ISIS in particular, as well as illegal drug money, provide financial and logistical support to the Maute group,” Duterte said in the report.

“Considering the network and alliance-building activities among terrorist groups, local criminals, and lawless armed men, the siege of Marawi City is a vital cog in attaining their longstanding goal: Absolute control over the entirety of Mindanao,” he added.

In a speech before military troops in Sulu last May 29, Duterte said Mindanao has been a "hotbed" of shabu as some politicians have made a fortune out of the illegal drug.

"(It) actually started with drugs. And they were producing drugs halfway, not really for business but to fund the terrorism," he said.

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Absent Duterte not playing video games–Palace

By: Philip C. Tubeza - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

 

Yes, the President has gone AWOL for days—but so had his predecessor.

A Palace official on Thursday took a dig at former President Benigno Aquino III as he defended President Duterte’s absences from the public eye.

“It’s just different workloads. Some people, you know, they play PlayStation, whatever, but you have—some people are more… Some people are just busier,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella told reporters in a press briefing, adding that Mr. Duterte’s time for rest had “not ended.”


Critics of Aquino during his term as President claimed that he spent too much time playing video games on Sony’s PlayStation—a claim Mr. Aquino had denied, saying it was not even his favorite pastime.

Asked to comment on Abella’s statement, Abigail Valte, spokesperson of Aquino, said there was no need to issue a counterstatement “because we do not feel alluded to.”

Mr. Duterte’s conspicuous absence from Monday to Thursday last week has sparked public concern, but was brushed off by Malacañang, saying the President simply got “tired” and needed some “private time” to rest.

After visiting wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro and evacuees in Iligan on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte had no scheduled public event on Wednesday and Thursday.

“That’s his style… Each of us has his own work mode,” Abella said.

“First of all, his rest [period] is not yet over. But on the other hand, we’ve seen that he works continuously,” he said.

Some senators have urged Malacañang to be more forthcoming about the President’s health, especially with the crisis in Marawi, but Mr. Duterte said opposition senators were only interested to hear about his death.

The Duterte administration marks its first year in office on June 30 but Abella said there are no planned celebrations.


“You know, it actually feels like three years already, right? Considering the amount of work to be done, considering the challenges and all the matters that have been addressed,” Abella said.

He said he hoped Filipinos were more united.

“I certainly hope—I mean this is just my opinion but since you asked—I wish that people would be more united in appreciating and not act as if they were not Filipinos,” he said.—WITH A REPORT FROM NIKKO DIZON

 

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Indonesia, Malaysia link arms with PH to dismantle terror hubs

By: Nestor Corrales - Reporter / @NCorralesINQINQUIRER.net / 02:01 PM June 23, 2017


Photo: Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, center, flanked by Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, left, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Haji Aman, reads the joint statement following their Trilateral Security Meeting to fight terrorism and extremism. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia plan to closely cooperate to halt the flow of militants, weapons, funds and extremist propaganda across their borders as they expressed alarm over recent attacks in their region. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia have agreed to step up cooperation to strengthen the fight against extremism and prevent terrorists from establishing operational hubs in the region.

“We are making a collective effort against terrorism and extremism. Yesterday, foreign military, intelligence officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia had a fruitful and productive discussion on a trilateral cooperation aimed at preventing extremists and terrorists from establishing operational bases in Southeast Asia,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said during the Mindanao Hour briefing in Davao City on Friday.

Abella said “the three countries have agreed to work together to jointly develop and implement counterterrorism measures and strategies.”

 

“Let us underline that their joint aim, the end game, is to prevent the establishment of operational bases in Southeast Asia,” he said.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano discussed with his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts measures to address terrorism issues in Southeast Asia.

The trilateral meeting with top security officials came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte discussed with Indonesian President Joko Widodo over the phone their commitment to fight terrorism amid the rising threat of the Islamic militants in the region.

Abella said the conversation between the two leaders were “fruitful and productive.”

“They both reaffirmed the need to step up operation to address threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism,” he said. JPV

 

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JBC includes Marawi-born magistrate in shortlist for SC vacancy

By: Tetch Torres-Tupas - Reporter / @T2TupasINQINQUIRER.net 
Supreme court building


Photo: The Supreme Court. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

A Court of Appeals (CA) associate justice who hails from Marawi City, the area currently under siege by the Maute group, is one of the shortlisted candidates for associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC).

Associate Justice Japar Dimaampao, who was born on Dec. 27, 1963 in Marawi City, is among the seven candidates for the position of SC associate justice, which will be vacated by Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes who will retire at the mandatory age of 70 on July 6, 2017.


Dimaampao got five votes from the seven-member Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that is tasked to screen aspirants for the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

From a senior prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Dimaampao became a regional trial court judge in Mandaluyong City. Then, in April 2004, he was appointed Court of Appeals associate justice, the youngest to be appointed at age 40.

He is also an educator teaching taxation, commercial law and civil law in various schools and a noted lecturer in taxation and commercial law in Bar review classes all over the country.

Aside from Dimaampao, other names in the shortlist are CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr., CA Associate Justices Rosmari D. Carandang and Jose C. Reyes Jr., Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas Jr. and Amy S. Lazaro-Javier as well as law professor Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno. JPV/rga

 

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6 CA justices, law school vice dean nominated to SC

By Rey Panaligan

Six Court of Appeals (CA) justices and the vice dean of a law school were nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Friday to the lone vacancy next month in the 15-member Supreme Court (SC).

Photo: MB FILE—Oral arguments for the en banc session on RH LAW inside the Supreme Court attended by justices August 16, 2013. Photo by: Linus Guardian Escandor II
Supreme Court
(Linus Guardian Escandor II / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Nominated were CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. with seven votes; Associate Justices Rosmari Carandang and Jose Reyes Jr. with six votes each; Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas Jr. and Japar Dimaampao and Centro Escolar University vice dean of law school Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno with five votes each; and Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier with four votes.

The list of nominees was submitted to President Duterte who is expected, under the Constitution, to appoint within 90 days the replacement for SC Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes who is set to retire on July 6.

The President already has two appointees in the SC. They are Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam.

The JBC, with seven members, is mandated by the Constitution to accept, screen, and nominate appointments in the judiciary and high officials in the Office of the Ombudsman.

It is chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno. Retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez is the head of the executive committee.

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Who stole valuables from congressman’s wife?

by Ellson Quismorio

This was the question raised by Surigao del Sur (2nd Dist.) Rep. Johnny Pimentel at the continuation of the House of Representatives’ (HOR) joint panel inquiry yesterday into the Resorts World Manila (RWM) burning incident that resulted in the death of 38 people, including the perpetrator Jessie Carlos.

Pampanga (3rd Dist.) Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. claimed that his wife, Elizabeth lost her valuables as she lay lifeless on the second floor of the RWM last June 2?

During the hearing, Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, asked who between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel were first to enter the premises of the RWM.


“I’m asking this question because this is very important. This representation has received reports that there were some looting on the valuables of the victims,” he noted.

“In fact during the hearing at NAIA III, one of the BFP personnel testified that on their way up, they encountered an unconscious person and at that time, meron pang relo (he/she was wearing a watch). But when they came back, wala nang relo (the watch was gone).”

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