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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.


87 families flee as landslides shut down roads in Negros Oriental town, debris smashes Dumaguete bridges

Valencia, Negros Oriental

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3 – 12:16 p.m.) Landslides triggered by heavy rains since Wednesday shut down roads and sent residents fleeing in at least four villages in the upland town of Valencia, Negros Oriental, on Thursday, October 19, with uprooted trees reaching Dumaguete City, where they destroyed two overflow bridges.

Vicente Omandam, senior manager of the Energy Development Corp.’s Negros Island Geothermal Business, confirmed in a statement that “a series of landslides took place in (Barangays) Puhagan, Pulangbato, Malaunay, and Caidiocan areas in Valencia due to heavy rains since yesterday until this morning.”

Omandam said at least 87 families needed to be evacuated but “no casualties and injuries have been reported though the roads are currently inaccessible to all types of vehicles due to debris from the landslide.”

The evacuees have been sheltered at the Palinpinon Elementary School and two chapels. EDC has provided them with food and water, Omandam said.

Valencia hosts the Palinpinon geothermal power plant.


But Violeto Romano, a resident of Colon Extension in Dumaguete, which is just downhill from Valencia, said huge tree trunks washed down by floodwaters smashed the two overflow bridges.

Residents of Colon, Dumaguete City look at the tree trunks washed down from the landslides in nearby Valencia town. (photo courtesy of Violeto Romano)
The damaged embankments of one of the overflow bridges in Colon, Dumaguete City destroyed by debris washed down from landslide areas in nearby Valencia town. (photo courtesy of Violeto Romano)

Omandam said, adding that EDC’s civil works team “is still assessing the area.”

“We have also mobilized our barangay emergency response team in Valencia to provide us updates,” he added.


Arrest of alleged Pinay ISIS recruiter shows need for vigilance – Palace

Image from News5 video shows Karen Aizha Hamidon at her presentation by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. 

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said Thursday, October 19, that the arrest of Karen Aizha Hamidon, who authorities accuse of seeking recruits for ISIS, “underscores that we cannot let our guard down in the fight against terrorism as some remnants of the forces of evil are still at large.”

Hamidon, 36, was arrested in Taguig City a week ago but she was presented to media by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday.

She has been charged with 14 counts of inciting to rebellion or insurrection and violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 for allegedly using social media and messaging apps to call on foreigners to join extremist gunmen who battled government forces in Marawi City.

After nearly five months, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Islamic city liberated this week and military officials said he battle of Marawi was finally winding down following the deaths of extremist leaders Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf commander said to have been designated ISIS’s leader in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute. 

But presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said although the two extremist leaders have been killed, they have followers who are still on the loose.

Hamidon, a Muslim convert, was married to Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, who led the pro-ISIS Ansar Al-Khilafa and is said to have led the deadly bombing of Davao City in September last year. Maguid was killed in a gunfight with police in Sarangani January 5 this year.

She also allegedly became the wife of Singaporean security guard Muhammad Shamin Mohamed Sidek, who was detained in 2015 after making pro-ISIS Facebook posts inciting readers to religious violence. Hamidon is also said to be close to Musa Cerantino, an Australian jihadi extremist and ISIS supporter.


Rains to persist as ‘Paolo’ seen to become super typhoon

Satellite image from the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center showing the position of typhoon Paolo (Lan).
MANILA, Philippines — Rains, possibly accompanied by strong winds and lightning, that could trigger flashfloods or landslides are forecast for the whole country on Thursday, October 19, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said.

At the same time, although not expected to make landfall, typhoon “Paolo,” last tracked 895 kilometers east of Daet, Camarines Sur, is forecast to strengthen into a super typhoon by Friday, October 20, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Currently, Paolo packs maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour near the center with gusts of up to 145 kph as it moved north-northwest at 15 kph.

By Friday, according to forecast estimates by the Japan Meteorological Agency, Paolo (international codename: Lan), should be packing winds of 176 kph gusting up to 250 kph.

JTWC forecast track for typhoon Paolo
Despite its distance, Paolo is expected to induce possible moderate to heavy rains that could trigger “serious flooding” and landslides in the Visayas, Mindanao, the Bicol region and the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon.

Similar weather conditions should be felt in Palawan because of a low pressure area last tracked 185 km west of Puerto Princcesa City.

Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon can expect partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon or evening.


Kin of 35 slain drug suspects seek SC relief

The petitioners and residents of San Andres Bukid in Manila sought relief from the high court. File
MANILA, Philippines — The families of 35 drug suspects killed by police in supposed anti-narcotics operations yesterday filed a petition against the Duterte administration’s war on drugs before the Supreme Court (SC).

The petitioners and residents of San Andres Bukid in Manila sought relief from the high court.

In a 57-page petition filed by lawyers from the Center for International Law, the group asked the SC to issue a temporary protection order prohibiting police from getting near their homes and workplaces.


Named respondents were the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Manila Police District director Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel, MPD Station 6 commander Superintendent Olivia Ancheta Sagaysay and Superintendents Jerry Corpuz and Robert Domingo.

The other respondents are members of the MPD Station 6. They are Police Officers 2 Rhafael Rodriguez, Princeton Felia, Jocelyn Samson, Francisco Mendoza and Roestrell Ocampo; PO1s Harry Allan Cruz, Kennith Gaa and Efren Guitering; PO3s Allan Escramosa and Rodolfo Ocampo Jr., and Senior Inspector Concorcio Pangilinan.

The petitioners also sought to stop the respondents from harassing, contacting or communicating with them directly or indirectly.

A majority of the drug suspects had surrendered to authorities under Oplan Tokhang but were still killed by police, according to the group.

“Even those who were merely at the wrong place, at the wrong time were killed. It appeared that the police have generated a ‘kill list’ from the barangays,” the petition read.

The residents of 26 barangays in San Andres Bukid asked the SC to stop police from coercing barangay officials to submit a list of drug suspects in the community.

The petition cited the violence allegedly perpetrated by members of the MPD Station 6 in San Andres Bukid and nearby areas.

The petitioners asked the SC to enjoin the respondents from conducting anti-drug operations in San Andres Bukid without coordination and presence of representatives from the PDEA, barangay officials and members of media.

Similar petitions against the war on drugs have been filed before the high court.

A petition for a writ of amparo was filed by a survivor and families of four men allegedly killed by operatives of the Quezon City Police District during anti-drug operations in Payatas last year.

Last month, a group of lawyers, led by Evalyn Ursua, asked the high court to order the PNP and other government agencies to resolve drug-related killings.

Last week, human rights group Free Legal Assistance Group filed a petition that sought to stop the PNP’s Oplan Double Barrel.


Trillanes in US to stop Trump visit to Philippines?

Trillanes, a critic of President Duterte, met with US senators on a recent trip to the US to discuss the human rights situation in the Philippines amid the administration’s widely criticized drug war. Senate PRIB, File
MANILA, Philippines — Because of the human rights situation in the Philippines, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV is reportedly trying to convince US senators to discourage US President Donald Trump from proceeding with his trip to the Philippines, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Trillanes, a critic of President Duterte, met with US senators on a recent trip to the US to discuss the human rights situation in the Philippines amid the administration’s widely criticized drug war.

US Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed the meeting with Trillanes through his official Twitter account on Oct. 18.


“Senator Trillanes and I discussed US-Philippines alliance, combating corruption and protecting human rights amid their narcotics crisis,” Rubio wrote.

Last night a member of the staff of Trillanes said the senator was on “official business” in the US.

The staff member, who declined to be identified, expressed surprise over the reports that Trillanes was trying to discourage US officials from attending the ASEAN leaders’ summit next month.

“We don’t know anything about that but the senator is indeed in LA (Los Angeles),” the staff member said.

Trump is set to visit the Philippines in November to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings, the White House confirmed last month.

The visit will take place during a tour from Nov. 3 to 14 which will also include stops in China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the US state of Hawaii.

Trillanes also met with other US lawmakers, sources said.

“Trillanes has been discussing the human rights situation in the country and trying to convince the US senators to discourage Trump from coming to the Philippines,” a source said yesterday.

However, the source said that Trump’s visit to the Philippines is for the ASEAN summit.

“The visit is really about ASEAN and not just the Philippines,” the source said.

The same source said the controversial drug war, which has been widely criticized by foreign media and human rights organizations, is now being implemented by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and no longer by the police.

In a memorandum dated Oct. 10, Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bureau of Customs, the Philippine Postal Office and other “ad hoc anti-drug task force” to leave the implementation of the drug war to the PDEA, raising the public’s hopes that the agency would adhere to the rule of law.

Duterte’s memorandum came just days after his latest survey results showed the biggest drop in his ratings.

Duterte’s net satisfaction and trust ratings suffered double-digit drops in the third quarter of the year amid criticisms over his brutal war on drugs.

Six in 10 Filipinos, or 67 percent of adult Filipinos, said they were satisfied with Duterte while 19 percent were dissatisfied, resulting in a net satisfaction score of “good” +48.

If Trump’s visit to the Philippines pushes through, however, it might signal an improvement in US-Philippine relations.

Duterte severely criticized the US government during the time of then president Barack Obama for expressing concern over the bloody anti-drug campaign. – With Paolo Romero


Gov’t bent on implementing PUV modernization program

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella FILE PHOTO / MALACANANG

Malacañang on Monday said that it would proceed with the government’s plan to modernize public utility vehicles (PUVs) despite the nationwide transport strike against the project.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said transport strikes would not deter the government from implementing the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVVMP), which he called long overdue.

The program intends to phase out old PUVs, including 200,000 jeepneys, but its critics claim that it was “antipoor.”


Abella said various transport groups had expressed support for the project, except for Piston (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide).

“The government, through the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), will continue with the discussions, consultations and further collaboration with members of the public transport sector,” Abella said.

At a press conference in Quezon City, groups supporting the jeepney drivers and operators said the PUVVMP was a “holdup” and “antipoor” scheme.

“Our small-time jeepney operators and drivers could not afford the very expensive electronic jeepneys,” said Ferdinand Gaite of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage).

The proposed modernization plan worth P417 billion is expected to affect around 70,000 jeepneys in Metro Manila and 270,000 jeepneys nationwide, and around 650,000 drivers, according to the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center.

Higher fare
Gaite said the plan to phase out jeepneys would result in a higher fare of P12 to P20 from the current P8 for a shorter distance. It would also mean shorter route and more drivers turning into contractual workers.

For Ron Villegas of the Crispin B. Beltran Research Center, the modernization program was like robbing the jeepney drivers and commuters.

Under the government’s plan, drivers would have to buy new e-jeeps worth P1.5 to P1.8 million subsidy, which he said was very expensive.


“Even with a promised subsidy, our small and independent operators would not be able to bear this,” he added.

‘Not the solution’

Jen Pajel of the All Workers Unity said the group was in favor of modernization, but pointed out that Mr. Duterte’s jeepney phaseout program was not the solution.

“If the government can allot P900 million for the anti-illegal drugs program (Oplan ‘Tokhang’) , they can also allot funds for the rehabilitation of jeepneys,” Pajel said.

Based on the modernization scheme, an operator should have 10 jeepneys. That means one operator should have P16 million to P20 million for the jeepneys and P4 million for registration, she said.

Among the proposed alternatives to the phaseout of old jeepneys are the rehabilitation of the vehicles, increased government subsidy for jeepney drivers and not big operators, and lower tariff for imported jeepneys.

But the long-term solution is to allow the country to have its own car manufacturing industry, said Cleng Holbe of Agham.

In the Senate, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said the transport strike was a wake-up call for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to listen to the concerns of jeepney drivers and operators.

During floor deliberations on the DOTr budget, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto asked why the agency was embarking on a nationwide jeepney modernization program when it had yet to resolve traffic woes in Metro Manila.

Recto also pointed out that the DOTr was embarking on a new program when it was slow in the rollout and distribution of plastic drivers’ licenses and license plates. –Reports from Philip C. Tubeza, Jodee A. Agoncillo and Jocelyn R. Uy


'Allah answered my prayers’

MARAWI CITY—“Allah answered my prayers,” Nairah Ampaso, 28, a mother of five, said on Monday after learning that government troops had killed Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayam Maute, the last two leaders of the pro-Islamic State (IS) terrorists who seized this city nearly four months ago.

“We prayed that these leaders would be killed. I am happy that they are dead,” Ampaso told the Inquirer.

“I hope their deaths mean the end of the war and we can return to our homes,” she said.

Victory over terrorism
In Manila, Malacañang hailed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute as a “clear victory against terrorism.”

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines for killing the two terrorist leaders and said the government looked forward to rebuilding Marawi.

“This clear victory against terrorism proves the Duterte administration’s resoluteness in delivering on its promise of peace and prosperity to the people of Mindanao,” Andanar said.

Lawmakers also lauded the military for killing Hapilon and Maute, who had pledged allegiance to IS and seized large parts of Marawi on May 23 to establish an IS enclave in Southeast Asia.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, a former military officer, said the deaths of Hapilon and Maute were a “positive development” but he emphasized that first there must be an efficient delivery of basic services to the people to fully combat terrorism and other forms of violence.

“The battle [for] the hearts and minds of our people is not won by body count,” said Honasan, chair of the Senate special committee formed to assess and review the rehabilitation of Marawi.

End of hostilities
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, also a former military officer, said he hoped the deaths of the two terrorist leaders signified the end of hostilities.

“This decisive victory is a fitting honor to our soldiers, both fallen and living, who bravely fought in this campaign,” he said.


Sen. Miguel Zubiri, who is from Mindanao, said he supported keeping martial law in Marawi up to the end of the year to allow full use of human, material and financial resources and ensure the rehabilitation of the city would be achieved in a shorter time.

Sen. Sonny Angara said rebuilding Marawi was the government’s urgent task.

“We must do whatever it takes for the people of Marawi to safely return to their city the soonest possible time and for vital infrastructure to be restored,” he said.

Sen. JV Ejercito called on the government to learn from the lessons of Marawi “by strengthening our intelligence and counterterrorism initiatives.”

The terrorists surprised the military by easily seizing Marawi on May 23, laying siege to it, and lasting nearly four months in battling government forces for control of the city.

Beginning of the end
Catholic bishops said they believed the deaths of Hapilon and Maute would lead to the end of the crisis.

“Crumbling leadership signals the beginning of the end,” Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña said.

Ozamiz Bishop Martin Jumoad said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders meant “the victory of peace and order in our society.”

“Praise God. This serves as a lesson that evil must be conquered so that goodness may reign,” he said.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur crisis management committee, said the deaths of the two terrorist leaders indicated that the war was coming to an end.

“We are very happy. This is what we are waiting for. This is an indication that the war is over,” he said.

For Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the deaths of Hapilon and Maute meant “the end of the siege of Marawi.”

But “it also marks the beginning of a long but necessary process of healing and recovery among our people,” he added. –Reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Richel Umel, Allan Nawal, Julie S. Alipala. Philip C. Tubeza, Jocelyn R. Uy and Tina G. Santos

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