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Opinion & Community

OFW on death row appeals to Duterte for help


By Don Kevin Hapal, Rappler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trump, Duterte blamed for global pushback of human rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Incredible testimony from a credible witness

Recently retired Philippine National Police SPO3 Arthur Lascanas landed a haymaker against President Rodrigo Duterte this week when he rescinded his previous Senate testimony about the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Originally, Lascanas denied that the dreaded DDS even existed. This, after DDS member Edgar Matobato had pointed to the police officer as one of the leaders of the squad that operated with impunity in Davao City during the term of then Mayor Duterte.
At the start of the week, the cop confirmed everything that Matobato had told the Senate, adding a lot more details that left everyone hearing them shocked. He gave details of how much was budgeted for each hit, and just how far the brutality of the DDS went.
Two things stood out in Lascanas’s revelations: One, he went so far as to have two of his own brothers killed as part of then Mayor Duterte’s drive against criminality. And two, the assassination of broadcaster Jun Pala was among the biggest of the killings ordered by the current president.
Pala was the head of the anti-communist Alsa Masa, credited with kicking the NPA and its operatives out of the city in the 1980s.
I recall a friend from Davao who said that the situation had become so bad that random killings were taking place in the city. She witnessed one daylight shooting, which she later learned was an NPA team’s work against an anti-communist businessman.
My friend told me many tales of how the NPA had all but controlled the city, until Pala and his organization took them on, and won.
This is not to say that Jun Pala was some kind of hero. He was supposedly engaged in his own criminal activities within the city according to his critics, but at least he played a major role in ridding Davao of the underground left.
Pala was formerly a supporter of Rodrigo Duterte, but the two had a falling out over God-knows-what. But one of the most cruel things that President Duterte did was to curse Pala to hell a couple of months ago.
This was most unFilipino. We as a people always respect the dead, and avoid speaking ill of them. What Mr. Duterte had against the late Jun Pala will sooner or later come to light, especially now that Lascanas has admitted that his DDS was behind the killing of the broadcaster.
It was understandable for the PNP official to originally deny the existence of a shadowy vigilante organization that executed hundreds of suspected criminals, much less be a part of it. It only meant that law and order in Davao City was nothing more than an illusion, since the very men tasked with enforcing the law were breaking it.
There could be a hundred reasons for Lascanas to take back what he said, including his conscience bothering him. In doing so, he has made some very, very powerful enemies. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain. This makes him a most credible witness, one whose testimony can jolt the Duterte administration to the core.


Villarin: PH to lose $12.8B in EU trade if death penalty returns

MANILA – Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin warned that the government may lose billions of dollars in revenues should the Philippines reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes.
On Tuesday, February 21, Villarin interpellated Capiz 2nd District Representative and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, one of the principal authors of the controversial death penalty measure or House Bill (HB) Number 4727.
Villarin argued that the return of capital punishment will violate the Philippines’ obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans state parties from reimposing the death penalty.
The passage of HB 4727 into law, Villarin said, has implications for the Philippines’ beneficiary country status for the European Union-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+) as well.
The EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme that allows the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products, including fruits, coconut oil, footwear, fish, and textile, to any EU member-country tariff-free.
"One of the prerequisites of us entering into such a trade agreement is the abolition of the death penalty," said Villarin.
"In fact, if we lose this GSP+ trade status and this data is our own data, we will lose up to 200,000 jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, especially in Mindanao," he added.
He said that Philippine export sales to the EU showed exports "jumped to 6.8% to $7.17 billion" in 2015, with the EU considered as the Philippines' 4th largest trading partner accounting for 11.56% of total exports.
"So in effect, if now we will reimpose the death penalty and we will violate the Second Optional Protocol and it will affect the GSP+ international trading status, we will lose roughly around $12.8 billion in bilateral trade," said Villarin.
"Ano'ng kapalit? Wala. Patayan. (What is the price? Nothing. Killings.) Execution…. The death penalty bill has implications that goes beyond what is intended," he added.
Castro, however, refused to respond to Villarin's point, saying that the latter's arguments had already been mentioned by other congressmen in past interpellations.
"This representation is lost and confused because the gentleman from Akbayan has discoursed volumes of recycled issues and matters that have already been discussed by previous sponsors and interpellators. But he has not posed any question," said Castro.
"In any event, Madame Speaker, distinguished colleague, as in by way of reaction, to the discourse to the gentleman from Akbayan, let me invoke the previous answers of the previous sponsors to the same questions and the same issues raised by other interpellators prior to the distinguished gentleman from Akbayan, Madame Speaker," he added.
Reimposing the death penalty for heinous crimes is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is allied with a majority of congressmen.
The majority bloc already decided to water down the bill to only include plunder, treason, rape, and 7 drug crimes. The death penalty debate is also expected to end by February 28. – Rappler.com


Matobato on Lascañas' confession: 'Tuwang tuwa ako

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


Palace to UK envoy: 'True' sentiments of Filipinos outside gated villages

MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday, February 22, slammed British ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad for not undertanding the "true" sentiments of the "common Filipino" when he criticized the Duterte administration's war on drugs and support for the reimposition of the death penalty.
"With all due respect to the British Ambassador, Mr Asif Ahmad's remark that 'change has come in the Philippines but not in a good way' does not reflect the true sentiment of the common Filipino," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement on Wednesday.
Abella urged Ahmad to look beyond "gated villages" to understand the perspective of the majority of Filipinos who, he claimed, support the President's drug war.
"Confidence – both business and consumers – is high in the Duterte administration. One wishes diplomats were more familiar with life beyond the rarefied atmosphere of gated villages," said Abella.
On Monday, Ahmad, in an event with reporters in his home, described Duterte's drug war as "not successful" and the proposed revival of death penalty a "tragic reversal," according to a Philippine Star report.
Surveys have found that most Filipinos are satisfied with the drug war but want suspects to live. A December Social Weather Stations survey said 8 out of 10 Filipinos fear they will be victims of extrajudicial killings.
A Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated survey released in January showed a majority of Filipinos trust Duterte. – Rappler.com


Senator Leila de Lima arrested in the Philippines

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE: Duterte accused of paying police to kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scientists complete drilling task in South China Sea

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


Study identifies "late-life" genes only active in response to stress, aging

SAN FRANCISCO –A new study indicates that a subset of genes involved in daily circadian rhythms, or the "biological clock," only become active late in life or during periods of intense stress when they are most needed to help protect critical life functions.
The findings, made by researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) in a study on fruit flies and published Tuesday in Nature Communications, may help combat serious stresses associated with age, disease or environmental challenges, and help explain why aging is often accelerated when the biological clock is disrupted.
As part of a stress response mechanism that was previously unknown and its rhythmic activity late in life was not understood, this group of genes were named "late-life cyclers," or LLCs, by former OSU graduate student and lead author of the study, Rachael Kuintzle. At least 25 such genes become rhythmic with age, and the function of some of them remains unclear.
Circadian rhythms, which are natural to an organism but synchronized by the light/dark cycle of a 24-hour day, are so important to life that the same genes controlling biological processes have been traced from fruit flies to humans, retained through millions of years of evolution. These genes are found throughout the nervous system and peripheral organs, and affect everything from sleep to stress reaction, feeding patterns, DNA repair, fertility and even the effectiveness of medications.
People with routine disruptions of their circadian rhythms and sleep patterns have been found to have a shorter lifespan and be more prone to cancer.
About the LLCs, Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor in the OSU College of Science, co-senior author on the study and international expert on the mechanisms and function of the biological clock, noted that "this class of LLC genes appear to become active and respond to some of the stresses most common in aging, such as cellular and molecular damage, oxidative stress, or even some disease states."
"Aging is associated with neural degeneration, loss of memory and other problems, which are exacerbated if clock function is experimentally disrupted," Giebultowicz was quoted as saying in a news release from OSU. "The LLC genes are part of the natural response to that, and do what they can to help protect the nervous system."
The increased, rhythmic expression of these genes during times of stress, the researchers believe, are another example of just how biologically important circadian rhythms are, as they help to regulate the activity of hundreds of genes essential to the processes of life. And as aging brings with it a host of new problems, the LLC genes become more and more active.
"Discovery of LLC genes may provide a missing link, the answer to why the disruption of circadian clocks accelerates aging symptoms," said David Hendrix, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Science and College of Engineering, and co-senior author on the study, who explained that some LLC genes are known to play roles in sequestering improperly "folded" proteins or helping them refold. And this could help prevent formation of protein aggregates that can lead to age-related neurodegeneration.
In addition, the study shows that intense stress at any point in life can cause some of the LLC genes to spring into action.
"In experiments where we created artificial oxidative stress in young fruit flies, the LLC genes were rhythmically activated," said Eileen Chow, an OSU faculty research assistant and co-author.
"Some of these same genes are known to be more active in people who have cancer. They appear to be a double-edged sword, necessary during times of stress but possibly harmful if activated all the time," Chow said. (PNA/Xinhua)
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