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Robredo stresses importance of human rights,

Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo on Tuesday underscored the importance of human rights, and hoped that the country's current situation would not negatively affect its trading relations with the European Union.
"I am aware that human rights is currently a contentious issue in our country. I never thought I would see the day when such a universally accepted...concept can be painted as undesirable and wrong," she said before European businessmen in a speech at the EU-Philippines Business Summit in Parañaque City.
Just last Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened diplomats of the European Union to leave the Philippines within 24 hours, after a delegation of the Progressive Alliance and party of European Socialists warned that the Philippines' Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) may be affected should killings in the country persist.
The EU later clarified that the delegation was not an official EU mission.
The GSP+, currently under review by the EU, grants the Philippines zero duties on some 6,274 locally made products.
The agreement between the two parties requires the Philippine ratification of 27 international conventions which cater to human and labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance, among others.
"Every day, I worry about how this will affect our young ones and our future generations, but I hope that this will not extensively strain relations between my country and the European Union," Robredo said, adding that the Philippines values the EU's friendship and support beyond economics, trade and aid. — GMA News


CBCP denies viral fake news that bishops condemned Maute, Hapilon deaths

The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has denied a viral fake news report, indicating that the Catholic leaders were saddened by the deaths of bandit leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas denied that the prelates were saddened by the military's killing of the bandits who laid siege to Marawi City for months and who caused the declaration of martial in the whole of Mindanao.
"Once more, the CBCP is the hapless of fake news. Going viral on social media is a 'report' that the CBCP regrets the killing of Messrs. Hapilon and Maute," Villegas said.
"The CBCP never made such a statement," he added.
Villegas said that the Catholic leaders lauded "the gallantry of our soldiers and their heroic efforts to free Marawi."
"We will gladly join government in rebuilding the city in the measure we are able," Villegas said in a statement.
"We pray for the dead, and for lasting peace in Mindanao," he added.
A CBCP official on Monday said that the deaths in Marawi City of Hapilon and Maute didn't mean the end of terrorism in the country.
“Rejoicing in the death of these terrorists will merely be temporary. Their death doesn’t mean the end of terror groups in the country,” CBCP-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs executive secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano said in a statement released by church-run Radio Veritas.
Secillano instead urged the government to focus on the economy of Mindanao and educate its citizens properly to veer them away from terrorist ideals.
“There must be a holistic approach to thwarting terrorism. Education, employment, poverty eradication and infrastructure development should only be some of the measures that this government should undertake if only to dismantle or at least weaken the influence of terrorist cells,” he said. –GMA News


Lim chosen Comelec OIC by fellow commissioners

Election commissioner Christian Robert Lim (photo from Comelec website)
MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:17 p.m.) Commissioner Christian Robert Lim is the officer-in-charge of the Commission on Elections.

Lim was unanimously chosen on Tuesday, October 24, by his fellow election commissioners en banc.

He will head the poll body until President Rodrigo Duterte can choose a replacement for former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista, who stepped down the day before after being informed his offer to resign had been accepted “effective immediately.”

Lim had also served as Comelec OIC following the retirement of former chairman Sixto Brillantes.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said Bautista’s departure would have no effect on the agency’s operations.

He added that whoever Duterte names chairman of the poll body will serve the remainder of Bautista’s term until February 2022.

Jimenez said Lim immediately buckled down to work, outlining his plans for the immediate future.

In Malacañag, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed that Duterte has not yet decided on a replacement for Bautista, who was impeached by the House of Representatives even after he offered to quit his post at the end of the year.

Bautista has been accused of amassing hidden wealth by his estranged wife Patricia.


PH formally receives donated Chinese heavy equipment

Public Works Sec. Mark Villar formally receives the donated heavy equipment from Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua. (handout photo)
China formally handed over on Tuesday, October 24, brand new heavy equipment intended for use in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Marawi City.

In handover ceremonies at the Department of Public Workers and Highways, Secretary Mark Villar received from Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua the eight units ach of excavators, wheel loaders, dump trucks, and cement mixers; and five units each of compactors, track type tractors, and bulldozers.

The donation also included one container van.

“On behalf of the Philippine government, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for these brand new heavy equipment that are essential as we aim for the fast recovery of Marawi City,” Villar was quoted in a statement as telling Zhao.

“The handover ceremony today is another hallmark of the strong levels of support, collaboration, and cooperation between China and the Philippines,” he added.

DPWH Region 10 director Virgilio C. Eduarte said the first batch of Chinese equipment arrived in Iligan City on October 9.

The DPWH as the lead agency of the Task Force Bangon Marawi Reconstruction Sub-Committee and is also a member of the Housing Sub-committee, specifically responsible for the site development of transitory shelters.


Palace: EU report on worsening PH rights situation under Duterte a ‘rehash’ of poll losers’ gripes

File photo of President Rodrigo Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — Saying it was nothing new and sounded like the old gripes of last year’s poll losers, Malacañang on Tuesday downplayed the European Union’s report stating that the human rights situation in the Philippines had “considerably worsened as a consequence” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs campaign.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said “many” of the “alleged findings” in the EU’s recently released 2016 Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World “are a rehash of criticisms aired by the political party whose candidate lost to the President.”

“Again, for the public’s continuing awareness, we reiterate that the Philippines is investigating allegations of drug-related killings, extrajudicial deaths, and media violence to ensure the accountability of perpetrators,” Abella added.

In the report, the EU noted that while “some trends and circumstances detrimental to human rights, such as extrajudicial killings and the climate of impunity were already present under previous administrations,” the last six months of last year “was marked with serious deterioration in respect for the right to life, due process and the rule of law.”

It cited the war on drug’s killing of 6,000 Filipinos and the arrest of 40,000 others from July to mid-December of 2016 based on data from Philippine National Police as reported in the media, with one-third of the deaths occurring in police operations.

Moreover, the union said Duterte’s “statements and actions have seemingly encouraged the police to take an aggressive approach in dealing with drug users and pushers, and have — according to human rights advocates — also encouraged vigilante style extrajudicial killings.”

But Abella on Tuesday said “congressional hearings were convened to look into these allegations and have proved that the State does not sanction wanton and unjustified killings.”

“Impunity does not have a place in this administration,” he added.


21 heads of state – so far – confirmed attendance at ASEAN summit: NOC head

Ambassador Marciano Paynor, head of the National Organizing Committee for the country's ASEAN hosting, briefs reporters at the Palace. PTV 4 IMAGE GRAB
MANILA – The secretary general of the United Nations will join 20 heads of state and leaders of government at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit that the Philippines will host in November, the head of the National Organizing Committee said Tuesday.

Following tradition, leaders of the 10 ASEAN member states will be in attendance at this year’s summit – significant because it is the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary – and will be joined by eight members of the East Asia Summit, according to the NOC head, Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr..

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has confirmed attendance, Paynor said at a Malacañang press briefing. “We will have a total of 21 heads of state, heads of government, plus the Secretary General of the United Nations. Thus far, we have not had any indication of anyone not coming,” he said.

Paynor said that leaders of ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-Canada, which both mark their 40th Anniversary of collaboration with ASEAN, will also fly in to Manila in November.

“So that’s 10 ASEAN member-states, eight members of the East Asia Summit, and two others who are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN collaboration and that is ASEAN-EU and ASEAN-Canada. So both the President of the economic community, plus the Premier — Prime Minister [Justin Trudeau] of Canada are also expected to arrive here,” he explained.

Only Timor Leste, whose membership in ASEAN remains pending, will send a representative as guest.

Paynor said he is confident that “pretty much everything is set” for the Summit-related events, given the preparations thus far. At least 282 meetings have been planned for the ASEAN hosting.

“Most of all, our security elements are really on their toes because that is the one area that we cannot really prepare for 100 percent. So we keep on trying,” he said.


Coverup try of hazing death tarnishing legal profession—Chiz

Sen. Francis Escudero on Thursday lashed at Aegis Juris members whom he said “clearly attempted” to cover up the hazing death of University of Santo Tomas (UST) law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III on Sept. 17.

“They are tarnishing the legal profession which we and many lawyers are part of,” said Escudero, himself a lawyer.

At the regular “Kapihan sa Senado” forum, Escudero referenced the online exchange of messages by fraternity members.

“It’s clear, based on their chats, that they intended to cover up their crime and hide those who are liable,” said the senator.

On Wednesday, Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, Manila Police District (MPD) chief, told the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs inquiring into the fatal hazing of Castillo that investigators had retrieved the conversation thread on Facebook of the fraternity members following the death of the UST law freshman.

The Facebook group chat, shown through a 38-page slide presentation at the hearing, was initiated by a UST graduate and member of Aegis Juris identified by Coronel as lawyer Marvi Abo.

the MPD chief said Abo started the group chat early on Sept. 17, the day Castillo was believed to have died from excessive beating during his initiation into the fraternity.

Coronel noted that the fraternity members’ “tendency” to avoid investigation and prosecution “at all cost” was “very evident” in the group chat.

Escudero also said the fraternity members’ alleged participation in the online chat and in the actual hazing could be grounds for their disbarment or could prevent them from taking the bar examination.

He said that violating the Anti-Hazing Act, committing a murder and being an accessory to a murder “constitute moral turpitude,” which could be a “basis for law students to not be allowed to take the Bar and not allowed to be a lawyer. It can also be ground for disbarment of a lawyer.”

One of the issues discussed during the group chat was the fraternity members’ attempt to rid the Aegis Juris library of possible evidence.

“His family is welloff. They’ll be able to get a search warrant for the frat library tomorrow. I hope it gets cleaned up. I hope the paddle gets removed from there,” said a chat message from Alston Kevin Anarna.


No EU aid, no excuse to meddle, says Cayetano

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano FILE PHOTO / MALACANANG
The Philippines will reject “all kinds of aid” from the European Union (EU) to give the 28-member bloc no excuse to meddle in the country’s internal affairs, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Thursday.
Cayetano said he would formally notify the EU delegation’s ambassador to the Philippines, Franz Jessen, about Manila’s decision following President Duterte’s vitriolic attack on Wednesday against the EU over criticisms of his bloody war on drugs.
“The point of the speech of the President last night was if the grant has strings attached, you (the donor) can meddle in our politics. It’s more damaging than helpful (due to the) sovereignty issue,” Cayetano told reporters.

He said EU grants were “one-sided” since donors could unilaterally end the grants and dictate conditions.
Other countries like India, China, Russia and Japan gave grants without conditions and many US grants had “no strings attached,” he added.
He said “a number of Cabinet members” also believe that such grants give donors “the legal authority to meddle” in the country’s internal affairs.
Cayetano said he was unaware of new EU grants in the pipeline and he could not confirm Mr. Duterte’s claim of a supposed grant from the United Kingdom amounting to about $18 million.
Duterte not apologizing
Incensed by last week’s visit by a foreign delegation, including several European parliamentarians who denounced extrajudicial killings in the antidrugs campaign, Mr. Duterte threatened to cut ties with the EU and send all their ambassadors home.
Duterte later said he was not satisfied with the clarification of the EU delegation in the Philippines that it was not involved with that foreign mission.
“The President is not apologizing because he believes there are certain elements of the EU that are creating the environment of deceit, wrong information here and in the international media,” he said.

He said EU-based think tanks and human rights groups have also made “bad and damaging conclusions” about the antidrugs campaign, creating an environment that did not allow European policymakers “to deal with us in a much more friendly manner.”
Sought for a reaction to Cayetano’s statements, the EU office in Manila said Jessen had no comment.
A priest who heads the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged the government to reconsider its decision, calling the take-no-aid position an “absurd policy,” especially when the country needed massive resources to rehabilitate war-torn Marawi City.
“The President should have a macro perspective, not very myopic, and not only focused on the war on illegal drugs,” Edu Garinguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action, said on Thursday.
Aid is “a form of assistance and expression of global solidarity,” Garinguez said.

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