Duterte to rely on AFP, PNP advice in deciding extension of ML in Mindanao

President Duterte rubs elbows with troops fighting terrorists in Marawi. He said he did not think soldiers had stolen civilians things during the siege, and had seen them use on occasion the amenities in house converted into hospitals or operations meeting rooms. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO DESK FILE
MANILA – President Duterte said Saturday he will lean heavily on the final recommendation of the Armed Forces and the National Police on the matter of extending martial law in Mindanao beyond Dec. 31, the new deadline approved by Congress at the height of government engagement with terrorists in Marawi.

“The declaration of martial law is always dependent on what the Armed Forces and the police say. Kung anong sabihin ng armed forces pati police [Whatever the AFP and PNP say], since they’re the ones who will be engaged….we should give credence to it,” the President said at a press conference in Davao City.

Responding to a reporter’s question on whether, with the developments in Marawi now, he was ready to lift the martial law declaration any time soon, Duterte said: “You know, declaration of martial law is always dependent [on] what the Armed Forces and the police recommends.

He pointed out that “they are the two entities that would be relied upon heavily by a President or Head of State when he entertains something like extreme measures — martial law, state of emergency.”

Whatever the Armed Forces and police say, “since they are the ones also who would be totally engaged . . . if there’s . . . trouble there, we should give credence to it actually,” the President stressed.

He said he was confident the security establishment would not “fabricate events” or dish out misleading reports just to lay the basis for a martial law extension.

Soldiers stealing? I don’t think so – Duterte

Asked if he himself had received any reports – since the martial law declaration – of abuses by soldiers in the communities during the Marawi siege, Duterte said, “No [and] I do not believe that the soldiers were there to [steal residents’ things]… Paano nila manakaw ‘yan [How can they steal those]? I was there. And they were billeted in houses. And they were using the amenities” of the houses where they were staying at any given time during the course of the five-month war, he explained.

“‘[The] refrigerator. There was power. Ginagamit ‘yan mga [They’re using the] electric fans. And kung ‘yan lang, I am not ready to put to task my soldiers. ‘Yung sabihin mong mga furniture. Paano nila dalhin?” Duterte wondered aloud.

When soldiers exit an area, all they bring with them are their guns and their knapsack and it’s so easy to see if anyone brought out anything he did not own, he pointed out.

‘Pag move out mo, ang dala-dala mo lang ‘yung knapsack mo pati baril mo. Eh ‘di makita ka ng opisyal [When you move out, all you can carry is your knapsack and your gun]. Those are very large things that you cannot hide in your pocket. And I do not believe na para ‘yan lang, nakawin ng sundalo [that soldiers would steal just for stuff like that].”

He confirmed that, from what he witnessed when he visited the site, the troops on the ground were using basic amenities: “ginamit nila, tama ‘yan kasi napunta ako [the soldiers used the amenities, that’s right, when I went there] several times. I went to the houses used as hospitals, emergency.”

He recalled going to one house “where they used to confer and I attended one using an electric fan, probably also borrowed. But I do not think my soldiers would be… Alam nila ‘yan [They know better than that].”


AboitizPower sustains strong foothold in hydropower business

The Maris hydro was originally conceptualized and developed by the operations, maintenance, and business development teams of AboitizPower large hydro business unit, SN AboitizPower (SNAP). HANDOUT PHOTO
MANILA – On the back of a strong demand for renewable energy (RE), AboitizPower said it continues to ramp up its portfolio of generation facilities across the Philippines.

AboitizPower’s subsidiary, SN AboitizPower, has completed the commissioning of its 8.5-megawatt (MW) Maris Main Canal 1 hydroelectric power plant, as it gears toward full commercial operation this November.

The plant re-utilizes the water coming from the 360-MW Magat hydro plant through the re-regulating dam located downstream of Magat. The water then flows into the Maris Main (South) Irrigation Canal. The project was made possible with the support of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Department of Energy (DOE), host communities, and local government units.

Maris hydro is the first greenfield project of SNAP. It is composed of two units of Kaplan pit type turbines with generator nameplate capacity of 4.25 MW each. Unit 1 was commissioned on October 24 while Unit 2 was commissioned on November 6. The construction of the US$47-million hydro plant, located in Brgy. Ambatali in Ramon, Isabela, took about two years.

Meanwhile, in October, AboitizPower’s run-of-river hydro business unit, Hedcor, signed civil works contract with UK-based contractor, Whessoe, for its 19-MW Bineng Combined Hydropower Project in Benguet. The project, which will increase the combined capacity of the Bineng plants from 5.48 MW to 19 MW, was approved by the municipal council of La Trinidad in July this year.

In addition, Hedcor’s 69-MW Manolo Fortich project, also a run-of-river hydro, which is currently synchronizing to the grid, is targeted for commercial operations in 2017 or early 2018. Once completed, it will increase Hedcor’s capacity of 185 MW of clean and renewable energy from 22 hydropower plants nationwide.

This brings AboitizPower’s advanced hydro project developments at present to around 97 MW.

Antonio R. Moraza, AboitizPower President and COO, said the company’s continued expansion of RE portfolio is in line with its balanced mix growth strategy.

“We never stop looking for ways to maximize productions from our RE facilities because we know the role it plays in our overall strategy,” Moraza said.

Moraza added that apart from new RE businesses, the company also explores innovative ways to maximize clean and renewable energy sources.

“If we can maximize the potential to produce more energy from an existing resource, we will do it, and that is what we did with Maris, as well as the binary plant in Makban, and soon in Bineng. And our teams will continue to look at these opportunities, as well as new greenfield renewable projects wherever they are available and viable,” Moraza said.

AboitizPower and its partners currently have a total of 787-MW capacity from hydropower generation facilities, which make up 62% of the total 1,263-MW RE capacity. The company also owns the 4th and the 7th largest geothermal power plants in the world, which are the 448-MW Makban Geothermal Power Plant in Laguna and Batangas, and the 234-MW Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant in Albay, respectively. In 2016, AboitizPower also launched its first venture into solar power in Negros.


Umali: House Justice panel unlikely to vote in favor of Sereno, Lagman motions on right to counsel

Chief Justice Sereno. PHILSTAR file photograph

MANILA – The House Justice panel will rule, before Wednesday’s (Nov. 22) hearing on determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whether to grant two similar motions seeking to allow Sereno’s lawyers to cross-examine witnesses for her.

However, in the view of Justice committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali – apparently confident the panel will reject in a vote the two motions – Sereno will be at a terrible disadvantage if she insists on not appearing personally or not confronting the witnesses against her.

“You know, the right to counsel happens in the actual trial. Pero . . . wala pa tayo sa trial [But we’re not yet in the trial stage]. [This seems akin to a] preliminary investigation [but it’s not a] preliminary investigation,” Umali said in a radio interview Sunday, as Sereno’s lawyers , with backing from Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, insist on allowing the chief magistrate to field her counsel to the hearing.

Umali said, “hindi established ang mga rights dito to counsel [the rights to counsel are not established here]. And unfortunately, under our rules, we do not allow lawyers to speak. So [that’s what we’ll have to resolve, whether or not to allow this]. Pero [But] at the end of the day, it will be the vote of the majority that will be followed.”

The Justice panel chief continued, in his DZBB interview: “Unfortunately for the respondent . . . I’m just thinking aloud, [there is a] super majority and [it won’t be easy, as they say, to pass something like that; to let that motion win in a vote].”


He said “whatever will be the majority vote, will be the basis of our decision.”

In his position paper last week, Lagman had said that the process of determination of probable cause in an impeachment is akin to that in a criminal case. Lagman, a lawyer, said to prohibit Sereno from deploying her lawyers to cross-examine witnesses against her would render useless the right to counsel enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Umali acknowledged the similarity, but stressed that an impeachment is sui generis [in a class of its own].

“In fact, it cannot be a criminal case [because the respondent in this case is not jailed; we don’t have the power to order his/her jailing].” Instead, Umali said, “this is also akin to [an] administrative case [where removal from office is the punishment for the respondent].”

Thus, Umali concluded, “it’s neither criminal nor administrative, anywhere in between that,” and that is why he does not think the so-called right to counsel repeatedly invoked by Sereno lawyers and by Lagman would apply in this case. “And more than that, if I may say so, siya ay respondent lang, siya ay hindi akusado [she is just a respondent here, not yet accused].” 

The Sereno camp had earlier floated the possibility that the chief justice may take her case before her own peers and seek the en banc’s opinion on the unprecedented debate.

Umali, however, noted that the Constitution clearly does not grant the SC any jurisdiction on impeachment cases. He said the Charter states “the impeachment court is the sole judge of any issues pertaining to impeachment. So [maybe] the more appropriate venue” for raising the issue “should be the impeachment court and not the Supreme Court.”

He said that for one thing, Sereno is not entirely helpless even though there is a super-majority in the House that is apparently against her. The requirements of strong evidence will still be imposed on the complainants, and the “ground of course [is] defined . . . under the Constitution and the rules. Culpable violation of the constitution, graft and corruption and other high crimes, betrayal of public trust.”

In his view, said Umali, simple probable cause just won’t do, “dapat merong [there should be] prima facie evidence. Pero ang sinasabi ng rules namin ay probable cause lang [and yet our rules require only probable cause].”

He expressed hope Sereno will reconsider and personally attend Wednesday’s hearing to determine probable cause.

“If she does not attend, it’s her own lookout [because] I don’t know how [the] allegations or charges against her can be controverted without her attendance. . . . Under the rules . . . the lawyers are not allowed to speak for the respondent. . . . So if she does not attend. whatever is presented to us cannot be controverted” and will be included in the report that becomes the basis for voting on probable cause.


WATCH | Activists chafe as Duterte bares plan to tag NPA as terrorists, crack down on leftist groups


MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte appears ready to take a crucial turn in his love-hate relationship with the Left, signalling Saturday night he will place the New People’s Army in the same category that the United States has placed it – as “terrorists” – and warning activists he will find a way to expose their alleged unholy alliance with armed rebels. The threat drew angry reactions from an activist group Sunday.

Speaking to reporters in Davao City, Duterte said he would henceforth also have government lawyers file, not charges of rebellion but ordinary criminal offenses like murder and arson against arrested communust rebels. He said he was fed up with the series of NPA attacks on businesses in the countryside, especially the torching of their equipment and facilities.

He blamed the attacks on the businesses and revolutionary taxes for driving out investors and jacking up prices of goods produced by the businesses that remain.

The threat of launching a crackdown against legal progressive groups affiliated with the main leftwing alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan was assailed by one of the alliance’s members, Anakbayan.

The youth group said in a statement Sunday morning that it was not hard to see why Duterte would want to do this. “Progressive groups have been at the forefront of opposing Duterte’s war on drugs, all-out counterinsurgency ops, and martial law in Mindanao that trample on human rights as well as his perpetuation of anti-people neoliberal policies. Duterte’s threats will not intimidate us into submission,” said Anakbayan chairman Vencer Crisostomo.

In a talk with reporters Saturday night, Duterte said of the NPA, armed wing of the National Democratic Front (NDF) with which his government had pursued peace talks in a bid to end a four-decade insurgency: “Before, we recognized them as legitimate rebels. But with their continued depredations, killing innocent people even an infant four months old, I’ll be issuing a proclamation. I will remove them from the category of a legal entity . . . placing them – same as America – [in the category of] terrorists.”

Duterte was alluding to the killing of an infant who was among eight civilians in a Toyota Fortuner caught in the crossfire when NPA rebels ambushed a police vehicle in Bukidnon last week.

The NPA local command admitted killing the infant, apologized to civilians and offered to recompense them.

The incident, however, angered Duterte, who learned about it in between his ASEAN hosting duties. He said Saturday he was just allowing the soldiers to rest, after a harrowing five months of fierce engagement with the homegrown, but ISIS-inspired Maute Group that laid siege to Marawi City.

“Pinagpapahinga ko lang mga sundalo ko [I’m just allowing the soldiers to rest]. But we will also go on the offensive,” Duterte said.

No more ‘rebellion’: criminal charges to be filed

He said it was also time to change the government’s legal tack against the rebels. “So beginning from now, wala nang [there’ll be no more charges called] rebellion-rebellion. We will fight terrorism, murder, arson na…. because we will consider them criminal already.”

He said the government “may take steps” against activists, sounding stung by the tags of “fascist” and “imperialist dog” that the various protest groups had hurled at him during rallies while the country was hosting the 31st ASEAN and Related Summits and he met with world leaders including President Donald Trump of the United States, one of nine country dialogue partners that joined the ASEAN events in Manila.

At the start of his presidency in June 2016, Duterte had fast-tracked peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP, occasionally referring to himself as “socialist” and “leftist” and citing his ties with some leaders like CPP founding chairman Prof. Jose Maria Sison, based in The Netherlands. Negotiations have since been suspended, though he recently said he wold not block an announced plan by his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, to reach out to local rebels in her area.

Duterte had also named several leftists to the Cabinet, but at least two of them – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo – have since been rejected by the bicameral Commission on Appointments dominated by his congressional allies.

On Saturday, he said he believed groups like Bayan were in league with the communist rebels, adding “We will study and maybe we will have a crackdown here somewhere.”

In reaction, Anakbayan’s Crisostomo said, “That Duterte is contemplating a crackdown against activists and progressive groups speaks much of his antipathy to any criticism and his thirst for absolute power. Repression is the logical consequence of equating all dissent with detabilization.”




Probe into 'nanlaban' cases just a fishing expedition – SolGen

SHOT. John Paul Martinez, 21 years old, dies from several gunshot wounds after an encounter with Manila police. 

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MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said that there is no basis to compel the police to submit for investigation firearms used in "nanlaban" cases, where drug suspects were killed after they supposedly fought back.

“The submission of firearms, including serial numbers and description, of monthly reports in ‘nanlaban’ cases amounts to a fishing expedition,” the OSG said in its 63-page comment submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, November 17.


The OSG is representing local policemen and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in two petitions against the government's anti-drug operations that are set to undergo oral arguments on Tuesday, November 21.

The OSG also said that the police should not be asked to submit to the court monthly reports on the status of their investigations into nanlaban cases.

Instead, the OSG advised petitioners “to file the proper administrative and criminal cases against erring police officers.”

“To give due course to the petitioner’s patently baseless petitions would only serve to countenance harassment suits and “fishing expeditions” that distract law enforcement agencies from their principal duties or, worse, dampen their zeal in the pursuit of criminal elements,” the OSG said.


Lawyer Christina Antonio, one of the lawyers from Center from International Law (CenterLaw) handling the case, told Rappler it is not easy for relatives to file separate cases.

"You are constantly afraid. More desperate when you are arrested and languishing in jail in the aftermath of the killing. You do not know any lawyer. You don't even have fare to go to any lawyer. The law is a nebulous, distant cloud," Antonio said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that the government is investigating “every single one” of the deaths. But as of September 27, the PNP has only managed to submit 10 inquest reports out of the 3,800 deaths at the time.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has prosecuted only 71 drug-related deaths, and of those, only 19 have reached the courts, based on DOJ data as of August 22.


The petitions to be heard by the SC are those filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) on behalf of alleged victims of Oplan TokHang in Baguio, Tondo, and Quezon City; and by the CenterLaw representing the families of 35 individuals in San Andres Bukid, Manila, who were killed in police raids.

CenterLaw accused the policemen of the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 6 of being masterminds of the killings.

FLAG had petitioned the SC to make an intervention into cases of nanlaban, a narrative often used by policemen when somebody is killed during their operations.

FLAG wants the policemen to turn over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) their firearms for forensic examination, and for the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and/or the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM) to submit a monthly report to the Court full documentation of police operations which result to death.

The OSG does not believe that the petitioners are entitled to their request. FLAG also asked for a writ of amparo for the families. A writ of amparo is a remedy that serves to protect constitutional rights perceived to be in danger. (READ: Lawyers do dirty groundwork to fight Duterte’s drug war)

“While judicial intervention is equally available to these petitioners, it could not be done through the blanket issuance of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

Antonio said there are basis for their requests for a writ of amparo such as "numerous jurisprudence and executive pronouncements of pardon for cops in narco killings."

Writ of amparo

Just the same, the OSG also does not believe that the petitioners deserve a writ of amaro.

“The petitioners failed to establish by substantial evidence that the respondents violated their right to life, liberty or security; hence, they are not entitled to the issuance of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

In San Andres Bukid for example, the petitioners are asking for restraining orders against the policemen, and a prohibition against anti-drug operations in their community. Their petitions said this is due to threats to their safety and lives.

The OSG said the families are not entitled to such protection because their stories are hearsay. OSG cited affidavits of petitioners which source their testimonies from stories they heard from neighbors and other witnesses.

San Andres Bukid petitioners claimed that while the killings by masked vigilantes were ongoing, they spotted policemen from MPD 6 in the area, as if on standby. This is among their bases for saying there was coordination with police.

In response, the OSG said: “The petitions are hinged mainly on hearsay and on the assumption that the men in plainclothes lurking near the crime scenes were police officers. Considering that the petitioners’ allegations are not adequately supported by substantial evidence, their claim that the anti-drug operations conducted by the respondents are illegal has no leg to stand on.”

The OSG also enumerated a slew of technical reasons, such as some of the petitioners not being qualified to file a case. Some of the petitioners are “concerned citizens” and members of religious groups immersed in the community.

The OSG cited the rules which state that a non-relative may be allowed to file a case only if there is no known relative.

The OSG also added: "The alleged extralegal killings transpired sometime in 2016 and early 2017. If indeed petitioners’ lives were on the line, they would have filed the present actions at the earliest possible time to prevent accountable police officers from committing any further human rights violation."


The OSG also said the cases are now moot since President Rodrigo Duterte has taken out the PNP from the anti-drugs campaign.

The OSG also said Dela Rosa’s circular back in July 2016 was constitutional.

“It is unfortunate that loss of lives resulted from the operations of the police officers. But these incidents do not automatically render the anti-drug operation conducted by the respondents “unlawful” as would entitle the petitioners to the protection of a writ of amparo,” the OSG said.

The OSG claims that to render the police’s war on drugs illegal would only benefit those engaged in the illegal drug trade.

The oral arguments will begin at 2 pm on November 21. 

The police's nanlaban defense in their drug war killings has generated controversy and criticism, amid allegations that weapons and drugs had been planted on the victims only after they were killed. State forensic experts had cited "staged" crime scenes in the case of teenager Carl Arnaiz. (READ: 'Nakaluhod, tapos nasubsob': How Kian was killed, according to PAO

The results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey held in June, or nearly a year after the Duterte administration launched it's drug war, showed that half of Filipinos don't buy the police's nanlaban line. – Rappler.com


Bicolana OFW dies after serving 'two masters' in Saudi Arabia

HARDWORKING MOTHER. The husband and 3 sons of Ana Fe Velasco-Bania watch over her casket. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler 

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CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – When she left Barangay Binobong in Pili town in 2015 to work in the Middle East, Ana Fe Velasco-Bania was full of life.

"Ana Fe is my eldest daughter," said Maria Francia Velasco. "She decided to work abroad with desires of providing good life to her children, send them to school until college, rebuild her home, and to recover the less than a hectare riceland leased to our relative for almost P200,000."


The mother of 3 sons left the country as a documented migrant worker. Her expenses to work abroad were shouldered by her employer under the Integrated Programme for Fair Recruitment (FAIR), a global project that seeks to promote fair recruitment practices. The Philippines is among the target countries for the pilot project.

Ana Fe headed to Saudi Arabia for work as a domestic helper in April 2015. In Riyadh, she worked for Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami for a monthly salary of $400. This was for a 24-month contract.

Velasco said her daughter served two households, in violation of her contract.

“She served two masters in Riyadh. She was sent by her original employer to their family friend as on-call worker to do the household services which we considered as violation of her work contract,” Velasco said.

Velasco said based on her previous communication with her daughter, Yahya Muhamad Ali Alyami was a kind employer but the other employer was reportedly cruel and maltreated her daughter. 

Bad news

A few months before Ana Fe's work contract was to end in December, Velasco received a report that her daughter had died of a heart attack on September 29. She was 38.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) worked on the immediate repatriation of Ana Fe’s remains to the Philippines, which arrived at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport on November 2, where her grieving family received her. Her remains were immediately transported to Nabua town in Camarines Sur.

Before her corpse was embalmed, the family checked it and found bruises on her body. “My daughter’s cadaver has bruises all over her body. That could be the consequence of maltreatment she went through to her second employer," Velasco said.

While the family members checked the corpse, Ana Fe's youngest son, 5-year-old James Bryan, asked them to wake up his mother so they could hug each other. 

“We don’t know what to do and how to explain to a 5-year-old boy that his mother would no longer wake up and could no longer kiss and hug him. That he is motherless forever,” Velasco said between sobs.

Ana Fe’s remains were brought to their home in the remote village of Binobong in Pili town, which has an unpaved and muddy road. Her family lives in an unfinished, partially concrete home with a dirt floor and one shared room.

Ana Fe’s eldest son, 18-year-old Leejan Mark, is in Grade 12 while Steven, 16, is in Grade 9. Both studied at Binobong High School. James Bryan is a kindergarten student at Pili Central School.


Construction worker Ferdinand Bania, Ana Fe’s husband, said that he would like his wife's remains to undergo an autopsy to verify the cause of her death, but they couldn't afford it.

A medical report from the King Khalid Hospital in Saudi Arabi said that Ana Fe died of an acute cerebrovascular accident or a stroke. Ana Fe's family, however, doubted this finding.

“If government officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs will help me out, I will pursue the case against the employers of my wife. But, if there’s nobody willing to help us, I could not do anything about because I don’t have the capacity to pursue the case,” Ferdinand said.

Ana Fe reportedly died after working for her second employer. It was found out that on September 23, she started working for her second employer for 3 days.

After the end of her 3-day duty at the second employer, her first employer awaited her return. But she was later found already dead in the hospital.

Ferdinand said that on October 4, he received a video from his wife's friend which showed Ana Fe crying and asking for help – she was sick but her second employer was still forcing her to work. Unfortunately, the video was sent to him a week after Ana Fe died.

The OFW's family hopes that OWWA and the DFA will help them pursue a thorough investigation into Ana Fe's case so that justice will be served.

Fatima Dazal, an officer of the OWWA regional office here, said they have yet to track down the name of Ana Fe's second employer.

Based on the records of OWWA and the POEA regional office in Bicol, there are 53,808 active members and 120,021 inactive members, or a total of 173,829 OFWs from the region as of June 2017.

Among the 6 provinces of Bicol, Camarines Sur has the highest number of OFWs with 71,770, followed by Albay with 45,082, Sorsogon with 20,694, Camarines Norte with 18,093, Masbate with 10,746, and Catanduanes with 7,444. – Rappler.com


House panel invites Sereno to attend Nov 22 hearing of impeach raps vs her

Chief Justice Sereno. PHILSTAR file photograph
MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had been invited to attend the hearing of the House Committee on Justice on the impeachment complaint against her.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairperson of the committee, said the panel had sent Sereno an invitation for the November 22 hearing.

The hearing will discuss if there is probable cause to pursue the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno by lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon.

The committee members are also expected to discuss if Sereno would be allowed to be represented by legal counsels. Sereno’s lawyers have twice written the justice panel on the matter.

Umali earlier said that only Sereno would be allowed to speak during the proceedings.


DOH chief says ‘it is now all systems go’ for distribution of contraceptives

Philstar/Edd Gumban file photo of women clamoring for the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law
MANILA, Philippines — The Roman Catholic-majority Philippines will re-allow the use of contraceptive implants after certifying 51 drugs and devices safe and not the cause of abortions, the health department announced on Thursday.

Congress passed a law allowing contraceptive devices in 2012 but the Supreme Court imposed a restraining order in 2015 after bishops said some drugs and devices caused abortions.

Abortion, divorce and same-sex union are not allowed in the Philippines and some lawmakers oppose artificial methods of family planning. Pills and condoms are sold freely.

“With the Food and Drug Administration’s issuance of an advisory declaring all of the 51 contraceptive products … cannot cause abortion, it is now all systems go for the Department of Health to fully implement the law,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters.




Lawyers file sedition raps vs Trillanes over senator’s call to ‘kill’ Duterte

File photos of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (from Philstar) and President Rodrigo Duterte (from Reuters)
MANILA, Philippines — A group of lawyers led by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras on Thursday file a criminal complaint before the Pasay City Prosecutor’s office against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for allegedly inciting rebellious acts against the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In their 15-page complaint-affidavit filed by lawyer Manuelito Luna, who represented the group of Paras, who is also currently a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), cited the statements made by Trillanes against Duterte in his privilege speech at the Senate last October 3, that soldiers may shoot the President upon the latter’s wish if the allegations of hidden wealth would be proven.

The lawyers are formally accusing Trillanes of inciting to sedition (Article 142, Revised Penal Code or RPC), proposing to commit coup d’etat (Article 136, RPC), and graft (Section 3(e), Republic Act 3019).

During his privilege speech, the lawmaker made statements about the alleged millions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth of Duterte: “Kung makikita ‘to ng mga sundalo, M60 machine gun ang gagamitin sa ‘yo. Marami-rami ito, maubos magazine kung PHP40 million hinahanap mo, Mr. Duterte (If the soldiers could see this, they will use an M60 machine gun on you. These are many. The magazines will be emptied if you’re looking for PHP40 million, Mr. Duterte).”

“Trillanes not only repeatedly uttered seditious words or speeches (Art. 142, RPC) and unabatedly circulated scurrilous libels against the President (Art. 142, RPC), which tend to disturb the public peace, but also repeatedly incited others to inflict any hate or revenge upon his person (Art. 142, in relation to Art. 139 (3), RPC,” read the complaint.

In their complaint, the lawyers asked city prosecutors to launch a preliminary investigation and conduct proper proceedings and find probable cause to indict Trillanes and other unidentified personalities of such offenses.

“Trillanes not only repeatedly uttered seditious words or speeches and unabatedly circulated scurrilous libels against the President, which tend to disturb the public peace, but also repeatedly incited others to inflict any hate or revenge,” the complaint stated.

The lawyers insisted that Trillanes “committed conspiracy or proposal to commit coup d’etat” for encouraging the military to rise up in arms against the President.

Moreover, the complainants accused Trillanes of causing undue injury against the Duterte administration “through evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.”

“(This is) for irresponsibly and recklessly and continuously accusing sans evidence, that the President is keeping over PHP2 billion in bank accounts and or amassing illegally-acquired wealth,” they claimed.

Trillanes is insisting on the evidence consisting of bank transaction records alleged to have been sourced from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), despite the AMLC’s disclaimer that the documents did not come from them.

The purported bank transaction documents, which Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang also claimed he is in possession of, was disavowed by the AMLC.

The lawyers also took to task Trillanes’ record of major involvements in notable coups d’etat during the Arroyo administration.

For his involvements in these incidents, Trillanes’ assurance that yellow-oriented group TindigPilipinas’ nationwide signature drive calling on Duterte to sign a waiver for his bank records appear to lack credibility, the complaint stated.

Though Trillanes assured the petition-signing drive is not a destabilization attempt, the complainants said the lawmaker “lacks credibility given his record of major involvement in coups d’etat or destabilization attempts” particularly during the administration of former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The complainants cited the senator’s record of major involvements in coups d’etat during the Arroyo administration – Oakwood Mutiny in July 2003, the Marine standoff last February 2006 and the Manila Peninsula siege in November 2007.

Trillanes and other members of Magdalo soldiers were charged with coup d’etat over the said incidents, but they were cleared after being granted amnesty by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

Aside from Paras, the complainants include lawyers Glenn Chong, Nasser Marohomsalic, Nestor Ifurung, Eligio Mallari, Eduardo Bringas, and Louise Biraogo.

Sought for a comment, Trillanes called the VACC “Duterte minions” who were only trying to divert his attention.

However, he said that he remained “focused” on exposing the President’s involvement in murders, corruption and secret bank accounts, and Davao City Vice Mayor and presidential son Paolo Duterte’s involvement in the PHP6.4 billion shabu shipment. — With reports from Azer Parrocha/ PNA




Going nowhere: MRT coach gets detached from train

Image from Ivan Caballero Villegas’ Twitter account shows MRT passengers watching the main train unit moving forward as the coach they were riding was decoupled midway between the Ayala and Gil Puyat stations yesterday.
MANILA, Philippines — Another day, another mishap for the Metro Rail Transit 3: train coaches detached from a northbound train in Makati City during yesterday morning’s rush hour, resulting in the unloading of over 100 commuters who were forced to walk to the next station.

MRT operations director Michael Capati said it will take some time to determine the root of the problem, but they are now conducting an investigation.

Capati said the detached train cars would remain at the MRT’s depot pending investigation.


Cesar Chavez, undersecretary for railways of the Department of Transportation, said that a “messma card” from the detached train cars was missing based on initial investigation conducted by MRT’s technical team, which gave weight to the human intervention angle.

The “messma card” is like a black box that records interventions in all trains of MRT-3.

Chavez said they are now determining the persons responsible for removing the messma card and also their motives.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Capati said they are not ruling out any possible angle that could have contributed to the detachment of the cars, including possible electrical and mechanical failures and human intervention.

Contrary to Capati’s statement, Rowel Jose, rolling stocks specialist of MRT-3, pointed out that the incident had nothing to do with mechanical or electrical problems.

“It only takes human intervention to detach the couplers,” he said.

He explained that one can easily crank the lever to detach the coupler and if the problem was technical, all the couplers will be probed to determine why such incident happened.

Ric Initorio, director for operations of MRT-3, said yesterday’s detachment of train’s coupler was not the first time it happened, as a similar incident occurred at GMA Kamuning station in Quezon City in 2011.

Inotorio said the 2011 incident was because of an electrical problem, when a grounded wire was loosened up, causing the coupler motor to melt.

Capati apologized for what happened and said the agency has prepared some measures to ensure the safety of commuters.

Train operator Renato Año said that he was not aware that several cars had detached until he monitored “communication error” from the diagnostic panel of the train.

He explained that a communication error appeared on the screen after a problem was not detected between the two cars, but he said he stopped immediately near the Buendia station after an operator of a southbound train radioed that some of his cars were detached.

“While approaching Buendia station, I monitored on the side mirror that I had only two cars and I saw on the diagnostic panel a communication error,” Año said.


Ivan Caballero Villegas, a call center employee in Makati City, said he and his workmate boarded a northbound train at the MRT Ayala station past 8 a.m. when they felt that the coach they were riding was detached from the rest of the train.

Villegas said he saw the other coaches in front of their coach heading towards the Buendia station, leaving some coaches behind near the Ayala station.

He said some commuters in the stalled coaches complained of the heat while others claimed they were suffocating as other passengers repeatedly pressed the lock button to open the doors.

Before they were told to get off the detached car, Villegas said some angry commuters were cursing the MRT-3 while others called their offices to report their misfortune and delay in coming to work.

A few minutes later, some MRT security guards arrived and instructed them to get off the train and walk on the rail tracks back to Ayala station.

Some passengers complained that they should have waked towards Buendia station, which was closer to the detached coaches.

Villegas asked the guards what happened, but nobody cared to give them an answer.

A guard only told them that a “provisional operation” was implemented because of the incident.

Upon reaching the Ayala station, most of the commuters queued for the refund of their single journey tickets, while Villegas rode a bus to get home to Malabon City.

He also said that no emergency buses arrived at the Ayala station to assist the affected commuters.

DOTr’s Chavez said around 130 to 140 MRT-3 commuters were “evacuated” by the security guards from both Buendia and Ayala stations.

The MRT-3 is an attached agency of the DOTr.

Chavez said that the detachment of the coaches prompted the MRT to limit service only the North Avenue station in Quezon City to Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.

He said they temporarily stopped train service from Shaw Boulevard station to Taft Avenue in Pasay City to fix the problem and restore normal operations that were resumed at around 9:30 a.m.

MRT-3 management recently terminated its maintenance contract with service provider Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI) due to the firm’s alleged poor performance.

But despite this, Chavez said the MRT-3 is now “improving” after the department took over the service maintenance from BURI.

Sen. Grace Poe urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to suspend the operations of the MRT-3 if necessary in order to ensure the safety of its passengers.

With the malfunctions still being reported regularly, Poe said that the DOTr should make a decision on the suspension of the operations of the MRT-3 if this is what it takes to address the problems plaguing the system.

“What they need to do is to ensure the safety of passengers. Now if they need to suspend the operations, and we know there are around 500,000 who ride the train, but if we consider the lives that could be lost because of neglect, then maybe we should swallow this bitter pill,” Poe said.

If the DOTr, which is now handling the maintenance of the MRT-3 temporarily, will push through with the suspension of the mass transit system’s operation, then Poe said that it should inform the public about how long this would last.

She said that the DOTr should also have contingency measures in place in the event that the MRT-3 is shut down, such as providing more point-to-point buses for the commuters and maybe even giving them free rides. –With Marvin Sy

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