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Farmers hit Duterte’s ‘anti-people’ policies

Members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas stage a rally along Chino Roces Bridge, formerly known as Mendiola Bridge, to mark the 31st anniversary of the Mendiola massacre yesterday. Edd Gumban
MANILA, Philippines — In line with the commemoration of the 31st anniversary of the Mendiola massacre, farmers and allied groups led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) hit the political killings and heightening anti-people policies being implemented by the Duterte administration in a protest action near Malacañang yesterday.

“We remember the ultimate sacrifice of Mendiola massacre farmer-martyrs – Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumunico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez and Roberto Yumul. Their deaths will not go in vain as long as we continue to struggle for genuine land reform,” KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores said, adding that for the tragedy’s 31st anniversary, farmers declared the Duterte administration as an enemy of the people.

KMP said justice remains elusive for hundreds of victims of political killings and human-rights violations under Duterte’s martial law and tyrannical rule.

The group said that to date, 110 farmers have been killed under the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Duterte’s “Oplan Kapayapaan,” while hundreds have been arrested and detained. Tens of thousands more endure human-rights violations, especially in Mindanao which is currently under martial law.

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Hamas bomb expert nabbed in Angeles city, Pampanga

Al-Jabouri
MANILA, Philippines — An Iraqi citizen with suspected links to the Islamic militant group Hamas was arrested in Angeles City, Pampanga on Sunday.

Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri, 64, who reportedly served as a consultant of Hamas, was collared at around 3 a.m. in Barangay Malabanias following a tip from village officials.

Police operatives said they confiscated a black luggage containing an undetermined amount of cash and personal belongings from the suspect.

“The Iraqi embassy described Al-Jabouri as a chemist with knowledge on explosives and is known to have close ties with extremist movements in the Middle East,” Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa told a press briefing yesterday.

“He admitted he is a member of Hamas. He is a chemist and he has been responsible for improving the...technology in firing missiles from their area toward... Israel,” Dela Rosa said.

Hamas is on the United States’ list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The Iraqi embassy alerted Philippine authorities when Al-Jabouri arrived in the country last August while the country was hosting the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and government troops were fighting Maute militants in Marawi.

“The Iraqi embassy panicked...There was a degree of suspicion,” Dela Rosa said.

He said there was no indication that Al-Jabouri was plotting terrorism in the country.

During interrogation, Al-Jabouri said he came to the Philippines to meet a group of Chinese businessmen who hired him as a consultant.

However, Dela Rosa said they are not discounting the possibility that Al-Jabouri had planned to meet local terrorists.

“We don’t know if he has a contact who was trapped in Marawi,” Dela Rosa said.

The Bureau of Immigration will initiate deportation proceedings against Al-Jabouri.

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2 cops in Carl, Kulot slays charged in court

Police Officers 1 Jeffrey Perez (left) and Ricky Arquilita attend a Senate inquiry into the cases of teenagers killed in police anti-narcotics operations on Sept. 5, 2017. Geremy Pintolo
MANILA, Philippines — Two policemen were formally charged before the Caloocan City regional trial court yesterday for allegedly torturing and killing teenagers Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.

The cases were raffled off to Branch 122, headed by Judge Georgina Hidalgo.

Although Arnaiz and De Guzman were minors when they were killed, the cases were raffled off to regular courts instead of family courts, which handle sensitive cases involving minors.

Executive Judge Victoriano Cabanos explained that according to the Supreme Court, cases involving killed minors fall under the jurisdiction of regular courts.

Based on the information, Police Officers 1 Jeffrey Perez and Ricky Arquilita were charged for allegedly conspiring with each other to kill Arnaiz, 19, and De Guzman, 14.

They were also charged with one count of torture each for reportedly beating up the two teenagers before killing them.

They were also charged with planting evidence, such as sachets of marijuana and shabu in Arnaiz’s pockets and backpack and a .38 caliber revolver near Arnaiz’s body, to make it appear he engaged in a “shootout... as cover up for the intended killing,” the information read.

The August 2017 killings of the two teenagers followed that of Kian delos Santos, also in Caloocan City, where he was shot dead during what police claimed to be anti-illegal drug operation.

Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student, was killed in what police said was a shootout but what a closed-circuit television footage appeared to show as murder.

Arnaiz, meanwhile, was allegedly shot by Caloocan police on Aug. 18 last year after he allegedly held up taxi driver Tomas Bagcal.

He was last seen alive with De Guzman when both went out at night supposedly to buy snacks.

De Guzman’s body, with 24 stab wounds, was found weeks later in a creek in Gapan, Nueva Ecija .

The three teenagers’ killings sparked outrage over the administration’s brutal war on drugs and police abuses in anti-narcotics operations.

The cases against cops involved in Delos Santos’ killing are still pending with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which also cleared Bagcal, the taxi driver allegedly held up by Arnaiz.

The DOJ found no probable cause to charge Bagcal, who testified that he turned over Arnaiz to the police alive.

A witness has testified before a Senate investigation that Arnaiz was shot dead by the police officers while he was kneeling and in handcuffs.

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Rival clans in Marawi end 5 decades of conflict

Leaders of the enemy Dipatuan and Balindong clans met and reconciled in Marawi City on Monday. Philstar.com/John Unson
LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines — Two adversarial clans ended on Monday a bloody “rido” that spanned for five decades and exacted no fewer than 50 fatalities on each side.

Rido means vendetta feud in the Maranao dialect, usually rooted in land disputes, political squabbles and affronts on clan pride and honor.

The warring families of Vice Mayor Jaafar Dipatuan of Bacolod-Kalawi and Mayor Al-Fatah Pacalna Balindong of Tugaya forged on Monday in Marawi City a peace covenant jointly brokered by Lanao del Sur Vice Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., Regional Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and officials of the Regional Police Office-ARMM and the Western Mindanao Command.

Lucman said the ARMM’s regional peace and order council led by Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman also helped in reconciling the two families.

Members and supporters of both clans had repeatedly figured in deadly gunfights using assault rifles and grenade launchers over the past five decades.

Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares of the Police Regional Office-ARMM said Tuesday he is confident both sides will religiously abide with the written peace compact clan elders signed on Monday in Marawi City in the presence of Col. Generoso Ponio of the Army’s 103rd Brigade.

“We ought to thank all sectors that exhausted diplomatic means of putting an end to this rido that caused the deaths of members of both clans and troubled for so long the neutral residents in affected areas,” Mijares said.

The Dipatuan and Balindong families turned in more than 20 high-powered firearms to the officials who led the rido settlement as part of the peace deal.

Sources from the provincial government of Lanao del Sur said the bloody rido between the two clans was sparked by political rivalry and squabbles for control of vote-rich areas in the province.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said he is grateful to Adiong, Lucman and Hataman for having pacified both camps on the behest of the military and the ARMM police.

Galvez said the WestMinCom is ready to help rebuild the cordiality between the related Dipatuan and Balindong clans through periodic dialogues focused on how both sides can cooperate in maintaining law and order in their respective municipalities.

Galvez said the two big clans can also easily influence their constituents to support Malacañang’s anti-terror campaign in Lanao del Sur.

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Malacañang on Duterte's alleged investments: Prove documents authentic

HIDING SOMETHING? President Rodrigo Duterte is particularly sensitive to allegations of corruption. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang demanded to be shown bank certification vouching for the authenticity of documents cited by VERA Files' report on P100 million worth of investments supposedly not declared by President Rodrigo Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio in their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth.

"I challenge them. Come up with the certification from the bank that the statements are genuine, then we will comment," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday, January 22.

He was speaking at a Malacañang press briefing after VERA Files published its report which, using documents from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, alleged Duterte hid huge sums of money transfers and investments.

These supposedly hidden investments include those worth P55.13 million and P41.72 million.

On Monday, Roque said, "How could I comment when the documents are not authenticated? The whole story hinges on bank documents which they could not have obtained copies of."

However, President Duterte himself had already issued statements responding to the same documents when they were used by Trillanes during the 2016 elections.

To dispute the allegations of corruption and hidden wealth, Duterte signed a Special Power of Attorney, which allows his lawyer to "request and receive" from the BPI Julia Vargas branch "bank certificates for BPI Savings Account No. 2433-0695-39" in order to "show the current balance as well as the fact that at no time since the opening of the aforesaid Bank Account was there a deposit either singly or collectively of Two Hundred Eleven Million Pesos."

Though Duterte insists the SPA is sufficient as a "waiver," it does not allow BPI to show his bank transaction history, which would have clearly proven Trillanes' accusations false, if indeed they were.

A year and 9 months after the accusations were first made, Duterte is yet to issue a waiver explicitly allowing the release of his bank accounts' transaction history.

Will Duterte issue a waiver given the accusations of the Vera Files report?

Roque still insisted the May 2016 Special Power of Attorney is sufficient.

"The President has said that during the elections, he has already issued a waiver. It's there," said Duterte's spokesman.

Accusations of hidden wealth directly counter the President's projected image of a man of modest means who hides nothing from the public.

While Malacañang denies the authenticity of the bank documents from Trillanes, the Office of the Ombudsman has said documents it received from the Anti-Money Laundering Council are "more or less" similar to Trillanes' documents. (READ: AMLC's bank records on Duterte show P1B flow of money)

But the AMLC later on denied providing the Office of the Ombudsman with such documents.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, a group allied with Duterte, filed a complaint with Malacañang against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, who is in charge of the probe into the Duterte family's bank transactions.

The complaint accused Carandang's allegedly "illegal and unlawful disclosure" of Duterte's and his family's bank transaction records, which they alleged are "falsified and spurious." – Rappler.com

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Revilla urges SC to stop plunder trial, allow him to post bail

Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop his trial at the Sandiganbayan and allow him to post bail in the plunder case involving the alleged misuse of P224.5 million worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Revilla, through veteran lawyer and former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, questioned on January 15 the ruling of the Sandiganbayan First Division last December 7 denying the former senator’s motion to allow him to file a demurrer to evidence as well as the December 28 resolution junking his motion for reconsideration.

A demurrer to evidence is a motion seeking to dismiss a case on the ground of weak evidence from the prosecution.

As a result, the Sandiganbayan set the presentation of evidence by Revilla’s camp on Jan. 25, 30, Feb. 1, 6, 13, 15, 20, 22, 27 and March 6 and 8.

According to the former senator, his rights to due process, to be presumed innocent, to be informed of the nature and cause of accusation against him and to a fair trial have been violated when his motion and subsequent appeal were junked by the anti-graft court.

“At every stage of the proceedings, the petitioner (Revilla) would ask and remind the Sandiganbayan of the violation of those rights, fatal to the continuation of the proceedings and the detention of the petitioner, meriting no more than an equivocal response from the Sandiganbayan, which would continue the proceedings,” the petition stated.

“With the final ruling of the Sandiganbayan that ‘there is a need for the petitioner to present their (his) evidence,’ the anguishing reality that brings the petitioner before this Court is that he is in peril of losing his liberty, reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment), as the Sandiganbayan may ‘play fast and loose’ not only as to what ‘acts’ constitute the offense of plunder but also as to what evidence was offered by the prosecution and admitted by the Sandiganbayan—in short his fate lies entirely in the Sandiganbayan’s hands,” it added.

Revilla had insisted before the Sandiganbayan that the prosecution failed to prove he received P224.5 million in kickbacks for channeling his PDAF allocations to bogus non-government organizations of businesswoman and co-accused Janet Napoles from 2006 to 2010.

However, the Sandiganbayan ruled that there is a need for Revilla to present evidence to back up his claim.

In the same petition, Revilla asked the SC to hold oral arguments and allow his temporary release from detention.

Revilla is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

‘In high spirits ’

For his part, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said Revilla is in high spirits that the SC will rule in favor of the petition, saying he joins his former colleague in praying for his freedom.

"Ako ay magdadasal na lang na sana ma-grant ng Supreme Court ang lahat ng hinihingi ni Senator Bong. He is still in high spirits," Estrada said after attending his PDAF scam trial at the Sandiganbayan on Monday.

Estrada said he has been visiting Revilla in his detention center at least thrice a week since the anti-graft court allowed him to post bail on the same plunder charge.

Estrada said his last visit was on Sunday, when Revilla informed him of the SC petition.

He claimed security measures at the Custodial Center have been stricter following the entry of a "babaeng detainee," referring to Sen. Leila de Lima who is detained on illegal drug charges.

"(Revilla) is complaining of the strictness sa kanyang mga bisita, hindi masyado pinapapasok. Dati kasi hindi sila masyadong mahigpit, ngayon mahigpit na dahil daw dun sa isang babaeng detainee," Estrada said. — with Joseph Tristan Roxas/RSJ, GMA News

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Palace stands by termination of Miascor’s service contract

Malacañang on Sunday dismissed the appeal of a ground cargo handling service provider at Manila and Clark international airports whose contract was terminated following alleged incidents of pilferage.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there was nothing to appeal since the contract between the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Miascor Groundhandling Corp. (Miascor) had already expired.

“There is nothing to appeal as government has no existing contract with Miascor Groundhandling Corp. The Manila International Airport Authority’s lease and concession agreement contract with Miascor has already expired,” Roque said.

 

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday ordered the termination of Miascor’s contract following the recent pilferage of the luggage of overseas Filipino worker Jovenil dela Cruz at Clark International Airport in Pampanga province.
National interest
Roque said the MIAA decided not to renew its contract with Miascor “because of many cases or instances of pilferage, both in Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport.”
These include the theft of jewelry belonging to the wife of a diplomat from Turkey and the alleged involvement of a Miascor supervisor in illegal drugs, he said.
“We have to look at the bigger picture: Our national interest is of paramount importance,” he said.
In a statement on Thursday, Miascor said it would “formally issue an appeal to the President to kindly reconsider his position on behalf of [its] almost 4,000 regular employees and their families who will be affected.”

 

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Ex-DOH chief Ona says he would not have OK'd dengue vaccine

DENGVAXIA. Former DOH Secretary Enrique Ona attends for the first time the Senate probe into the dengue vaccine controversy. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Former Health Secretary Enrique Ona faced the Senate blue ribbon committee for the first time on Monday, January 22, where he slammed the Aquino administration’s implementation of the now-controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccination program.

The vaccination program is facing scrutiny after the vaccine's manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur revealed that there are potential health risks in using the Dengvaxia vaccine.

Asked by committee chair Senator Richard Gordon if he would recommend the use of vaccine if he were still DOH chief, Ona said he would not do so citing “red” flags.

“This should have not been implemented the way it was done – meaning, targeting almost a million children – because the basis for the issues that were being raised were still a big question mark,” said Ona.

“Ibig pong sabihin dapat pag-isipan po nang husto kung i-implement po ‘yun.(This means they should have thought hard before implementing it) If I were the Secretary of Health, I would not implement it in that extent,” he said.

Ona was the Aquino administration's first health chief, in office from June 2010 to December 2014. The program was implemented in 2016, with former president Benigno Aquino III saying it was Ona who introduced it to him.

During the hearing, Ona also reiterated his previously issued statement and blamed his successor Janette Garin for the "major health nightmare."

Ona also said he did not talk to Garin about the program – something that the latter refuted.

Garin said Ona called her twice in 2014 to attend his meetings with manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur in his office. At the time, she was still an undersecretary. Garin also said Ona even asked her to call for a press conference.

“Lastly your honor, in relation to the dengue vaccine. Sinabi po niya di po kami nagkausap. (He said we did not talk about it). Your honor, I beg to disagree, when I was undersecretary of the Department of Health, two meetings po 'yun pinatawag ako sa (that I was called to the) office of the Secretary to join him in meeting Sanofi Pasteur," Garin said.

"I am not saying these are bad meetings. [These are] updates on clinical trials and even Secretary Ona was happy with presentation. Sinabi sakin mag-arrange [ako] ng presscon. (He told me to arrange a presscon). I even had a picture in my phone, I'll try to look that up and present to this body,” she added.

Garin also said it was Ona who first brought the vaccine matter to former president Aquino’s attention, similar to the former chief executive’s previous statement.

“Ang nagdala po sa akin kay Pangulong Aquino para pag-usapan ang bakuna ay si Secretary Ona himself. When he asked me to accompany him, it was initially Usec Gaco binitbitt po ako,” Garin said.

(It was Secretary Ona himself who tagged me along to talk about the vaccine to President Aquino.)

Aquino earlier told the Senate panel that he was made to understand that the vaccine had undergone all the necessary local and international processes to determine its safety and efficacy for mass use.

At the time, Aquino said no one, including his own health secretary, told him about their concerns about the dengue vaccine.

Ona also denied Aquino’s statement that he met with Sanofi officials in China in November 2014 with Ona.

“That is a complete surprise to me. Kung yun ang sinabi niya (if that was what he said), I was not in Beijing on that month and it was only in August 2014 when I was in Beijing. I don’t recall any,” Ona said.

Less than two years later after the launch, Sanofi said Dengvaxia could cause a more severe case of dengue when administered on a person who have not been infected with the virus prior immunization. (READ: Conflict between Garin and FEC emerges in Dengvaxia probe)

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III suspended the program after the announcement, but not before more than 830,000 school children received the risky vaccine. – Rappler.com

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