Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Singapore looks to compete and build for the future

MANILA, Philippines — The Singapore Men’s National Basketball Team flew into Manila with a quiet confidence in their abilities and firm goals in mind.

Singapore’s Australian head coach Franco Arsego summed it up, “We didn’t just come here to participate but to compete. We might not have the materials of other teams like the Philippines but to expose our youth and to lay a foundation for the SEA (Southeast Asian) Games is good for the program that we are undertaking.”

Team captain Hanbin Ng understands the enormity of the task: “We have a lot of young players so we will try to soak in as much experience as we can.”

Basketball has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade in the Lion State. “It has been growing quite a bit from a decade ago,” shared Ng. “Six years we managed to win our first bronze medal after 34 years of drought. That galvanized a lot of support for Singapore basketball. Now there are more sponsors and support from the crowd.”

“In the past if you come to a basketball game, over the years we have grown so much we have achieved in Sea Games and the Asean Basketball League. With this tournament in SEABA, we hope to continue to build on our gains,” Arsego added,

“I had an opportunity to work in Singapore from 2008-10 and have seen the massive growth and the interest and support. Our pro team Singapore Slingers has had success and that has spurred great interest. But for me as a basketball coach, it is also gratifying to see the locals come out and watch. And this is football country. So the growth of the game of basketball has been fascinating," he offered.

The fact that the Philippines is favored to win the Friday tournament has not dimmed Singapore’s outlook.

“You can say it is the same for the Philippines in football, a rising power that has had its success and setbacks. For us, it is the same in basketball. It is good that the competition is growing. At the end of the day, we hope to make Singapore proud," Arsego said.

By Rick Olivares, contributor (

  • Published in Sports

Philippines uses 'alternative facts' to defend drug war, says watchdog

MANILA, Philippines —The Philippine government shifted in strategy to blunt criticism of its brutal campaign against illegal drugs, from reliance on high-profile "apologists" to the use of "alternative facts," according to a human rights watchdog, as it predicted that global calls for accountability would continue to snowball.

"The Philippine government of President Rodrigo Duterte has a new tactic to deflect mounting foreign criticism of its murderous "war on drugs" that has killed thousands: simply deny those deaths are anything out of the ordinary," said Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.

Rose Trajano, secretary general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, shared Kine’s views and said that the Philippine delegation was obviously on the defensive by blaming the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the media for spreading false information on the government’s efforts to eradicate illegal narcotics.

She said that during the presentation, the government delegation tried to rationalize and justify the killings by blaming others which were just reporting on what was happening.

"Yun lang naman ang ginagawa nila kaya very defensive actually ang stand nila. But at the same time they want to rationalize and justify kaya nga it’s unfortunate that the CHR has been blamed and even the media, hindi ba? At tsaka ang mga fake news. So parang tayo pa ngayon ang mali," Trajano said.

On Monday, a Philippine delegation led by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who was appointed on Wednesday by Duterte as the new foreign affairs secretary, went to Geneva, Switzerland for the United Nations Universal Periodic Review of the Philippine human rights record.

During his presentation, Cayetano, the defeated running mate of Duterte in last year’s national election, denied that there was a state policy to kill drug offenders and other suspected criminals.

Cayetano also claimed that the high number of deaths during the first 10 months of the Duterte administration was because of the different definition of extrajudicial killings used by his critics, saying that this included murder and homicide cases that led to higher numbers.

He said that the high death toll linked to the drug war was an "alternative fact" and blamed the media for peddling this to the international community.

However, since Duterte assumed the presidency in June last year, the number of killings of suspected drug users and dealers exponentially rose, a fact dismissed by Cayetano as "political tactic," according to Kine.

The incoming foreign affairs chief also presented past pronouncements of Duterte vowing to protect human rights although he conveniently ignored the more numerous statements of the president promising death for suspected drug suspects and criminals.

High-profile apologists

The deputy director of HRW Asia said that the shift in strategy was spawned by the Philippine government’s recognition that its reliance on high-profile "apologists" had failed as these had not dissuaded critics from calling for a UN-led independent investigation.

The use of prominent personalities to defend the drug war also did not deter the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from warning senior Philippine government officials of possible prosecution if they were found to have incited or engaged in acts of mass violence, Kine said.

"The Philippine government’s new strategy of denial suggests a recognition its previous reliance on high-profile official apologists to deflect public criticism wasn’t working. Those apologists, including Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, have publicly acknowledged the bloodshed but sought to justify it as an unavoidable cost of the drug war," Kine said.

Kine described Cayetano’s performance in Geneva as "a master-class in innovative defense of the indefensible."

Kine said that Cayetano’s defense in Geneva would not negate the data showing that the government’s drug war had killed more than 7,000 people, mostly urban poor, since July.

HRW Asia’s deputy director also noted that despite the vigorous defense of the Philippine senator a number UN member-countries such as Germany, Japan, Chile, Ghana and Canada had called on the government to stop the killings and hold those responsible accountable.

"China was one of the few countries that provided Cayetano a sympathetic ear, praising the Philippine government for what it described as its "remarkable achievements" in protecting human rights," Kine said.

By Audrey Morallo (


Duterte to Callamard: Go on honeymoon with Hart

MANILA, Philippines - Of course shabu fries the brain, and a human rights rapporteur and a psychology professor can go on honeymoon if they don’t believe it, President Duterte said yesterday.

Duterte disputed claims that shabu does not damage the brain, saying users of the “virulent drug” have committed violent acts.

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, a critic of Duterte’s war on drugs, recently tweeted a statement by American professor Carl Hart, who claimed there is no evidence that shabu or methamphetamine hydrochloride leads to violence or causes brain damage.

Hart, chairman of Columbia University’s psychology department, made the statement during a forum on illegal drugs at the University of the Philippines last week.

His statement went against Duterte’s claim that constant use of shabu shrinks the brain.

Asked to react to the claim, Duterte remarked that Callamard and Hart should go on a “honeymoon.”

“She should go (on) a honeymoon with that black guy, the American. I will pay for their travel,” Duterte told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 before leaving for Cambodia.

“They should be together and discuss…If shabu were good, (if it) is really in consonance with their pronouncement, you can be sure that beginning tomorrow, I will provide shabu in the streets. You may get your fix if you want,” he added.

Duterte called Hart a “fool,” saying his statement about shabu was based on an American forensic study.

“That’s all b****s*** to me. That is why I will not talk to them because my experience until now and 23 years ago when I became the mayor of Davao City was always a lot of violence and killing because of shabu,” the President said.

“He said shabu does not damage the brain. That’s why that son of a b**** who has gone crazy came here to make announcements,” he added.

Duterte said those who claim that shabu does not damage the brain have “prejudged” it as a harmless chemical.

“Why would you sue me before the ICC if you yourselves …claim that shabu does not harm people?” he remarked, referring to the International Criminal Court.

“You have prejudged everything and you are referring to the core of the complaint against me. Why would I go there and hang myself?”

The Philippine government earlier invited Callamard to conduct an investigation on the alleged human rights violations committed in connection with the drug war.

The investigation, however, has yet to push through after the Philippine government set conditions for her visit, including being questioned under oath by Duterte.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan urged the administration to formally invite Callamard for an official visit to the Philippines, this time without any conditions.

By Alexis Romero, Marvin Sy and Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star)

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