Items filtered by date: Monday, 18 September 2017

Trump's Former Campaign Manager Was Reportedly Wiretapped By US Investigators

Matt Rourke / AP

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election as part of an FBI probe that has grown to include Russia's meddling in the election, CNN reported on Monday.

Manafort, who resigned from the Trump campaign in August 2016, has been known to be under investigation by the FBI — who notably searched his home in a raid this summer. The investigation is examining Manafort's business dealings with pro-Russia leaders in Ukraine as well as whether he or the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in swaying the results of the 2016 election, the New York Times has reported.

But Monday's CNN report shows that the FBI investigation has gone further than previously known. Intelligence gained from the wiretapping has led to some evidence — though possibly inconclusive — that Manafort may have encouraged Russians to help with Trump's campaign, the network reported.

Details from the wiretapping have been provided to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, CNN reported. The wiretapping came under the authority of two secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court orders: following the beginning of the FBI's investigation into Manafort in 2014, then another that allowed the wiretapping to continue until early 2017, CNN reported.

A spokesperson for Mueller did not immediately respond to a BuzzFeed News request for comment.

The news comes as the New York Times reported on Monday that Mueller's prosecutors have told Manafort he will be indicted. In the raid of Manafort's home, agents sought evidence that he had set up offshore bank accounts, the Times reported. The investigation is also considering whether Manafort was involved in money laundering, violating tax laws, or improperly lobbying, it said.

Whether Manafort is charged with any crime — or if it implicates the larger Trump campaign in wrongdoing — remains to be seen. But President Trump earlier this year was critical of wiretapping of his campaign and personally accused President Obama of tapping Trump Tower.

 

"Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump tweeted on March 4.

"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy," he continued.

Monday's reports, however, did not state that Trump or his New York home had been wiretapped.

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Duterte’s martial law: Mission accomplished, says military

People line up early Monday morning at a police checkpoint before entering Iligan City,where security has been tightened following the siege of nearby Marawi City by theMaute terrorist group and its allies from the Abu Sayyaf. —BARRY OHAYLAN
DAVAO CITY — If there’s one thing the military can claim about the gains of implementing martial law in Mindanao, it’s preventing the violence in Marawi City from spilling to other areas.
With the intensified security operations, the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) “was able to carry out its mission,” Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, assistant regional military commander, said in a statement.
“Business remains vibrant in the region through the security arrangements and the active interagency operations of the military and the police,” said Gapay, who is also the spokesperson for the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.

Marawi crisis
President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Mindanao under military rule following the attack of Islamic State-inspired terrorists on Marawi City on May 23.

The fighting for control of the city has left more than 800 people dead and displaced more than 400,000 people.
Gapay said the security situation in areas under Eastmincom, particularly Davao, Caraga and parts of Northern Mindanao and Cotabato regions had remained relatively stable.
“The Kadayawan Festival of Davao City, Higala-ay Festival in Cagayan de Oro City and other events held in the region were concluded peacefully,” Gapay said.
He said troops under Eastmincom had conducted 50,979 checkpoint operations and carried out 36,169 security patrols “to protect areas of convergence, worship areas and other public events.”
Eastmincom has the operational jurisdiction over troops under the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division and the 4th ID based in Cagayan de Oro City.
Gapay said the troops had succeeded in shielding the region from terrorists while protecting human rights and observing the rule of law.

Terror suspects captured
Eastmincom has set up a multisectoral advisory council, drawing representatives from different sectors, to check on rights abuses by security forces, he said.
Several terror suspects, including Cayamora Maute, the patriarch of the ringleaders behind the Marawi terror attack, have been captured by security forces in the region.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said declaration of martial law allowed the military to enhance its campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless groups in the island province.
He said checkpoints were set up in strategic areas, while a curfew was imposed on the entire province.
“We strictly enforce the ID system here. Everyone is required to bring their ID. With these measures, we have arrested a number of Abu Sayyaf and recovered firearms. [The] crime rate also went down, that is according to [the] assessment of the police,” Sobejana said.
Ruth Guerrero, who teaches at Ateneo de Zamboanga University, agrees with the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
Good for business
“For me, as far as Mindanao is concerned, it has imposed the message that we are mindful of our security, and that both the military and police are also on their toes to ascertain that the strategies of these radical extremists are quelled or intercepted,” Guerrero said.
Local officials have also expressed support for the implementation of martial law and its extension up to the end of the year, saying the stable peace and order is good for business.
Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu said his province had “become peaceful [with the implementation of] martial law because many lawless elements were arrested, including those who have connections with [the] Maute and [the] Abu Sayyaf [groups].”
Davao del Norte Gov. Antonio Rafael del Rosario said the extension of martial law “would allow the government to solve the problem of insurgency and terrorism for good.”
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said martial rule had not dampened business in the region, citing what he described as the successful holding of the Davao Investment Conference in July, with hundreds of local and foreign traders attending.
While the military maintains it has ensured respect for human rights in conducting its duties, rights groups have accused security forces of committing rampant abuses against civilians.
In Southern Mindanao alone, at least 46 cases of alleged summary killings perpetrated by military agents have been documented since the imposition of martial law, according to Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
These political killings, Karapatan said, have victimized peasants, activists and even lumad youth, as in the case of 18-year-old Ata-Manobo Obillo Bay-ao, who was shot dead by suspected progovernment militiamen in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte over a week ago.
Militarist order
For Mags Maglana, coconvener of antimartial law group Konsensya Dabaw, extending martial law would not solve the problem of violent extremism “but institutionalize a militarist order that would jeopardize civilian rule, affect the exercise of rights and socioeconomic activities, and encourage collusion with the political and economic elite” instead.
Maglana, who also writes a column for a local daily, drew parallels between the military rule imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, some 45 years ago, with Mr. Duterte’s Proclamation No. 216, with the two draconian measures using the “state of lawlessness” in the southern Philippine region as cause for the imposition.
“Marcos’ martial law created the conditions that intensified human rights abuses, exploitation and underdevelopment in Mindanao. Instead of putting a stop to the conditions described in Proclamation 1081, martial law under Marcos became a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Mr. Duterte’s military rule cited “violent acts” by the jihadis in Marawi City and nearby areas in Lanao del Sur as justification for the proclamation, Maglana said.
“Nearly four months later, (Duterte’s martial law) has not vanquished the violent extremist fighters in Marawi. Instead, airstrikes and sustained artillery attacks have done so much damage to the city that years from now its destruction might get cited as an example of yet another historical injustice and trigger more resistance,” Maglana said.
“[M]ilitary rule has managed to tap into the sense of fear of many urban Mindanaoans, convincing them that it takes no less than military supremacy to ensure stability and order,” she said.
Even as the specter of a nationwide martial law looms, Maglana has joined a growing number of voices calling for the lifting of military rule in Mindanao.
“It is not yet too late for President Duterte to lift martial law so that it does not meld with other factors that would make Proclamation 216 a self-fulfilling prophecy of terror, death and damage the way Proclamation 1081 ended up becoming. Violent extremism poses a complex set of challenges that cannot be met by a failed 45-year old formula,” he said.

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Senators grill DepEd officials over unspent 2016 budget

Senator Loren Legarda FILE PHOTO / INQUIRER.net
The Senate Committee on Finance on Monday grilled the Department of Education (DepEd) over an unspent budget of P21.5 billion last year as it weighed in on the agency’s capacity to fully spend its proposed P613.1 billion budget for 2018.
At the hearing, finance committee chair Sen. Loren Legarda asked the agency to submit a memo listing the programs and infrastructures that were affected when the money was reverted to unappropriated surplus of the government’s general fund and specifying the reasons for incurring such amount.
“Before we even talk about giving you a new budget, we want to know why you returned P21.5 billion. Last week, we were very disappointed, saddened by the Department of Transportation returning P11.5 billion. Now we see DepEd returning P21.5 billion,” said Legarda.

Unserved
“When we return funds to the Treasury, that means there are people unserved, there are classrooms not rehabilitated, there are books not printed and there are children not helped,” she said.

The DepEd broke down the P21.5 billion as the following: P12 billion for teacher positions; P5 billion for the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Gastpe); P1.3 billion for the provision and maintenance of basic education facilities, P1 billion for technical-vocational supplies and P3.6 billion for the provision of textbooks and instructional materials.
The P21.5 billion were 2015 allocations that were carried over last year.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones told the panel that the agency had difficulty keeping up with its backlog in 2015 as it was also catching up with the utilization of its 2016 budget.
“Now we are catching up with 2017 and we can only do it in phases,” said Briones, noting that the agency has introduced reforms, restructured its management system and tightened its cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to address classroom backlogs.
The DepEd also said the DPWH had a remaining balance of P76 billion or 70 percent of the P109 billion in the 2017 budget to be obligated for the construction of classrooms before December 2017. Legarda wondered if it could be done in a span of three months.
“If the DepEd is having hard time with the two-year cycle, now it’s a 12-month cycle. I’m really just worried that you may not be able to spend all. So I am asking you to do an internal housekeeping,” said Legarda.

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Napoles wants to do a Jinggoy Estrada

Janet Lim Napoles. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC


The floodgates have been opened.
“This is very good for us,” the lawyer of alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, said of the Sandiganbayan decision that allowed former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who was accused of plunder and graft, to post bail.
Napoles will again seek bail soon like what Estrada has done on the heels of his temporary release over the weekend, making her the second pork barrel scam suspect encouraged by Estrada’s moves.

Former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who is still detained in Camp Crame, told reporters on Thursday that he would file a second bail plea as well, pending his trial for plunder.
Senators Revilla, Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile were detained in Camp Crame in 2014 for funneling their allocations from the pork barrel Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) into foundations set up by Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.

‘Sexy, Pogi, Tanda’
“Sexy” and “Kuya” were the code names for Estrada, while “Pogi” was for Revilla and “Tanda” for Enrile, according to Benhur Luy, principal witness in the scam.
It was Napoles who chose the code names for the senators, Luy said.
On Monday, Napoles’ lawyer Dennis Buenaventura said the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division’s 3-2 vote allowing bail for Estrada was a “favorable development” for his client.
The ruling, Buenaventura said, could be invoked in securing temporary liberty for Napoles, who was detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Unlike the Supreme Court’s August 2015 decision to release Enrile on humanitarian grounds, the Estrada bail ruling “definitely touches the main information” itself, the lawyer said.

The Napoles camp would first try to seek bail in the Fifth Division, which handles the Estrada case, before moving on to the First and Third Divisions, which handle the Revilla and Enrile plunder cases, respectively.
Buenaventura said the Sandiganbayan finding that the prosecution had failed to pinpoint a “main plunderer” in Estrada’s case also applied to Napoles, his coaccused.
Private person
Though Napoles was accused of controlling the network of dubious foundations where lawmakers’ PDAF proceeds were funneled, Buenaventura said a private individual like Napoles could not be considered the main plunderer either.
“In the legal definition of plunder, the main plunderer cannot be a private person. It should be a public officer,” he said. “So if it appears like that, this is not plunder.”
He also noted that the Supreme Court’s July 2016 ruling acquitting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder, which formed the Sandiganbayan’s legal basis to grant Estrada bail, bolstered the Napoles camp’s arguments.
“The [Arroyo] case made things clearer. That would be the guide,” he said.
The Sandiganbayan entertained Estrada’s second bail plea and took into consideration the Arroyo ruling, which laid down a stricter standard of evidence in plunder cases.
It initially found the prosecution evidence sufficient to deny Estrada and Napoles bail in its ruling on Jan. 7, 2016. This became final upon the denial of an appeal on May 11, 2016.
‘Irregular’
Things changed, however, after the Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo of plunder in the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence fund case over the failure to identify a “main plunderer.”
On Sept. 12, 2016, Estrada filed an “omnibus motion” for bail invoking the Arroyo ruling.
The Ombudsman objected to the motion as irregular, saying it was an attempt to skirt the prohibition on a second motion for reconsideration.
This time, however, the Sandiganbayan found that while the prosecution evidence was enough to establish the alleged scheme, it could not establish which of the defendants was the main plunderer.
“In the mind of the court, there is now an ambiguity or even doubt as to who the main plunderer is, given that there are two public officers charged … and the observation that the PDAF scheme apparently was commenced by or originated with Napoles,” the resolution read.

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Senate OKs bill requiring economic managers to report to Congress

REPORT. The Senate has passed the bill seeking to require the country's economic managers to report biannually to Congress. Malacañang file photo 

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, September 18, approved the bill that would require the country’s economic managers to report twice a year to a joint congressional oversight committee.

Voting 18-0, senators passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1483 or the Fiscal and Monetary Report Act of 2017, sponsored by Senate economic affairs committee chair Sherwin Gatchalian.

 

The bill mandates the secretaries of the Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Governor of the Central Bank to appear biannually before the new Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Fiscal and Monetary Policies.

This is meant for them “to report on the status and the directions of the fiscal and monetary policies of the state.”

Gatchalian said the bill promotes transparency on the country’s monetary policies to effectively apply check and balance.

“This would ensure that Congress is kept abreast of the current position and direction of the government’s fiscal and monetary policies, especially with regard to the accumulation of foreign debt that could impact the country’s economic stability,” Gatchalian said.

Under the bill, the biannual reports would include data on the national budget, economic developments and prospects for the future, taking into account past and prospective developments in employment, unemployment, production, investment, real income, productivity, exchange rates, international trade and payment, and prices.

To promote accountability, the measure also requires the 4 agencies to upload their respective reports on their websites within 7 working days from submission to Congress.

A counterpart bill has yet to be filed in the House of Representatives. Once the measure is passed in the House, both chambers of Congress would then convene a bicameral conference committee to sort differences in their versions. The final version would then be up for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature. – Rappler.com

 
 
 
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#2030NOW: Why road safety – or the lack of it – is a human rights issue

HUMAN RIGHTS. Superintendent Oliver Tanseco says road safety is a human rights issue, especially in the Philippines. 

 

MANILA, Philippines – Road safety, or the absence of it, is a human rights issue, especially in the Philippines. (READ: Road crash numbers: Looking at the data sources)

Superintendent Oliver Sy Tanseco of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group said this, as he cited 1.25 million deaths in the country and 50 million worldwide yearly due to vehicle crash.

 

“In our country, being one of the low-income countries, road crashes are a major concern. It’s a world health issue,” Tanseco said during the 2017 Social Good Summit on Saturday, September 16.

Tanseco also said people aged 15 to 29 years old are more susceptible to dying from road crash.

In 2016, he said, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported 10,000 deaths due to road crashes, while the PNP reported 2,100 deaths. But these numbers, he said, are way lower than reality.

“It is still underreported. For one thing, we have no national database system for road crashes. If we have complete data, believe me, road crashes are a major concern for everyone in the country,” he said.

Tanseco also said statistics should not just be limited to the actual deaths on site, on the way to the hospital, or those declared dead on arrival.

“All road crashes-related deaths [should be included], meaning, day 1 up to 30 days then on,” he said, citing victims who later died due to injuries.

How to keep roads safe

While the government is working to keep roads safe, Tanseco said the public has to assert their right.

The World Health Organization has set a target of reducing by half the number of deaths due to crashes by 2020 or barely 3 years from now.

“You have to assert your right. Road safety is a human rights issue. Look at the data, we are not able to reduce it,” Tanseco said.

He then explained why there is no such thing as a traffic or road “accident.” Accidents are unforeseen and unpredictable instances while vehicle crashes are predictable and can be controlled.

Tanseco, also a lawyer, said the two meanings have legal implications. In legal cases, an accident means there is no intent on the part of the suspect or perpetrator, thereby lessening his responsibility.

Tanseco said one way to keep the roads safe is by reducing driving speed by 5%. This, he said, would reduce all crashes by one-third.

He also advised the public to use seatbelts and to exercise discipline on the road.

Tanseco ended his speech by saying not all policemen are killers, an apparent reference to the controversies hounding the police force amid an ongoing bloody drug war.

Marami pa po kagaya namin, concerned sa safety nyo, sa rights 'nyo.” Tanseco said. (There are still many police like us who are concerned about your safety, your rights.)–Rappler.com

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Duterte confers Order of Lapu-Lapu on slain Caloocan cop

RECOGNITION. President Rodrigo Duterte posthumously awards the Order of Lapu-Lapu Kalasag Medal to SPO1 Junior Hilario. Presidential photo 

 

MANILA, Philippines – A Caloocan City policeman who was killed in an anti-drugs operation has joined the ranks of individuals honored with the Order of Lapu-Lapu, an award created by President Rodrigo Duterte for those who have shown "extraordinary service" in his campaigns and advocacies.

Duterte visited the wake of Senior Police Officer 1 Junior Hilario in Bagumbong, Northern Caloocan, on Monday, September 19, to speak with his family and to personally show his gratitude for Hilario's contribution to his administration's key campaign.

 

The Kalasag Medal, one of 3 medals under the Order of Lapu-Lapu, is given to individuals who lost their lives or property due to their participation in an activity in line with a Duterte advocacy.

Duterte pinned the medal on the policeman's 6-year-old son, Jun.

TRIBUTE TO A FATHER. President Rodrigo Duterte pins the Order of Lapu-Lapu Kalasag Medal onto the shirt of 6-year-old Jun Hilario. Presidential photo
     

TRIBUTE TO A FATHER. President Rodrigo Duterte pins the Order of Lapu-Lapu Kalasag Medal onto the shirt of 6-year-old Jun Hilario. Presidential photo 

COMMANDER'S GOODBYE. President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the late SPO1 Junior Hilario. Presidential photo
     

COMMANDER'S GOODBYE. President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the late SPO1 Junior Hilario. Presidential photo 

CONDOLENCES. President Rodrigo Duterte condoles with Jun Hilario, son of the late SPO1 Junior Hilario. Presidential photo
     

CONDOLENCES. President Rodrigo Duterte condoles with Jun Hilario, son of the late SPO1 Junior Hilario. Presidential photo 

Hilario, who was posthumously promoted to Senior Police Officer 1 from Police Officer 3, was shot in the head while trying to apprehend gun-for-hire suspect Jason dela Cruz.

According to Caloocan police chief Senior Superintendent Jemar Modequillo, Dela Cruz was also involved in drug trafficking and gunrunning.

Police beat reporters say Hilario, 36, was an outstanding cop given the nickname "Bangis (Fierce)" because he always wanted to be in the front during police operations.

He left behind a wife, a 20-year-old stepson, and 6 year-old son. 

Caloocan police have been put under the national spotlight after the deaths of 3 teenagers in the city during police operations.

After the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, the Caloocan police chief was fired.

Later on, the National Capital Region Police Office ordered the  replacement of the entire Caloocan police force. – Rappler.com

 

 
 
 
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Senators condemn UST law student's death due to alleged hazing

HAZING. UST law student Horacio Castillo III allegedly died due to injuries from fraternity hazing. Photo from Castillo's Facebook profile 

 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senators condemned the death of Horacio “Atyo” Castillo III, a freshman law student at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), due to alleged fraternity hazing initiation rites.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III expressed sadness over the "useless death" of Castillo by men he wanted to call brothers.

 

"Useless death. [He was] killed by people he wanted to be associated with, for life. What a very sad development," Pimentel said in a text message.

Senator Joel Villanueva, an alumnus of UST, expressed concern over the incident and called on the school to conduct an investigation.

“We certainly condemn this senseless act of violence and join Mr Castillo's family in mourning for his death that not only ended his life but also his dreams and aspirations,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“As a UST alumnus, I am deeply concerned at this recent event and urge the UST and the proper authorities to investigate and hold the people accountable for this unfortunate incident involving our fellow Thomasian,” he added.

On Sunday, September 17, the body of Castillo was found wrapped in a blanket on a pavement in Tondo, Manila. He was declared dead on arrival at the Chinese General Hospital.

Castillo died due to injuries his parents believed were from fraternity hazing. The father said his son was recruited to the Aegis Juris Fraternity – a recognized organization based at the UST law school. (READ: Aegis Juris fraternity members barred from entering UST)

“No type of brotherhood can ever equate to the sanctity of life. And words will never be able to define such violence that has transpired in an esteemed academic institution. Let it always be known that violence has no room in an institution that upholds Christian values and ideals,” Villanueva said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said UST could not evade the issue because the fraternity implicated is a duly-recognized organization.

"The fact that the fraternity being implicated in this hazing death is recognized by the university itself as a legitimate student organization means that UST cannot pull the same tricks used by other schools in the past to evade responsibility for the criminal actions of their students,” Gatchalian said.

Senator Gregorio Honasan, for his part, recalled the death of his brother from fraternity hazing and called for vigilance from all groups.

"I remember 41 years ago when my youngest brother Mel died from fraternity hazing. My parents forgave those responsible; hoping and praying that it would help eradicate hazing. It was not to be," Honasan said.

"More teeth in our laws and strict enforcement, vigilance from all sectors: parents, school authorities and students, recognized fraternities, public information and education will help respond to hazing as a painful public menace," he added.

New Anti-hazing law

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Gatchalian have renewed their calls for the passage of the bill seeking to amend the 22-year-old Republic Act 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995.

Sotto, Gatchalian, and Honasan have filed their respective bills in the 17th Congress, which all seek stiffer punishments for violators.

Sotto filed Senate Bill 223, which seeks to impose the maximum penalty of reclusion perpetua or imprisonment from 20 years and 1 day to 40 years.

“That is why I have filed a bill last Congress and refilled now precisely because of the incidents like this. We need stiffer penalties for everyone involved including officers of the fraternities,” Sotto said in a text message.

Gatchalian's measure, Senate Bill 199, seeks to repeal the old law to create a “more comprehensive” anti-hazing measure by providing a more prohibitive definition of hazing.

"The Anti-Hazing Law must be overhauled to eliminate loop holes and ensure that all persons responsible for these cruel and senseless hazing deaths will be held accountable to the full extent of the law. It's time for the Senate to take up this proposed legislation," Gatchalian said in a statement.

His bill also seeks to expand the scope of liabilities and increase the penalties for hazing offenders, as well as to require schools to play a central role in hazing prevention and awareness.

All measures are still pending in the committee on public order and dangerous drugs led by Senator Panfilo Lacson. – Rappler.com

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Hurricane Maria batters Dominica as category five storm

Hurricane Maria, strengthened to a "potentially catastrophic" category five storm, has torn into the Caribbean island of Dominica with sustained winds of 260km/h (160mph).

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook that his roof had been torn off and he was "at the complete mercy of the hurricane".

He said his house had flooded, later adding that he had been rescued.

Dominica's airport and ports have been closed.

Maria is moving roughly along the same track as Irma, the hurricane that devastated the region this month.

The nearby island of Martinique has declared a maximum-level alert while another French island, Guadeloupe, ordered evacuations.

Hurricane warnings are also in place for:

Puerto Rico: The US territory expects Maria to make landfall as a category three on Tuesday. It escaped the worst of Irma and has been an important hub for getting relief to islands more badly affected. Governor Ricardo Rossello urged islanders to seek refugeUS Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands: Both island chains suffered severe damage from Irma and President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the US territories on Monday. British authorities fear debris left behind by Irma could be whipped up by the new storm and pose an extra threat.

Warnings are also in effect for St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat and St Lucia while hurricane watches are in place for St Martin, Saba, St Eustatius and Anguilla.

The islands bearing the brunt of Maria are part of the Leeward Islands chain and include Antigua and Barbuda. The latter was evacuated after being devastated by Irma.

Forecasters warned that heavy rainfall caused by the hurricane "could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides".

All ports and airports are closed and residents near the coast have been ordered to go to authorised shelters.

Curtis Matthew, a journalist based in the capital, Roseau, told the BBC that conditions went "very bad, rapidly".

"We are not able to even see properly what is happening on the road. The winds are very, very strong, we can hear the noise on the outside. We still don't know what the impact is going to be when this is all over. But what I can say it does not look good for Dominica as we speak," he said.

Martinique raised its alert status to "violet", the highest level, and ordered its population to seek shelter.

In Guadeloupe, schools, businesses and government buildings have all been closed and severe flooding is predicted. The French government has ordered low-lying areas on the islands to be evacuated, AFP reports.

Image captionThe Leeward Islands - where Maria will first strike - includes Antigua and BarbudaThe British government said more than 1,300 troops were staying put in the region and an additional military team had been deployed to the British Virgin Islands where entire neighbourhoods were flattened by Irma.

Virgin boss Richard Branson, who has a home in the Virgin Islands, has been tweeting ahead of the Maria's predicted arrival, warning people to stay safe.

Media captionA BBC team visited Caribbean islands that have been devastated by Hurricane IrmaIrma also hit the US, where several dozen deaths were linked to the hurricane. Nearly 6.9 million homes were left without power in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama.

Barbuda after Hurricane IrmaIn Pictures: Irma devastates British Virgin Islands

A second hurricane, Jose, is also active in the Atlantic, with maximum sustained winds of 90mph.

The centre of Jose was about 265 miles east-south-east of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, the NHC said in its advisory at 18:00 GMT on Monday.

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