Witness tags Duterte son in Davao killings

By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) |Retired police officer Arthur Lascañas is grilled by senators yesterday over his claims that President Duterte ordered killings in Davao City through a death squad. GEREMY PINTOLO

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte and his son Paolo had taken part in killings in Davao City, with the then city mayor reportedly showing no compunction over “collateral damage” in the alleged killing sprees, a self-confessed former death squad member told a Senate panel yesterday.

Retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas hurled the accusation before the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

At the end of the hearing, most of the senators appeared unconvinced by Lascañas’ narrative as the panel ended its inquiry into his claims that President Duterte had directed the killings of criminal suspects and opponents using the Davao death squad (DDS).

Lascañas was the main witness in the first and last hearing conducted yesterday by Lacson’s committee.

The witness also said national police chief Ronald dela Rosa, then Davao City police chief, was aware of the DDS operations but had no actual involvement.

As the hearing progressed, Lascañas was thought to be someone only wanting a payback for failing last year to secure profitable business contracts that he thought he would bag using his alleged closeness to Duterte.

Lascañas surfaced last Feb. 20 at the Senate for a “public confession,” tagging Duterte as having ordered the assassination of broadcaster Jun Pala and the killing of hundreds of other people when he was still mayor of Davao City.

The retired policeman said he had a “spiritual renewal” around October 2015 when he survived a kidney transplant and decided to tell all on the killings he had allegedly witnessed or participated in upon the direct or indirect orders of Duterte.

Yesterday, the senators zeroed in on his recantation of his testimony before the Senate on Oct. 3 that the DDS did not exist and that the statements of self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato were not true.


Body of beheaded German hostage found in Philippines

(CNN)Officials have found the body of Jurgen Kantner, a German hostage beheaded by Islamist militants in the Philippines last week.

Kantner's body was retrieved Saturday in the southern province of Sulu, officials said.
"We will coordinate with the appropriate offices for the disposition of the remains of the victim," Western Mindanao Command Maj. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said.

German national Jurgen Kantner and his partner, Sabine Merz, in 2009, months after they were freed by Somali pirates.
Philippine and German officials confirmed last week that Kantner had been killed after being held for three months by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines.
It was the second time Kanter had been abducted. He was held along with his partner, Sabine Merz, by Somali pirates for nearly two months in 2008.
Kanter was beheaded by Abu Sayyaf after a deadline to pay his ransom passed. The group had demanded 30 million Philippine pesos ($600,000) by February 26.
Abu Sayyaf posted a gruesome video of its militants killing the man with a curved knife. The video was distributed by the SITE Intelligence Group.
"The Federal Chancellor condemns the abominable act, which once again shows how unscrupulous and inhumane these terrorists are. We all must stand together and fight against them," said Steffen Seibert, spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to


Duterte admits he knows Lascañas

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, February 27, admitted knowing retired policeman Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas, the whistle-blower who is linking him to killings in Davao City when he was mayor.
“As a policeman, yes. I saw him once, twice a year,” Duterte told reporters in Malacañang when asked if he knew Lascañas.
The veteran Davao cop has signed an affidavit on February 19, 2017, that said Duterte had personal knowledge of the killings in the city as mayor for over 2 decades. It was the opposite of his Senate testimony in October last year, where he denied the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) and the alleged participation of Duterte in it.
Saying he feared for his life then, Lasañas said at a press conference last week that he was willing to testify on all the killings that the President had ordered him to do.
In his affidavit which was sent to the media by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday, Lascañas said Duterte did the following to the DDS:
· clear specific operations
· give specific orders and instructions
· meet with Lascañas and some members of the group in his Central Park residence
· gave assurances of protection to policemen who were part of the DDS
· look for a hitman to kill broadcaster Jun Pala
· give out millions of pesos as reward
Duterte told reporters he never denied that hundreds of criminals died in Davao. “Sa 23 years ko, eh talagang naubos,” he said. (In my 23 years as mayor, they all died.)
The President said that when he was mayor, it was his style to give soldiers and policemen money during command conferences, to help them in their operations against criminals. Policemen needed money for their buy-bust operations, and some would pocket the money for their own use, he lamented. “Magtanong ka [sa] lahat ng army, lahat ng pulis na dumaan ng Davao. I give money every command conference, tapos operating [expenses]. Ngayong kung meron silang buy-bust maghingi ng pera iyan pambili, kasi kung wala kang pera, walang transaction sa shabu. Iyong iba binulsa tapos sinabi binibigyan.”
It's not clear yet whether Lascañas would be given the chance to testify again before the Senate.
Majority of the senators last week decided to reopen the DDS probe given Lascañas' new affidavit.
But a revamp happened at the Senate on Monday, removing senators who favored a Lascañas testimony from key leadership positions. The impact of the reorganization on the scheduled DDS investigation this week is not immediately clear. – Rappler.com


Transport strike: Why pick on jeepneys to fix traffic problems?

MANILA – Jeepney drivers and operators in Metro Manila and key cities across the country halted their operations on Monday, February 27, to protest government proposals to phase out old public utility vehicles (PUVs), especially jeepneys.
Modernizing the Philippines' mass transit system should not necessarily entail getting public utility jeepneys (PUJ) off the streets, they said.
Senate Bill 1284 and House Bill 4334, seeking to modernize the transport sector, are pending.
The protest rally was spearheaded by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) and affected travel for commuters.
In the Bicol region – specifically in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte – members of the Concerned Drivers and Operators (Condor-Piston) said 95% of local transport operators participated.
They said 100% of local jeepneys and UV Express drivers joined the strike. Condor-PISTON, they said, has 12,000 members.
Ramos Rescovilla of Daraga town said about 3,500 jeepneys halted operations in the region. "Our regionwide transport strike is completely successful with 3,500 unit of jeepneys and 12,000 strong members halted from operations," he said.
The Philippine National Police in Bicol went on full alert. They set up police assistance centers in the region to assist stranded commuters and prevent untoward incidents during the strike.

'Attack on poor drivers'
Francisco Pagayaman, chairman of the urban poor group Kadamay in Northern Mindanao, said the planned disposal of outmoded PUJs would deprive drivers and operators of their livelihood.
“It is an attack on the poor drivers and operators? while the capitalists will benefit from it. The P7 million franchising fee is practically not affordable,” Pagayaman said.
Anakbayan commended jeepney drivers and operators "for their strike that brings back to national consciousness the issue of public mass transport."
It added, "Piston and other participants in today's strike deserve our full support for showing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Department of Transportation as the agency in charge of public mass transport."
Anakbayan continued, "This is an agency that is quick to police the ranks of jeepney drivers, but is quiet about Uber and Grab surges, accidents involving big bus fleets, abuses by airlines, malpractices by big taxi operations, and outright deception by MRT and LRT consortia."
The Kabataan group, for its part, said that they are not against modernization, but corporations, and not the drivers and operators, stand to benefit from it.
“The drivers have been suffering every time there is an increase in fuel prices due to the


Rape, plunder, treason to be removed from death penalty bill

MANILA – The House majority bloc decided to further water down the death penalty bill by removing rape, plunder, and treason to get more votes for the controversial measure.
This was revealed by House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali following a majority caucus on Monday, February 27. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez attended the meeting as well.
"We agreed that [the] bill will be limited to drug-related heinous crimes…. So tanggal na 'yung treason, 'yung plunder, 'yung rape (So we will be removing treason, plunder, and rape)," said Umali.
With the latest decision, House Bill (HB) 4727 is expected to be further amended to just include the following drug-related crimes:
· Importation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
· Sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution, and transportation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
· Maintenance of a drug den, dive, or resort
· Manufacture of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals
· Cultivation or culture of plants classified as dangerous drugs or are sources thereof
· Unlawful prescription of dangerous drugs
· Criminal liability of a public officer or employee for misappropriation, misapplication, or failure to account for the confiscated, seized and/or surrendered dangerous drugs, plant sources of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, instruments/paraphernalia and/or laboratory equipment including the proceeds or properties obtained from the unlawful act committed
· Criminal liability for planting evidence concerning illegal drugs
The Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative explained that the majority bloc realized it can garner more votes for the measure if the bill will just retain the drug offenses.
"Kasi meron kaninang mga issues na ni-raise na meron ding effect on the economy, 'yung sa trade natin (Because they raised issues that it will have effects on the economy, trade) and so on and so forth, but that is not I guess the real reason. It is more of 'yung getting the consensus of the group... It became easier when we limited it to just one [type of] crime," said Umali.
"Sa rape, lumabas 'yun sa top 3 nung nagkaroon kami ng


PH resumes war on drugs

MANILA – Less than a month after he suspended his controversial war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte announced during a press conference in Malacanang on Tuesday, Feb. 28, that he was resuming the all-out war that had claimed more than 7,000 lives.

The president had suspended the nationwide police action last month after the killing of Korean executive Jee Ick Joo by anti-drug operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) inside Camp Crame.

Duterte told PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa – whom he had ordered to conduct a cleansing of the police -- to form task forces at all stations for anti-drug operations.

He said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will still lead the anti-drug operations.

“I asked Bato to recruit young men in the PNP who are imbued with the fervor of patriotism to be the members only of the task forces. Every station should have one. Pero iyong piling-pili. Iyong mga walang kaso at walang history ng korapsyon,” President Duterte said, following Monday’s joint command conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP in the palace.

“I have to do it because kulang ako ng tao. And I am also fighting again with the NPAs and I have this problem in Mindanao about terrorism and drugs. So kailangan ko ng tao. I have to call back the police again to do the job most of the time sa drugs. Hindi lahat,” he said.

More than 7,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency seven months ago, resulting in criticism from church groups, as well as international and local human rights organizations.

The resumption of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs coincides with a return to hostilities with the


The way Californians are charged for energy is changing

San Francisco, CA — A statewide process to change the way Californians are charged for their energy will take another step towards completion on March 1. The goals of the changes are to help ensure the price customers pay for energy is more closely aligned with the cost of providing them with safe, reliable and clean energy service, to simplify rate structures and to encourage energy conservation.

The process to modernize and simplify California’s electric rate system aims to balance rate tiers and eventually moving to a time-of-use rate structure. These changes were developed jointly between PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and supported by many consumer interest groups.

What is happening
The March 1 changes will simplify the structure for Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) rate plans:
Reducing the number of tiers from three to two tiers, to simplify the rate structure.
The introduction of a High Usage Surcharge to encourage energy conservation.

In addition to the structural changes, electric transmission rates will increase on March 1, with residential customers seeing a 2.1 percent increase in this portion of their bills. Even with these increases, PG&E customers’ bills are still below the national average, based upon the most recently available data.

Why is it happening
The current electric rate structure was established during the 2001 energy crisis. It’s outdated, complex and confusing for customers.

For years, in order to encourage energy conservation and efficiency, the costs of PG&E’s service to maintain the energy grid and ensure reliable electricity service were disproportionately placed upon customers who found themselves in the higher tiers – most often impacting those who live in hotter climates.

While conservation and efficiency programs have been and continue to be very successful, the electric rate structure resulted in an imbalance between how customers in the lower and higher tiers pay for what it costs to provide them with service.

How changes impact customers, support a cleaner California
The March 1 changes may help those who find themselves in higher tiers due to the need to cool their homes during hotter months. After the changes are implemented, customers who need to use more energy may see lower bills, while customers who typically able to use less energy may see higher bills.

“Since 2010, KernTax has advocated for these types of structural rate changes. We are pleased to see meaningful progress towards a more fair and equitable electric rate system. KernTax will continue to work with PG&E, the CPUC and others to make sure that the goals to more closely align the costs we all pay for energy is reflective on what it costs to deliver that service to customers, regardless of climate zone, are reached,” said Michael Turnipseed, executive director of the Kern County Taxpayers Association, one of the consumer groups that supported these changes.

These changes are designed to support California’s ambitious clean energy goals to combat climate change. Customers who use more than four times the baseline amount of electricity will receive a High Usage Surcharge. The baseline amount of electricity for each customer depends on their location, the season and their home heating system. Less than 10 percent of residential customers will likely incur the High Usage Surcharge. The surcharge:
Only applies to customers on PG&E’s tiered electric rate plans.
Is intended to encourage energy conservation among customers whose electricity use is significantly higher than typical households.

“We understand that any change to the way our customers are accustomed to being charged for energy may cause some questions. We want all of our customers to know that we’re here to help them understand these changes and manage their energy costs. We offer new rate options as well as free programs and tools to help customers take control of their energy use and make smart choices,” said Deborah Affonsa, vice president, Customer Service, PG&E.

Ways to take control of energy use
The most powerful tool customers have at their disposal to


After 25 years, ‘Miss Saigon’ returns with another Filipina Kim

By Lindy Rosales, The FilAm

NEW YORK CITY -- A quarter century after it debuted in London’s West End, the tragic romance between a Vietnamese bar girl and an American serviceman is returning to Broadway on March 1.

“Miss Saigon,” where Lea Salonga made theater history for a Filipino by winning the Laurence Olivier Award in 1989/90 for Outstanding Performance of the Year in a Musical and the Tony Award in 1991 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical will be headlined once again by a Filipina actress.

Playing Kim is Eva Noblezada, a FilAm from North Carolina who was offered the role in London when she was just 17 years old, the same age as Lea when she set out to play the bar girl who has a son with a US serviceman. After three years in London, Eva as Kim — with co-star Alistair Brammer as Chris – will be on Broadway.

“I was living in North Carolina and we drove up (but) I was able to sing a song from ‘Ghost, the Musical,’” Noblezada recalled how she was discovered at the 2013 National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City. One of the “Saigon” casting directors was in the audience.

She was asked to audition. Three auditions later, she was told she got the part. “It was quite extraordinary,” she said.


OFW on death row appeals to Duterte for help


By Don Kevin Hapal, Rappler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Trump, Duterte blamed for global pushback of human rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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