MOSCOW — President Rodrigo Duterte has arrived in Moscow, Russia past 11 p.m. Monday (past 4 a.m. May 23, Manila time).
Nineteen officials are joining the President’s official visit to Russia which include Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affiars Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and National Security Council Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
The country’s economic development chiefs are also in Moscow including Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo, and Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato De La Peña.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Jose Ruperto Martin Andanar, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go, and Senator Sherwin Gatchalian are also part of the official delegation here.
On Wednesday, President Duterte is set to have bilateral meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
A wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is scheduled on Wednesday afternoon before the President will be conferred for an honorary doctorate degree at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University).
The meeting between President Duterte and President Vladimir Putin is set for Thursday in Kremlin.
MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization of lawmakers, arrived in Manila and visited Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to check on the case of detained Senator Leila de Lima.
The IPU Committee on Human Rights visited Pimentel on Monday, May 22, led by its president Fawzi Koofi, a lawmaker from Afghanistan.
“We are here to see, assess the situation of detention of Senator Leila de Lima. The Senate President has been very cooperative with the committee,” Koofi said in a short statement after the meeting.
It was Pimentel who invited IPU colleagues in April, during the IPU assembly, to visit the Philippine Senate.
In the same event, the organization adopted the resolution of the organization's committee on human rights, expressing "deep concern" over the De Lima’s arrest and detention over alleged links to illegal drugs.
“The IPU, as a body, expressed concern [on] human rights violation of a member of the Senate in the Philippines, which is Senator Leila de Lima, that’s why the assembly decided to have a mission to the Philippines,” Koofi said.
The IPU committee members are set to meet Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senator Panfilo Lacson, and other government officials on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, they will visit De Lima at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame to meet her.
“We will also meet her on Wednesday to gather information about her arrest,” Koofi said.
Pimentel said they discussed “nothing” about De Lima’s case, saying they just thanked him for “inviting” them over. "They are the ones concerned with Senator de lima...they are here for a fact-finding mission. Let them do their job,” he added.
Last month, the IPU called for a fact-finding mission by the committee on human rights.
“The Organization is calling for a mission to the Philippines where it is deeply concerned over the detention of Senator Leila de Lima and the accusations that she was involved in drug trafficking,” the IPU said.
“The Senator has been a vocal critic of President (Rodrigo) Duterte, leading a series of investigations into alleged extra judicial killings when he was Mayor of Davao city and initiating an inquiry into the alleged summary killings of thousands of alleged drug users and dealers since he took office in June 2016 and waged his war on drugs,” it added.
The IPU, established in 1889, has 171 Member Parliaments, which "promote democracy, equality, human rights, development and peace." – Rappler.com
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV asks why the Philippines is rejecting the European Union's supposed interference, but allowing China to make threats.
MANILA, Philippines – Minority Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV questioned anew President Rodrigo Duterte's seemingly "inconsistent" foreign policy, following China's threat of war over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute.
Aquino, who said the threat is "troublesome," urged the Duterte administration to explain its confusing "independent" foreign policy.
"Nakakabahala talaga 'yun na isang head of state nagsabi na baka gyerahin tayo, that's very troublesome," the senator told reporters in an interview on Monday, May 22.
(It is really worrisome that a head of state would threaten us with war, that's very troublesome.)
Aquino pointed out it was contradictory that the Philippine government is rejecting aid from the European Union (EU) for its supposed interference, while letting China make threats.
"'Yung threat of war, gusto natin linawin kasi 'di po 'yun pangkaraniwan. We need to be consistent with our foreign policy. Meron tayong hini-hindian kasi ayaw natin 'yung hirit sa atin regarding human rights pero 'yung iba tatanggapin natin, may threat ng gyera. Parang 'di talaga siya consistent," the senator said.
(We want to clarify the threat of war because that is out of the ordinary. We need to be consistent with our foreign policy. We are refusing aid because of criticism on the human rights situation here, yet we accept war threats from other countries. That really seems inconsistent.)
Last September, Aquino filed a Senate resolution calling for a Senate probe into Duterte's "conflicting" foreign policy, but the inquiry has yet to be scheduled. At the time, then-senator Alan Peter Cayetano – a staunch Duterte ally and now Foreign Secretary – was committee chairman.
Aquino reiterated there is a need to clarify the Philippine government's foreign policy, as it affects jobs, sovereignty, and national security.
It was under former president Benigno Aquino III, the senator's cousin, when the Philippines lodged a protest against China over their maritime dispute. Duterte, in contrast, has taken a friendly stance toward the Asian giant.
Bring issue to UN, file diplomatic protest
Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also expressed concern over China's threat, echoing Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio's call to bring the issue before the United Nations.
"To threaten us with war, especially 'yung disparity ng military might ng power ng China compared to ours, medyo malaking threat 'yan," Lacson said. (To threaten us with war, especially considering the disparity between China's military might and ours, that's a major threat.)
The Philippines, he also said, has basis to pursue another case against China.
"Justice Carpio is right. Dapat i-bring up ito sa attention ng UN (We should bring this to the UN's attention). After all, China is a member. Member pa nga siya ng Security Council, 'di ba? So dapat i-pursue natin dahil 'di maganda 'yan (China is even a member of the Security Council, right? So we should pursue a case because making threats isn't good)," Lacson said.
"Friendship should be based on goodwill. Pero where can you find goodwill kung may threat of going to war in case na ang claims i-pursue natin (But where can you find goodwill if there is a threat of going to war if we pursue our claims), to explore based on what we believe is ours?" he added.
Drilon, meanwhile, said the Duterte administration should not take Chinese President Xi Jinping's words lightly.
"The Chinese President's threat is a gross violation of the United Nations' Charter. Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter states that 'all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations,'" said Drilon.
"We should stand up to China. We should not allow our country to be bullied and threatened," he added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan also supports Aquino's call for a Senate inquiry, as he earlier urged Cayetano to file a diplomatic protest against China for its actions.
"The hearing should tackle not only this issue, but also the details of the $24-billion loans and investments recently sealed with China, as well as the Duterte administration's decision to reject aid from the EU," Pangilinan had said.
But Cayetano, in an interview on Monday, downplayed the incident, saying there is mutual respect between Duterte and Xi. He also said the context of the two leaders' conversation was "conflict resolution."
Duterte earlier disclosed that Xi warned there would be war if the Philippines pushes through with its plan to drill oil in the Reed Bank off the West Philippine Sea.
The Reed Bank, also known as Recto Bank, is internationally recognized as part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but China claims it as part of its territory. – Rap
MANILA, Philippines – The House justice panel unanimously approved its committee report explaining lawmakers’ reasons for junking the impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano.
The voting on Monday, May 22, lasted only a little over 11 minutes. Last week, lawmakers deemed the complaint sufficient in form but insufficient in substance after 4 hours. (READ: House committee junks Duterte impeachment complaint)
The panel argued Alejano’s lack of direct personal knowledge of his accusations made them reject the impeachment complaint.
The panel also recommended the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings be amended to “explicitly allow” the dismissal of impeachment complaint based on insufficiency in form.
Currently, impeachment complaints must undergo two tests in the committee level – sufficiency in form and sufficiency in substance. The panel can only decide whether or not to junk an impeachment complaint after assessing its sufficiency in substance.
“Finally, the Committee on Justice recommends that the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives be amended to explicitly allow the dismissal of impeachment complaints based on insufficiency in form,” said the report.
According to the committee report, Alejano testified under oath saying he had “personal knowledge” of his allegations against Duterte.
These include the President’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad, the ongoing bloody war against drugs, the hiring of “ghost” employees when Duterte was still Davao City mayor, his supposed unexplained wealth, and the President’s approach in dealing with the maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
But Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas grilled Alejano and made the latter admit he merely based his accusations on online sources, newspaper reports, and other intelligence materials.
This was anot acceptable to the justice committee members.
“However, the members of the committee stated that the term ‘personal knowledge’ as used in the Verification refers to knowledge or information that are derived from one’s own perception, and that knowledge derived from secondary sources do not constitute ‘personal knowledge’ and are therefore considered hearsay,” said the committee report.
Alejano also admitted his lawyer prepared Annexes A to F of the complaint, but the documents did not contain his lawyer’s signature.
The justice committee voted 41-1-0 to say the impeachment complaint was sufficient in form, “despite some defects, based on liberality and in the interest of substantial justice.”
The impeachment complaint, however, was no longer deemed sufficient in substance by all 42 legislators present during the hearing last week.
This is because Section 4, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings states an impeachment complaint is sufficient in form if:
Duterte enjoys a strong legislative shield in the House, where he counts at least 267 out of 292 lawmakers as his allies.
A total of 121 lawmakers are also members of the President's party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairman, is also a PDP-Laban member. – Rappler.com
Talks last week between leaders of China and the Philippines were frank and friendly, with no threats or bullying, Manila's foreign minister said on Monday, after his president said he was warned of war if he drills for oil in the South China Sea.
"No, I don't think so," Pernia told reporters in Pasig City when he was asked if the economic team was consulted regarding the move to reject billions of pesos in development aid from the EU.
The EU earlier committed €300 million or P16.6 billion in development assistance to the Philippines until 2020, focused on Mindanao peace and development. An initial funding of €50 million or P2.76 billion has been earmarked for the region.
Just early this month, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen assured the Philippines that the economic and political block would continue to pour in development assistance despite concerns about human rights issues in the country.
Pernia said he was "in a way" surprised by the development, but noted that President Rodrigo Duterte has a way of taking back his statements and that this development should not be taken as policy set in stone.
"No, it's not policy. Policy is something that is more permanent. If it's refused this year, maybe it might not be refused next year. So, only this year," he said Thursday.
If it was up to him, Pernia said the Philippines would not reject the billions of pesos in foreign aid.
"If I were to make the decision, I would not. I'm a friendly person," he said.
The Cabinet official said he will discuss with other members of the economic team – Budget Secretary Benjamin M. Diokno and Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III – the matter and decide if they will recommend that the President retract his statement.
"We will collectively decide. The three of us will collectively decide," he said, noting that it was not discussed during the latest Cabinet meeting.
Pernia said the President is receptive to recommendations of the economic team. "He is usually open to suggestion."
By JON VIKTOR D. CABUENAS , GMA News
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte signed the executive order banning smoking in all public places and prohibiting cigarette consumption by minors, it was learned on Thursday.
Under Executive Order 26, which the president signed on May 16 and made public only Thursday, smoking is already prohibited in “enclosed” public places and public utility vehicles regardless if they are moving or stationary and is allowed only in designated smoking areas.
Individuals who allow or tolerate smoking in these places will be held responsible.
Selling, distribution and purchasing of tobacco products from minors are also prohibited, according to EO 26. Individuals caught selling or distributing cigarettes to minors cannot use not knowing the real age of the minor as a defense, according to the order.
The seller of the cigarette could also not claim that he did not know that the cigarette product was for the consumption of the minor to defend himself, the EO says.
Minors will also be prohibited from smoking, selling and buying cigarettes and other tobacco products, the EO says.
In addition, ordering, instructing or compelling of a minor to use, light up, buy, sell, distribute, deliver and promote tobacco products will likewise be prohibited.
The EO says that the selling or distribution of tobacco products in a school, public playground, youth hostels and recreational facilities for minors or within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of these places is also not allowed.
Selling cigarettes to minors and selling them near a school have actually been illegal since 2003 under the Tobacco Regulation Act. Smoking indoors is already prohibited by the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.
“Placing, posting, displaying or distributing advertisement and promotional materials of tobacco products, such as but not limited to leaflets, posters, display structures and other materials within 100 meters from the perimeter of a school, public playground, and other facilities frequented particularly by minors, hostel and recreational facilities for minors, including those frequented by them, or in an establishment when such establishment or its location is prohibited from selling tobacco products,” one of the provisions of the order reads.
The placement of any form of tobacco advertisement outside of the premises of the point-of-sale retail establishments is also banned, as well as the placement of any stall, booth and other displays concerning tobacco promotions to areas outside the premises of point-of-sale locations or adult-only facilities.
The said order also enumerated the requirements needed for designated smoking areas as well as those that cannot be used as such.
According to the order, the following standards should be followed for DSAs:
DSAs should have no opening that will allow air to escape from the DSA to smoke-free area of the building or conveyance, except for a single door equipped with an automatic door closer, provided that, if the DSA is not located in an open space, such door shall open directly towards a non-smoking buffer zone.
DSAs should not be located in or within 10 meters from entrances, exits, or any place where people pass or congregate, or in from of air intake ducts.
The combined area of the DSA and the buffer zone should not be larger than 20 percent of the total floor area of the building or conveyance, provided that in no case shall such area be less than 10 square meters.
No building or conveyance shall have more than one DSA.
The ventilation system for the DSA other than in an open space and for the buffer zone shall be independent of all ventilation systems servicing the rest of the building or conveyance.
Minors shall not be allowed inside the DSA and the buffer zone.
The DSA shall have the following signs which are highly visible and prominently displayed:
Graphic health warning on the effects of tobacco use
Prohibition on the entry of persons below 18 years old
Other standards and specification to better ensure a smoke-free environment as may be prescribed by the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco under Republic Act 9211 provided that such standards and specifications are consistent with the order and that persons-in-charge are given 60 days to comply.
The EO says that the following places cannot be used as DSAs:
Centers of youth activity such as schools, youth hostels and recreational facilities for minors
Elevators and stairwells
Fire-hazard locations such as gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials
Buildings and premises of hospitals, medical, dental and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories
Food preparation areas