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.”


Matobato on Lascañas' confession: 'Tuwang tuwa ako

"Tuwang tuwa ako, hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko. Masaya din ako, umiyak din ako. Basta parang masayang masaya din ako."
This was how Edgar Matobato, self-confessed hitman of the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS), reacted when he saw the confession of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas claiming that DDS exists and President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the killing of certain personalities, a report on Unang Balita on Wednesday said.
Matobato was happy upon knowing that Lascañas made a reversal on his statement, adding that the latter's confession gave weight to his earlier claims, GMA News' Raffy Tima reported.
Lascañas on Monday had made a complete turnaround from his earlier testimony in a Senate inquiry. He claimed that they were paid by Duterte up to P100,000 for every target they killed when he was still a mayor of Davao City.
“Totoo po ang existence ng Davao Death Squad o DDS. Siya ay miyembro namin at isa ako sa pasimuno dito,” Lascañas said, referring to Edgar Matobato, who earlier testified on the DDS before a Senate inquiry.
“Ito ay binabayaran kami ni Mayor Duterte, kadalasan P20,000 or P50,000 at depende sa status ng target, minsan P100,000. Ako ay tumanggap ng allowance sa Office of the Mayor, P100,000,” Lascañas said.
In October last year, Lascañas denied the existence of DDS during the interpellation by Senator Leila de Lima saying, "Wala pong DDS, media hype lang 'yan."
Matobato, on his part, did not expect that one of Duterte's trusted aides and his right-hand man would confess to being a member of the DDS.
"Siya ang pinaka-righthand ni Duterte. Para silang magkapatid ni Duterte. Lahat ng anong utos ni Duterte, siya talaga ang gumagawa," Matobato said.
Matobato said he was disappointed over Lascañas whom he considered as a friend, since the


Senator Leila de Lima arrested in the Philippines

Senator and vocal critic of President Duterte faces drug-trafficking charges related to her term as a justice secretary.
A Philippines senator and staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has been arrested by law enforcement agents after charges were filed in court alleging that she received money from drug dealers inside the country's prisons.

Senator Leila de Lima is accused of orchestrating a drug-trafficking ring when she was justice secretary during the 2010-2015 administration of Benigno Aquino.

"The truth will come out and I will achieve justice. I am innocent," she told reporters shortly before law enforcers escorted her away from her office on Friday.

De Lima, her former driver and bodyguard and a former national prison official were ordered to be arrested by a local court on Thursday after a judge found merit in criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice last week.

De Lima has denied the charges, calling herself a victim of political persecution and saying that she has long prepared herself to be the first "political prisoner" under the Duterte administration.

"While the issuance of the warrant of arrest is questionable, I do not have any plans to evade it," she said, calling the order premature as the court has yet to hear the response from her lawyers.

READ MORE: Duterte accused of paying police to kill

She slept in her Senate office overnight then gave herself up to armed officers in flak jackets who put her in a van and drove into morning rush-hour traffic apparently towards police headquarters.

Duterte, 71, won a presidential election last year after promising during the campaign to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.

Since his inauguration on June 30, an anti-drug drive has seen more than 7,000 people killed over suspected drug links - with about 60 percent of the deaths carried out by unknown assassins.

De Lima has previously called for foreign intervention to put an end to the "state-inspired" extrajudicial murders, which she said have been instigated by Duterte since his election to power.

De Lima also led a series of Senate investigations over allegations that police officers were involved in the killings, and that hired killers were operating under orders from police.

Aries Arugay, associate professor of political science at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, told Al Jazeera that the senator will use her detention to highlight the president's controversial policies.

"Senator de Lima has been taunting the Duterte administration to arrest her for months. She boldly says she is its fiercest critic … What is happening right now is she is really using this as her platform for her own politics," Aurgay said.


Scientists complete drilling task in South China Sea

ABOARD JOIDES RESOLUTION –Scientists on Tuesday completed the first drilling task of an expedition to the South China Sea.
The hole, identified as U1499A, has reached 3,770 meters below sea level, for collection of sediment samples.
According to Sun Zhen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, a preliminary lithologic study was conducted on sediment believed to have been formed eight million years ago.
A second hole, U1499B, will be close to the first.
A total of 33 scientists from China, the United States, France and other countries boarded the U.S. drilling ship JOIDES Resolution on February 8, and arrived at the drilling site last Tuesday.
As part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), they will explore the lithosphere extension during the continental breakup, by drilling at four sites in the northern area of the South China Sea to a depth of up to 4,000 meters.
The study will contribute to understanding of how marginal basins grow.
Since joining the IODP, China has played a major role in expeditions to the South China Sea in 1999 and 2014, collecting samples for studying climate change and basin formation. (PNA/Xinhua)


Filipino with fake Malaysian ID charged with recruiting IS terrorists

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – A Filipino man was charged at the magistrate’s court here with recruiting Islamic State (IS) terrorists and possessing a fake Malaysian MyKad (identity card).
No plea was recorded from Nurhan Sahi Hakim, 32, who hails from Zamboanga in the Philippines, for the charge of knowingly recruiting another person into an IS terrorists group at the arrival hall of the Kota Kinabalu International airport (KKIA) on Jan 13, this year.
The offence, under Section 130E of the Penal Code, is punishable by imprisonment of up to 30 years and a fine upon conviction.

Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun fixed March 8, for the case to be mention pending forensic report. No bail was offered.
However, Nurhan was sentenced to 30 months jail and fined RM1,000 in default three months jail for possessing a fake Malaysian MyKad.
Magistrate Kakayun also ordered him to be referred to the Immigration Department after serving his sentence.


Duterte should retract 'threat' vs suspects' lawyers, HRW says

By Kristian Javier (philstar.com) | 

A human rights activist holds a candle for the victims of extrajudicial killings around the country in the wake of the "War on Drugs" campaign by President Rodrigo Duterte Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Philippines. The "war on drugs" campaign, which saw hundreds of mostly poor victims, has been condemned by human rights groups including the United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte should renounce a statement that has been perceived as a threat against lawyers of alleged drug dealers, a human rights group said.

In a statement early Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said that the president should reaffirm the rights of the suspects to due process and to access to legal counsel after President Duterte, in a speech on December 7, said that when he was a prosecutor, suspects were able to post bail because they had "good, high-profile lawyers."

He said that the suspects went back to crime when they were released on bail.

"Even their lawyers, I will include them," Duterte then said.

"Duterte’s threats against lawyers and human rights defenders constitute a dangerous extension of his abusive ‘war on drugs’ that has already resulted in more than 5,000 killings," HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.

The rights to due process and to legal counsel are in the 1987 Constitution.
Threats against rights advocates

In the past, Duterte has also threatened human rights advocates, saying they are a hindrance to the war on drugs.

"Sabi ng human rights, pinapatay ko raw, sabi ko ‘sige na maghinto tayo, paramihin natin.’ Para pag panahon ng harvest time mas marami na tuloy mamatay, isali ko na kayo kasi kayo ang nagpalaki eh," Duterte said in his statement.

Kine said that the threats made by Duterte show that he will extend his "abusive war on drugs" from targeting criminals to targeting those who object to it.

He added that unless Duterte takes those threats back, "his government will bury the rule of law along with the thousands of suspected criminals killed since he took office on June 30,"

Meanwhile, Presidential Secretary Martin Andanar said that the president's "threats" should not be taken seriously as they are just figures of speech.

READ: Palace: Duterte 'threat' vs rights advocates a figure of speech

"It was just out of frustration. The president did not really mean na gagawin niya talaga yun," Andanar said in an interview with radio dzMM.

He said that that is just how Duterte speaks. 


Lawmakers file criminal case vs De Lima

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Ronnie Dayan and Leila de Lima Photo file/composite

MANILA - A day after filing its third complaint before the Senate Ethics Committee against embattled Senator Leila De Lima, the House of Representatives (HOR), through its leaders, filed a similar complaint for violation of the Revised Penal Code against the lawmaker with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The complaint filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali is in connection with De Lima's advise to former lover and driver-bodyguard Ronnie Dayan to snub the HOR probe into the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade, where De Lima supposedly directed high-profile inmates to sell huge volumes of methamphetamine hydrochloride ("shabu") to fund her senatorial campaign.
The four-page complaint charged De Lima with violation of Article 50 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), which pertains to "disobedience to summons issued by the National Assembly, its committees or subcommittees, by the Constitutional Commissions, its committees, subcommittees or divisions."

The same article also provides that "[t]he same penalty shall be imposed upon any person who shall restrain another from attending as a witness, or who shall induce disobedience to a summon or refusal to be sworn by any such body or official."
"As an incumbent Senator, former Secretary of Justice and a lawyer, advising and inducing Mr. Dayan to hide and not to attend and/or appear in the House Inquiry for which he was duly summoned is tantamount to inducing disobedience to summons issued by Congress, of which she is a sitting member," the complaint read.
The complaint cited the following exchange of text messages between De Lima and Dayan's daughter, Hannah Mae, revealed during the HOR hearing on November 24, 2016, when the Justice Committee reopened its inquiry following Dayan's arrest in Brgy. San Felipe, San Juan, La Union:

"Hannah Mae: Hi Tita. Good pm po. Mi pinapatanong po si pah. Mo baket daw po mi dumating na supwena sa kanya at ano daw po ggawin nia?
Respondent: Pakisabi sa kanya magtago lang muna siya… Kagagawan yan nila Speaker Alvarez at dikta ni Digong. Pagpipyestahan lang siya at kaming dalawa kapag mag-appear siya sa hearing na yan

Hannah Mae: Hindi naman po ba siya huhulihin kapag hindi siya pumunta?
Respondent: Di ba nagtatago naman siya?"

In a news conference following the filing of the complaint, Umali also scored De Lima for calling the House inquiry a sham proceeding and "kangaroo court."

On the part of the DOJ, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre gave the assurance that the complaint will be handled "without fear or favor."
Other complaints are pending with the department against De Lima, Dayan, and several others for violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, also known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, still in connection with the NBP illegal drug trade.
De Lima accused the partymates and allies of President Duterte of persecuting her for hitting hard on the President's war on drugs.  


Filipino militants ‘abduct German, kill wife on yacht'

A German yachtsman is believed to have been abducted by Filipino Islamist militants, the Philippines' army says.
The naked body of a woman found on an abandoned yacht is thought to be his wife, army spokesman Filemon Tan said.
In an audio message, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, which often kidnaps for ransom, said it was behind the raid, the military spokesman added.
The couple, Jurgen Kantner and Sabine Merz, were held captive for more than a month by Somali pirates in 2008.
Their passports were found on board the yacht, Mr Tan said.
The German authorities have yet to confirm the incident.
Abu Sayyaf is one of the smallest and most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines, known for its brutality, including beheadings.
In recent months it has been behind a series of attacks at sea between the Philippines and Malaysia, with tug boats and fishing vessels intercepted and their crews kidnapped and held for ransom.


Chinese coast guards share food with Filipino fishers

filipinofishermanchinese110216SUBIC, ZAMBALES—This was unthinkable months back: Chinese coast guards, who used to drive away Filipino fishermen, shared their food and cigarettes with Filipinos fishing at Panatag Shoal last week.

“Chinese Coast Guard vessels approached the boats of our fellow fishermen but only to share their food, liquor and cigarettes,” said Wilson Almadin, 41, crew member of a fishing boat that returned to this town from Panatag on Monday.
Shared catch with Chinese
Almadin also said other Filipino fishermen shared some of their catch with the Chinese coast guards.

Eight groups of fishermen from Zambales province sailed to Panatag Shoal, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, on Oct. 26 and found they
could enter the area without interference from the Chinese Coast Guard, which had been blockading the rich fishing ground since 2012.
Tensions ease up
Almadin belonged to the group of boat captain Ronald Giobalane, 46, which left Subic on Oct. 27 after learning that Filipinos were able to fish near the shoal.
According to Almadin, the Chinese appeared to prove that tensions at the shoal had eased up.
“We’re now free to fish around the shoal. There’s no tension there …. As long as we will be allowed to stay and fish around the shoal, I think we can coexist with the Chinese Coast Guard,” he said.

“There are four Chinese Coast Guard vessels still patrolling around the shoal. But they did not seem to mind our presence,” Giobalane told the Inquirer shortly after docking his fishing boat “MB” at the fish port here on Monday.
Fishermen who used to frequent the shoal said the area teemed with different kinds of fish such as talakitok, yellow fin tuna, skipjack, blue marlin and red grouper, which are usually not found elsewhere.
Panatag Shoal is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks surrounding a lagoon. It has a perimeter of 46 kilometers and an area of 150 square kilometers.
Arbitral court ruling
The shoal is located 240 km from the coastline of Zambales but China seized it after a two-month standoff with the Philippines in 2012.
The Chinese Coast Guard cordoned off the shoal, driving away Filipino fishermen in spite of a July 12 ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that China had no legal basis for its claim to almost all of the South China Sea.
China state visit
President Duterte discussed the return of Filipino fishermen to the shoal with the Chinese officials during his state visit to China last month.
“Our President has been true to his promise to help us return to the shoal and we’re thankful for that. We’re hoping that Filipinos will no longer fear being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard,” said Ronald Polo, another fisherman.

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