WATCH | Activists chafe as Duterte bares plan to tag NPA as terrorists, crack down on leftist groups

 

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte appears ready to take a crucial turn in his love-hate relationship with the Left, signalling Saturday night he will place the New People’s Army in the same category that the United States has placed it – as “terrorists” – and warning activists he will find a way to expose their alleged unholy alliance with armed rebels. The threat drew angry reactions from an activist group Sunday.

Speaking to reporters in Davao City, Duterte said he would henceforth also have government lawyers file, not charges of rebellion but ordinary criminal offenses like murder and arson against arrested communust rebels. He said he was fed up with the series of NPA attacks on businesses in the countryside, especially the torching of their equipment and facilities.

He blamed the attacks on the businesses and revolutionary taxes for driving out investors and jacking up prices of goods produced by the businesses that remain.

The threat of launching a crackdown against legal progressive groups affiliated with the main leftwing alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan was assailed by one of the alliance’s members, Anakbayan.

The youth group said in a statement Sunday morning that it was not hard to see why Duterte would want to do this. “Progressive groups have been at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war on drugs, all-out counterinsurgency ops, and martial law in Mindanao that trample on human rights as well as his perpetuation of anti-people neoliberal policies. Duterte’s threats will not intimidate us into submission,” said Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo.

In a talk with reporters Saturday night, Duterte said of the NPA, armed wing of the National Democratic Front (NDF) with which his government had pursued peace talks in a bid to end a four-decade insurgency: “Before, we recognized them as legitimate rebels. But with their continued depredations, killing innocent people even an infant four months old, I’ll be issuing a proclamation. I will remove them from the category of a legal entity . . . placing them – same as America – [in the category of] terrorists.”

Duterte was alluding to the killing of an infant who was among eight civilians in a Toyota Fortuner caught in the crossfire when NPA rebels ambushed a police vehicle in Bukidnon last week.

The NPA local command admitted killing the infant, apologized to civilians and offered to recompense them.

The incident, however, angered Duterte, who learned about it in between his ASEAN hosting duties. He said Saturday he was just allowing the soldiers to rest, after a harrowing five months of fierce engagement with the homegrown, but ISIS-inspired Maute Group that laid siege to Marawi City.

“Pinagpapahinga ko lang mga sundalo ko [I’m just allowing the soldiers to rest]. But we will also go on the offensive,” Duterte said.

No more ‘rebellion’: criminal charges to be filed

He said it was also time to change the government’s legal tack against the rebels. “So beginning from now, wala nang [there’ll be no more charges called] rebellion-rebellion. We will fight terrorism, murder, arson na…. because we will consider them criminal already.”

He said the government “may take steps” against activists, sounding stung by the tags of “fascist” and “imperialist dog” that the various protest groups had hurled at him during rallies while the country was hosting the 31st ASEAN and Related Summits and he met with world leaders including President Donald Trump of the United States, one of nine country dialogue partners that joined the ASEAN events in Manila.

At the start of his presidency in June 2016, Duterte had fast-tracked peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP, occasionally referring to himself as “socialist” and “leftist” and citing his ties with some leaders like CPP founding chairman Prof. Jose Maria Sison, based in The Netherlands. Negotiations have since been suspended, though he recently said he wold not block an announced plan by his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, to reach out to local rebels in her area.

Duterte had also named several leftists to the Cabinet, but at least two of them – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo – have since been rejected by the bicameral Commission on Appointments dominated by his congressional allies.

On Saturday, he said he believed groups like Bayan were in league with the communist rebels, adding “We will study and maybe we will have a crackdown here somewhere.”

In reaction, Anakbayan’s Crisostomo said, “That Duterte is contemplating a crackdown against activists and progressive groups speaks much of his antipathy to any criticism and his thirst for absolute power. Repression is the logical consequence of equating all dissent with detabilization.”

 

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Probe into 'nanlaban' cases just a fishing expedition – SolGen

SHOT. John Paul Martinez, 21 years old, dies from several gunshot wounds after an encounter with Manila police. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said that there is no basis to compel the police to submit for investigation firearms used in "nanlaban" cases, where drug suspects were killed after they supposedly fought back.

“The submission of firearms, including serial numbers and description, of monthly reports in ‘nanlaban’ cases amounts to a fishing expedition,” the OSG said in its 63-page comment submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, November 17.

 

The OSG is representing local policemen and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in two petitions against the government's anti-drug operations that are set to undergo oral arguments on Tuesday, November 21.

The OSG also said that the police should not be asked to submit to the court monthly reports on the status of their investigations into nanlaban cases.

Instead, the OSG advised petitioners “to file the proper administrative and criminal cases against erring police officers.”

“To give due course to the petitioner’s patently baseless petitions would only serve to countenance harassment suits and “fishing expeditions” that distract law enforcement agencies from their principal duties or, worse, dampen their zeal in the pursuit of criminal elements,” the OSG said.

Difficulties

Lawyer Christina Antonio, one of the lawyers from Center from International Law (CenterLaw) handling the case, told Rappler it is not easy for relatives to file separate cases.

"You are constantly afraid. More desperate when you are arrested and languishing in jail in the aftermath of the killing. You do not know any lawyer. You don't even have fare to go to any lawyer. The law is a nebulous, distant cloud," Antonio said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the government is investigating “every single one” of the deaths. But as of September 27, the PNP has only managed to submit 10 inquest reports out of the 3,800 deaths at the time.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted only 71 drug-related deaths, and of those, only 19 have reached the courts, based on DOJ data as of August 22.

Petitions

The petitions to be heard by the SC are those filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on behalf of alleged victims of Oplan TokHang in Baguio, Tondo, and Quezon City; and by the CenterLaw representing the families of 35 individuals in San Andres Bukid, Manila, who were killed in police raids.

CenterLaw accused the policemen of the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 6 of being masterminds of the killings.

FLAG had petitioned the SC to make an intervention into cases of nanlaban, a narrative often used by policemen when somebody is killed during their operations.

FLAG wants the policemen to turn over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) their firearms for forensic examination, and for the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and/or the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) to submit a monthly report to the Court full documentation of police operations which result to death.

The OSG does not believe that the petitioners are entitled to their request. FLAG also asked for a writ of amparo for the families. A writ of amparo is a remedy that serves to protect constitutional rights perceived to be in danger. (READ: Lawyers do dirty groundwork to fight Duterte’s drug war)

“While judicial intervention is equally available to these petitioners, it could not be done through the blanket issuance of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

Antonio said there are basis for their requests for a writ of amparo such as "numerous jurisprudence and executive pronouncements of pardon for cops in narco killings."

Writ of amparo

Just the same, the OSG also does not believe that the petitioners deserve a writ of amaro.

“The petitioners failed to establish by substantial evidence that the respondents violated their right to life, liberty or security; hence, they are not entitled to the issuance of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

In San Andres Bukid for example, the petitioners are asking for restraining orders against the policemen, and a prohibition against anti-drug operations in their community. Their petitions said this is due to threats to their safety and lives.

The OSG said the families are not entitled to such protection because their stories are hearsay. OSG cited affidavits of petitioners which source their testimonies from stories they heard from neighbors and other witnesses.

San Andres Bukid petitioners claimed that while the killings by masked vigilantes were ongoing, they spotted policemen from MPD 6 in the area, as if on standby. This is among their bases for saying there was coordination with police.

In response, the OSG said: “The petitions are hinged mainly on hearsay and on the assumption that the men in plainclothes lurking near the crime scenes were police officers. Considering that the petitioners’ allegations are not adequately supported by substantial evidence, their claim that the anti-drug operations conducted by the respondents are illegal has no leg to stand on.”

The OSG also enumerated a slew of technical reasons, such as some of the petitioners not being qualified to file a case. Some of the petitioners are “concerned citizens” and members of religious groups immersed in the community.

The OSG cited the rules which state that a non-relative may be allowed to file a case only if there is no known relative.

The OSG also added: "The alleged extralegal killings transpired sometime in 2016 and early 2017. If indeed petitioners’ lives were on the line, they would have filed the present actions at the earliest possible time to prevent accountable police officers from committing any further human rights violation."

Moot?

The OSG also said the cases are now moot since President Rodrigo Duterte has taken out the PNP from the anti-drugs campaign.

The OSG also said Dela Rosa’s circular back in July 2016 was constitutional.

“It is unfortunate that loss of lives resulted from the operations of the police officers. But these incidents do not automatically render the anti-drug operation conducted by the respondents “unlawful” as would entitle the petitioners to the protection of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

The OSG claims that to render the police’s war on drugs illegal would only benefit those engaged in the illegal drug trade.

The oral arguments will begin at 2 pm on November 21. 

The police's nanlaban defense in their drug war killings has generated controversy and criticism, amid allegations that weapons and drugs had been planted on the victims only after they were killed. State forensic experts had cited "staged" crime scenes in the case of teenager Carl Arnaiz. (READ: 'Nakaluhod, tapos nasubsob': How Kian was killed, according to PAO

The results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey held in June, or nearly a year after the Duterte administration launched it's drug war, showed that half of Filipinos don't buy the police's nanlaban line. – Rappler.com

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Bicolana OFW dies after serving 'two masters' in Saudi Arabia

HARDWORKING MOTHER. The husband and 3 sons of Ana Fe Velasco-Bania watch over her casket. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler 

 
 
 
 
 
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CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – When she left Barangay Binobong in Pili town in 2015 to work in the Middle East, Ana Fe Velasco-Bania was full of life.

"Ana Fe is my eldest daughter," said Maria Francia Velasco. "She decided to work abroad with desires of providing good life to her children, send them to school until college, rebuild her home, and to recover the less than a hectare riceland leased to our relative for almost P200,000."

 

The mother of 3 sons left the country as a documented migrant worker. Her expenses to work abroad were shouldered by her employer under the Integrated Programme for Fair Recruitment (FAIR), a global project that seeks to promote fair recruitment practices. The Philippines is among the target countries for the pilot project.

Ana Fe headed to Saudi Arabia for work as a domestic helper in April 2015. In Riyadh, she worked for Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami for a monthly salary of $400. This was for a 24-month contract.

Velasco said her daughter served two households, in violation of her contract.

“She served two masters in Riyadh. She was sent by her original employer to their family friend as on-call worker to do the household services which we considered as violation of her work contract,” Velasco said.

Velasco said based on her previous communication with her daughter, Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami was a kind employer but the other employer was reportedly cruel and maltreated her daughter. 

Bad news

A few months before Ana Fe's work contract was to end in December, Velasco received a report that her daughter had died of a heart attack on September 29. She was 38.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) worked on the immediate repatriation of Ana Fe’s remains to the Philippines, which arrived at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport on November 2, where her grieving family received her. Her remains were immediately transported to Nabua town in Camarines Sur.

Before her corpse was embalmed, the family checked it and found bruises on her body. “My daughter’s cadaver has bruises all over her body. That could be the consequence of maltreatment she went through to her second employer," Velasco said.

While the family members checked the corpse, Ana Fe's youngest son, 5-year-old James Bryan, asked them to wake up his mother so they could hug each other. 

“We don’t know what to do and how to explain to a 5-year-old boy that his mother would no longer wake up and could no longer kiss and hug him. That he is motherless forever,” Velasco said between sobs.

Ana Fe’s remains were brought to their home in the remote village of Binobong in Pili town, which has an unpaved and muddy road. Her family lives in an unfinished, partially concrete home with a dirt floor and one shared room.

Ana Fe’s eldest son, 18-year-old Leejan Mark, is in Grade 12 while Steven, 16, is in Grade 9. Both studied at Binobong High School. James Bryan is a kindergarten student at Pili Central School.

Justice

Construction worker Ferdinand Bania, Ana Fe’s husband, said that he would like his wife's remains to undergo an autopsy to verify the cause of her death, but they couldn't afford it.

A medical report from the King Khalid Hospital in Saudi Arabi said that Ana Fe died of an acute cerebrovascular accident or a stroke. Ana Fe's family, however, doubted this finding.

“If government officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs will help me out, I will pursue the case against the employers of my wife. But, if there’s nobody willing to help us, I could not do anything about because I don’t have the capacity to pursue the case,” Ferdinand said.

Ana Fe reportedly died after working for her second employer. It was found out that on September 23, she started working for her second employer for 3 days.

After the end of her 3-day duty at the second employer, her first employer awaited her return. But she was later found already dead in the hospital.

Ferdinand said that on October 4, he received a video from his wife's friend which showed Ana Fe crying and asking for help – she was sick but her second employer was still forcing her to work. Unfortunately, the video was sent to him a week after Ana Fe died.

The OFW's family hopes that OWWA and the DFA will help them pursue a thorough investigation into Ana Fe's case so that justice will be served.

Fatima Dazal, an officer of the OWWA regional office here, said they have yet to track down the name of Ana Fe's second employer.

Based on the records of OWWA and the POEA regional office in Bicol, there are 53,808 active members and 120,021 inactive members, or a total of 173,829 OFWs from the region as of June 2017.

Among the 6 provinces of Bicol, Camarines Sur has the highest number of OFWs with 71,770, followed by Albay with 45,082, Sorsogon with 20,694, Camarines Norte with 18,093, Masbate with 10,746, and Catanduanes with 7,444. – Rappler.com

 
 
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House panel invites Sereno to attend Nov 22 hearing of impeach raps vs her

Chief Justice Sereno. PHILSTAR file photograph
MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had been invited to attend the hearing of the House Committee on Justice on the impeachment complaint against her.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the committee, said the panel had sent Sereno an invitation for the November 22 hearing.

The hearing will discuss if there is probable cause to pursue the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno by lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon.

The committee members are also expected to discuss if Sereno would be allowed to be represented by legal counsels. Sereno’s lawyers have twice written the justice panel on the matter.

Umali earlier said that only Sereno would be allowed to speak during the proceedings.

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DOH chief says ‘it is now all systems go’ for distribution of contraceptives

Philstar/Edd Gumban file photo of women clamoring for the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law
MANILA, Philippines — The Roman Catholic-majority Philippines will re-allow the use of contraceptive implants after certifying 51 drugs and devices safe and not the cause of abortions, the health department announced on Thursday.

Congress passed a law allowing contraceptive devices in 2012 but the Supreme Court imposed a restraining order in 2015 after bishops said some drugs and devices caused abortions.

Abortion, divorce and same-sex union are not allowed in the Philippines and some lawmakers oppose artificial methods of family planning. Pills and condoms are sold freely.

“With the Food and Drug Administration’s issuance of an advisory declaring all of the 51 contraceptive products … cannot cause abortion, it is now all systems go for the Department of Health to fully implement the law,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters.

 

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Lawyers file sedition raps vs Trillanes over senator’s call to ‘kill’ Duterte

File photos of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (from Philstar) and President Rodrigo Duterte (from Reuters)
MANILA, Philippines — A group of lawyers led by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras on Thursday file a criminal complaint before the Pasay City Prosecutor’s office against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for allegedly inciting rebellious acts against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In their 15-page complaint-affidavit filed by lawyer Manuelito Luna, who represented the group of Paras, who is also currently a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), cited the statements made by Trillanes against Duterte in his privilege speech at the Senate last October 3, that soldiers may shoot the President upon the latter’s wish if the allegations of hidden wealth would be proven.

The lawyers are formally accusing Trillanes of inciting to sedition (Article 142, Revised Penal Code or RPC), proposing to commit coup d’etat (Article 136, RPC), and graft (Section 3(e), Republic Act 3019).

During his privilege speech, the lawmaker made statements about the alleged millions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth of Duterte: “Kung makikita ‘to ng mga sundalo, M60 machine gun ang gagamitin sa ‘yo. Marami-rami ito, maubos magazine kung PHP40 million hinahanap mo, Mr. Duterte (If the soldiers could see this, they will use an M60 machine gun on you. These are many. The magazines will be emptied if you’re looking for PHP40 million, Mr. Duterte).”

“Trillanes not only repeatedly uttered seditious words or speeches (Art. 142, RPC) and unabatedly circulated scurrilous libels against the President (Art. 142, RPC), which tend to disturb the public peace, but also repeatedly incited others to inflict any hate or revenge upon his person (Art. 142, in relation to Art. 139 (3), RPC,” read the complaint.

In their complaint, the lawyers asked city prosecutors to launch a preliminary investigation and conduct proper proceedings and find probable cause to indict Trillanes and other unidentified personalities of such offenses.

“Trillanes not only repeatedly uttered seditious words or speeches and unabatedly circulated scurrilous libels against the President, which tend to disturb the public peace, but also repeatedly incited others to inflict any hate or revenge,” the complaint stated.

The lawyers insisted that Trillanes “committed conspiracy or proposal to commit coup d’etat” for encouraging the military to rise up in arms against the President.

Moreover, the complainants accused Trillanes of causing undue injury against the Duterte administration “through evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

“(This is) for irresponsibly and recklessly and continuously accusing sans evidence, that the President is keeping over PHP2 billion in bank accounts and or amassing illegally-acquired wealth,” they claimed.

Trillanes is insisting on the evidence consisting of bank transaction records alleged to have been sourced from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), despite the AMLC’s disclaimer that the documents did not come from them.

The purported bank transaction documents, which Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang also claimed he is in possession of, was disavowed by the AMLC.

The lawyers also took to task Trillanes’ record of major involvements in notable coups d’etat during the Arroyo administration.

For his involvements in these incidents, Trillanes’ assurance that yellow-oriented group TindigPilipinas’ nationwide signature drive calling on Duterte to sign a waiver for his bank records appear to lack credibility, the complaint stated.

Though Trillanes assured the petition-signing drive is not a destabilization attempt, the complainants said the lawmaker “lacks credibility given his record of major involvement in coups d’etat or destabilization attempts” particularly during the administration of former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The complainants cited the senator’s record of major involvements in coups d’etat during the Arroyo administration – Oakwood Mutiny in July 2003, the Marine standoff last February 2006 and the Manila Peninsula siege in November 2007.

Trillanes and other members of Magdalo soldiers were charged with coup d’etat over the said incidents, but they were cleared after being granted amnesty by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

Aside from Paras, the complainants include lawyers Glenn Chong, Nasser Marohomsalic, Nestor Ifurung, Eligio Mallari, Eduardo Bringas, and Louise Biraogo.

Sought for a comment, Trillanes called the VACC “Duterte minions” who were only trying to divert his attention.

However, he said that he remained “focused” on exposing the President’s involvement in murders, corruption and secret bank accounts, and Davao City Vice Mayor and presidential son Paolo Duterte’s involvement in the PHP6.4 billion shabu shipment. — With reports from Azer Parrocha/ PNA

WATCH NEWS5’S VIDEO REPORT:

 https://web.facebook.com/News5Everywhere/videos/1069262833230470/

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Going nowhere: MRT coach gets detached from train

Image from Ivan Caballero Villegas’ Twitter account shows MRT passengers watching the main train unit moving forward as the coach they were riding was decoupled midway between the Ayala and Gil Puyat stations yesterday.
MANILA, Philippines — Another day, another mishap for the Metro Rail Transit 3: train coaches detached from a northbound train in Makati City during yesterday morning’s rush hour, resulting in the unloading of over 100 commuters who were forced to walk to the next station.

MRT operations director Michael Capati said it will take some time to determine the root of the problem, but they are now conducting an investigation.

Capati said the detached train cars would remain at the MRT’s depot pending investigation.
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Cesar Chavez, undersecretary for railways of the Department of Transportation, said that a “messma card” from the detached train cars was missing based on initial investigation conducted by MRT’s technical team, which gave weight to the human intervention angle.

The “messma card” is like a black box that records interventions in all trains of MRT-3.

Chavez said they are now determining the persons responsible for removing the messma card and also their motives.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Capati said they are not ruling out any possible angle that could have contributed to the detachment of the cars, including possible electrical and mechanical failures and human intervention.

Contrary to Capati’s statement, Rowel Jose, rolling stocks specialist of MRT-3, pointed out that the incident had nothing to do with mechanical or electrical problems.

“It only takes human intervention to detach the couplers,” he said.

He explained that one can easily crank the lever to detach the coupler and if the problem was technical, all the couplers will be probed to determine why such incident happened.

Ric Initorio, director for operations of MRT-3, said yesterday’s detachment of train’s coupler was not the first time it happened, as a similar incident occurred at GMA Kamuning station in Quezon City in 2011.

Inotorio said the 2011 incident was because of an electrical problem, when a grounded wire was loosened up, causing the coupler motor to melt.

Capati apologized for what happened and said the agency has prepared some measures to ensure the safety of commuters.

Train operator Renato Año said that he was not aware that several cars had detached until he monitored “communication error” from the diagnostic panel of the train.

He explained that a communication error appeared on the screen after a problem was not detected between the two cars, but he said he stopped immediately near the Buendia station after an operator of a southbound train radioed that some of his cars were detached.

“While approaching Buendia station, I monitored on the side mirror that I had only two cars and I saw on the diagnostic panel a communication error,” Año said.

Stalled

Ivan Caballero Villegas, a call center employee in Makati City, said he and his workmate boarded a northbound train at the MRT Ayala station past 8 a.m. when they felt that the coach they were riding was detached from the rest of the train.

Villegas said he saw the other coaches in front of their coach heading towards the Buendia station, leaving some coaches behind near the Ayala station.

He said some commuters in the stalled coaches complained of the heat while others claimed they were suffocating as other passengers repeatedly pressed the lock button to open the doors.

Before they were told to get off the detached car, Villegas said some angry commuters were cursing the MRT-3 while others called their offices to report their misfortune and delay in coming to work.

A few minutes later, some MRT security guards arrived and instructed them to get off the train and walk on the rail tracks back to Ayala station.

Some passengers complained that they should have waked towards Buendia station, which was closer to the detached coaches.

Villegas asked the guards what happened, but nobody cared to give them an answer.

A guard only told them that a “provisional operation” was implemented because of the incident.

Upon reaching the Ayala station, most of the commuters queued for the refund of their single journey tickets, while Villegas rode a bus to get home to Malabon City.

He also said that no emergency buses arrived at the Ayala station to assist the affected commuters.

DOTr’s Chavez said around 130 to 140 MRT-3 commuters were “evacuated” by the security guards from both Buendia and Ayala stations.

The MRT-3 is an attached agency of the DOTr.

Chavez said that the detachment of the coaches prompted the MRT to limit service only the North Avenue station in Quezon City to Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.

He said they temporarily stopped train service from Shaw Boulevard station to Taft Avenue in Pasay City to fix the problem and restore normal operations that were resumed at around 9:30 a.m.

MRT-3 management recently terminated its maintenance contract with service provider Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI) due to the firm’s alleged poor performance.

But despite this, Chavez said the MRT-3 is now “improving” after the department took over the service maintenance from BURI.

Sen. Grace Poe urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to suspend the operations of the MRT-3 if necessary in order to ensure the safety of its passengers.

With the malfunctions still being reported regularly, Poe said that the DOTr should make a decision on the suspension of the operations of the MRT-3 if this is what it takes to address the problems plaguing the system.

“What they need to do is to ensure the safety of passengers. Now if they need to suspend the operations, and we know there are around 500,000 who ride the train, but if we consider the lives that could be lost because of neglect, then maybe we should swallow this bitter pill,” Poe said.

If the DOTr, which is now handling the maintenance of the MRT-3 temporarily, will push through with the suspension of the mass transit system’s operation, then Poe said that it should inform the public about how long this would last.

She said that the DOTr should also have contingency measures in place in the event that the MRT-3 is shut down, such as providing more point-to-point buses for the commuters and maybe even giving them free rides. –With Marvin Sy

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Nurses slam new law on license renewal


A group of nurses has added its voice to Filipino professionals opposing the new requirements for renewing their licenses under the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act.

“Given that the laws like RA (Republic Act No.) 9173 — or the Nursing Law of 2002 — and the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, which uphold the best interests of nurses, are little implemented and generally disregarded and violated, now comes another law that will further burden the already weighed down nurses,” the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) said in a statement.

The CPD Act, authored by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, makes it mandatory for nurses and other professionals to earn 45 CPD units before they can renew their Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) licenses.

 

“This would mean a hefty expense for the already underpaid nurses while squeezing the CPD in her already tight schedule,” the FNU said.

The PRC has issued new guidelines on the law’s implementation, including a resolution that outlines the required number of units for each profession under its own regulatory board.

‘Unnecessary burden’

“This mandatory CPD is also an unnecessary burden for nurses who are unemployed or in nonnursing jobs or stationed in far-flung areas. [They] should not be barred from renewing his/her professional ID that has already been rightfully earned,” the FNU said.

While the aim of the CPD Act of 2016 was to ensure nurses’ competence in the performance of their professional practice, the group said it was more meant to comply with the requisites of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration.

“[That is] to create a pool of highly skilled but cheap manpower that our country is noted to provide for the global market,” it said.

As part of Asean integration, citizens of other Asean member countries may practice their profession in the Philippines. But Filipinos cannot practice their profession when they go to other Asean countries, according to Junven Lavapie, a 23-year-old civil engineer.

“We’d have to take exams or study for another few years again in their country to do so. The CPD law allows us to ‘fix’ this issue,” Lavapie said.

 

Review implementation

Like the FNU, the Optometric Association of the Philippines (OAP) is calling for a review of the CPD Act’s implementation.

The OAP earlier raised objections to the operational guidelines drafted by the Board of Optometry that required practitioners to earn educational units to renew their licenses.

The association said the board was allowing the retroactive application of points earned before the law’s full implementation.

The group also wondered why CPD units had been issued to practitioners in the last three years when renewal of licenses had been allowed without such conditions before the enactment of the CPD Act last year.

Apart from the nurses and optometrists’ groups, close to 62,000 Filipino professionals have signed an online petition that aims to reevaluate the requirements for renewing their licenses under the CPD Act.

Among the concerns raised by those who signed the petition on Change.org include the inaccessibility and affordability of PRC-accredited CPD providers especially among contractual professionals and those in remote areas, and those who are unemployed, underemployed or receiving low wages.

Exorbitant fees

Other professionals have also complained about the lack of accredited CPD providers, which has limited their options to current providers that are mostly private institutions supposedly offering training and seminars with exorbitant fees.

Michael Formoso, an engineer who signed the petition, said “there are a lot channels for learning where 70 percent come from experience and on-the-job training and 20 percent from direct coaching and technical and management websites and media.”

Formoso said only 10 percent came from training.

“Leadership and management training should also be considered valid for CPD for engineers like me. I see this as means of money milking for accredited professional organization. There should be more accredited training institutions that we can choose from,” he added.

Genesis Tampus, another supporter of the online petition, said that while CPD would help upgrade skills as part of Asean integration, its implementation should be made reasonable.

Self-paced manner

“Perhaps making it available online on a self-paced manner, thus allowing us to accumulate points through seminars and making it affordable also so everybody can avail of it,” Tampus said.

Lavapie, who created the petition on Change.org, told the Inquirer in a previous interview that he found the operational guidelines of the CPD Act “seemingly unfair” for professionals.

He said these professionals would be burdened by costly and time-consuming seminars and training.

He said the law would have been acceptable had there been government-subsidized programs for CPD units.

In an article he wrote on Change.org on Aug. 10, a day after the Senate inquiry into the complaints against the CPD Act, Lavapie said the intention of the CPD Act was good, “but we need to refine its implementation.”

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Corona family appeals subpoena on bank records

Former Chief Justice Renato Corona. FILE PHOTO/SENATE POOL

The family of late Chief Justice Renato Corona has appealed the Sandiganbayan’s ruling allowing the Office of the Ombudsman to scrutinize their bank accounts in connection with their P130.59-million forfeiture case.

In a 17-page motion for reconsideration, Corona’s widow Cristina and their three children, Ma. Carla Beatrice Castillo, Francis Corona and Charina Salgado, said the Second Division erred in reinstating the Ombudsman’s subpoena on their bank records.

They said the court should not allow the Ombudsman to bolster a case based on alleged illegally-obtained evidence.

 

The court on Oct. 23 granted the Ombudsman’s appeal to reverse the April 28, 2016 resolution, which initially approved the Coronas’ motion to quash the subpoenas on their peso and dollar bank accounts.

The Coronas maintained that the confidentiality of bank records were guaranteed by the Bank Secrecy Law (Republic Act No. 1405) and the Foreign Currency Deposit Act (Republic Act No. 6426).

They said the Ombudsman only wanted to subpoena the bank records in an attempt to provide a legal cloak to the forfeiture case despite being supposedly based on illegally obtained bank records.

The appeal charged that the Ombudsman’s request followed a “prior illegal inquiry into respondents’ alleged bank records” in violation of the Coronas’ constitutional right to unreasonable searches and seizures.

For one, the Coronas said the Ombudsman’s bank documents were obtained by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and signed by Associate Prosecution Attorney Jayvee Laurence Bandong of the Department of Justice.

They pointed out, however, that the DoJ could not be a valid source or custodian of the supposed originals, casting doubt on whether the agency followed the law on bank inquiries.

The motion argued that under R.A. 6426, the only exception to the secrecy of foreign currency deposits is when the depositor has issued a written permission, which the spouses had not given to either the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan.

“The alleged dollar deposits subject of the Request for Subpoenae remain absolutely confidential, without exception, under R.A. No. 6426 and may not be inquired into in any proceeding,” read the appeal.

 

“Neither the [Ombudsman] nor this Honorable Court has the authority to inquire into said deposits, or to compel any witness to produce documents relating thereto,” it added.

The Coronas said the presentation of their bank transaction records would be “unreasonable and oppressive” because the supposedly unlawful disclosure of their confidential information would “expose them to criminal liability and administrative sanctions.”

“Petitioner’s resort to the subject request for subpoenae is therefore an obvious subterfuge to cure the fatality of its evidence – and its case – against respondents. This should not be countenanced by this Honorable Court,” read the Coronas’ motion.

The Sandiganbayan on Jan. 18, 2016 first issued the subpoenas for the production of the Coronas’ bank transaction records including those of an account with Deutsche Bank AG.

Also subpoenaed were several bank representatives including Enrico Cruz and Celia Orbeta of Deutsche Bank AG Manila, Anthony Chua of Allied Banking Corporation, Francisco Burgos and Maybelen Villareal of Land Bank of the Philippines, and Pascual Garcia of the Philippine Savings Bank.

The Ombudsman’s forfeiture case filed in the Sandiganbayan in March 2014 was an offshoot of the previous administration’s efforts against Corona, whom President Benigno Aquino III shunned for being a midnight appointee of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Corona allegedly emptied several of his bank accounts before the impeachment proceedings got underway in the House of Representatives in late 2011.

The Senate on May 29, 2012 ousted Corona and convicted him for failing to properly disclose his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

After Corona’s impeachment, criminal charges for tax evasion and perjury were brought against him before the Court of Tax Appeals and the Sandiganbayan, respectively. His death on April 29, 2016 extinguished any possible criminal liability, but not the civil forfeiture case.

 

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Only Trudeau bold enough to raise EJK issue with Duterte

Trudeau to Duterte: Canada ‘concerned’ over EJK issueNews

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said he raised concerns over human rights and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte, becoming the only world leader to tackle the sensitive issues skirted by almost all the others during a regional summit in Manila.

“As I mentioned to President Duterte, we are concerned with human rights, with the extrajudicial killings, impressed upon him the need for respect for the rule of law and as always offered Canada’s support and help as a friend to help move forward on what is the real challenge,” Trudeau told reporters.

“This is the way we engage with the world. This is the way we always will,” he said.

“We know that talking about human rights is an essential part for a path forward. It has to be done in an honest and frank way. But it has to be done. We have to talk about the high expectations we must have to protect life, to uphold the rule of law, and human rights,” he said.

Trudeau’s comments came a day after US President Donald Trump hailed the “great relationship” he enjoyed with Mr. Duterte in a meeting that Malacañang said did not touch on human rights.

Gross abuses
Ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila, rights groups had urged world leaders to challenge Mr. Duterte over what they said were gross abuses.

Mr. Duterte won the presidential election last year, vowing to eradicate drugs through a campaign that would see up to 100,000 people killed.

Since he took office, police have reported killing 3,967 people in his war on drugs.

Another 2,290 people have been killed in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Rights groups say Mr. Duterte may be presiding over a crime against humanity.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada had earned a reputation for discussing human rights and the rule of law with other nations.

Asked how Mr. Duterte responded, Trudeau said: “The President was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange.”

He added: “This is something that is important to Canadians, and it’s important to the world and I will always bring that up.”

There was no immediate comment from Malacañang on Tuesday.

Mr. Duterte bristles at criticism of his war on drugs, calling then US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” for expressing concerns over human rights violations last year when the crackdown on narcotics in the Philippines turned into a killing spree.

Mr. Duterte also has not spared critics like European Union parliamentarians, local and international human rights campaigners, the United Nations, including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and even former President Benigno Aquino III.

Last week, talking to reporters before leaving to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam, he said he would tell any world leader who would bring up human rights concerns with him to “lay off.”

Mr. Duterte is hosting world leaders as the Philippines holds the rotating chair of the 10-nation Asean bloc.

Rare sour note
Trudeau’s comments were a rare sour note for Mr. Duterte during the Asean Summit that had been largely silent on alleged extrajudicial killings in his war on drugs.

There was no pressure from Trump over the war on drugs during his meeting with Mr. Duterte on Monday.

A joint statement after the meeting said the two sides “underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups.”

It said Trump and Mr. Duterte also talked about the Philippines’ campaign against illegal drugs and crime, and agreed to work together to fight the illegal drugs scourge.

“Both sides acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries and committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention; enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations; and rehabilitation,” it said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday that the issue of human rights was not brought up during the meeting.

But the White House later released a statement saying that human rights briefly came up when the drug war was discussed.

Sought for comment, Roque replied that “that’s fair insofar as [President Duterte] described war [against] drugs as promoting [human rights].” —With reports from the wires

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.

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