Duterte repeals Gloria Arroyo EO on military procurement

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte has repealed former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's executive order that meant to streamline defense contracts.
Duterte signed on April 7 Executive Order No. 18, noting that EO No. 235 Arroyo signed in 2003 limited the authority of the Department of National Defense (DND) secretary to delegate the approval of procurement contracts and establish a single Bids and Awards Committee for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
"It has been observed that the implementation of EO No. 235 resulted in bureaucratic impediments and unnecessary delays in the procurement of important defense projects," the EO stated.
"The Secretary of Defense is hereby mandated to identify and institutionalize measures that will effectively monitor the operations of the separate Bids and Awards Committee which may be created pursuant to RA No. 9184 to ensure and promote transparency, impartiality, and accountability in procurement transactions," it also read
Nonetheless, all defense procurement contracts, including those presently being processed and/or reviewed, will be reviewed and/or processed in accordance with Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and EO No. 423 (s. 2005) as amended by EO No. 645 (s. 2007). — GMA News

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ASEAN Summit in Manila to tackle West PH Sea

MANILA – The upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Manila will tackle the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute among other issues, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday, April 19.
In his first press conference, new DFA spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said: "The leaders will be discussing regional and global issues of concern. We expect that the South China Sea will be among the topics discussed, among others – North Korea, for instance, terrorism, countering violent terrorism."
Whether Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte "will be the only one initiating" the discussion on the sea dispute "remains to be seen," said Bolivar, a veteran diplomat who replaced now Ambassador-designate to Malaysia Charles Jose as DFA spokesman.
The 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings will be held in Manila from April 26 to 29 this year.
Duterte will lead the summit as the Philippines this year chairs the 10-member regional grouping.
In relation to the sea dispute, one of the Philippines' main objectives is to lead ASEAN in crafting a framework code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.
The Philippines aims to finalize the framework COC by the middle of this year.
Bolivar explained that ASEAN has held two working group meetings on the framework COC – first in Bali, then in Siem Reap.
He said there will be no such "formal" working group discussions in Manila on the sidelines of the 30th ASEAN Summit.
Still, Bolivar said in a text message, "The progress on the discussions on the framework may be discussed if any of the leaders bring it up."
'The best of the Philippines'
In Wednesday's press conference, Bolivar also explained the significance of the upcoming ASEAN Summit.
"Ito 'yung pagkakataon natin na ipakita 'yung pinakamaganda tungkol sa bansa natin, to show the best of the Philippines," the DFA spokesman said. (This is our chance to show the most beautiful things about the Philippines.)
Bolivar also said that chairing ASEAN has an "income generation aspect" in towns, cities, and provinces because around 150 international meetings will be held across the Philippines.
"Minarapat ng national organizing council na ikalat 'yung mga meetings kung saan saang bahagi ng bansa para buong bansa, ma-showcase natin during our chairmanship," he said.
(The National Organizing Council found it best to spread the meetings in different parts of the country so that we can showcase the whole country during our chairmanship.)
During the Philippines' chairmanship, another major event will be the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in May.
Bolivar said Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo will fly to Washington DC in May for the ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
The DFA is eyeing a bilateral meeting between Manalo and Tillerson on the sidelines of the ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Bolivar said.
The Philippines received the ASEAN chairmanship from Laos, the host of the ASEAN Summit in 2016.
Under the Philippines' chairmanship, ASEAN is also marking its 50th anniversary.– Rappler.com

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NPA releases 2 soldiers held captive for 2 months

MANILA – It was happy reunion with their wives after over two months in captivity.
Sergeant Solaiman Calocop and Private First Class Samuel Garay, the two soldiers that communist rebels abducted in Sultan Kudarat, were released Wednesday morning, April 19.
Jessa Mae Garay is 6 months pregnanat but she still joined Normalia Calocop and the local officials who served as 3rd party facilitators in the release.
The Mt. Alip Command of the New People's Army released the two soldiers at 9 am on Wednesday in Davao Del Sur. They were brought to Camp Panacan in Davao City for medical check-up.
It's a fulfillment of one of the commitments made to the government by the National Democratic Front (NDF), which is representing the communist rebels in peace talks with the Duterte administration.
Army 10th Infantry Division Commander Major General Rafael Valencia said the soldiers were turned over to former Davao Del Sur Representative Mark Cagas who met with the communist rebels with a number of local officials.
"We are glad that the CPP/NPA rectified the treacherous and insincere act that they made last February 2 of abducting the two soldiers while there was ceasefire and there was ongoing peace talks with the government," Valencia said.
The communist rebels were also protesting back then the alleged ceasefire abuses committed by the military, which prompted the NPA to withdraw its ceasefire.
The release of the soldiers was delayed because the military refused to declare a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO), a request made by the rebels to guarantee the safety of the captives, the rebels, and the third party facilitators.
Valencia maintained the soldiers were taken when there was a ceasefire in place and there were no military operations. He said there's no reason to declare SOMO for their release because the rebels can just abandon the soldiers anywhere.
"Ang position namin dyan, kung gusto nila iwanan na lang nila kahit saan ang 2 sundalo. Unang-una, naka-civilian 'yan. Unarmed 'yan nung kinuha nila. Sabi ko nga, if they are responsible and sincere partner sa peace talks, dapat noon pa nila pinakawalan 'yan dahil kinuha nila yan nung ceasefire at may peace talks pa e," said Valencia.
(Our position is, if they want they can leave the two soldiers somewhere. In the first place, they were wearing civilian clothes and were unarmed when they were taken. As I've said, if they are a responsible and sincere partner in the peace talks, they should have released them a long time ago because they were taken when we still had a ceasefire and there was peace talks.)
President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the peace talks after the NPA withdrew its ceasefire, but he changed his mind and the camps agreed to reopen negotiations 6 weeks later.
Clashes between the military and the NPA continue, however, despite the reopening of the talks.
The two camps met for the 4th round of formal talks in early April where they agreed to forge an interim joint ceasefire. This could be in place towards the end of the year at the latest if talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) proceed as scheduled. – Rappler.com

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NEDA warns of rice shortage if importation is deferred

MANILA -- The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) warned of a possible rice shortage if importation of the commodity is deferred until harvest season is over.

NEDA Secretary General Ernesto Pernia contradicted the position of the Department of Agriculture stopping rice imports while Filipinos farmers are still harvesting, a report by Jam Sisante on Balitanghali said on Wednesday, April 19.

"We don't have the capacity to produce enough rice. We are not really a rice-producing country. Inflation will strike," Pernia said.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said deferring rice importations for now would not stoke inflation.

"Ang sinasabi lang namin ay idefer muna dahil sasabay sa harvest," he said.

"How can a temporary deferment of importation cause inflation? Paano?" he added.

Should there be excess harvest, the price they sell it at would be too low, which means lower income for the farmers.

A group of economists are also concerned, saying rice prices will increase.

"Peligroso 'yan, sapagkat, una, baka magkamali sila o kaya ma-delay. Lalo na government' yan, may bureaucratic procedure,” said Calixto Chikiamco, president of the Foundation for Economic Reform.

The group wants to put an end to the National Food Authority monopoly on rice imports and for the private sector be able to buy the commodity from overseas. — GMA News

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P1M reward for suspects behind foiled Bohol attack

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to give P1 million as reward for the apprehension, "dead or alive", of each Abu Sayyaf member behind the foiled terror attack in Bohol.
"I have a P1-million offer, per person. Even just a tip, give it to the police and military, no questions asked," he said on Wednesday, April 19, during a chance interview in Tagbilaran, Bohol.
He was there to attend a security briefing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. Some ASEAN 2017 events will be held in Bohol this week.
"Dead or alive man 'yan, may reward, pero mas gusto ko 'yung dead kasi 'yung alive, magpakain pa ako ma'am, magastos masyado," said the President.
(Dead or alive there will be a reward, but I prefer dead because you'd have to feed the living, it's more costly.)
He said 6 Abu Sayyaf members are thought to have escaped during a clash between government forces and their group on April 11.
Military and police, with the help of locals, were able to foil a terror attack by the group.
Duterte said the terror attack was targeting ASEAN meetings to be held in Bohol this month.
Arming civilians
The President also intends to empower civilians to carry arms so they can effectively carry out his orders against the terrorists. If they end up facing legal cases for having killed someone, Duterte said he would pardon them. It's the same promise he gave to military and police who will face cases as they implement his drug war.
"I intend to also arm the civilians and I will include the civilians, if you kill, you do not have to worry, you just go to the police and make a report and state your truth and you won't have any problem, I'll take care of you. I'll pardon you," he said.
But he said he still has to consult local government officials who may have issues with such an order.
"I have to talk to local officials, they might have some objections," he added.
Contain terror threat
During the security briefing, Duterte gave orders to security forces to contain the terror threat in Mindanao.
"They must not reach the places well beyond the Mindanao Sea, dapat doon lang sila (they should just stay there)," he said.
The foiled terror attack in Bohol has sparked concern about Abu Sayyaf presence in regions outside Mindanao.
Duterte expressed confidence with the capability of cops and soldiers to monitor the movements of terrorists using a satellite-based tagging system.
If the terror threat spins out of control, he warned that he would not hesitate to take his "last option": to invade the terrorist-infested areas of Jolo, Sulu. -- Rappler

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Complaint filed vs. ERC chair over civil service violations

MANILA -- Commissioners from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Wednesday, April 19, filed a complaint against the agency's chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Jose Vicente Salazar for allegedly violating existing laws and rules on civil service.
In their complaint-affidavit filed with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana accused Salazar of violating Republic Act 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), RA 9485, or the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA), CSC Memorandum Circular No. 6 series of 2005, as well as other pertinent civil service rules and regulations.
A report on 24 Oras said Salazar has yet to issue a statement regarding the complaint.
In their complaint, the commissioners alleged that Salazar solely exercised the power to appoint, designate and reappoint several ERC officials, including executive director Atty. Neil Simon Silva, without the authority from the Commission in violation of the EPIRA.
EPIRA states that it is the Commission that has power to appoint the executive director and the members of the technical staff.
"The EPIRA did not exclusively bestow on the Chairman of the ERC the power to appoint the Executive Director and the members of the technical staff. Thus, the power to appoint them is still lodged with the Commission," the complaint read.
The commissioners also argued that Salazar violated the ARTA when he designated Ronaldo Gomez as OIC Executive Director in the alleged absence of Silva.
The implementing rules and regulations of the ARTA issued by the CSC states that when the regular signatory for a transaction under "frontline services" is absent and there are two or more officials next to him or her to sign, "the appropriate office order shall prescribe the order of priority among the officials next in rank within the same organizational unit."
Salazar also allegedly violated the CSC Memorandum Circular No. 6 series of 2005 when he designated Gomez as OIC Executive Director and Esteban Lorenzo Jose Riva, his head executive assistant and first cousin, as OIC of the Administrative Division of the Financial and Administrative Service (FAS).
The memorandum states that "employees to be designated should hold permanent appointments to career positions."
The commissioners argued that Gomez was vaguely appointed to his position through Salazar's Office Order No. 60 series of 2017.
They argued that the order did not provide a reason for the inability of the permanent holder to discharge his functions. There was also supposedly no specific period when the designation would take effect.
Meanwhile, Riva's position as head executive assistant was confidential and co-terminus, making him ineligible for a permanent position, the commissioners claimed.
Preventive suspension
With these alleged violations, the commissioners asked the CSC to preventively suspend Salazar from his position.
"As can be gleaned from the foregoing, the charges against Chairman Salazar clearly involves dishonesty, oppression and grave misconduct," the commissioners said.
They also said Salazar has the tendency to tamper with evidence against him --- a possibility that the preventive suspension seeks to avoid.
The commissioners said Salazar designated OIC Executive Director Gomez as OIC CEO in his absence.
This, even though Malacañang had designated Commissioner Sta. Ana as OIC CEO, as Salazar recommended himself.
But Salazar's order in which Sta. Ana's designation is stated is not found in the ERC docket, the commissioners said.
"[T]his clearly shows that Salazar has the tendency to manufacture or conceal evidence in his favor. As such, he should be temporarily removed from office while the complaint is pending to prevent him from further tampering with evidence that might be used against him," they added.
Before this, Salazar was embroiled in the allegedly anomalous transactions within the ERC which were revealed in one of the suicide notes of the late ERC director Francisco Jose Villa Jr.
The NBI earlier this month asked the Office of the Ombudsman to launch a probe against Salazar and three others over an allegedly anomalous audiovisual presentation (AVP) project, saying that they violated Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65 of the Government Procurement Reform Act. — GMA News

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11th Ambassadors’ Tour launched in San Francisco

After a year of absence, the Department of Tourism (DOT) flagship project Ambassadors,Consul-Generals, and Tourism Directors’ Tour (ACGTDT) for this year was launched by the Philippine San Francisco Consulate.
Led by theDepartment of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the DOT’s Tourism PromotionsBoard and Rajah Tours, the 11th Ambassadors’ Tour will take place in thePhilippines on 11-16 July 2017 with the itinerary combining the best of MetropolitanManila up North and the sprawling city of Davao in the South into one adventure-packed and enriching vacation experience.
Participants in the four-day stay in Davao, the King City of the South and current seat of power in the Philippines will be presented with an opportunity to experienceDavao up-close and revel in Davao’s picturesque landscapes through its nature parks, agricultural farms, and resorts, experience the diversity of its people through a series of courtesy calls with Philippine government officials, and feel the harmony of its culture through its heritage and cultural museums.
The tour also seeks to provide its participants with enough experience to engage the irrespective communities and leverage goodwill towards Filipinos and generate interest in the Philippines as a new, safer, more beautiful Philippines,.
Delegates who will be part of the program become “Filipino ambassadors” in their own right,carrying a fresh perspective and the message of a new and improved Philippines when they go back to the United States well-capable of showcasing the strides made in tourism, economic development, and public safety in the Philippines to the larger international community.
In an interview, Philippine San Francisco Consul-General Henry Bensurto Jr. shared that they want this ambassadors’ tour to have a meaning of pure enjoyment with emphasis to the reconnecting, empowerment, and sparking of the Filipino culture and heritage.
“We are using this as a platform to allow Filipinos to spark the Filipino spirit by experiencing actually what it is to be in the Philippines to feel the culture right in Manila and Davao. We are shifting demographics in this year’sAmbassadors Tour to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation as their growth is surpassing the number of 1st generationFilipino-Americans. It is very important that we do something to connect to these generations primarily through immersion,” added Bensurto.
Bensurto explained that the shift in demographics also was done to avoid losing generations ofFilipinos who won’t consider themselves Filipinos or not even aware of where they come from simply because they were not expose to the culture.
“This is along-term strategic thinking because the demographic shows that the rate of growth of the 3rd and 4th generation ofFilipino-Americans is now higher than the growth of migration from thePhilippines. And this is going to be aggravated we assume and presume in the next five years if the immigration policy here is the U.S. is restricted when there could be a slowdown in terms of migration of first generation, who are inturn through the natural process of aging, will diminish in number,” added Bensurto..
Philippine TourismDirector in San Francisco Pura Molintas disclosed that they were not able to hold the event last year because it was election year.
“We were preparing for and assisting in the overseas absentee voting here in the U.S. just the same, I am very excited to have this back again this year making us aggressive in promoting this one,” Molintas shared. “There was no momentum lost when we skipped last year because it was just like a break.” .
Husband and wife Arthur and Rose Ozoa the first participants from San Francisco were the first to sign up for the tour.
“I am fromDavao and was the past president of Davaoeños in California the tour in 2012was good. It was well worth the price. We expect to be given first-class accommodation in the hotels we will checking-in for this coming trip,” Arthur revealed..
Rose imparted that they joined the 2012 tour and, “I liked it so much. It was nice the places we went to that year. Since we are from Davao, we also want to do our share in promoting Davao too.” To entice Filipino Americans in the U.S. andFilipino-Canadians in Canada to deepen their appreciation of beauty of our country, its rich history, heritage and culture
The 11thAmbassadors’ Tour has all-in round-trip and land package starting price fromSan Francisco airport at US$1,738 per passenger while the land-only package starts at US$790 per passenger.
The Ambassadors,Consul-Generals, and Tourism Directors’ Tour was conceptualized in 2004 by allForeign Service Posts in the U.S. and Canada and the Department of Tourism as a flagship project that was formally launched in 2005 with more than 500 participants.
The project aims to attract not only Fil-Ams and foreign tourists to see and visit the various destinations in the Philippines and discover the beauty of the islands,its white sand beaches, nature’s eco-tourism, adventure sites like scuba diving, mountain climbing, trekking, and have the opportunity to experience the warm hospitality of the Filipino people, promote to the travelers and tourists that the Philippines is a safe place to travel, entice Fil-Ams and foreigners to invest in the Philippines particularly in tourism projects, real estate and other tourism related industries, and to promote medical tourism as well as health and wellness programs which the Department of Tourism jointly undertake with the private sector, among others.

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PNP behind most killings in Duterte's drug war, police insiders claim

The Philippine police have received cash payments for executing drug suspects, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes, said two senior officers who are critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs."
In the most detailed insider accounts yet of the drug war's secret mechanics, the two senior officials challenged the government's explanations of the killings in interviews with Reuters.
Almost 9,000 people, many small-time users and dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30. Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence during legitimate anti-drug operations. Human rights monitors believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins operating with police backing or by police disguised as vigilantes - a charge the police deny.
The two senior officers, one a retired police intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander, claimed the killings are in fact orchestrated by the police, including most of those carried out by vigilantes. They spoke with Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
"It is the Philippine National Police doing it," said the retired intelligence officer. "This killing machine must be buried six feet under the ground." He said he was angry about the impact of the killings on police discipline and wanted "to put Duterte on the defensive." Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.
The president's office and the Philippine police did not respond to questions from Reuters.
'Only the poor are dying'
The intelligence officer has authored an unpublished 26-page report on the conduct of the drug war in an effort to organize opposition to Duterte's campaign. The report, titled "The State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines," provides granular detail on the campaign's alleged methods, masterminds and perpetrators. The document has been shared with leaders of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and with the government-funded Commission on Human Rights.
Some of the report's accusations against individuals could not be confirmed by Reuters; the news agency is therefore not publishing the full document. Many of its findings, however, support and expand upon previous investigations of the drug war by Reuters and independent human rights monitors.

The report claims that police are paid to kill not just drug suspects, but also - for 10,000 pesos ($200) a head - rapists, pickpockets, swindlers, gang members, alcoholics and other "troublemakers."
It also claims that civilian members of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which rights activists allege killed hundreds of people in Duterte's hometown of Davao, were drafted to "augment and assist" the police's current nationwide anti-drug operation.
The report doesn't provide documentary evidence for its accusations, which the intelligence officer said were based on accounts from 17 serving or former policemen, including the commander Reuters interviewed. The police commander said he agreed to talk because he was upset that authorities are targeting only petty drug suspects. "Why aren't they killing the suppliers?" he asked. "Only the poor are dying."
The second half of the report is largely political in nature, asserting that Duterte has close ties to Communist forces in the Philippines. Many in the military and police are concerned by what they see as Duterte's leftist sympathies. Since taking office, the president has released Communist rebels from prison to restart peace talks.
The report also calls the drug war a "social cleansing" campaign similar to that launched in Mao Zedong's China, with Duterte aiming to have drug addicts "physically eliminated."
New leads
The Commission on Human Rights has reviewed the report and the accounts could open up new leads in ongoing investigations, said chairman Chito Gascon. Church officials confirmed receiving the report as well.
"We should do all we can to follow any lead that could ultimately shed light on these killings with the view to ultimately holding the perpetrators to account," said Gascon.
The fresh claims come amid growing criticism of the drug war. In February, the country's influential Catholic Church called it a "reign of terror." The campaign has also sparked street protests and lawsuits.
Duterte's police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, halted police operations for most of February after it emerged that an anti-drug unit had kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman last year. The killings continued but at a slower pace. On March 6, Dela Rosa announced that the police were resuming their drug operations.
In March, a former policeman, Arturo Lascanas, testified in the Philippine Senate about his role in vigilante-style killings in the southern city of Davao, where Duterte was once mayor. Lascanas was the second Senate witness to link Duterte to the Davao Death Squad. Duterte denies ordering any killings, either as president or mayor.
In a subsequent interview, Lascanas told Reuters that for over a decade he was paid for carrying out the liquidation of drug suspects and criminals. In the early 1990s, he said, he was paid 3,000 to 5,000 pesos ($60-$100) for each of the "jobs" he performed. By the early 2000s he was earning tens of thousands of pesos for each operation, he said. Lascanas said he had no documentary proof of the payments. He has since left the country.
Unplugging cameras
In the past nine months, police acknowledge having shot dead more than 2,600 suspects during their operations. They say such shootings occur after suspects open fire on undercover officers trying to catch them dealing drugs.
But these so-called "buy-busts" are actually well-planned executions, said the commander interviewed by Reuters. The commander said targets are chosen from lists of suspects drawn up by police and local officials, who later coordinate to unplug security cameras in the neighbourhood where a killing is planned. According to the report, street lamps are also switched off.
"There is no such thing as a legitimate buy-bust," the commander said. "The dealers know the cops and won't sell to them."
Instead, he said, a team of police operatives will execute the target, who is almost always unarmed, then plant guns and drugs at the crime scene to justify the use of deadly force.
"We have to plant evidence for the legality of the operation," the commander said. "We are ordered to do these operations, so we have to protect ourselves."
The commander said officers put the gun in the dead suspect's hand and pull the trigger with the victim's finger so forensic testing will show that the suspect fired a gun.
Late last year, he said, police crime-scene investigators told their fellow officers to place the guns at a slight distance from the suspects, rather than in their hands, to make things look more realistic.
Most drug suspects in his precinct are shot by rookie cops who are either eager for the experience or nominated by their superiors, the commander said. The superiors refer to this as a "baptism by fire."
Each member of the team is quickly paid according to two factors, said the commander: his role in the killing and the target's value.
Cash rewards
According to the report, the cash "reward scales" for drug killings range from 20,000 pesos ($400) for a "street level pusher and user," to 50,000 pesos for a member of a neighborhood council, one million pesos for "distributors, retailers and wholesalers," and five million for "drug lords."
Police officers kill for money, said the commander, but also out of fear: Even the police are afraid of being included on a "watch list" of drug suspects drawn up by police and local officials.
Officials have been killed for not cooperating, he added. He said he was aware of two cases but did not provide details on exactly what happened.
Reuters reported last year that the watch lists were effectively hit lists, with many of those named ending up dead. Another Reuters investigation showed that police officers were killing 97 percent of the suspects they confront in violent buy-bust operations, the strongest evidence yet that the police were summarily executing suspects.
Officers also cooperate because they know the police force's flawed disciplinary system, which fails to adequately investigate even a fraction of the killings, means there is little chance they will get caught, said the intelligence officer.
One sign of the drug war's success, says the government, is that more than a million users and pushers have voluntarily registered with the police, a process known as "surrendering."
But the commander said police are given a quota of "surrenderers," and fill it by using city ordinances to arrest men who are drunk or shirtless - a misdemeanor known as "half-naked" - then forcing them to register as drug suspects.
Reuters learned of the intelligence officer's 26-page report from him and interviewed two Catholic priests in Manila who said they had encouraged him to compile it. One of the priests said he edited the report; the other said he helped distribute it among a small group of clerics and human rights activists. Both are helping organize opposition to Duterte's drug campaign.
The Church's initial reluctance to criticize Duterte's drug war was prompted by a desire to "give him a chance" when he took office, said one of the priests. But the killings, along with the president's overtures to Communists, made many in the Church feel their values were under attack, he said.
The intelligence officer said he hoped the report would be used as evidence at the International Criminal Court. In October, the Hague-based tribunal said it could prosecute suspects if the killings were "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population." By MANUEL MOGATO and CLAIRE BALDWIN, Reuters

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UP to offer honorary degree to Duterte

MANILA – The University of the Philippines (UP) is set to offer President Rodrigo Duterte an honorary degree, which it traditionally gives to the nation’s head of state.
In a report, the Philippine Star quoted a text message from UP Board of Regents (BOR) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan that UP will confer an honorary degree or honoris causa on Duterte, “in keeping with tradition.”
Duterte has yet to accept the offer, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chief said.
This was seconded by UP Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Dalisay Jr., who told ABS-CBN News, “to the best of my knowledge, no official communication has been sent to the Palace from the Office of the President of UP about a possible conferment.”
In a memorandum issued early in April, the Office of the UP Secretary cited among matters approved by the BOR, the conferment of Doctor of Laws degrees.
The motion was made by Senator Regent Francis Escudero, and was seconded by Regents Frederick Mikhail “Spocky” Farolan and Angelo Jimenez, both Duterte appointees.
The BOR will not announce the degrees until the conferees accept the honor, the memorandum says.
Dalisay said that there is no given length of time as far as the process is concerned, but an official memorandum will be released only after the honoree accepts in principle.
“Right now, everything in conjecture,” he said.
Dalisay also said that there might be more than one recipient of the honorary degrees, according to the BOR decision.
According to Dalisay, UP has conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on most Presidents of the Republic of the Philippines:
1. Manuel L. Quezon (March 16, 1929);
2. Sergio Osmeña (March 25, 1930);
3. Manuel A. Roxas (April 13, 1948);
4. Elpidio Quirino (Feb. 12, 1949);
5. Emilio Aguinaldo (June 12, 1953);
6. Ramon Magsaysay (April 5, 1955);
7. Carlos P. Garcia (April 7, 1959);
8. Diosdado Macapagal (May 30, 1965);
9. Ferdinand Marcos (May 22, 1966);
10. Jose P. Laurel Sr. (April 20, 1969—posthumous);
11. Corazon Aquino (April 20, 1986);
12. Fidel V. Ramos (April 24, 1993); and
13. Benigno Aquino III (April 17, 2011).
Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were also offered honorary degrees, but Dalisay said they could find no record of their official replies, if any, regarding the conferment.
Public administration professor and former UP Vice President for Public Affairs Edna Co, meanwhile, said that it is likely that Duterte was suggested for a UP honoris causa, but if he was offered the degree, he has yet to accept it.
As of this writing, Malacanang has remained mum on the matter.
ABS-CBN News got in touch with UP BOR Co-chairperson Danilo Concepcion and Escudero, but both have yet to comment on the issue as of this writing.

Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBN News

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De Lima seeks punishment for child exploitation

MANILA, Philippines - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima is pushing for the immediate passage of the bill seeking to impose stiffer penalties on those who involve children in their criminal activities.

De Lima sought the passage of Senate Bill 195 or the proposed “Act Defining Criminal Exploitation of Children and Increasing Penalties for All Crimes Involving Them,” which she filed before she was detained last February.

“Children are made victims when criminals – in any capacity or extent – involve them in the commission of offenses. As such, this bill seeks to provide stiffer penalties to include imprisonment for individuals who engage, promote, facilitate or induce a child in unlawful activities,” the senator said.

She said minors should be guided, not jailed, as they do not possess the same level of discernment that adults have.

De Lima said minors are “vulnerable to influences that place their lives and future at risk.”

De Lima also considered imprisonment of children as a violation of their human right to development.

She cited Article 15, Section 1 of the Constitution that states children have the right to special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to their development.

Earlier, other senators opposed proposals to lower the age of criminal liability as pushed by President Duterte, saying it will not rehabilitate youth offenders.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said putting up centers for juvenile offenders has “very good results in reforming the kids” based on his experience in Valenzuela City.

“Almost 70 percent of the kids there were reformed and were brought back to their families. I think we should give the JJW (Juvenile Justice Welfare) Act a chance. It should be fully implemented,” Gatchalian said.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, an ally of Duterte, also rejected the proposal, especially if the lower limit would be nine years old.

“My daughter is nine years old, they’re innocent at that age,” Zubiri said.

He said he might agree if the lowest age of criminal liability will be at 12 or 13 years old.

Sen. Grace Poe warned the senators that the proposal, if approved along with the re-imposition of the death penalty, would only promote a cruel society.

“What kind of society are we creating if we are going to cruelly punish a child, who does not have a clear understanding of the situation,” Poe said.

She said it was not true that minors today mature early because of social media. She said even if children imitate adults based on what they see in social media, the solution is for parents and guardians to be more vigilant and protective of their wards.

Poe said stiffer penalties should also be imposed on irresponsible parents.

By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star)

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