PH resumes war on drugs

MANILA – Less than a month after he suspended his controversial war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte announced during a press conference in Malacanang on Tuesday, Feb. 28, that he was resuming the all-out war that had claimed more than 7,000 lives.

The president had suspended the nationwide police action last month after the killing of Korean executive Jee Ick Joo by anti-drug operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) inside Camp Crame.

Duterte told PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa – whom he had ordered to conduct a cleansing of the police -- to form task forces at all stations for anti-drug operations.

He said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will still lead the anti-drug operations.

“I asked Bato to recruit young men in the PNP who are imbued with the fervor of patriotism to be the members only of the task forces. Every station should have one. Pero iyong piling-pili. Iyong mga walang kaso at walang history ng korapsyon,” President Duterte said, following Monday’s joint command conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP in the palace.

“I have to do it because kulang ako ng tao. And I am also fighting again with the NPAs and I have this problem in Mindanao about terrorism and drugs. So kailangan ko ng tao. I have to call back the police again to do the job most of the time sa drugs. Hindi lahat,” he said.

More than 7,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency seven months ago, resulting in criticism from church groups, as well as international and local human rights organizations.

The resumption of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs coincides with a return to hostilities with the

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The way Californians are charged for energy is changing

San Francisco, CA — A statewide process to change the way Californians are charged for their energy will take another step towards completion on March 1. The goals of the changes are to help ensure the price customers pay for energy is more closely aligned with the cost of providing them with safe, reliable and clean energy service, to simplify rate structures and to encourage energy conservation.

The process to modernize and simplify California’s electric rate system aims to balance rate tiers and eventually moving to a time-of-use rate structure. These changes were developed jointly between PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and supported by many consumer interest groups.

What is happening
The March 1 changes will simplify the structure for Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) rate plans:
Reducing the number of tiers from three to two tiers, to simplify the rate structure.
The introduction of a High Usage Surcharge to encourage energy conservation.

In addition to the structural changes, electric transmission rates will increase on March 1, with residential customers seeing a 2.1 percent increase in this portion of their bills. Even with these increases, PG&E customers’ bills are still below the national average, based upon the most recently available data.

Why is it happening
The current electric rate structure was established during the 2001 energy crisis. It’s outdated, complex and confusing for customers.

For years, in order to encourage energy conservation and efficiency, the costs of PG&E’s service to maintain the energy grid and ensure reliable electricity service were disproportionately placed upon customers who found themselves in the higher tiers – most often impacting those who live in hotter climates.

While conservation and efficiency programs have been and continue to be very successful, the electric rate structure resulted in an imbalance between how customers in the lower and higher tiers pay for what it costs to provide them with service.

How changes impact customers, support a cleaner California
The March 1 changes may help those who find themselves in higher tiers due to the need to cool their homes during hotter months. After the changes are implemented, customers who need to use more energy may see lower bills, while customers who typically able to use less energy may see higher bills.

“Since 2010, KernTax has advocated for these types of structural rate changes. We are pleased to see meaningful progress towards a more fair and equitable electric rate system. KernTax will continue to work with PG&E, the CPUC and others to make sure that the goals to more closely align the costs we all pay for energy is reflective on what it costs to deliver that service to customers, regardless of climate zone, are reached,” said Michael Turnipseed, executive director of the Kern County Taxpayers Association, one of the consumer groups that supported these changes.

These changes are designed to support California’s ambitious clean energy goals to combat climate change. Customers who use more than four times the baseline amount of electricity will receive a High Usage Surcharge. The baseline amount of electricity for each customer depends on their location, the season and their home heating system. Less than 10 percent of residential customers will likely incur the High Usage Surcharge. The surcharge:
Only applies to customers on PG&E’s tiered electric rate plans.
Is intended to encourage energy conservation among customers whose electricity use is significantly higher than typical households.

“We understand that any change to the way our customers are accustomed to being charged for energy may cause some questions. We want all of our customers to know that we’re here to help them understand these changes and manage their energy costs. We offer new rate options as well as free programs and tools to help customers take control of their energy use and make smart choices,” said Deborah Affonsa, vice president, Customer Service, PG&E.

Ways to take control of energy use
The most powerful tool customers have at their disposal to

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After 25 years, ‘Miss Saigon’ returns with another Filipina Kim


By Lindy Rosales, The FilAm

NEW YORK CITY -- A quarter century after it debuted in London’s West End, the tragic romance between a Vietnamese bar girl and an American serviceman is returning to Broadway on March 1.

“Miss Saigon,” where Lea Salonga made theater history for a Filipino by winning the Laurence Olivier Award in 1989/90 for Outstanding Performance of the Year in a Musical and the Tony Award in 1991 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical will be headlined once again by a Filipina actress.

Playing Kim is Eva Noblezada, a FilAm from North Carolina who was offered the role in London when she was just 17 years old, the same age as Lea when she set out to play the bar girl who has a son with a US serviceman. After three years in London, Eva as Kim — with co-star Alistair Brammer as Chris – will be on Broadway.

“I was living in North Carolina and we drove up (but) I was able to sing a song from ‘Ghost, the Musical,’” Noblezada recalled how she was discovered at the 2013 National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City. One of the “Saigon” casting directors was in the audience.

She was asked to audition. Three auditions later, she was told she got the part. “It was quite extraordinary,” she said.

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OFW on death row appeals to Duterte for help

 

By Don Kevin Hapal, Rappler

MANILA – An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) appealed on Monday, February 27, to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for help getting out of death row.

"Nagmamakaawa po ako sa mahal nating pangulo na tulungan niya po ako na makauwi na sa bansa natin. Kayo lang po ang aking pag-asa na makalabas po dito sa kulungan," said Jennifer Dalquez in an audio message sent to the media by Migrante International.

(I am pleading to our beloved president to please help me get home to our country. You are my only hope in getting out of jail.)

Dalquez, who is from General Santos City, was imprisoned in December 2014 after being convicted of murdering her male employer.

But Dalquez maintained that her Arab employer tried to rape her at knifepoint and she accidentally killed him while defending herself.

"Napatay ko po ang aking among pulis dahil tinangka niya po akong gahasain at patayin. Sinunog po niya ako... pinalo ng bote sa mukha, sa bandang taas ng mata. Noong tinangka niya po akong saksakin, nakaiwas po ako at sa awa ng Diyos ay naagaw ko ang kutsilyo sa kanya," she recounted in the audio message.

(I accidentally killed my employer, who is a policeman, because he tried to rape and kill me. He burned me... hit my face with a bottle, just above my eye. When he tried to stab me, I was able to dodge and take the knife from him.)

Dalquez's family also appealed to the President for help. Her husband, Norque Mamantal, said Dalquez has not seen her children for 6 years now.

"Anim na taon na kaming 'di nagkikita sa mga anak niya. Sana matulungan mo mahal na pangulo, Mr. President. Alang-alang sa aming mga anak," he said.

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Trump, Duterte blamed for global pushback of human rights

US President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are among four world leaders pointed to by Amnesty International (AI) as being major contributing factors to the global rollback against human rights.

The two others in the ignominious list are Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

AI released its annual report “The State of the World’s Human Rights” on Wednesday, Feb. 22. In the 408-page report, AI described 2016 as “the year when the cynical use of ‘us vs. them’ narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s,” when Adolf Hitler rose to power in post-World War I Germany.

The new US president was blamed for employing “poisonous” rhetoric during his election campaign, which AI said exemplified “the global trend of angrier and more divisive politics.”

As of presstime, the White House had not responded to the report, but Malacanang shrugged off the report’s claim that Mr. Duterte also had a “toxic agenda.” Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the AI report’s conclusions “does not reflect the sentiments of the majority of Filipinos.”

According to the AI report, grave violations of human rights occurred in 159 countries last year.

While based in London, AI opted to launch its report in Paris, where terror attacks occurred in 2015. France is one of the few developed nations in the AI watchlist.

AI Secretary-General Salil Shetty said France has used emergency powers following the attacks in an abusive and “deeply discriminatory” manner, confining more than 600 people -- mostly Muslins -- under house arrest and blocking more than 140 protests.

“Even states that once claimed to champion rights abroad are now too busy rolling back human rights at home to hold others to account,” the AI report said. “The more countries backtrack on fundamental human rights commitments, the more we risk a domino effect of leaders emboldened to knock back established human rights protections.”

France’s government has repeatedly defended the emergency powers as a necessary safeguard against the severe terror threat it says is facing the country, and parliament has repeatedly voted to extend those powers.

The report concluded that “the big question in 2017 will be how far the world lets atrocities go before doing something about them.”

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Matobato on Lascañas' confession: 'Tuwang tuwa ako

"Tuwang tuwa ako, hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. Masaya din ako, umiyak din ako. Basta parang masayang masaya din ako."
This was how Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS), reacted when he saw the confession of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas claiming that DDS exists and President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the killing of certain personalities, a report on Unang Balita on Wednesday said.
Matobato was happy upon knowing that Lascañas made a reversal on his statement, adding that the latter's confession gave weight to his earlier claims, GMA News' Raffy Tima reported.
Lascañas on Monday had made a complete turnaround from his earlier testimony in a Senate inquiry. He claimed that they were paid by Duterte up to P100,000 for every target they killed when he was still a mayor of Davao City.
“Totoo po ang existence ng Davao Death Squad o DDS. Siya ay miyembro namin at isa ako sa pasimuno dito,” Lascañas said, referring to Edgar Matobato, who earlier testified on the DDS before a Senate inquiry.
“Ito ay binabayaran kami ni Mayor Duterte, kadalasan P20,000 or P50,000 at depende sa status ng target, minsan P100,000. Ako ay tumanggap ng allowance sa Office of the Mayor, P100,000,” Lascañas said.
In October last year, Lascañas denied the existence of DDS during the interpellation by Senator Leila de Lima saying, "Wala pong DDS, media hype lang 'yan."
Matobato, on his part, did not expect that one of Duterte's trusted aides and his right-hand man would confess to being a member of the DDS.
"Siya ang pinaka-righthand ni Duterte. Para silang magkapatid ni Duterte. Lahat ng anong utos ni Duterte, siya talaga ang gumagawa," Matobato said.
Matobato said he was disappointed over Lascañas whom he considered as a friend, since the

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Senator Leila de Lima arrested in the Philippines

Senator and vocal critic of President Duterte faces drug-trafficking charges related to her term as a justice secretary.
A Philippines senator and staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has been arrested by law enforcement agents after charges were filed in court alleging that she received money from drug dealers inside the country's prisons.

Senator Leila de Lima is accused of orchestrating a drug-trafficking ring when she was justice secretary during the 2010-2015 administration of Benigno Aquino.

"The truth will come out and I will achieve justice. I am innocent," she told reporters shortly before law enforcers escorted her away from her office on Friday.

De Lima, her former driver and bodyguard and a former national prison official were ordered to be arrested by a local court on Thursday after a judge found merit in criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice last week.

De Lima has denied the charges, calling herself a victim of political persecution and saying that she has long prepared herself to be the first "political prisoner" under the Duterte administration.

"While the issuance of the warrant of arrest is questionable, I do not have any plans to evade it," she said, calling the order premature as the court has yet to hear the response from her lawyers.

READ MORE: Duterte accused of paying police to kill

She slept in her Senate office overnight then gave herself up to armed officers in flak jackets who put her in a van and drove into morning rush-hour traffic apparently towards police headquarters.

Duterte, 71, won a presidential election last year after promising during the campaign to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.

Since his inauguration on June 30, an anti-drug drive has seen more than 7,000 people killed over suspected drug links - with about 60 percent of the deaths carried out by unknown assassins.

De Lima has previously called for foreign intervention to put an end to the "state-inspired" extrajudicial murders, which she said have been instigated by Duterte since his election to power.

De Lima also led a series of Senate investigations over allegations that police officers were involved in the killings, and that hired killers were operating under orders from police.

Aries Arugay, associate professor of political science at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, told Al Jazeera that the senator will use her detention to highlight the president's controversial policies.

"Senator de Lima has been taunting the Duterte administration to arrest her for months. She boldly says she is its fiercest critic … What is happening right now is she is really using this as her platform for her own politics," Aurgay said.

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Scientists complete drilling task in South China Sea

ABOARD JOIDES RESOLUTION –Scientists on Tuesday completed the first drilling task of an expedition to the South China Sea.
The hole, identified as U1499A, has reached 3,770 meters below sea level, for collection of sediment samples.
According to Sun Zhen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, a preliminary lithologic study was conducted on sediment believed to have been formed eight million years ago.
A second hole, U1499B, will be close to the first.
A total of 33 scientists from China, the United States, France and other countries boarded the U.S. drilling ship JOIDES Resolution on February 8, and arrived at the drilling site last Tuesday.
As part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), they will explore the lithosphere extension during the continental breakup, by drilling at four sites in the northern area of the South China Sea to a depth of up to 4,000 meters.
The study will contribute to understanding of how marginal basins grow.
Since joining the IODP, China has played a major role in expeditions to the South China Sea in 1999 and 2014, collecting samples for studying climate change and basin formation. (PNA/Xinhua)

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Filipino with fake Malaysian ID charged with recruiting IS terrorists

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – A Filipino man was charged at the magistrate’s court here with recruiting Islamic State (IS) terrorists and possessing a fake Malaysian MyKad (identity card).
No plea was recorded from Nurhan Sahi Hakim, 32, who hails from Zamboanga in the Philippines, for the charge of knowingly recruiting another person into an IS terrorists group at the arrival hall of the Kota Kinabalu International airport (KKIA) on Jan 13, this year.
The offence, under Section 130E of the Penal Code, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 30 years and a fine upon conviction.

Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun fixed March 8, for the case to be mention pending forensic report. No bail was offered.
However, Nurhan was sentenced to 30 months jail and fined RM1,000 in default three months jail for possessing a fake Malaysian MyKad.
Magistrate Kakayun also ordered him to be referred to the Immigration Department after serving his sentence.

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Duterte should retract 'threat' vs suspects' lawyers, HRW says

By Kristian Javier (philstar.com) | 

A human rights activist holds a candle for the victims of extrajudicial killings around the country in the wake of the "War on Drugs" campaign by President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines. The "war on drugs" campaign, which saw hundreds of mostly poor victims, has been condemned by human rights groups including the United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon. AP/Bullit Marquez


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte should renounce a statement that has been perceived as a threat against lawyers of alleged drug dealers, a human rights group said.

In a statement early Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said that the president should reaffirm the rights of the suspects to due process and to access to legal counsel after President Duterte, in a speech on December 7, said that when he was a prosecutor, suspects were able to post bail because they had "good, high-profile lawyers."

He said that the suspects went back to crime when they were released on bail.

"Even their lawyers, I will include them," Duterte then said.

"Duterte’s threats against lawyers and human rights defenders constitute a dangerous extension of his abusive ‘war on drugs’ that has already resulted in more than 5,000 killings," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.

The rights to due process and to legal counsel are in the 1987 Constitution.
Threats against rights advocates

In the past, Duterte has also threatened human rights advocates, saying they are a hindrance to the war on drugs.

"Sabi ng human rights, pinapatay ko raw, sabi ko ‘sige na maghinto tayo, paramihin natin.’ Para pag panahon ng harvest time mas marami na tuloy mamatay, isali ko na kayo kasi kayo ang nagpalaki eh," Duterte said in his statement.

Kine said that the threats made by Duterte show that he will extend his "abusive war on drugs" from targeting criminals to targeting those who object to it.

He added that unless Duterte takes those threats back, "his government will bury the rule of law along with the thousands of suspected criminals killed since he took office on June 30,"

Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary Martin Andanar said that the president's "threats" should not be taken seriously as they are just figures of speech.

READ: Palace: Duterte 'threat' vs rights advocates a figure of speech

"It was just out of frustration. The president did not really mean na gagawin niya talaga yun," Andanar said in an interview with radio dzMM.

He said that that is just how Duterte speaks. 

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