Alvarez sees continued martial law in Mindanao but opposers vow to block extension

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon
Photo: File photos of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (from Philstar) and Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus (from her Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines — Allies of President Rodrigo Duterte at the House of Representatives vowed to support the extension of martial law in Mindanao, but lawmakers opposed to it said it won’t easily breeze through.

“Sa tingin ko, tuloy-tuloy lang ito, seriously kasi nakita naman natin in all surveys talagang pabor iyong taumbayan doon sa declaration ng martial law sa Mindanao. Ibig sabihin, na-appreciate nila kung gaano kabigat ‘yong problema,” Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

[I think this will just continue, seriously because we saw in all the surveys that Filipinos really support the imposition of martial law in Mindanao. This means that they appreciate the magnitude of the problem.]

While supportive of the extension, Alvarez said the President’s request for military rule in Southern Philippines to take effect until the end of the year would have to be discussed by the congressmen and senators in an executive session.

To address the crisis in Marawi City, the chief executive declared a 60-day martial law in Mindanao that started last May 23 and will expire midnight of July 22.

Congress will convene in a special session on July 22, at 9 a.m. to tackle Duterte’s request. The session was scheduled on Saturday because Congress is on break, and will convene only on July 24 for the opening of the second regular session and the State of the Nation Address of the President.

Davao Rep. Carlo Nograles said that “if on Saturday, the President will present to us the urgent need to extend martial law for another 60 days in Mindanao, I believe my colleagues and I will grant it.”

“Up to this point, the declaration of martial law has allowed government to surgically operate against the rebel terrorist groups and led to the capture of ranking rebel terrorist leaders in Davao and Lanao, among others,” he added.

But during a news conference on Tuesday, activist-lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc said they would oppose the extension.

Partylist representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan said martial law did more harm than good to the people of Marawi and the entire Mindanao.

They were hoping that the proceedings during Saturday’s special session would not be railroaded and lawmakers would be given the chance to air their views.

De Jesus and Castro said all that could be seen nearly two months after Duterte’s martial law declaration was the collateral damage such as hundreds of displaced families, who were further impoverished by the war between government troops and extremists from the Abu Sayyaf and Maute groups.

“Ang tanong: Ano ang napala ng mamamayan ng Marawi? Dapat ‘yan ang pamantayan, hindi iyong interes ng military [The question is: What good did this do for the people of Marawi? That should be the yardstick and not the interest of the military],” De Jesus said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said the extension should be justified.

“Has the AFP presented solid and concrete reasons why it needs five (more) months to annihilate Maute and IS-aligned terrorist in Marawi? Are both AFP and PNP saying that the terrorist threat has expanded beyond Lanao to include all of Mindanao and that 5 months of Martial Law is needed to control that threat?” Baguilat said.

Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said the extension was “a whimsical proposal that has no substantive grounds other than the President’s wishes.

“It seems they are not sure when to end martial law nor do they have clear outcomes. It is sending jitters to everyone who don’t want it extended or expanded,” he said.

ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto John Bertiz said he would like to hear the report of the military to get an assessment of the situation on the ground.

Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said there should be a basis for the extension being requested by the President.

“While we trust the judgment of the president and the military, we cannot also shirk from our constitutionally mandate to make a factual determination whether the grounds provided under the Constitution are still subsisting,” he said.

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Opposition lawmakers hit Duterte's 'whimsical' martial law request

But Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says Congress will probably grant the President's request to extend martial law, citing a survey that says majority of Filipinos support the original proclamation

Mara Cepeda
@maracepeda


Photo: 
REQUEST TO CONGRESS. President Rodrigo Duterte, shown here delivering a speech on July 4, 2017, wants Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2017. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition lawmakers questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte is asking Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of December.

In a statement on Tuesday, July 18, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin tagged the President's proposal as "whimsical."

"It's a whimsical proposal that has no substantive grounds other than the President's wishes. From verbalizing 60 days in a dinner with congressional leaders, now the President wants to make it 5 months," said Villarin.

"It seems they are [neither] sure when to end martial law nor do they have clear outcomes. It is sending jitters to everyone who [doesn't] want it extended or expanded," he added.

The President first told ranking members of the Senate and the House about his request to extend martial law in Mindanao by 60 days in a meeting on Monday evening, July 17.

The next day, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella read out the President's official letter to Congress, which is now requesting for an extension of martial law until December 31. Congress is set to convene jointly to discuss this on Saturday, July 22.

Duterte had declared martial law over the entire Mindanao through Proclamation No. 216, after government troops clashed with homegrown terrorists from the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group on May 23.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr said he still cannot understand Duterte's rationale for declaring martial law in Mindanao. He was among the petitioners who challenged Proclamation No. 216 before the Supreme Court, but the justices junked the petitions in a vote of 11-3-1.

"Has the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) presented solid and concrete reasons why it needs 5 months to annihilate Maute and [Islamic State]-aligned terrorists in Marawi? Are both AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) saying that the terrorist threat has expanded beyond Lanao to include all of Mindanao and that 5 months of martial law is needed to control that threat?" asked Baguilat.

"I still can't understand what extraordinary powers has ML added to the combative prowess of the AFP in fighting terrorism," he added.

Despite the opposition lawmakers' apprehensions, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez thinks Congress will be granting Duterte's request.

"Sa tingin ko ano, tuloy-tuloy lang ito. Seriously, kasi nakita naman natin ano, in all surveys, talagang pabor 'yung taong bayan do'n sa declaration ng martial law sa Mindanao. Ibig sabihin, na-appreciate nila kung gaano kabigat 'yung problema," said Alvarez in a radio interview.

(I think this will just continue. Seriously, because you can see in the surveys that the people agree with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. This means they appreciate how serious the problem is.)

He was referring to the latest Social Weather Stations survey showing that more than half of Filipinos support Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, but more than 6 out of 10 Filipinos oppose expanding military rule to the Visayas and Luzon.

Other House leaders earlier said lawmakers would likely grant an extension of martial law. – Rappler.com

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Mamasapano town earns COA praise for women-friendly programs

MANILA – The Commission on Audit (COA) commended the local government of Mamasapano, Maguindanao for completing programs and projects targeted for women.
"The management should be acknowledged for their effective utilization of their 5% Gender and Development Fund and be commended for the completion of its various programs which are beneficial to its constituents, particularly the women," read COA's 2016 audit report on the municipality, released on June 29.
State auditors praised the Mamasapano local government's implementation of its Gender and Development (GAD) programs and use of its 20% Economic Development Fund and Special Education Fund.
Mamasapano was able to allocate the full 5% of its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) or around P3.37 million, for its GAD Fund, as mandated by law.
The local government funded projects such as livelihood trainings, enrolled women in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), conducted anti-sexual harassment workshops, built a GAD training center, and even worked on sanitation issues.
COA also said the municipality used 20% of its IRA or around P12.505 million to fix 4 existing farm-to-market roads, desilt and dredge waterways, and repair a flood-control dike, among others.
The Special Education Fund – P165,000 – was used to repair public school buildings in the municipality.
State auditors said the Mamasapano local government managed to make "optimal use" of its limited resources through programs that made a big impact on residents.
The local government wants to focus on social development and environment management projects for 2017.
COA recommended that the local government include disaster, calamity, and crisis-preparedness programs for women in their locality for 2017. It also recommended that the Special Education Fund be used to improve school facilities and equipment, conduct education research, purchase books, and develop sports programs.
Mamasapano is infamous for being the site of a deadly clash between local armed groups and members of the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force (SAF) in 2015. SAF troopers were on a mission to neutralize wanted Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, who was hiding in a remote village in the town.
The botched operation claimed the lives of more than 60 Filipinos, including 44 SAF troopers as well as armed men and civilians. – Rappler.com

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Japanese teacher boosts livelihood capacities of SPED graduates in Bohol

MANILA – Life in Panglao, an island off the southwestern tip of Bohol province, has relatively been simple. But this has not stopped young people there from dreaming of achieving life’s endless possibilities.
Even persons with intellectual disabilities (PWIDs) are inspired to continue dreaming and go beyond stereotypes with the help of a Japanese-run home that caters to special education (SPED) learners.
Babita House is a two-storey dormitory located in the town of Dauis, a 4th income class municipality in Panglao Island.
Here, young PWIDs – those who encounter developmental limitations in terms of intellectual functioning or learning practical skills – learn math, reading, writing, sign language, and livelihood activities. The institution was set up by Japanese volunteer teacher Akiko Sugiyama.
She was sent to Bohol through the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Sugiyama completed her volunteer work in 2015 but she has since returned to the Central Visayas province to establish the center for graduates of SPED institutions there.
“This is my personal project. I really wanted to help young people with disabilities lead productive lives,” said Sugiyama.bohol japanese teacher 3 ED0F424C278F4B30B5162D528FBF274C
A teacher in Yokohama and Kyoto, Sugiyama was inspired by the PWD centers in Japan. She has adopted these models in Babita House to help PWDs in Bohol learn skills so they can become financially independent.
Among the crafts they teach SPED graduates is creating toy tricycles initally out of matchboxes. A cultural symbol, the tricycle is the most common form of transportation when going out of Panglao Island to the city center.
Now students there create the toy tricycles by assembling chipboards designed by a fabrication laboratory in the province where Shiro Takaki, another Japanese volunteer, works.
The toys are now sold as souvenir items and the proceeds are given to the students as their allowance. Some go to Babita House’s funds.
Organizations in Japan also send donations to the center every now and then. Sugiyama said they sometimes host study tours for Japanese visitors to help them learn more about PWDs and the support they need.
The Philippines is one of the signatories in the United Nations' 2015 Incheon Declaration that seeks to achieve inclusive and equitable education for all" by 2030. But the path to inclusion and zero discrimination for PWDs remain a struggle.
This is a challenge Sugiyama wants to continue working on as she stays in Bohol.
“Boholanos are kind people. Life here is slow, but for volunteers like me, it makes us happy to see that people with disabilities are able to enjoy life without discrimination," she said. – Rappler.com

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ARMM gov, imams hit proposed Muslim-only ID

MANILA – The governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Muslim leaders criticized the proposal to replicate in Central Luzon the reported Muslim-only ID system of Paniqui town in Tarlac.
In a statement on Saturday, July 9, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said his region "expresses alarm over reports" that the Paniqui local government is implementing a Muslim-only ID system.
"We believe this policy clearly discriminates against the believers of Islam and could set a dangerous precedent. It could also ignite anger among young Muslims who are the primary target for recruitment of extremist groups," Hataman said.
"If the requirement is security related, the ID system should be applied to every resident of the community, to every Filipino, not just Muslims," he added.
This comes as authorities in Central Luzon consider to replicate Paniqui's Muslim-only ID in the whole region, in the face of terror threats posed by the terrorist Islamic State and its local sympathizers such as the Maute Group.

In an interview with reporters on Friday, July 8, Imam Council of the Philippines president Ebra Moxsir also said the proposed Muslim-only ID is saddening.
Moxsir, 51, leads around 1,000 imams or Muslim clerics in the Imam Council of the Philippines, out of around 2,000 to 3,000 imams nationwide. He has also been a chaplain at the Philippine National Police for the past 21 years.
Speaking after the launch of the Pasa Lord interfaith prayer movement on Friday, Moxsir explained that their council supports an ID system if it will be implemented for all, not only for Muslims.
"Pero kung halimbawa ma-single out ang ating mga brother Muslim, nalulungkot po ang mga karamihan po (But if, for example, our brother Muslims will be singled out, majority would be sad)," he said.
"Bakit po ang mga Muslim lang? Ang mga Muslim ba, 'yun lang ang extremist (Why just the Muslims. Are only the Muslims the extremists?)" Moxsir asked.

Violation of human rights
Shariah lawyer Harun Ali, secretary general of the Imam Council of the Philippines, pointed out that the proposed Muslim-only ID "is actually a violation of human rights."
In an interview with Rappler on Friday, the 43-year-old lawyer explained that the proposal "is singling out the Muslims, because it means the Muslims are terrorists."
"If the government is only requiring Muslims to have an ID, that is unfair, unequal, an oppression, and contrary to the principle of equality and fairness. It should be imposed upon all Filipino people because we are one Filipino people and we should be united as one," Ali said.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV on Saturday also released a statement on the issue, pushing for a unified ID system through his proposed Filipino Identification System Act.
Aquino said an ID system should be used to promote safety and improve government services, not "to encourage discrimination."
"Singling Muslims out, giving them an ID and branding them as a potential threat will not make our communities safer. It will only sow animosity," Aquino said. – Rappler.com

Photo caption:
BAKIT MUSLIM LANg? Imam Ebra Moxir (center), chaplain of the Philippine National Police and president of the Imam Council of the Philippines says that the program must apply to all. Screenshot from Rappler.

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Duterte's EDSA traffic: Data say it's faster, drivers say nothing's changed

MANILA – In the 3 years that he's been driving a bus along EDSA, Sitro Jaime, 34, wakes up at 4 am every day and goes home at 1:00 am, if he's lucky.

Heavy traffic makes it impossible for him to get a snooze longer than 3 hours.

"Hindi kaya [pahabain ang tulog], masyadong malala ang traffic," he told Rappler. (I couldn't sleep longer, the traffic is too bad.)

"Wala naman [na pagbabago], parang lumala [pa] 'yung traffic," he said when asked how his day has changed ever since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office. (Nothing has changed, it seems like it even became worse.)

Duterte's campaign was anchored for large part on the metro ills that the Aquino administration wasn't able to address. Jaime, in fact, voted for him and remains a loyal supporter.

Jeyson Morgado, 63, has been driving along EDSA for 31 years. Like Jaime, he says nothing has changed for the past year.

"1986 pa ako sa EDSA, dati wala pa 'yang mga flyover, 'yang overpass. Ngayon meron na, ang sikip pa rin," Morgado said. (I have been driving along EDSA since 1986, before there were flyovers or overpasses. Now that they're here, traffic is still bad.)

Officials and numbers say otherwise, however.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Thomas Orbos says the traffic along EDSA has sped up.

“We have brought down travel distance to at least 14 minutes, even during peak hours, even during Christmas. We did that last year and we're going to improve it more this year,” he told Rappler.

MMDA's data support Orbos’ claim. The average travel time along EDSA in July 2016 was 1 hour, 26 minutes, and 22 seconds. The current average travel time for June 2017 is 1 hour, 8 minutes, and 47 seconds – a 17-minute difference.

MMDA computed the average travel time by recording the time it took to complete EDSA northbound (Roxas Boulevard to Monumento) and EDSA southbound (Monumento to Roxas Boulevard) during peak hours and off-peak hours then computing their average.

This is already an achievement, Orbos said, as the number of motor vehicles in Metro Manila has been increasing every year. In 2016 alone, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) saw an additional 87,918 vehicles to the 2,317,204 registered vehicles in 2015.

Urgency has come

If there’s one thing that made the minutes of difference under the Duterte administration possible, it’s the sense of urgency, Orbos said.

“Because they (other officials) saw the President [is] a man of action. His words are translated into actual action regardless of politics; regardless of any other considerations, he will do it. And I think that one is a clear signal that the same goes for us,” said Orbos, who was assistant general manager for planning at MMDA during the time of President Benigno Aquino III.

The previous administration, while pursuing efforts to fix the traffic mess, did not see the problem as a priority. Former Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya even downplayed the issue, tagging it as “not fatal,” then regretting the statement after.

After he assumed office, Duterte immediately sought Congress for emergency powers that would enable him to override public bidding for a period of two years for faster implementation of transportation projects. It would also allow him to re-organize the different transport agencies to streamline their coordination and install the transportation secretary as the traffic chief.

The bill at the Senate is awaiting the plan and assurance of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that the President would not abuse these powers. Its counterpart in the House of Representatives is up for second reading after being approved by the transportation committee.

Despite the delay in Congress, Duterte was able to establish the Inter-Agency Council on Traffic (i-Act), which consists of the DOTr, the Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the MMDA.

This cooperation of agencies, according to Orbos, was instrumental in changing the workflow in solving the traffic problem. Back then, Orbos said, transport agencies and local government units of the metro were operating kanya-kanya (on their own).

“Before, it was so difficult for MMDA to secure information from their counterparts in LTO and LTFRB,” Orbos said.

Now, Orbos says, they can easily access information from other agencies and they have formed emergency response teams. These are no longer just peopled with MMDA enforcers, but also volunteers from other transport agencies.

Orbos credits the political will of President Duterte for triggering cooperation from the local government units of the National Capital Region, which were not cooperative before, rendering traffic policies “inutil” (useless) as lawmaker Winnie Castelo described it.

“If you remember, we used to say each city is a kingdom: there’s the kingdom of Makati, to each his own. Now, the agreement to work together is there,” Orbos said.

Volume problem

Under Orbos's chairmanship – he held the post for 8 months before the President appointed Danny Lim – the MMDA targeted the reduction of traffic volume, given that EDSA brims with 7,000 cars at a time while its capacity is only 6,000.

Orbos established two major traffic policies: the closure of “window hours” for the number coding scheme, and the light truck ban.

Closing window hours meant extending the effectivity of the number coding scheme, which bans private vehicles on the basis of the last number of their registration plates. Before, coding was only enforced from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, leaving rush hours (6-10 am, 5-10 pm) open for all.

With the new policy, coding has been enforced from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

The light truck ban, in turn, led to the barring of some 3,000 light trucks from passing through Edsa southbound from 6 am to 10 am and Edsa northbound from 5 pm to 10 pm.

Aside from these two changes, Orbos engaged with public utility vehicle (PUV) operators, making sure that drivers only pick up passengers at designated stops, as drivers have a penchant for stopping wherever riders flock, blocking entire lanes in the process.

Lim, on the other hand, has been bringing change through his “back to basics” approach, which focuses on eradicating corruption of both MMDA personnel and motorists.

To cement the cooperation of the metro LGUs, the MMDA under Lim is backing two House bills that would allow MMDA to pass ordinances that become effective metro-wide, upon the approval of city councils.

Under Lim, the MMDA has announced it is considering expanding the coding scheme to double the number of private vehicles banned per day. The pitch has been met with criticism, and the MMDA later clarified it as an idea floated "to test the waters."

Minutes matter

For Orbos, the minutes of difference that a year made – which motorists supposedly have not felt – is still a standing difference.

“There are many problems, a lot of problems,” Orbos said. “But the thing is, the problem keeps on worsening. What you need to do is really look at each problem in its singularity, you deal with them one by one and try to solve it one step at a time. There’s no shortcut.”

Why is the progress not felt on the ground? According to MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago, it’s because the difference is just not “big enough yet” that people would feel it.

“You will not feel it, I must admit, it would be very hard to claim the success na gumagaan ang daloy ng trapiko (that the traffic has become lighter) because if we will interview the motorists one by one, eh wala silang sasabihin sayo kundi natatrapik sila (they will not say anything aside from they experienced traffic),” Pialago told Rappler.

“Merong hindi sasang-ayon, may hindi papabor, may hindi maniniwala, may tutuligsa ganon naman talaga (There will be those who will not agree, those who will not favor, those who will not believe, those who will say otherwise, but that’s how it is),” Pialago added.

Despite drivers not feeling the change that their data has shown, Pialago said that MMDA will only continue with what they are doing. “Hindi kami mapapagod (We will not give up),” Pialago said.

Before then, drivers like Jaime and Morgado, would have to continue waiting for the change, one minute at a time, until it is felt. – Rappler.com

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Social media drives volunteers to climb, clean PH mountains

By: Maricar Cinco - Correspondent / @maricarcincoINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Photo: Volunteers trek through the Buhisan watershed forest reserve in Cebu City in search of trash left by visitors. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — Over a thousand volunteer hikers collected close to a ton of garbage during a recent simultaneous mountain cleanup driven by an online event.

Mountaineering groups cleaned up at least 60 mountains across the country during the National Mountain Cleanup Day (NMCD) last week. This was the fourth event since medical anthropologist Gideon Lasco put out the idea on his blog, “Pinoy Mountaineer.”

The blog was created in 2007 as a trekking guide, but it eventually promoted ethical hiking and environmental protection.

Lasco, who became a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)- Philippines “influencer” (a person who has attracted a following in social media) in 2015, led a team of 20 up Mt. Makiling here on Sunday. With him were WWF celebrity ambassadors Iza Calzado and television host Rovilson Fernandez.

Juancho Misa, WWF’s digital and social media officer, said this could be a start of their group’s shift from cleaning up beaches and oceans to the mountains.

Wider reach
“The power of social media is that I don’t even have to organize (the climbs). All I do is set the date, make the (NMCD) logo and they do it, they (groups) organize their own hikes,” said Lasco, also a Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist.

Misa said combining the online reach of Pinoy Mountaineer, with 250,000 followers on Facebook, with WWF’s would allow them to “amplify” the campaign.

Aside from mountaineering groups, some local governments and Scouting organizations join the national cleanup day, which usually happens on a weekend after summer and before the onset of the rainy season.

Larger volumes of trash left on the mountains are expected during summer as it is the most preferred hiking season.
Pinoy Mountaineer encourages participating groups to fill out and submit a “trash data form,” which it submits to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Carlo Cunanan, who manages Pinoy Mountaineer’s Facebook page, on Monday said the biggest volume of trash collected this year came from the Magarwak and Masagana waterfalls in Palawan province.
‘Symbolic’

He said there were less participants from Visayas this year, following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit the region last week, while none from Mindanao joined because of security issues due to the conflict in Marawi City.

 

“This is symbolic (in a way that) we want to use the activity to raise awareness beyond the trash that we pick up. I guess, it’s getting people talking,” Lasco said.

He said with hiking and traveling becoming more affordable these days, the campaign promoted “responsible travel” and encouraged people to explore lesser-known destinations in the country.

“People are usually after the ‘Instagrammable’ mountains— those with sceneries (like) Mt. Pulag (in Benguet province) with like 500 people going up there every week,” Lasco said.

“Don’t just go to the ‘blockbusters,’” he said, noting the Philippines has a lot of different and unique experiences to offer.

 

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PET kicks off discussion on Marcos poll protest, Robredo counter-protest

By: Tetch Torres-Tupas - Reporter / @T2TupasINQINQUIRER.net 

Photo: Former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo. FILE PHOTOS

The Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) has started the ball rolling on the electoral protest of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and the counter-protest of Vice President Leni Robredo.

Eight Justices led by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno were present during the preliminary conference on Tuesday.

The camps of Marcos and Robredo faced each other for the first time as the PET discussed the issues to be resolved in the protest and counter-protest in a closed-door hearing.

 

Marcos, who was present during the preliminary conference, said he was pleased that the process on his protest has been moving.

“What is clear with the justices is that they are very interested in proceeding to the arguments and finally to the revision of the counting of votes. We are thankful that the justices are also interested on how to speed up the process so that our people will really know the real count of votes,” Marcos said at a press conference Tuesday.

Atty. George Erwin Garcia accused the Robredo camp of attempting to delay the process by raising issues that should have not been part of the case.

“Good thing the tribunal really wanted to open the ballot boxes because they really wanted to find out the truth,” Garcia said.

“The Tribunal is hell-bent in proceeding with the case…It’s good that the Tribunal disregarded the issues raised by the other parties,” he added.

Robredo’s camp, on the other hand, said the PET has not resolved yet pending motions filed by both camps.

Atty. Maria Bernadette Sardillo said some justices raised concerns on the feasibility and practicability of the Marcos’ bid for recount and revision of voting results.

“One of the justices said it would be logistically hard for the tribunal to conduct the recount,” Sardillo said.


The lawyer also cited the comment made by another justice that it might be hard to reexamine the results in the vice presidential contest without considering the implications on the results in other key positions given that the elections were automated.

She explained that the justice asked the Marcos camp if they are willing to accept the result of the automated election system because, quoting the high court justice, she said “one cannot surgically remove the result of the vice president on the result for other positions from President to councilor.”

According to Sardillo, the Marcos camp said they are willing to accept it.

Shen said their camp, however, is against reexamining only the result of the vice presidential post in the AES.

“There is only one certificate of canvass for President and Vice President. If you will tell us that you cannot trust that one COC, it means you are also doubting the result of the Presidential post and the position will become vacant,” she explained.

She also added that the justices wanted to limit the witness to three per contested clustered precinct.

After the preliminary conference attended by eight justices, the tribunal is expected to issue ruling on the pending motions of the parties.

Marcos filed the protest on June 29 last year, claiming that the camp of Robredo cheated in the automated polls in May also last year. He sought annulment of about a million votes cast in three provinces – Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Maguindanao.

In his protest, Marcos contested the poll results from 132,446 precincts in 39,221 clustered precincts covering 27 provinces and cities.

In his preliminary conference brief, Marcos also sought the recount in Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

Robredo filed her answer in August last year and also filed counter-protest and questioned the poll results from over 30,000 precincts in several provinces where Marcos won.

She also sought the dismissal of the protest for lack of merit and jurisdiction of PET.

But the tribunal, in a ruling earlier this year, junked Robredo’s plea and proceeded with the case after finding of sufficiency in form and substance in the protest.

Robredo won the vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes.

 

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2 senators buck 5-year extension of martial law

By: Julliane Love De Jesus - Reporter / @JLDejesusINQINQUIRER.net

Extending martial law in Mindanao up to five years will be a big blow to the tourism industry, as well as the economy of the country, said some senators.

This was in response to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s plan to push for the extension of martial rule in Mindanao until 2022.

“There’s no basis for extending it for five years because we want to get this over as fast as we can and we want to have a sense of normalcy in Mindanao and the whole country,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said in an ambush interview on Tuesday.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said a prolonged military rule in Mindanao would only shoo away potential investors.

“Martial law sends out a different connotation to other countries. Even though they say that marital law is different from the previous martial law, or martial law from the other countries, martial law is still martial law and serious investors will not come to Mindanao if they know martial law is being operated in that area,” he said.

“If you have a five-year martial law, potential investors will now hesitate and will think twice before going in Mindanao. Again, it sends the wrong signal to the business community,” he said.

Senator Nancy Binay also believes that the imposition of martial law for five more years will have a negative impact on the tourism industry.

Binay heads the Senate committee on tourism.

“Napakalaki ng kontribusyon ng turismo sa GNP (gross national product) natin. Talagang naapektuhan (ng martial law); maraming nagrereklamo ngayon,” Binay told reporters.

The senator she had heard stories of taxi drivers complaining about the decreasing number of tourists, thus affecting their business.

Binay said she plans to call for a hearing once the session resumes to tackle the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s alternative plans to address the problem while a martial law is in effect in Mindanao.

 

The senators will have a briefing with the security sector to discuss whether an extension of martial rule in Mindanao is needed to quell Maute terrorists in Marawi City.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel II said the security briefing might be scheduled within the week or any time before the 60-day martial law period lapses.

 

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AFP: Kids forced to fight with terrorists

By: Christine O. Avendaño - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer 

Photo: A Maute gunman is seen taking a nap while another fighter rests in between fighting in Marawi City in this undated photo taken from a smartphone of a a slain suspected Maute terrorist. The military released photographs of Maute militants in candid moments on July 9, 2017. (Photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Children, including those taken as hostages, are being forced to fight alongside Islamic State-inspired terrorists battling government forces for control of Marawi City, the military said on Monday.

The terrorists seized Marawi on May 23 in a bid to establish an enclave for the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Southeast Asia, and about 80-100 remained holed up in the city despite intense military efforts to oust them.

Teenagers
Some of the terrorists are teenagers who may have been recruited and trained to use guns when they were still children, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, told reporters in Malacañang.

 

“We continuously get disturbing narratives from [escaped residents] that children as well as hostages are being employed in the firefight,” Padilla said.

He said the military did not know exactly how many children had been taken by the terrorists as hostages.

Casualties among children and adult hostages forced to take up arms could not be ruled out, Padilla said.

“As disturbing as it is, our troops are doing their best to avoid any casualty among these children that are being employed,” he said.

“But in the event that they are armed and they bear arms and are involved in the fighting, there’s nothing much that we can do. Similarly with the hostages being forced [to fight],” he added.

Hostages
Shortly after seizing Marawi, the terrorists from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups took at least a dozen hostages, including a Catholic priest.

Some of the estimated 300 other civilians still trapped in the battle zone may have also been taken captive, Padilla said.

The military earlier said civilians had been forced to help the terrorists by carrying supplies and ammunition, bearing their wounded, helping them loot the city and fighting government forces.

Escaped hostages, the military said, reported that the terrorists executed at least six hostages for refusing to take up arms against the security forces.

Asked how the military would engage the child warriors, Padilla said soldiers, while allowed to take defensive action when their lives are at risk, would endeavor to rescue “a child or an individual who is being forced into the fight.”

“During engagements, if there are wounded and [we] see they are children, we help them right away. We are not in a rush to shoot a child who is running even if they are armed. If we could disable them, but we will not kill them,” he said.

More than 500 killed
More than 500 people have been killed in the fighting, including 379 terrorists, 89 soldiers and police, and 39 civilians, according to figures released by the government on Monday.

Most of Marawi’s more than 200,000 residents have fled their homes.

Daily airstrikes and artillery barrages against terrorist snipers who control tall buildings have left the city’s central business district a ghost town.

Padilla expressed hope that the fighting would soon be concluded.

“We continue to gain headway with our operations on the ground,” he said. —With a report from Agence France-Presse

 

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