Items filtered by date: Monday, 07 August 2017

CCTV footage of alleged ‘planting’ of guns in Ozamiz vice mayor’s house released

MANILA, Philippines — The camp of the Parojinog family released footage that purportedly shows police allegedly “planting” guns in the house of Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog during the deadly July 30 raids that left the mayor of the northern Mindanao and 15 other persons dead.

Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa did not discount the possibility that the closed circuit television footage is authentic but urged that cases be filed in court as he said he had to be “neutral” on the matter.

Earlier, police admitted having disabled the CTTV cameras on the homes they raided, supposedly to prevent the identities of their informers from being exposed. The Parojinogs say police missed the released footage.

Among those slain during what police insist were shootouts but the family maintains was a massacre during the pre-dawn raids on July 31 were Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, the vice mayor’s father, his wife and two siblings.


Video link:


U.S. eyeing drone strikes in PH – NBC News

Debris and fire is seen during an airstrike in Marawi City. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 9:27 a.m.) The United States may conduct drone strikes on extremist targets in the Philippines if a Pentagon plan is approved, according to an NBC News report.

Quoting defense officials, NBC News reported that “the authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday.”

“The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones,” it added.

If the plan is approved, the report said, “the U.S. military would be able to conduct strikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines that could be a threat to allies in the region, which would include the Philippine forces battling ISIS on the ground in the country’s southern islands,” referring to the continuing battle for Marawi City against extremist groups tat have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which began May 23 and led President Rodrigo Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

Thus far, official U.S. assistance to the Philippine military has been limited to intelligence sharing, materiel support and training although there have long been allegations of direct American involvement in combat operations, which both the U.S. and Philippine governments deny.

Reacting to the NBC report, communist rebels blasted the reported U.S. plan.

Fidel Agcaoili, chairman of the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, in what he called an initial reaction, said: “We condemn any such agreement to allow US to intervene militarily with air strikes and the use of drones.”

“Obviously, the US would want to turn the Philippines into another Yemen, or worse, Iraq or Syria, to justify outright stationing of bases and troops in its war posturing against China,” Agcaoili said as he accused the Philippine military of being “so pro-American that they would not mind turning the country into a battlefield to defend and promote US interests.”

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said such airstrikes “will violate our national sovereignty and will run counter to the constitutional ban on foreign troops participating in combat operations in the Philippines.”

“There can be no justification for allowing a foreign superpower with the world’s worst rights record to be conducting airstrikes on Philippine soil,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.


.S., Australia, Japan call for legally binding code in South China Sea

U.S. Secretary of State Secretary Rex Tillerson passes by the table of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the start of the 7th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting and its dialogue partners as part of the 50th ASEAN Ministerial Meetings. (Reuters/Aaron Favila/Pool)

MANILA, Philippines — Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged Southeast Asia and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draw up will be legally binding and said they strongly opposed “coercive unilateral actions.”

The Association of South East Asian Nations and China should establish a set of rules that were “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement following a meeting in Manila.

Foreign ministers of ASEAN and China on Sunday adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct, a move they hailed as progress but seen by critics as a tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

Australia, Japan and the United States also “voiced their strong opposition to coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions.”

They urged claimants to refrain from land reclamation, construction of outposts and militarization of disputed features, a veiled reference to China’s expansion of its defense capability on Mischief, Fiery Cross and Subi reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

The three countries are not claimants but have long been vocal on the issue, arguing their interest is in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.

They urged China and the Philippines to abide by last year’s international arbitration ruling, which invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea, where more than $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods passes every year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims there.

The code framework is an outline for what China and ASEAN call “consultations” on a formal agreement, which could start later this year.

Several ASEAN countries want the code to be legally binding, enforceable and have a dispute resolution mechanism. But experts say China will not allow that and ASEAN may end up acquiescing to what amounts to a gentlemen’s agreement.

Sharp contrast

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a “sharp contrast” in perceptions this year between regional and non-regional countries, and the statement by Japan, the United States and Australia showed that.

Coastal countries had “fully recognized the progress we have made through concerted efforts from all parties,” he said.

“On the other hand, some non-regional countries remain in the past … They are not recognizing the positive changes occurring in the South China Sea.

“Is it that some countries do not want to see greater stability in the South China Sea?” he asked.

Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said on Sunday it was premature to conclude the outcome of the negotiations, but added: “Surely when we move into the COC, it has got to have some additional or significant legal effect.”

Jay Batongbacal, an expert on the South China Sea at the University of the Philippines, told news channel ANC the adoption of the framework gave China “the absolute upper hand” in terms of strategy, because it will be able to decide when the negotiating process can start.

China also called out “some countries” who voiced concern over island reclamation in the South China Sea in the joint communique issued by ASEAN members on Sunday.

“In reality it was only one or two country’s foreign ministers who expressed concerns of this kind,” Wang told reporters.

Wang said that China had not carried out reclamation for two years. “At this time, if you ask who is carrying out reclamation, it is definitely not China – perhaps it is the country that brings up the issue that is doing it,” he added.

Several ASEAN diplomats told Reuters that Vietnam was one country that had pushed for stronger wording in the statement. Satellite images have shown that Vietnam has carried out reclamation work in two sites in the disputed seas in recent years.


Duterte keeps distance from Bautistas’ tiff but admits meeting couple

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his distance from the tiff between Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista and his wife Patricia and the issue of possible ill-gotten wealth it has raised even as he admitted meeting the couple in Malacañang.

Patricia’s revelations about the supposed fortune amassed by her husband have prompted Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to order a probe by the National Bureau of Investigation while Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III also filed a resolution to investigate the Comelec chief.

“I’m not in the habit of prosecuting people especially from the other side of the fence … political fence … lalo na si (especially) Bautista because he was appointed by Noynoy,” Duterte told a press conference at the Palace, referring to his predecessor Benigno Aquino III.

“I do not want to be misconstrued,” he added.

“There will always be a case filed so I do not want to preempt what will happen there, either by the Ombudsman or by Congress because I do not have jurisdiction over the case … so I’ll just shut up,” he said.

At the same time, Duterte admitted he had Bautista summoned after Patricia met him in Malacañang and told him she wanted her husband impeached for his alleged hidden wealth.

Asked to explain why he called the Comelec chairman if, as he said, he wanted no part in the matter, Duterte said: “I was not meddling. I asked him to fix his quarrel with the wife. That’s the thing that I could do as a lawyer. At sinabi ko, ‘Tawagin mo ‘yan si Bautista kasi may nagrereklamo sa kanya’ (And I said, ‘Call that Bautista because someone has a complaint against him’).”

“When I was informed that he was here, I went out of my room … Sabi ko, ‘May reklamo ‘yang babae sa’yo’ (I said, ‘That woman has a complaint against you),” Duterte said. “Sabi ‘yung pera. Sabi ko (He said the money. I said), ‘No, no. Spare me. I do not want to hear ‘yang mga money-money (about the money) …”


Comelec chief received commissions, says wife

WIFE’S FIND Patricia Paz Bautista says she found these bankbooks and passbooks in her husband’s name. —LYN RILLON

Election chief Andres Bautista received commissions for referring companies, such as Smartmatic, Baseco and United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), to DivinaLaw, one of the country’s fastest-growing law firms, his wife alleged in a sworn statement.
Patricia Paz “Tish” Bautista said she discovered several checks and commission sheets that purportedly came from lawyer Nilo T. Divina, managing partner of DivinaLaw.
Smartmatic is the company that provided the vote counting machines for the 2010, 2013 and 2016 elections in the country. Baseco and UCPB are among the companies sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which is tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.

Bautista was chair of the PCGG from September 2010 until he was appointed head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in May 2015.
Patricia submitted several pages of what appeared to be commission sheets with different amounts from 2015 to 2016 to the National Bureau of Investigation on Aug. 1.

One sheet showed “consultancy fees” from “Cebu Int’l School, Miascor, Baseco, Cocolife and Vazquez” totaling P1.224 million.
Other sheets showed figures from as little as P560 to P29,470 to as high as P95,663.
The Inquirer could not independently verify which among the figures stated were the actual commission that Bautista allegedly received.
In an interview with the Inquirer on Sunday afternoon, Bautista did not deny that he was “close” to Divina.
He said Divina was not only one of his lawyers but also the lawyer of his stepfather-in-law, Dr. Daniel Vazquez.
Son’s godfather
Bautista confirmed what his wife said in her affidavit that Divina was a godfather to their eldest son.
Patricia described Divina as “one of Andy’s best friends.”
The Inquirer on Monday went to DivinaLaw office in Makati City to get the side of Divina but his personal secretary said he was out in a meeting.
Cheer Mae Ecarma, from the law office’s corporate affairs, later told the Inquirer that Divina would not be issuing a statement. “We won’t be making comments but we are preparing legal actions,” she said.
Asked what the legal action was about, Ecarma declined to expound. “No further details,” she said.
Told about the commission sheets found by his wife, Bautista said: “These are not public funds … . It’s not a commission but it’s like a referral. This is private and does not involve government.
“It was an arrangement we had even before I joined [the] government but these are small amounts,” the Comelec chair added.
Bautista told the Inquirer in a phone call on Monday that the referral fees were paid “but never for companies where I will have potential conflict of interest,” referring to his post as a government official.
He accused his wife of embellishing and fabricating the documents she claims to have against him.
“I question the genuineness of the documents. These are small amounts but they are reflected on my SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth). And the taxes are paid for all of these,” Bautista said.
The Comelec chief also said he would file cases against his wife this week.
Among the individuals and companies included in the alleged commission sheets were Smartmatic, Baseco-Maligalig vs Bautista, Cebu International School, Miascor-Citadel Holdings-MR Holdings, CBRF Retainer and various projects, and CBRE Project Omaha.
One column in the commission sheets were labeled “Lawyers” but indicated only initials. The most prominent were “NTD,” which could refer to Divina himself and “ECE,” which could stand for Estrella C. Elamparo, one of the law firm’s senior partners.
Elamparo was the lawyer who questioned the eligibility of Sen. Grace Poe as a presidential candidate in the 2016 national elections.
Patricia, in her affidavit, said she was “highly suspicious” of the transactions that she saw on the commission sheets.
“It would, thus, appear that Andy secured the services of DivinaLaw, Nilo’s law firm, in order to profit from his (Andy) position in the Comelec. Based on the documents I found, Nilo issued several checks in Andy’s name and that of his family members, as Andy’s commission for assisting the law firm’s clients with the Comelec,” she said.
“What made me highly suspicious is that Nilo’s law firm has been handling, among others, government clients such as Baseco and UCPB, two government entities that Andy constantly dealt with while he was the PCGG chair,” she added.
Patricia said her impression was—based on the commission sheets she found and the checks—that her husband was getting “commission from Nilo, while he was/is in active government service.”
“Surely, a private practitioner such as Nilo would not give commission or some form of incentive to Andy if it wasn’t for any favor or service that he (Andy) had done for him (Nilo).
“However, it appears that Andy would get some sort of commission from Nilo for the clients that his (Nilo’s) law firm handled before the Comelec as well as other private people and institution,” Patricia said.
Graft, laundering
Patricia said her husband could be liable for criminal violations under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
She mentioned that she was aware that her husband could be impeached for the violations.
The Bautista couple are embroiled in a bitter marital dispute that has dragged on over the past four years.
The Comelec chair accused his wife of extortion, claiming that she wanted P620 million as settlement.
Bautista said he could not afford such a staggering amount, even if he has substantial savings from his work as a private citizen before he joined the government in 2010.
Patricia’s camp vehemently denied that she had asked for the amount. —WITH A REPORT FROM ERIKA SAULER


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