Tag Archives: President Duterte

[People] 𝗢𝗛 𝗠𝗬 𝗖𝗢𝗔! | by Wilson Fortaleza

#HumanRights #Corruption #COA

𝗢𝗛 𝗠𝗬 𝗖𝗢𝗔!

Bidang ahensya ngayon ang Commission on Audit (COA). Sikat na sikat. Sunod-sunod kasing naglabasan ang audit reports nito para sa taong 2020 at bumulaga sa mata ng publiko ang mga sabit ng maraming ahensyang nababanggit.

Pero bakit nga ba naging bidang bigla ang COA ngayon? Wala namang malalim na paliwanag. Katulad lang ito ng pelikula na ang kinang ng bida ay nakasalalay sa papel ng kontrabida. Ni wala ngang sikat na bida sa tanggapan ng COA.

Dahil wala namang bago sa ginagawa ng COA. Regular lang naman itong naglalabas ng kanyang annual report. At kung hindi man supplied ang media, nakapaskil at accessible din sa publiko ang audit reports nito na makikita sa kanyang website. Ibig sabihin, kahit na manahimik ang ahensya ay nariyan lang din naman ang mga ulat ng COA na maaring makuha ng mamamahayag o ninuman.

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[Right-Up] Digong and Johnny, Classic Leviathans | Norman Novio

#HumanRights #Corruption

Digong and Johnny, Classic Leviathans

Juan Ponce Enrile was Rodrigo Duterte’s special guest in the latter’s regular public address on May 17, 2021 and they spent a one hour and 10-minute of scratching each other’s back, flattering each other like toddlers.

President Duterte, who vowed to eradicate corruption until the end of his term, designated as his honorable guest last Wednesday former Marcos architect Enrile who is still facing one plunder and 15 graft charges because of the reported misuse of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF). Allegedly, Enrile endorsed the phony NGO owned by Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for bribes. Enrile’s chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, is still incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa for her alleged role in said scam. According to reports your old man Johnny and Gigi are lovers. Just this January, Reyes filed a motion for her temporary release citing that the corona virus might spread inside the prison facility. The Sandigangbayan instantly denied her bid.

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[Statement] CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit on the sex jokes made during a televised national disaster briefing

#HumanRights #VAW Statement of CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit on the sex jokes made during a televised national disaster briefing

Sex jokes and sexual objectification of women are VAW: Not to be tolerated nor excused

The Commission on Human Rights condemns the normalization and trivialization of sex jokes and sexual objectification of women. They are forms of violence against women (VAW) and should not be tolerated nor excused. Not when the country is reeling from a national emergency, not in November when we are observing the 18 days of activism against VAW, and especially not coming from high ranking government officials during an emergency response briefing. Sexist and misogynistic remarks are never right and should never be tolerated, especially as we are a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and we have laws that oblige the government to prevent all forms of violence (The Magna Carta of Women), and a law that penalizes sexist and misogynistic remarks/slurs (Safe Spaces Law).

As Gender Ombud, the Commission once again reminds the President and other high ranking officials present during the briefing that the State is not only obliged to protect women from discrimination and violence, it is also obliged to ensure that officials do not perpetuate such violence. It is obligated to ensure accountability. Dismissal of remarks that make light of women’s sexual objectification and which justify the same as a ‘means of coping’ with stress send the message that sexism in government is normal and that government take the issues of women and girls lightly. This is inconsistent with our human rights obligations.

At a time when many women and girls are severely affected by the recent typhoon Ulysses, when many are vulnerable and at risk of violence due to displacement, when many are faced with the multiple burden of rebuilding houses and lives post-disaster, the President’s jokes and side remarks come as a clear affront. We remind the President that during the height of the typhoon a girl child was raped and was later found half naked, bleeding and unconscious on a vacant lot in Paluig, Zambales; a woman gave birth in an evacuation center; and many women and girls had to deal with the impact of the disaster—often left to source water, food, and care for children, the ill and the elderly. Rather than the sexual objectification of women – seeing women’s only function is to serve men’s sexual pleasures—what should have been made visible in the briefing is the need for immediate and mainstreamed gendered responses and addressing the importance of protecting women and girls during and post disaster.

As Gender Ombud, we cannot let pass these sex jokes and sexist remarks without exercising our constitutional mandate to advise government in the fulfillment of its obligations. We remind the President and other high ranking officials of their obligation not to perpetuate nor tolerate violence against women. We remind them that as officials, instead of making jokes at the expense of women during a government briefing, they have to respond immediately to the gendered and intersectional needs of women facing multiple disasters. They have to send the message that they respect women’s human rights, including freedom from discrimination, in their disaster response. They have to have zero-tolerance for violence and should not be perpetuators themselves.

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[Statement] Justice and accountability are non-negotiable

#HumanRights #Justice and #accountability are non-negotiable

We are extremely disappointed with Human Rights Council Resolution #45 as it is a collective failure and it falls short of our expectation of an international, independent investigation into the gross violations of human rights in the country.

The bloodbath continues even under the different modes of quarantine during the current Covid-19 pandemic. There is no let-up in the harassment, red-tagging, arrests and extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders and suspected drug dependents.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) correctly noted in its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council last year that the killings appear to be “systematic and widespread” with no accountability taking place.

Impunity reigns as perpetrators are able to commit extrajudicial killings even in the most severe of lockdowns from March to June of 2020.
The adverse international reactions to the violations happening in the Philippines have spurred the Philippine government to conduct a diplomatic and public relations campaign to thwart any initiative at an international independent investigation.

The Duterte administration feigns innocence with the extrajudicial killings after publicly encouraging and abetting its widespread commission for more than three years.

The Philippine government is remiss in its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. Its failure to protect its citizens from killers with more than 30,000 EJKs speaks eloquently of its non-commitment to human rights.

Sadly, accountability and justice have been reduced to technical cooperation and capacity building.

We take note of the continuing monitoring of government compliance to its human rights obligations. We will continue to engage with the UN mechanisms and other avenues to seek redress for the continuing bloodbath in the country.

Justice and accountability are non-negotiable.

Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) Franciscans International (FI), Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (SCLF) Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)

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[From the web] UN resolution a missed chance for justice but scrutiny continues -AIph

#HumanRights #StopTheKillings [From the web] UN resolution a missed chance for justice but scrutiny continues

The resolution on the Philippines adopted by the UN Human Rights Council today is a missed opportunity to seek justice for thousands of unlawful killings, said Amnesty International.

Rather than launching the much-needed comprehensive investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, the UN resolution – led jointly by Iceland and the Philippines – requests the UN Human Rights Office to support the Philippines through ‘technical assistance’. This assistance will be focused on areas including accountability; data gathering of violations by the police; civic space; counter-terrorism legislation, and a rights-based approach to drug control.

“The human rights situation in the Philippines warrants more than just ‘technical assistance’ from the UN. A full international investigation to effectively address the pervasive impunity in the country is urgently needed,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Philippines Researcher at Amnesty International.

The resolution falls far short of repeated calls by civil society and UN experts for an independent, international investigation into the serious ongoing human rights violations in the country, including the thousands of extrajudicial executions perpetrated by police and vigilantes linked to them in the context of the so-called “war on drugs”.

“The Human Rights Council failed to advance justice for bereaved families across the Philippines who had placed their hopes in the international community,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

“This weak resolution also lets down the brave human rights defenders, journalists and others who have engaged with the UN in good faith and pursue their work at huge personal risk.”

Amnesty International has seen a continued deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines over the last few months. Major warning signs include ongoing incitement to kill by President Duterte, the promotion to national police chief of Lt Gen Camilo Cascolan, an alleged architect of the deadly anti-drug campaign, and the adoption of a dangerous anti-terror law. In June 2020, well-known journalist Maria Ressa was convicted for ‘cyber libel’, and a month after, major media network ABS-CBN was shut down. There is also a new spike in police killings, and there have been brutal murders of human rights and political activists and of a journalist in recent months.

This critical state of affairs was detailed by Amnesty International in a briefing published last week, “My Job is to Kill”, named after a speech by President Duterte in March 2020.

“The states that negotiated with the Philippines to agree to this resolution have a responsibility to launch a full international investigation if there is no radical improvement in the human rights situation in the country. These states face a credibility test: how will they respond if the bloody wave of killings continue, and the brutal crackdown on civil society and the media rages on?”

Despite its major shortcomings, the resolution includes measures that task the UN Human Rights Office to continue to provide updates to the Council over the next two years.

“The decision to keep the Philippines on the Council’s agenda sends a clear message to the Duterte administration that the international community is still watching,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

“The months to come must see an immediate end to the wave of drug-related killings, the cessation of violent attacks against critics of the government, as well as a halt to the crackdown on press freedom in the Philippines.

“While the government’s tactics to delay an international investigation may have worked this time, the moment will come when justice will be done.”

Read full article @www.amnesty.org

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[People] Duterte has forfeited the Philippines’ EU trade privileges -by Joseph Purugganan

Duterte has forfeited the Philippines’ EU trade privileges

By Joseph Purugganan

File Photo from Focus on the Global South website

In 2014, Trade Justice Pilipinas supported the Philippines’ pursuit of favorable trade privileges from the EU, hoping they would deter human rights abuses. Six years later, that hope has disappeared, and so should those privileges.

On 17 September, the European Parliament issued a resolution expressing its “deep concern over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under Duterte”. The resolution condemned the “thousands of extra-judicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to the so-called war-on-drugs” and the “threats, harassment, intimidation, rape and violence against those who seek to expose allegations of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations in the country”.

While many of the points raised in the Resolution were addressed to the Philippine government, some were directed toward the European Commission – the principal executive body of the European Union. In Item 20 of the resolution, the European Parliament “calls on the European Commission, in the absence of any substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities, to immediately initiate the procedure which could lead to the temporary withdrawal of GSP+ preferences”.

The Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) program was granted by the EU to the Philippines in 2014 to incentivize sustainable development and good governance. It allows duty-free entry of more than 6,000 exports from the Philippines to the EU. These privileges were granted on condition of the Philippine government’s fulfillment of its obligations under 27 conventions on human and labor rights. As cited in the resolution, for 2019 alone, trade preferences were given to 25 percent of Philippine exports to the EU, amounting to around 2 billion euros.

Duterte’s lieutenants responded to the European Parliament’s resolution by downplaying the concerns it raised.

“No reason for the EU to revoke these privileges,” said Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.

“They have descended to the level of stupidity,” said foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., referring to the European Parliament.

These flippant retorts of Duterte’s deputies are to be expected. Duterte has built his personal brand upon open defiance in the face of criticism, especially of his human rights record. More startling, however, was the response of Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer who now serves as Duterte’s spokesperson, who said: “If they want to add to the burden of the Filipino nation during this pandemic, so be it, so be it. We will accept that as history repeating itself.”

Roque recognizes the importance of GSP+ privileges to the Philippine economy, yet he lays the blame for their potential withdrawal upon the European Parliament. He appears to be in need of a reminder that the Philippine government only secured those privileges in the first place by accepting the conditions that the government is now brazenly violating.

Roque’s retort exposes the rot at the topmost levels of the Philippine government. In the face of all criticism, this government consistently opts to shoot the messenger rather than look inward and alter its behavior. The government responded similarly to the report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in July, which expressed concerns over “widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity.” There was no acknowledgement of shortcomings or failures, nor any commitment to correct mistakes or fulfill obligations.

Trade Justice Pilipinas (TJP), a platform convened by Focus on the Global South campaigning for just trade and investment policies, has been monitoring the Philippines’ GSP+ status from the start. When the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was preparing its application in 2014, it sought TJP’s help in securing the support of our allies in Europe for the Philippine government’s bid.

We supported the government’s application for two main reasons:

We felt any positive conditionality that could push the government to fulfill its international human and labor rights obligations should be supported.
We recognized the potential economic benefit that could arise from increased market access, which we were hoping would also benefit workers in the sectors covered by the GSP+ program.

But just as we advocated for the granting of these privileges when it seemed the conditions would be met, we have advocated just as forcefully for their withdrawal since it became obvious that the Philippine government has no interest in meeting these conditions.

The European Parliament’s resolution to withdraw the Philippines’ GSP+ status follows years of sustained advocacy at home by Trade Justice Pilipinas, the Trade Justice and Corporate Accountability Cluster of the Asia Europe Peoples’ Forum (AEPF), and the Germany-based Action Network for Human Rights (AMP), among other international networks.

In 2018, Trade Justice Pilipinas stated that “the human rights dimension must be stressed and strengthened further as a cornerstone of EU-Philippines relations”, and we called on the EU to “prove its commitment to human rights by reiterating human rights provisions in future agreements, including the proposed EU-Philippines free trade agreement. Otherwise, it risks eroding further [the EU’s] already diminished image as a defender of human rights and, at worst, highlights its complicity in the violations and atrocities being committed by the Duterte administration”.

In 2019, we issued another statement noting that under EU regulations, “where a GSP+ beneficiary country no longer fulfills the conditions or withdraws any of its binding undertakings, the Commission shall be empowered to adopt a delegated act…to remove that country from the list of GSP+ beneficiary countries”. We further noted that the regulations “allow for temporary withdrawal of the trade preferences for, among others, serious and systematic violation of principles laid down in the conventions”. The statement concluded with a call for the EU Commission “to immediately commence the withdrawal procedure of the trade preferences granted under the GSP+ mechanism”.

In 2020, we joined other human rights groups and networks in an open letter addressed to EU Trade Commissioner Paul Hogan that reiterated our concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under Duterte and reminded the Commission of the findings of its own assessment reports:

In the GSP+ assessment reports on the Philippines covering the periods of 2016-2017 and 2018-2019, the Commission had already expressed grave concern regarding the human rights situation in the country. We underlined the fact that the latest assessment report already highlighted a number of concerning issues including the war on drugs, shrinking civil space, the attacks against human rights defenders, the possible lowering of the minimum age of legal liability, and the reintroduction of the death penalty. The report even concluded by stating: “The campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines continues to be a matter of grave concern, in particular a large number of related killings and prison overcrowding. Reintroducing the death penalty for drug-related offenses would be a worrying development and constitute a violation of the ICCPR’s Second Optional Protocol.”

To be clear, the European Parliament resolution will not cause the withdrawal or suspension of the GSP+ privileges; only the European Commission has the power to initiate this process. However, the resolution sends a very strong challenge to the Commission to live up to its responsibilities under the program.

There is now an urgency to the call for the withdrawal of GSP+ privileges. While conservative estimates place the number of extrajudicial drug-related killings at around 8,000, there is no official public record and no way to count killings that the police have not begun to investigate. Moreover, the death toll continues to rise as the government enjoys complete impunity for its deadly and useless war on drugs.

Roque wants to blame the EU for inflicting additional pain on the Philippines while the country reels from the impact of COVID-19, but he shows no remorse for the extrajudicial killings that have gone unchecked since the start of the pandemic. This is a government addicted to blaming others for its own misdeeds. To Roque and Duterte, human rights defenders are to blame for tarnishing the image of the country, and the EU is to blame for potentially damaging the economy.

The truth is the opposite. Just as the economic hardship afflicting Filipinos is a consequence of the government’s failed policies, the future losses triggered by the withdrawal of GSP+ privileges would be a consequence of the government’s ongoing human rights abuses.

We supported the previous government’s bid for GSP+ when it committed to upholding the dignity of its citizens. Now that Duterte and his cronies have abandoned that commitment, they have no one to blame for the fallout than themselves.

Joseph Purugganan is head of the Philippines office at Focus on the Global South.

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[Statement] National and International NGOs urge Human Rights Council to respond credibly to damning OHCHR report on the Philippines

ORAL STATEMENT

HRC45 – Item 4: General Debate

25 September 2020

NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL NGOS URGE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL TO RESPOND CREDIBLY TO DAMNING OHCHR REPORT ON THE PHILIPPINES

UN Human Rights Council

Forty-fifth session

14 September – 7 October 2020

 

Madam President,

 

I speak on behalf of 35 organisations, deeply concerned by the situation in the Philippines. We urge this Council to respond credibly to the grave findings and recommendations of the recent OHCHR report.

Developments since that report indicate further deterioration, with ongoing incitement to kill by the President, the promotion of an architect of the anti-drug strategy to police chief, the passing of an overbroad anti-terror law ripe for abuse, the conviction of journalist Maria Ressa and shutdown of media network ABS-CBN, the murder of activists and a journalist and a new spike in police killings.

In terms of cooperation, the Philippines refused access to OHCHR in the preparation of the report and continues to bar entry to Special Procedures. The Secretary-General and High Commissioner have raised significant concerns over reprisals. The Government does not acknowledge widespread and systematic killings as a problem, in fact it encourages them and rejects the OHCHR’s findings. Serious violations continue.

The Government’s announced Inter-Agency Panel lacks any transparency and directly involves branches of Government implicated in these abuses. As such, it clearly cannot satisfy international standards of independence,[1]nor can it be seen as credible or safe for victims to engage with.

Madam President,

Our organisations have urged and continue to urge this Council to launch an independent international investigation.

The High Commissioner has clearly asked the Council to renew her mandate to monitor and report on the wider situation, as well as to provide technical cooperation to “implement the report’s recommendations,” and “continue to pursue accountability”. We urge this Council – at absolute minimum – to ensure continued monitoring and reporting on all aspects of the situation as clearly recommended by the High Commissioner. Anything less would not only be an insult to victims and their families, but send a green light to perpetrators that they can continue with impunity, with disastrous consequences on the ground.

Thank you.

 

Co-signatories:

– Action Network Human Rights Philippines (AMP)

– Amnesty International

– Article 19

– Child Alert Mindanao

– Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC)

– CIVICUS Alliance

– Coalition Against Summary Executions

– Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND)

– Franciscans International

– Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception

– Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG)

– Freedom House

– Harm Reduction International

– Human Rights Watch

– In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND)

– International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)

– International Commission of Jurists

– International Drug Policy Consortium

– International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

– International Service for Human Rights

– Karapatan Alliance Philippines

– Medical Action Group

– National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

– Network Against Killings in the Philippines (NakPhil)

– Partnership Mission for People’s Initiatives (PMPI)

– Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)

– Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI)

– Philippine Human Rights Information Center

– Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns

– Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund (SCLF)

– Tambayan

– The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

– Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

– World Council of Churches

– World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

[1] See for instance the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, adopted by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1989/65 of 24 May 1989; and Human Rights Committee, General Comment no. 36 on the right to life (article 6).

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[Press Release] UN must intensify pressure to end killings as impunity reigns -AI

UN must intensify pressure to end killings as impunity reigns
25 September 2020

The administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte continues to incite a wave of extrajudicial executions and fuel a climate of near-absolute impunity for perpetrators, Amnesty International said today in a new briefing on the country’s dramatically deteriorating human rights situation.

The briefing, “My Job is to Kill”: Ongoing human rights violations and impunity in the Philippines, is being published as the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) considers its response to a recent UN report on the country’s human rights crisis.

The briefing takes its name from a March 2020 speech by President Duterte in which he told local officials: “It is my job to scare people, to intimidate people, and to kill people.”

Amnesty International, together with a coalition of other human rights organizations, is urging the HRC to establish an independent body to conduct an in-depth investigation into human rights violations and abuses committed in the Philippines since 2016.

“Four years into his presidency, Rodrigo Duterte has turned the Philippines into a bloodbath where police and unidentified vigilantes are free to kill as they please,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Philippines Researcher at Amnesty International.

“This is not an accidental by-product of his administration, but its central feature. Police and other unidentified gunmen know they can kill without consequence. They are taking literally the President’s regular incitement to kill, and his promises to protect those who do so – and so should member states at the Human Rights Council.”

“A panel announced by the government is not credible and cannot deliver justice. The Human Rights Council must not back down now. It must act to prevent further deaths and send a clear message to the perpetrators, and to the government itself: the world is watching and we will not let impunity prevail.”

Amnesty International’s new briefing describes how alleged drug offenders and others suspected of committing crimes continue to be killed with impunity, amid years of incitement to violence by President Duterte and others in his administration. Moreover, often-deadly attacks against activists and human rights defenders accused of links to the communist movement have surged and grown more brazen. Meanwhile, attacks on the media are at their worst levels in decades.

The pattern of extrajudicial executions remains

New cases of drug-related extrajudicial executions examined by Amnesty International remain consistent with patterns that the organization has documented over the four-year course of the so-called “war on drugs”.

The majority of victims continue to be from poor and marginalized communities; the killings are covered up by falsified reports; and bereaved families consistently express helplessness at the overwhelming obstacles in pursuing justice.

In one case examined in the briefing, several witnesses to the killing of Kim Lester Ramos in October 2019 told Amnesty International of a sequence of events that differed significantly from the account and photographs provided in the police report.

According to a survivor, who said he was the initial target and was also shot, Kim Lester Ramos was gunned down at point-blank range while seeking help for his injured friend. Testimony from eyewitnesses said that Ramos was unarmed, that a gun was later placed in his hand, and that the position of his body was changed – all to justify a policeman’s motive of self-defense.

The Ramos family is one of the few that has been supported in their pursuit of justice by local authorities, including from their mayor. In December 2019 the Ramos family filed a murder complaint against the police officer involved. However, at the time of publication, Amnesty International is aware of no further progress on the case.

Killings and incitement amid the pandemic

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, killings are once again rising as the President continues to incite violence against people suspected of having committed a crime, including those accused of using or selling drugs. Moreover, promises by President Duterte to protect those who kill and commit other human rights violations have persisted. This incitement has grown stronger in recent months, despite increased international scrutiny by the UN.

Analysis of government data by Human Rights Watch has revealed that killings in police anti-drug operations were up by 50 percent during the pandemic. Based on this data, the police killed 155 people from April to July 2020, compared to 103 people from December 2019 to March 2020.

In August 2020, the President used a speech to instruct the Bureau of Customs to “kill drug smugglers” and said that he would protect its agents from jail, while claiming he had approved the agency’s request to purchase firearms. He also taunted human rights organizations: “These human rights people are so timid. What do you do? Just count the dead? Sons of b*tches, you should change jobs, not in human rights. Work at morgues if that’s all that you do.”

A photojournalist documenting killings in Metro Manila recently told Amnesty International that a reshuffling of police commanders had recently led to a “spike in cases” of killings in the city since the appointment of new police chief at the start of September 2020.

Apart from killings by police, executions by motorcycle-riding assailants have continued in recent months. A Quezon City priest, Father Robert Reyes, says that over two weeks in July, he presided over three funeral masses in one community alone for victims of unlawful killings by unidentified gunmen. Such killings by unidentified vigilantes have been repeatedly linked back to the police.

The deeply flawed approach to the “war on drugs” continues to obstruct efforts to ensure people are protected from problems associated with drugs. Amnesty International continues to call on authorities to shift away from punitive approaches based on criminalization and refocus its attention on health and other social services. Drug policies must be centred upon an expansion of health and other social services to address drug-related problems, including prevention, information, harm reduction, voluntary treatment and rehabilitation services on a non-discriminatory basis, including in prisons and other situations where people are deprived of their liberty.

Surge in attacks and killings linked to “red-tagging”

Amnesty International has also documented how President Duterte’s declaration of “all-out war” against “communist rebels,” following the breakdown of peace talks in 2018 has resulted in a raft of arbitrary arrests and detention of people deemed critical of the government, as well as the killing of activists and human rights defenders.

“For years, the authorities have used ‘red-tagging’ to brand and discredit anyone whose human rights campaigning or community work they disapprove of,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard. “Today, red-tagging has become a very real death threat.”

In one recent egregious example, on 17 August 2020, Negros-based activist and human rights defender Zara Alvarez, whom Amnesty International interviewed in December 2019, was shot dead by an unknown assailant in Bacolod City. Alvarez had received death threats before her murder. A week earlier, on 10 August 2020, activist and peace advocate Randall Echanis was killed, along with a neighbor, at his home in Quezon City. An autopsy report determined that he sustained multiple stab wounds.

Both Alvarez and Echanis had previously been “red-tagged” and placed on an arbitrary list of “terrorists” drawn up by the Department of Justice and submitted to a Philippine court. Although their names were eventually removed, the list originally included many prominent activists and human rights defenders, including then UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

As with relatives of victims of drug-related killings, families, and friends of that slain expressed anger and feelings of powerlessness when it came to getting justice. Human rights groups fear that a new and overbroad anti-terror law will only increase the risks faced by activists and human rights defenders.

The UN Human Rights Office documented at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists, and trade unionists killed in relation to their work between 2015 and 2019 in the Philippines.

A Negros official told Amnesty International that while impunity was nothing new, the situation on the island was “the worst ever”, adding: “Red-tagging is the preliminary step to killing.”

Attacks against journalists

Alongside the widely publicized harassment faced by journalist Maria Ressa and her Rappler newsroom and efforts by the administration to force broadcaster ABS-CBN off the air, Amnesty International’s briefing describes the broader culture of fear and violence faced by journalists across the country.

Nonoy Espina, the national chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, told Amnesty International that not since “the Marcos dictatorship have the media and freedom of the press and expression been attacked” as they are currently.

These attacks have also been deadly. On the evening of 5 May 2020, radio broadcaster Cornelio “Rex Cornelio” Pepino was murdered in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental province, becoming the 16th journalist to be killed during the Duterte administration.

According to media reports, Pepino was riding home from work on a motorcycle with his wife when two unidentified men also on a motorcycle shot him several times and killed him. The radio station Pepino worked for described him as a “hard-hitting” radio commentator who discussed his positions against illegal mining, graft, corruption, and poor governance in his daily program.

The Duterte administration cannot investigate itself

Amnesty International’s briefing describes how the culture of impunity has persisted in the Philippines despite international pressure from civil society and human rights organizations over the past four years, culminating in last year’s HRC resolution 41/2 which mandated a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). This report was published in June 2020.

Amnesty International’s findings support the conclusions of the report, which states that the climate of impunity continues and is encouraged by the incitement to violence from “the highest levels of government”.

In an apparent effort to pre-empt calls for an independent investigative mechanism at the HRC, the Philippine Justice Secretary used an HRC meeting in July 2020 to announce the creation of a government inter-agency panel to review more than 5,600 cases of killings during police-led operations.

Since this announcement, the government has shared no new details about this panel.

“All we know of this panel is it will include the very same agencies responsible for the killings, the attacks, and the harassment which they are supposed to investigate. This is a clear example of being both judge and party, and shows its complete lack of independence,” said Rachel Chhoa-Howard.

“The timing and circumstances of this panel’s announcement, together with the lack of specifics provided to the public, is clearly designed to shield the government from scrutiny. States at the Human Rights Council must not be fooled into taking this initiative seriously.

“It’s obvious the Duterte administration has no intention of delivering justice to thousands of bereaved families, all while the President repeatedly incites violence and promises to protect perpetrators.

“It now falls to the Human Rights Council to mandate a strong, independent investigative body – all while honouring the High Commissioner’s repeated calls to continue monitoring the Philippines’ human rights crisis.”

UN must intensify pressure to end killings as impunity reigns

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[Press Release] Human Rights Groups ask the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a strong resolution on the Philippines due to continuing human rights violations -PAHRA

Human Rights Groups ask the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a strong resolution on the Philippines due to continuing human rights violations

Quezon City- The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) appealed to the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) asking for a strong resolution on the Philippines, following a renewed spate of killings in the country. The groups sought the establishment of an international investigation into the human rights crises in the country.

In a statement the groups cited new documented cases of ten killings between May to September 2020. Recalling the message of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to delegates of the HRC during the 44th Session in June, the groups said that the DOJ inter-agency panel Guevarra claimed to conduct investigations into EJKs is not credible:

“… the panel failed to meet international standards of independence and impartiality due to its member agencies’ main role in the implementation of the illegal drugs campaign. There has been no significant engagement with civil society and despite the signing of a memorandum with the Commission on Human Rights, no further movement has been observed from this panel. Thus, we find that this initiative of the Justice Department can only provide a smokescreen to the continuing bloody campaign.”

The groups said families of victims of the killings remain distrustful of the government, which keep them from cooperating in official inquiries, if any.
Also cited were reports of other human rights groups:
“Human Rights Watch found 155 persons killed in the past four months from government statistics. In addition, before the Covid-19 crisis, 103 persons were killed by the Police from December 2019 to March 2020.[1] ”

The message also raised the alarm on the terrorist-tagging of human rights personalities and organizations in the Philippines by the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the AFP.
Observations were also made of the pandemic response of the government:

“Adopting the drug war’s blueprint, the government’s implementation of a militarist response to an unprecedented public health crisis has exacerbated the people’s deprived living conditions. Communities which were traumatized by the summary killings, have been re-traumatized by the erection of checkpoints manned by soldiers and police, as well as severe punishments for lockdown violators.”

The groups called for the Council’s urgent action to follow up the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on the Philippines in June.

“A strong resolution on the Philippines expresses the international community’s commitment to end impunity and to exact accountability against the perpetrators. A strong resolution serves to bring justice more closely to those who have been victims of the grave human rights violations; a strong resolution will provide crucial impetus to ending the attacks against human rights defenders.”

[1] https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/08/killings-Philippines-50-percent-during-pandemic

PHILIPPINE ALLIANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES (PAHRA)
Unit-E 4th flr. Tempus II Place
Makatarungan St. Bgy Central Quezon City
E-mail: rightscomms1987@gmail.com
Website: https://philippinehumanrights.org

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[From the web] The Moribund Duterte Presidency: Focus on the Global South’s Post-SONA 2020 Assessment

The Moribund Duterte Presidency
Focus on the Global South’s Post-SONA 2020 Assessment
2020 August 7

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic—a period marked by rising infections, an overwhelmed healthcare system, and an impending economic recession—the state of the nation demanded a show of fortitude and resolve from President Rodrigo Duterte and his government to move the country forward, as well as a show of leadership to rally the people in overcoming the enormous challenges before us. We saw and heard nothing of that in the President’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27.

What the President has shown was the opposite: incompetence and a serious and dangerous lack of leadership. Standing before the Congress and the nation was an inutile leader—to use Duterte’s own words—who is unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation we are facing and incapable of laying down a clear and cohesive plan to address this unprecedented crisis.

Nothing was said of the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, the dismal state of our healthcare system, the massive loss of jobs and livelihoods, or the worsening poverty and hunger among vulnerable our most communities. Instead, Duterte filled his SONA with desperate attempts to rescue the government’s already crumbling legitimacy in the face of growing public anger and discontent. He deployed blatant lies, repetitions of stale populist rhetoric that have consistently contradicted his administration’s policies and actions, and displays of “cariño brutal” leadership, including narratives of “othering” and endorsements of violence.

A Waning Brand of Leadership: Blame Game, Othering, and Violence

Prior to the onslaught of the pandemic and the multiple crises it has facilitated, Duterte’s leadership and legitimacy were derived partly from his charisma, which Focus analyst Walden Bello has aptly described as cariño brutal—“denoting a volatile mix of will to power, a commanding personality, and a gangster charm that fulfills his followers’ deep-seated yearning for a father figure who will finally end the national chaos.” He has projected himself as someone who is willing to “[break] the law,” as it “functions mainly to protect the powerful, the criminals, and the corrupt.” Throughout his speech, Duterte tried to reassert this strongman image and project power.

Duterte’s previous SONAs have consistently sought to lay the blame for the country’s ills on the same predictable lineup of groups: drug users and peddlers, criminals, narco-politicians, corrupt public officials, leftist groups, and government critics. Because these groups are easy for the middle class to detest, using them as scapegoats for all forms of social deterioration have helped his administration appeal to the broad middle class and obtain their support. The 2020 SONA was no different. Again, the oligarchy and the perpetual drug problem are to blame.

At the beginning of his speech, Duterte lambasted a senator from an opposition party who has spoken out on the need to address the issue of political dynasties. The president, exuding an anti-oligarchy persona he has adopted since his presidential campaign in 2016, then segued into a tirade against a few rich families and their corporations. He made scathing statements directed at the oligarchs controlling water provision in Metro Manila, but his rant focused particularly on private telecommunication companies. Supposedly in the name of public interest, he even warned the latter of government takeover if they fail to shape up. In the wake of the government shutdown of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media network, these threats have a chilling effect on corporations deemed to oppose the whims of this administration.

Duterte has been projecting his upfront criticism of oligarchs as the latest expression of his will to power, commanding personality, and strong leadership. But his selective attacks against the Lopezes and Ayalas are reminiscent of the anti-oligarchy rhetoric of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who attacked certain oligarchs only to prop up his own cronies. It is not difficult to see the similarities in the current scenario under Duterte.

For instance, despite claiming to be against the oligarchy, Duterte did not criticize the Sys, the Villars, the Gokongweis, and other superrich families who have further entrenched their control over public goods and services, thereby amassing greater wealth and profit. At the same time, it is important to note that throughout Duterte’s term, many families in his hometown in Davao Region have been on the rise economically and politically. The most prominent among them is Dennis Uy, one of Duterte’s top presidential campaign donors. Starting out as the son of provincial traders, Uy has now expanded his oil, shipping, and logistics business and has also suddenly ventured into convenience stores, a digital startup, a casino franchise, a bakery chain, a Ferrari dealership, a water utility, real estate, and telecommunications. The most controversial of these is his entry into telecommunications, given Duterte’s longstanding vendetta against the duopoly running the Philippine telco industry, the lack of transparency in the bidding process for the third telco company, and Uy’s lack of experience in the industry.

Apart from Uy, investigative reports have also shown how families and companies involved in public infrastructure have also disproportionately benefited from the massive inflow of capital to Davao Region to supposedly support the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure program “Build Build Build.” Standing out among these companies is CLTG Builders, which is notably owned by Desiderio Go, the father of Duterte’s longtime aide and now-senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

Viewed in conjunction with Duterte’s political agenda of consolidating his own cronies, the selective attacks against certain oligarchs controlling telecommunications during his SONA belie the fact that only individuals and groups that support Duterte may enter and reap profits from the telco market. As such, rather than dismantling a centuries-old system that has only benefited the few, Duterte has simply been ushering in new oligarchs to secure their political support.

Apart from the oligarchs, Duterte also attributed the moral decay in society to the enduring drug problem in the Philippines. During his speech, he devoted significant time, as usual, to explain how the proliferation of illegal drugs destroys families, robs children of proper nurturance and care, and even forces mothers to seek employment in other countries where they are exposed to abusive employers. However, Duterte deliberately left out how his bloody “War on Drugs” has also led to the same outcome of destroying families and how the lack of decent, high-paying jobs coupled with the government’s labor export policy have increased labor migration.

Consistent with his hatred for smalltime drug users and peddlers and his penchant for using violence to address systemic problems, Duterte reiterated his call for the “swift passage of a law reviving the death penalty,” particularly for drug-related crimes. Surprisingly, however, this directive received very little applause from a crowd consisting of his loyal allies. He continued to play up the narrative of capital punishment as a deterrent to crime and as a necessary measure to save the youth from the scourge of illegal drugs. The fact that he included and stressed the agenda to reimpose the death penalty during a health crisis that has already taken over 2,000 lives is again quite telling of this government’s misplaced priorities. It also proves once again how violence and killings are indeed a defining characteristic of Dutertismo.

Contrary to the administration’s claims that capital punishment will bring about justice, peace, and social order, the proposed death penalty will be a death sentence for the poor. There are numerous studies that show the disproportionate impact of death penalty on people living in poverty and its ineffectiveness in crime deterrence. What the government should address and prioritize is the implementation of much needed reforms in our broken criminal justice system that promotes impunity and favors the rich, the elites, and those in positions of power.

Militaristic, Populist, and Incompetent COVID-19 Response

Focus has been examining Duterte’s past SONAs and analyzing the consequences of his regime’s exacerbation of policies and systems that promote violence, hardships, betrayals, and perversions. In particular, Focus has been analyzing from a policy lens the extent to which his rhetoric has been translated into actual policies and action. As in previous addresses, we have noted the destructive, divisive, and despotic character of the Duterte administration and the patent inconsistencies in Duterte’s policy pronouncements in his latest SONA. On the twin concerns of health and the economy, what Duterte chose to highlight in his speech is indicative of his glaring lack of understanding of the gravity of our problems and his consistent policy biases. The statements are always couched in the same pro-masa or pro-people rhetoric.

On health, Duterte chose to highlight the Malasakit Centers—the pet project of his erstwhile assistant and most trusted ally and confidant Senator Cristopher “Bong” Go—as if to present these centers as one-stop shops for all government medical and financial assistance for all Filipinos, particularly poor patients. While supposedly non-partisan, the Malasakit Centers, whose name means “concern” in English, implicitly represent the system of patronage politics, where the delivery of public services is branded as a gift deserving of public gratitude and political support.

Furthermore, in keeping with the administration’s militaristic and blunt force approach to containing the virus, Duterte threatened to order the killings of individuals who commit crimes during the pandemic. He explicitly stated that if they were to go back to their old, unlawful ways, he would see to it that their dead bodies would pile up.

Instead of heaping praises on the so-called “Bong Go Centers” and sputtering threats of violence, the President could have given the nation a much clearer picture of the state of our public health and the enormous challenge that lay before us. A World Health Organization-commissioned study on the state of the country’s public health system concluded that while there have been improvements in performance owing to health sector reforms implemented over the years, many concerns still need to be tackled. These concerns have to do with “further strengthening and improving the preparation and response capacity to natural and human induced disasters.” It further noted that “access [to health services] remains highly inequitable due to the maldistribution of facilities, health staff and specialists.”

The dire state of our public health amid the pandemic was underscored further in a new United Nations Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Southeast Asian countries. The document noted the vulnerability of most countries in the sub-region because of weak health systems. However, it singled out Myanmar and the Philippines “as particularly concerning because of pre-existing humanitarian caseload.” There are two indicators of level of preparedness for COVID-19 where the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbors. The first one is the number of nurses and midwives, where we have two per 10,000 people according to 2017-2018 data, the lowest among the 11 Southeast Asian countries (Singapore is highest at 72 nurses per 10,000 people). The second is the number of hospital beds where we registered 10 per 10,000, the third lowest next to Cambodia with eight and Myanmar with nine per 10,000.

Duterte also revealed his detachment from the struggle of healthcare workers when he hit them back for supposedly touting revolution, when they were in fact merely demanding a return to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from the more relaxed General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in order to give our overwhelmed health system some breathing space.

The Duterte administration’s indifference to the needs of the healthcare sector, its hollow rhetoric of malasakit or sympathy, and its heavy-handed approach to the pandemic have obviously not done anything to curb the number of cases. As of today, the Philippines now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, overtaking Indonesia at 119,460 total cases, and the fourth-highest number of cases in Asia after India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. According to the Straits Times, the Philippines has now become Southeast Asia’s coronavirus hotspot after recording spikes in the number of infections, as the country plunges into recession, registering a 16.5% GDP drop in the second quarter of 2020—the deepest contraction in the country’s history.

Enduring Neoliberal Prescription

There were high expectations that Duterte would present a clear plan for the tanking economy. However, the list of recommendations and urgent policies cited by Duterte, which barely constitute a concrete recovery plan, represent the same neoliberal agenda that has only created fragile, unsustainable, and inequitable growth. Duterte pushed for the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), which aims to cut the corporate income tax rate from 30% to 25%. The recovery program as per Duterte’s SONA pronouncements is hinged on corporate bailouts couched again in populist rhetoric. Duterte sought to emphasize, and rightly so, the plight of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that make up around 99.5% of all enterprises in the country. Considered the backbone of our economy, MSMEs provide around 5.7 million jobs or 63.19% of the country’s total employment, according to 2018 data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). But there are serious doubts as to whether the incentives and bailout packages would redound to the benefit of these MSMEs or instead be cornered by big firms. While CREATE is envisioned to serve both as a stimulus and as a means to spur economic growth, special concern should be directed at the impact of the crisis on workers.

Official statistics show that 7.3 million Filipinos are now unemployed, with the unemployment rate jumping to 17.7% in April 2020—a 12.6% increase from last year. Government’s response to support the unemployed has come in the form of social amelioration and a one-time cash dole-out to workers in the formal sector through its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP). These programs have been mired in problems, as Duterte himself has recognized.

For one, the social amelioration in the form of cash and in-kind support, ranging from PHP5,000 (~USD102) to PHP8,000 (~USD163) per household for each month of lockdown, does not have any clear criteria for recipient selection nor a timeline for distribution. Without clear criteria, the distribution of aid has been based on patronage instead of people’s needs. Furthermore, there have been various reports of delayed distribution both for the first and second tranche of the financial aid. Without any source of income during the first two months of strict lockdown, many poor families had to live on PHP8,000 (~USD163) per month, or about PHP133 (~USD2.71) per day. Even worse, some remote communities have reportedly not received any form of aid at all since March 15.

Similarly, the support program designed specifically for displaced workers has also been riddled with problems. On the one hand, the one-time cash aid worth PHP5,000 (~USD102) that was distributed to workers in the formal sector was not enough to meet the month-long needs of their families, even when combined with the financial aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Another concern of the labor sector was how the processing of aid depended on employers submitting a list of requirements to the government before their workers could receive aid. Labor groups also lamented that the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) support program for workers is exclusionary, as it only covers workers in the formal sector. Meanwhile, displaced workers and underemployed and seasonal workers could only receive provisional incomes under the department’s emergency employment program that would last between 10 and 30 days.

According to Czar Joseph Castillo of the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified labor rights issues including non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards, wage cuts, contractualization, and union busting.

While millions of poor Filipinos are suffering from worsening hunger due to lack of incomes and the delayed distribution of government aid, some public officials have been fattening their wallets with public funds. In fact, in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis that has exhausted the resources of thousands of COVID-19 victims, it was reported that PHP15 billion (~USD305 million) worth of funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) were pocketed by the members of the government corporation’s executive committee. Even prior to this recent exposé, various investigative reports have revealed massive fraud and scams within PhilHealth. It was estimated that the insurance company has lost around PHP154 billion (~USD3.13 billion) to various types of fraud. All these cases have persisted despite Duterte’s strong assertions that he would weed out corruption.

Rhetoric and Contradictions

There are a few other rhetorical statements in Duterte’s SONA that are contradicted by his policies and actions. He said that his administration “[wants] to end the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and other character traits.” This is ironic given Duterte’s sexist, misogynistic, and discriminatory statements against women and the LGBTQIA+ community. In one event, he was noted as saying that he “cured” himself of homosexuality “with the help of beautiful women.” Duterte has also blurted out statements before and during his term as president that objectified and sexualized women, encouraged violence against women, normalized and trivialized the otherwise serious matter of rape, and openly admitted to committing rape and other forms of sexual harassment himself.

He also boldly declared: “Rest assured that we will not dodge our obligation to fight for human rights.” This comes after years of extrajudicial killings, human rights violations and abuses, the erosion of democratic institutions, the encroachment of authoritarian rule, demonization of human rights activists and defenders, and the propagation of the divisive false dichotomy between the President’s “concern with human lives” and peoples’ defense of human rights and dignity in resistance to the Duterte regime.

On the issue of environment, he mentioned that “responsible extraction and equitable distribution of natural resources remain non-negotiables” and reiterated once again the need for the passage of the National Land Use Act (NLUA). Yet over the last four years under his administration, land policies have treated land and other natural resources as commodities and sources of profit for private investors. This narrow view of economic efficiency is anchored on the profit-maximizing exploitation of natural resources rather than its equitable distribution, protection, and preservation to advance social and ecological justice.

This is evident, for instance, in the continuing proliferation of mining throughout the country, rising cases of land grabbing and land use conversion in the countryside, the aggressive push for the China-backed Kaliwa Dam—a centerpiece of the Belt and Road Initiative in the Philippines—and many other forms of development aggression that threaten to destroy indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains and livelihoods, plus the reclamation of Manila Bay, which threatens to displace thousands of coastal residents and fisherfolk communities to make way for private businesses to plunder the Commons.

Duterte also stressed that a robust agriculture sector should drive economic growth. In line with this, he cited the “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program, otherwise known as the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) [literally meaning: All Rise, Adequate Food] program, as the government’s COVID-19 response to help reinvigorate the agriculture sector. However, the ALPAS program’s push for rice self-sufficiency and support for procurement of palay from local farmers contradicts the administration’s strong support and implementation of rice importation.

With the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) or the Rice Trade Liberalization Law, the Philippines became the largest importer of rice in the world in 2019 with record purchases reaching 2.9 million metric tons (MT), and there were plans in late March to import more than 300,000 MT of rice by way of the government-to-government scheme to ward off possible depletion of our rice buffer stock. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice-producing countries have reviewed their rice exports. Vietnam, for example, temporarily suspended rice export contracts as it assesses its own stockpiles. The plans were later shelved when Vietnam lifted their ban on rice exports. Nevertheless, this exposes the Philippines to the dangers of heavy reliance on importation as a means to secure food. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) estimates that the export bans could raise world rice prices anywhere from 19% (Vietnam), 23% (Cambodia), to as much as 51% (India), or $230 per MT. According to IRRI, “in the worst case scenario, rice price could spike well above the maximum level reached during the 2008 crisis.”

The deplorable neglect of the Filipino small-scale food providers and Philippine agriculture by the Duterte administration—exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 on food and the economy, as well as the government technocrats’ yielding to the dictates of neoliberal free-trade proponents—is a clear manifestation of the disconnect between the government and the people.

A Turning Point

The incompetence and poor leadership of the Duterte administration, as attested to by the recent SONA, along with the people’s indignation and demands for accountability, open opportunities for a progressive turning point, away from the Dutertismo style of governance and toward genuine political, economic, social, and cultural change. Now more than ever, there is a stronger need for us to organize communities, strengthen grassroots solidarities from the ground up, and collectively build alternatives for recovery, renewal, and systemic transformation.

The annual SONA has always been a political event ripe with contrasts. It is an occasion for the President to present the achievements of the administration and frame the policies and the political narrative moving forward. On the other hand, out on the streets, the united actions under the banner of SONAgKAISA (“nagkaisa” means united in Filipino) and the various sectoral and thematic actions articulate a counter-narrative focusing on the perspectives of the marginalized and the unheard and offer a different agenda of social transformation that challenges the status quo, questions government policies and priorities, and condemns the actions or inactions of the State.

There is also a sharp contrast in the optics of power and privilege: the politicians, the generals, the diplomats, and those in the corridors of power in their elegant barongs and filipinianas, comfortably seated inside the air-conditioned halls of Congress—though this time with COVID-19 we saw a much-reduced audience and a less-packed Congress. Meanwhile, the masses march outside under the scorching heat of the sun or sometimes the heavy downpour of rain, the people out in the streets shouting their demands and slogans, demanding to be heard. There is a typical ending to a SONA day: the President, after delivering his or her speech to the aplomb and applause of the crowd, leaves the halls rejuvenated with his or her political muscles flexed and mandate reaffirmed; meanwhile, the protestors finish their own programs, pack their flags, streamers, and placards, and disperse amidst the embers of the burned effigy.

SONA 2020 will be remembered as the day when Duterte’s failed leadership, in the face of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, was fully exposed to the public. The challenge now lies in seizing this opportunity to rise from the ashes of this moribund presidency, build stronger unities to advance the progressive agenda and find the strength to continue the long struggle ahead.

Joseph Purugganan
Head of Office

https://focusweb.org/the-moribund-duterte-presidency/

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[Video] SONAgKAISA’s July 17, 2020 Press Conference

 

“More than a hundred groups are set to stage protests on July 27, Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In an online press conference this morning, July 17, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the groups will come together to protest the slow and inadequate response of the government to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the non-renewal of ABS-CBN franchise, unemployment, attacks on press freedom, among others.

Dubbed as #SONAgkaisa, Pangilinan said that such broad united front last happened some 20 years ago, and Duterte’s Anti-Terrorism Act has made it possible again.”-Bulatlat

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[Statement] Sa gitna ng pangingitil sa ating kalayaan, walang iwanan! -YouthResist

Sa gitna ng pangingitil sa ating kalayaan, walang iwanan!

YouthResist Statement on the Passage of the ATB

Ang bawat henerasyon ay tinatawag upang humarap sa matitinding mga hamon. Sinusukat tayo ng mga hamon na ito, kung tayo ba ay titindig at kikilos o tayo ay aatras at magpapadala na lamang sa agos ng kasaysayan. Hindi tayo ang pumili na ipanganak sa panahon ng sigwa, ngunit nasa mga kamay natin kung paano at kalian ito matatapos.

Walang makakapagsabi na madali tumugon sa tawag ng panahon lalo’t lalo na sa kaliwa’t kanan na krisis sa kalusugan, kabuhayan, kalikasan at kahit mismo sa ating kalayaan. Kinakailangan ng matinding kagitingan at katapangan upang lumaban para sa ating mga karapatan.
Tunay na mahirap tumayo, ngunit kahit kalian ay hindi tayo nag-iisa kapag pinili natin tumindig.

Sa ating pagkapit-bisig ay nakakamit natin ang kalayaan mula sa mga mapang-abusong rehimen. Parte ng ating tradisyon ay ang paglaban para sa nararapat, mula kina Gat. Jose Rizal at Andres Bonifacio Laban sa Espana, sa mga lider-estudyante sa panahon ng Martial Law, at ngayon ay pagkakataon natin upang ipagpatuloy ang mapagpalayang tradisyon na ito.

Hindi tayo matatakot at tatalikod sa harap ng unconstitutional na Anti-Terrorism Bill. Ang ating pagkilos upang depensahan ang demokrasya at labanan ang awtoritaryanismo ay buhay at magpapatuloy. Hindi natin hahayaan na magtagumpay ang mga pwersa na nais kitilin ang ating kalayaan.

Madilim man na landas ang ating tatahakin, magsisilbing tanglaw nawa ang pangako ng isang tunay na demokratiko at malayang kinabukasan. Hanggang tayo’y nagsasama sa ating pagkilos buhay ang pag-asa, at ang pangako ng YouthResist ay sa ating pagkamit ng kinabukasang ito ay walang iwanan. Sagutin natin ang hamon ng kagitingan nang magkasama.

#AktibismoHindiTerrorismo!
#ResistTerrorLaw!

https://web.facebook.com/YouthResistance/photos/a.155973578399457/580675942595883/?type=3&theater

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[Statement] Laban ng lahat ang laban para sa Kalayaan; Laban ng lahat ang Karapatang Pantao -iDEFEND at PAHRA

Laban ng lahat ang laban para sa Kalayaan; Laban ng lahat ang Karapatang Pantao

Pahayag ng iDEFEND at PAHRA sa pagsasabatas ng Anti-Terrorism Act 2020

Sistematiko at walang pa ring tigil na pagkitil ng mga buhay upang panatilihin ang takot ng mamamayan; pagwasak sa kabuhayan ng manggagawa, upang tiklop tuhod silang magpapa samantala sa kapitalistang ganid sa ganansya; ganap na pagwasak sa kalikasan at lupang ninuno upang patirin ang buhay ng katutubo; pagkamkam ng yaman ng bansa para sa iilang crony at kaibigan; ang pagpapalayas ng maralitang Pilipino sa kanilang tirahan upang buo buong pulo ang mapapasakamay ng Tsina; Ang pagkamal ng gahiganteng utang at salapi para sa pansariling interes at upang masiguradong nasa pwesto ang mga kamag anak at kaibigan, sa susunod na halalan; ang pagyurak sa natitirang rule of law, ang walang pagpapanagot o impunity; ang pagbabasura sa Konstitusyon, ang pag giba sa mga demokratikong institusyon, ang tuluy tuloy na militarismo at karahasan;

Upang wala nang umimik sa pagpapayaman ng iilan; wala nang lalaban sa katiwalian;
Habang hinahalay ang katotohanan, binubusabos ang mamamayan- SILA ANG NAKIKINABANG SA GANITONG KASAMAAN.

Ito ang proyekto ng diktadurang Duterte. Iyan ang duduluhin ng atin bansa kaya sunud sunod ang pagsasabatas ng katulad ng Anti-Terrorism Law; kaya itinutulak ang Charter change. Hindi natitinag ang prioridad ni Duterte kahit pumutok man ang ilang bulkan, lumindol man ang kalupaan, at kahit lumitaw ang ilang COVID19, at anupamang pandemya.
Ang unang target ng proyektong ito ay ang pagpapatahimik sa boses ng kritiko, ang pambubusal sa malayang media at malayang pagpapahayag, ang paglipol sa mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao.

Napanood na natin ang pelikulang ito. Nangyari na ito sa kasaysayan ng ating bayan.
Mula sa kasaysayang iyon alam nating iisa lamang ang titibag sa proyektong ito ang nagkakaisang lakas ng sambayanang Pilipino na tahasang lumalaban sa Diktadurya, at lumalaban para sa demokrasya, sa kalayaan, at sa karapatang pantao.

Maaaring nasasadlak na tayo sa katuparan ng diktadurang Duterte pero hindi tayo umaatras sa ating paninindigan at lalong hindi tayo hihinto sa paglaban.

Haharapin natin ang tiranong Duterte gaya ng pagharap natin sa mga naunang pangulong katulad niya. Sama sama nating papandayin ang kinabukasang hindi na katatakutan ng ating mga anak, hindi na mamemeligro ang kanilang kabuhayan hindi na muling tatapakan ang kanilang karapatan, at mamumuhay na may dignidad at Kalayaan.

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[Statement] We, the people, will continue to resist the terror law! -Movement Against the Anti-Terrorism Act

We, the people, will continue to resist the terror law!

On the occasion of the 128th-year anniversary of the Katipunan that fought for our rights, freedom and independence from abuse and exploitation, we in the Movement Against the Anti-Terrorism Act (MATA) express our outrage over President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to take seriously his oath of office to preserve and defend the Constitution. Four days ago, his pen approved a clear and blatant unconstitutional act of Congress.

The President initiated or allowed himself to be seduced by the indecent proposal of more power to his executive office by affixing his signature to the Anti-Terrorism Act. This act will destroy the constitutional principle of separation of powers, which most likely will lead to more abuses of power.

Ayudang sapat sa mamamayan ang kinakailangan ng sambayanan, hindi diktadura ninuman!

Our people did and will continue to march on the streets and to the Supreme Court to remind the president and Congress that the fundamental law is supreme over the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The President and Congress have forgotten that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land to which all laws must conform and to which all persons, including the highest officials, must accord respect.

The President was a former prosecutor and not ignorant that only a judge can issue a warrant of arrest under the 1987 Constitution (Salazar vs Achacoso). He has forgotten his constitutional law in law school. He failed to use his veto pen! He lost his golden moment in history — a chance to heal our land and inspire our people to unite!

He missed to see that, among others, Section 9 (inciting to commit terrorism) is contrary to our freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights of the Constitution; while sections 29 (detention without judicial warrant) runs afoul of the principles of separation of powers and infringes the right of citizens “to be secure in their persons” against unreasonable arrest “for whatever nature and for any purpose” (Sec 2 ibid).

With all women and men of goodwill, we condemn terrorism in all its forms, whether state-sponsored or initiated by outlaws or non-state entities.

We believe, however, that the principal war should be waged against poverty and social exclusion. We therefore demand that the Duterte administration prioritize a robust economic stimulus package that would address the lack of aid for workers – formal and informal – and massive unemployment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new anti-terrorism law does not address these most pressing issues of the Filipino people.

We continue the fight as we, the people, are the authors of the fundamental law that Congress and the Executive branches recently assaulted with alacrity by passing and approving the Anti-Terrorism Act.

 

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[Off-the-shelf] Philippines: New report reveals deliberate killings of children during “war on drugs”- by OMCT and CLRDC, Philippines

Philippines: New report reveals deliberate killings of children during “war on drugs”

Geneva (OMCT) – A new report, published today, documents 122 killings of children, from 1 to 17 years old, throughout the Philippines, between July 2016 and December 2019. The report, titled “How could they do this to my child?”, jointly published by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC, Philippines), shows that the majority of the killings were carried out by police forces or affiliates.

The report is based on information directly collected from the locations where the children were killed, including interviews with local authorities, families and witnesses, and the examination of official documents related to each case. It identifies clear patterns for the killings, including the direct targeting of victims; killings of children as proxies when the real targets could not be found; as a result of mistaken identities; and as so-called “collateral damage”. The report details six cases, with the youngest victim a 20-month old girl.

In one particularly horrific case, a 7-year old boy was killed in cold blood because he had witnessed the murder of an adult by a member of the local authorities. The killings continue, with at least seven children killed from January to March 2020.

“These revelations must be a wake-up call for the international community, who has been largely absent as the Philippine government has kept trampling human rights”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary-General. “Over the past four years, we have hardly seen any meaningful reaction to the wanton killing of thousands of people under the pretext of the “war on drugs”, the targeting of the poorest and most marginalized citizens of the Philippines, and the persecution of human rights defenders, many of whom are in prison for their legitimate work. It is the total lack of accountability that feeds the cycle of violence, including the war on children we are witnessing.”

It is estimated that the total number of extrajudicial killings in the framework of the Philippine government’s anti-drug campaign may run as high as 27,000. Only in one case did the policemen involved get convicted.

This impunity, and the fact that most victims are poor and vulnerable, further increase a climate of terror created by the “war on drugs”. Practically all the families and witnesses interviewed for this report have asked to remain anonymous. Many of them did not file a case for the murder of their child, fearing retaliation. With parents often too afraid to testify, even anonymously, it is likely that the actual numbers of children killed are higher than the 122 documented in the report.

As the United Nations Human Rights Council is about to examine the record of the Philippines, the report sets out detailed recommendations, including for the creation of an independent commission of inquiry into human rights violations in the Philippines, with a special focus on children.

Full access to the report.

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) is the main global coalition of NGOs fighting torture and ill-treatment, with 200 members in more than 90 countries. Its international secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) is the leading child rights organisation in the Philippines.

Media Contact: Iolanda Jaquemet, ij@omct.org, mobile +41 79 539 41 06

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[Press Release] Human rights groups lament the weaknesses in the government response to COVID19 one month after the ECQ -iDEFEND

Human rights groups lament the weaknesses in the government response to COVID19 one month after the ECQ

Quezon City- Human rights groups lamented the weaknesses in the government program to address COVID19 one month after the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine, particularly the lack of mass testing.

In an online press conference assessing the one-month implementation of the Luzon-wide Lockdown, panelists said weak leadership, uncoordinated actions and heavy-handed punishment of curfew violators are adding to the people’s apprehensions.

“Government measures to combat COVID19 seriously lack the process to involve meaningfully, people’s participation,” said PAHRA(Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates) chairperson Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, “National authorities treated Filipinos as either naughty subjects or hapless victims, ignoring their important views on the national effort to combat COVID19. The paradigm of warfare was used to emphasize peace and order which resulted in human rights violations including torture, cruel and degrading treatment and sexual harassment. We are not at war! We are in defense of Life with Dignity” Simbulan added.

“Enhanced Community Quarantine has become an excuse to push the exploitative economic agenda of corporations and the development framework of government at the expense of indigenous peoples and rural communities”, said Judy Pasimio, iDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) Spokesperson and Director of LILAK Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights. She cited the forced entry of diesel tankers of the mining company Oceana Gold Philippines, in Bgy Didipio Nueva Vizcaya despite quarantine regulations.

Atty. Teddy Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) cited that the justice system is overshadowed by the peace and order framework of government. He urged the Supreme Court to adopt special rules towards facilitating more accessible processes during the time of quarantine, since most lawyers are at home and could not physically assist their clients. “The Supreme Court have allowed virtual access in certain situations but it is not enough”, Te remarked. “Legal and rights information become very important in these times. People need to know what to do and should have access to useful knowledge.” Te added.

Gary Granada of the artist group LAPIS said that the global pandemic exposed and exacerbated the stark inequalities in Philippine society, and has caught government unprepared to mitigate the gap.

Dr. Nemuel Fajutagana of the Medical Action Group(MAG) reiterated the health sector’s appeal for protection and assistance to health personnel especially in the extended quarantine period where he said they are already experiencing fatigue and heightened stress.

The group called on government to strengthen a rights-based approach to the COVID19 response which puts a premium on transparency and accountability of authorities, effective and empowering participation of affected communities, and science-based processes towards flattening the curve.

The full version of the online press conference can be viewed in this link

CONTACT: NIZA CONCEPCION 09395677987

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[Statement] Panawagan ng pagkakaisa laban sa pananakot at pandadahas sa mga maralita -KATAPAT

Mariing naming kinukundena ang patuloy na pandarahas sa mga maralita sa gitna ng pinapatupad na Enhanced Community Quarantine. Simula pa lamang ng Enhanced Community Quarantine ay wala nang konkreto at malinaw na plano ang administrasyon ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa ating mamamayan.

Noong unang mga araw ng quarantine, karamihan sa ating mga kababayan, kabilang na ang mga frontliners, ang naglakad ng kilo-kilometrong layo para lamang makauwi sa kanilang mga pamilya. Iyong iba ay hinarangan pa sa mga checkpoint at nagdulot ng pagka-stranded ng daan-daang mga manggagawa at empleyado.

Maliban dito, kamakailan lang ay ilan sa ating mga kababayan ang lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay sa Sitio San Roque sa Lungsod Quezon upang humingi ng makakain para sa kumakalam na sikmura ng kanilang pamilya. Ngunit, imbes na pagkain ang ibinigay sa kanila, dahas ang isinukli ng mga pulis at ikinulong pa ng ilang araw ang ilan sa kanila.

Matapos ang pangyayaring ito ay sinimulan ng ating mga kababayan ang community kitchen sa Sitio San Roque upang tulungang makakain ang mga residente nito. Ngunit kahapon lamang nang umaga ay nambulabog, nang-harass, at nagdala ng intimidasyon ang halos labinlimang pulis sa mga kababayan nating nagbabayanihan sa community kitchen sa San Roque.

Ilang araw lamang din ang nakalipas ay may ilang kababayan din tayong nagtitinda ng mga gulay sa Quezon City ang hinuli at ikinulong ng mga pulis.

Pinapatunayan lamang ng Administrayong ito na ang pinangangalandakan nilang “Tapang at Malasakit” noong mga nakaraang halalan ay huwad at walang katotohanan. Mas pinipili pa ni Pangulong Duterte ang magsalita nang marahas sa harap ng publiko kaysa maglatag ng malinaw at konkretong plano na may malasakit sa mga maralitang Pilipino.

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[From the web] Philippine Authorities Go After Media, Online Critics -HRW

Philippine Authorities Go After Media, Online Critics
Misuse of COVID-19 Law as Dozens Face Probes, Backlash

By Carlos H. Conde
Researcher, Asia Division
Human Rights Watch
@condeHRW

The Philippine government is cracking down on journalists and social media users critical of the government’s COVID-19 response, threatening media freedom and the rights to free expression and access to information.

On March 24, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a COVID-19 law that provides the administration funding and grants broad emergency powers to address the coronavirus. A last-minute provision criminalizes the spreading of “false information” with up to 2 months in prison and a 1 million peso (US$19,600) fine.

National and local authorities have used COVID-19 and existing legislation against those critical of the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) initiated legal action against 17 people for allegedly posting “false information” online, an offense that carries steep penalties. Police filed cases against two journalists, citing violations of the COVID-19 law and other laws. Police also brought a case against a town mayor for allegedly “causing a COVID-19 scare.”

Local government officials have taken action against critical journalists. The governor of Cebu province sent an intimidating message to the editor of a campus newspaper for criticizing the government’s COVID-19 response. Neighborhood leaders in Nueva Ecija province called in the editor of a campus paper to press him to apologize for publishing critical posts.

On Thursday, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno disclosed on Twitter that the NBI had subpoenaed a Facebook user for his critical posts, citing the COVID-19 law. “This has become a concerning trend because it is easy for the government to blur the line between legitimate criticism and ‘fake news,’” Diokno told Human Rights Watch. Diokno’s decision to take on this case prompted President Duterte to publicly accuse the lawyer of encouraging people to violate lockdowns.

The national and local governments are using their authority, buttressed by a problematic provision of the law, to crack down on critics while proclaiming they are simply going after peddlers of incorrect COVID-19 information. Duterte should call on government officials to focus on measures to defeat the coronavirus and ensure that Filipinos have access to information, rather than be deprived of it.

Source: www.hrw.org

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[Statement] Call to Defend & Protect Civic Space, Empower the Marginalized -CPDG

Quezon City, Philippines — Amid the Duterte administration’s increasingly hostile militarist lockdown, the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) calls on Philippine civil society to defend and protect civic spaces and empower the marginalized (http://chng.it/HZt2Gjb92q).

CPDG strongly protests Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s dangerous and irresponsible order to kill citizens that security forces deem as defying the military lockdown. In a nationally broadcast announcement on April 1, 2020, he said: “Shoot them dead”. The president’s duty is to uphold the rights and welfare of Filipinos. The State and its officials, including security forces, are duty bearers that are accountable to the people.

The president is wrong to treat people asserting their right to emergency relief and to express their views on the government’s response as enemies. The real enemy today is the spread of the COVID-19 and the social and economic crisis this is spawning.

The president is also very wrong to single out activist groups in civil society and shut out their participation in governance. For decades now, activist people’s organizations and NGOs have been among the most determined civil society organizations (CSOs) asserting the right to development. Red-tagging has no place in a democracy, and only becomes more condemnable when done in the middle of the worst public health crisis in the nation’s history.

This is a time of serious crisis. Filipinos are suffering greatly with very uncertain and even dire prospects in the new normal that the pandemic has wrought. The public health system needs to be strengthened further and immediately. The poorest and most vulnerable also need to be immediately given emergency relief including food, hygiene supplies and income support.

The last thing the country needs is for the government itself to threaten and harass civil society groups which are among those on the frontlines of trying to alleviate the widespread suffering that the virus and military lockdown are causing.@

Established in 2008, the Coordinating Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) is a broad network of civil society organizations (CSOs)
and people’s organizations (PO) engaged in development work.

CPDG Statement
06 April 2020
Council for People’s Development and Governance
#114 IBON Center, Timog Ave, QC
8-9Call 27-6986

https://www.facebook.com/notes/council-for-peoples-development-and-governance/call-to-defend-protect-civic-space-empower-the-marginalized/510243749632598/

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[Right-up] The Buck-Toothed, Janitor-like Talking Chel Diokno -by Norman Novio

Photo taken at Freedom of Expression Conference 2 in November 2018 where Dean Chel Diokno was guest speaker. The event was organized by the Human Rights Online Philippines

Amid coronavirus outbreak, President Rodrigo R. Duterte lashed out at Chel Diokno in a late-night address yesterday saying, “Diokno is talking like a janitor. You know why you didn’t win in the last elections? Because you have big teeth. The way you talk, half of your jaw is showing.” The president just used faulty logic to make a point and this is nothing but a blatant personal attack. This fallacy occurs when someone refutes another’s ideas or actions by attacking the person, in this case, his physical attributes, rather than his thinking or deeds. I do not remember Diokno resorting to such remarks on the president ever.

Many of us are wondering why the president did say that Diokno is “talking like a janitor?” How does a janitor talks, by the way? This is just a guess: Duterte assumed that in general, janitors are trash talkers (with all pun intended)!

For some office people or those in the so-called white-collar jobs, the term “janitor” is derogatory because it indicates a low-skilled, low-paying position in the workplace. Do not get offended, you DDS janitors, “janitor” is not a dirty word, but the president has a divan-full of it.

Read complete story @nanovio.blogspot.com

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