Tag Archives: President Duterte

[Statement] Human Rights Watch on “fake news” provision of Bayanihan law

Human Rights Watch statement on Section 6 (6) of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” signed by President Duterte on March 24, 2020:

Section 6 (6) of the law punishes “individuals or groups creating, perpetuating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion.”

This provision of the law is overbroad and can easily be misused by Philippine authorities to crack down on online criticism of government efforts. Given the Duterte administration’s well-documented hostility towards freedom of the press and online critics, this law could be used to criminalize any online information the government dislikes. Instead of seeking to shut down online information the Duterte administration should respect the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. Rather than abusing people’s free speech rights, the Duterte administration should focus on providing the public with accurate and timely information about COVID-19.

The Philippines has international obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds. Governments are responsible for providing information necessary for protecting and promoting rights, including the right to health. Permissible restrictions on freedom of expression for reasons of public health may not put in jeopardy the right itself.

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[Statement] Emergency powers for COVID19: The same politics of plunder and patronage but dressed in surgical masks and protective equipment -BMP/SANLAKAS/PLM

(Today, March 23, we are expecting Congress to hold a special session and grant emergency powers to Duterte as requested by Malacañang.)

The supermajority in both Houses will ensure that the president will have his way, not out of deep concern for a people who face uncertainty due to the COVID19 pandemic but from a deeply-ingrained SOP (standard operating procedure) of opportunism and political patronage.

The crux of the request is for the Executive to juggle funds and cancel appropriations made by Congress in the FY 2020 budget, in an attempt to immediately channel finance into decisive steps to address COVID19, which includes the take-over of health services and facilities.

We would leave the determination of this usurpation of the legislative power of the purse to the lawmakers, or to the Supreme Court, if the request, once accorded, is taken to the judiciary for interpretation for violations to the Constitution.

For the toilers and the propertyless, the question is “ Would the granting of emergency powers, as requested, lead to expedient and effective measures to address the health crisis”? Not really.

The president does not need more power to address this issue. Much power and privilege is already concentrated in his hands as chief executive.

Even without changing the budgetary appropriations, Duterte could easily initiate the massive mobilization of logistics, finances, and personnel to diligently follow the procedures by global health experts on how to combat the COVID19 scourge. He had the power to impose a travel ban from Wuhan/Hubei from as early as January. He had the discretion to declare a health emergency as suggested by the Health Department in latter February.

He could have done all this but he did not; downplaying the virus as a little fire to be put out by his urinary excretions.

Then, in early March, he hurriedly imposed a quarantine/lockdown for NCR then and Luzon, without preparing the prerequisites for the successful implementation of his drastic presidential order (transportation and protective equipment for frontliners, income replacement and subsidies for temporarily displaced workers from the formal and informal sectors, steady flow of basic needs, etc).

Too much power yet too lacking not just in political will and decisiveness but more so in genuine concern to the safety and welfare of the Filipino people.

The regime may counter that this request for “emergency powers” represents a sudden turnaround from its past blunders (though they are too egotistical and arrogant to admit to mistakes).

However, the Marawi case is a starker revelation to the devastating effects of granting “emergency powers” to Duterte. The so-called restoration of the war-torn city did not materialize. The billions of rechanneled funds and foreign aid now untraceable. Emergency powers ultimately lead to brazen and unashamed plunder since the normal procedures of transparency, audit, and accountability are deemed inapplicable in ‘emergency situations’.

The legislators, mostly in the House supermajority, would not oppose the reallocation of the budget for the COVID crisis, through the emergency powers of the chief executive. They know too well that it would be coursed to local government units “through the intercession of their good offices to their almighty Tatay”.

This is the same politics of plunder and patronage. Though this time with Duterte in front, handing out relief goods, wearing a surgical mask to hide his blush of shame for past misdeeds and blunders.

Yet, for the sake of the people, we propose the following adjustments to two major measures in the fight against COVID19: (a) social distancing and proper hygiene: not by draconian measures that regard the masses as the problem but by encouraging mass participation and initiative to dispel the view that Filipinos are inherently undisciplined, (b) mass testing in critical areas and eventual isolation, recovery and treatment of patients (which necessitates a rejection of VIP testing for its wasteful use of scarce and much-needed test kits, testing should prioritize frontline workers due to their proximity to the deadly virus) and (c) requisition of private facilities such as hotels and hospitals to serve as quarantine or isolation centers for those who have tested positive for the COVID-19 where proper medication and care can be afforded to them.

However, we call on our kauri and kamanggagawa to stretch ourselves, go beyond narrow struggles for economic gain, and tackle the questions of politics and governance to the millions of Filipino workers, as they face the ineptitude of the ruling clique (which will literally kill us all), the weak rival elitist faction, the looming economic slowdown locally and globally, and a pandemic that highlights all the contradictions of the prevailing capitalist global order.

March 23, 2020
BMP – SANLAKAS – PLM

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[Statement] Allocation of funds is the solution, not delegation of extra powers to the President -NAGKAISA

Workers who were forced into home quarantine without subsidies, in collective agony, already have a full view and had a taste of how disruptive and repressive Presidential power works during emergencies. The people never asked for it in the first place, nor will locked-down communities today demand a more extensive quarantine measure from the President.

Quarantine subsidy, free mass testing, and treatment, as well as adequate support to our front-liners, are clearly what the working people need today. Sadly, however, as we obey social distancing policies at home, what we find sorely lacking from the President’s declaration of public health emergency and the implementation of lockdown policy is FUNDING, which under the Constitution, is the primary duty of Congress and not of the President.

Now is the time, therefore, for Congress to do its part in the COVID-19 battle. It should, as a matter of obligation, allocate more funds for the frontline workers, their safety and their supplies, and subsidies for the millions in forced home quarantine. In particular, Nagkaisa is urging the leadership of both houses of Congress to allocate funds for:

1. 10,000-peso Quarantine Subsidy to each worker in the formal and informal sector for their food and essential needs. We estimate that 225 billion pesos would be needed to provide this level of subsidy.
2. 10 billion pesos for mass testing, treatment, and adequate support to our front-liners, including their PPEs, transport needs, quarantine, and proper accommodation.
3. Prepare the 2021 budget prioritizing measures versus pandemics and establishing the Center for Disease Control and Protection in the long term.

We further believe that addressing this policy gap in the fight against COVID-19 does not require the granting of emergency powers to the President as realignments and new fund allocation properly belongs to Congress. You might as well consider doing sessions in quarantine in Batasan rather than staying at home without pay like ordinary workers.

We also urge Congress not to allow any attempt to clip the powers of the LGU’s just to ensure national compliance to standards which in principle must also consider a local application based on local conditions. We would rather prefer local innovations than presidential sanctions. As a matter of fact, most LGUs, especially those outside NCR, also need to augment their resources for the general welfare to promote health and safety under section 16 of the Local Government Code.

As to the taking over of public utilities, the Constitution already allows the President to take such extreme measures when the public interest so requires.

NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
23 March 2020
Reference: Atty. Sonny Matula
Nagkaisa Chairperson

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[People] Bill asking for emergency powers for the President contains provisions patently repugnant to the Constitution -By Atty. Gilbert Andres

I have read a draft bill asking for emergency powers for the President. My initial analysis of the draft bill is that it contains provisions patently repugnant to the Constitution (I) for delegating Congress’ power of the purse to the President and (II) for delegating to the President legislative powers to declare acts as criminal.

1) Section 14(16) of the draft bill is patently unconstitutional for violating the separation of powers as it effectively delegates Congress’ power of the purse over to the Executive.

Section 14(16) of the draft bill states “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, reprogram, reallocate, and realign any appropriation in the FY 2020 GAA for whatever purpose the President may deem necessary and desirable to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency, including the recovery and rehabilitation therefrom. All amounts so reprogrammed, reallocated or realigned shall be deemed automatically appropriated for such COVID-19 measures.”

Section 14(16) gives full discretion to the President, not just to realign, but also reprogram and reallocate any appropriation in the FY 2020 GAA. Further, take note that Section 14(16) does not only refer to appropriations for the Executive Department but refers to”any appropriation in the FY 2020 GAA.” This is essentially Congress’ power of the purse which is being delegated to the President.

2) Section 14(16) of the draft bill also violates SECTION 25(5), ARTICLE VI of the CONSTITUTION which provides that “No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations; xxx”

3) SECTION 25(5), ARTICLE VI of the CONSTITUTION merely allows a law wherein the President “be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.” But Section 14(16) of the draft bill goes beyond that.

4) Section 6 of the draft bill on penalties (2 months of fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1M, or both) is unconstitutional for being an undue delegation of legislative powers to the President.

Take note that the penalty is to be imposed for “Any violations of the rules, regulations, and directives of the National Government issued pursuant thereto,xxx”

However, such power to criminalize an act and to impose penalties to it is essentially a legislative power that only Congress can exercise (and to a certain extent LGUs through their respective councils). Legislative power can never be exercised by the President under the Constitutional principle of separation of powers.

5) Section 6 of the draft bill is also unconstitutional under the void for vagueness doctrine. What kind of act will the President’s “rules, regulations, and directives” be declared as a criminal? No one knows. And this is precisely the situation that the void for vagueness doctrine intends to prevent.

There are other patently questionable provisions in the draft bill. But these are the sections that stand out for being repugnant to the Constitution.

6) What the draft bill seeks can always be answered by Congress passing a supplemental budget to fight COVID-19. A supplemental budget to give the National Government additional funds to specifically fight COVID-19 is a better calibrated, laser-sharp response rather than an outright surrender of Congress’ power of the purse to the President.

7) Lastly, the repugnant provisions of the draft bill remind me of the famous warning of Angara vs. Electoral Commission through the illustrious pen of SC Justice Jose P. Laurel “In times of social disquietude or political excitement, the great landmarks of the Constitution are apt to be forgotten or marred, if not entirely obliterated.”

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[People] Not supplemental nor stimulus but more powers to DU30 vs COVID-19 -Rep. Edcel Lagman

Hon. Edcel Lagman, photo source http://ph.yfittopostblog.com/

The unfolding output of the one-day special session in the House of Representatives is the grant of more emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to combat COVID-19 as he requested in the Malacañang-crafted H.B. No. 6616, even as the validity of the virtual session and electronic voting of the House of Representatives is in legal limbo as no prior amendment was properly effected under the existing Rules of the House.

Authorizing the President with extraordinary powers was in lieu of a supplemental budget or an economic stimulus package to ameliorate affected citizens and displaced workers and bail out distressed businesses, particularly micro and small enterprises.

The grant of extraordinary budgetary powers to the President to restructure or re-engineer the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) surrenders the Congress’ constitutional power of the purse to the Executive even as it allows the President to transfer funds in violation of Section 25 of Article VI of the Constitution which unequivocally prohibits the enactment of a law authorizing a transfer of funds.

Under House Bill No. 6616, the President is authorized to cause the (a) “cancellation of appropriated programs, projects or activities” to “generate (forced) savings”, and (b) “reprogram, reallocate, and realign any allocations in the FY 2020 GAA for whatever purpose the President may deem necessary and desirable to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 emergency.”

Read complete story @edcellagman.ph

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[Statement] We Need Clear Plans Not Shortcut Measures -Kilusan

More than a week after Enhanced Community Quarantine has been declared in Luzon and there has been damage done to the economic life of our citizens who were commandeered to stay at home, with no clear livelihood assistance, meanwhile local government units have been put in charge of providing food /food packs for their constituents some have received food packs while other LGUs give out cooked food. Sadly, there are communities that have yet to receive any food /food packs.

In the past week, we have had cases of patients sent home because of congested hospitals and over-burdened medical front liners have yet to be provided with sufficient personal protective equipment while the national government has yet to implement mass testing or coordinated disinfection of communities to stem the outbreak of the disease.
These glaring loopholes have yet to be addressed policy-wise.
Now, Malacanang is now asking the Senate and House of Representatives (HoR) to pass a bill that will hand to President Duterte additional powers ostensibly to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.

As of this writing, Senate did not proceed with the session as it lacked a quorum. The HoR proceeded with the Special Session with twenty in attendance and has already passed House Bill 6616 in the first reading.

We look at this proposal with concern especially given the blanket nature of the powers being asked including realignment of funds, relaxing procurement measures, taking over of privately-owned public utility or business affected with the public interest.

We remember that prior to the COVID-19 Duterte allies have been hounded with corruption charges, we remember that there has been no exit report in the implementation of a two year Martial Law in Mindanao. We remember that the Marawi rehabilitation funds have yet to be satisfactorily explained and that the city remains in rubble two years after the siege.

We believe that shortcut powers can only serve the short-sighted, selfish interests of the unscrupulous. Granting the executive additional powers is a recipe that can open doors to corruption and abuse devoid of accountability especially if the plans to address the COVID-19 have not revealed to the public.

Assurances of “no” corruption cannot assure the public, only ensuring that our government has clear, scientific and public health is the only real measure that we will be effectively addressing the outbreak.

Let us not legislate ourselves into an untenable situation. Already, there is confusion and excesses in the implementation of the lockdown. This must be addressed and soon.
We need clarity and consistency in implementing the guidelines. Additional powers are unnecessary and superfluous at this point.

#QuarantineSubsidyNow
#FreeMassTestingNow
#NoToMoreEmergencyPowers
#MassTestingNowPH

https://www.facebook.com/notes/kilusan-para-sa-pambansang-demokrasya/statement-we-need-clear-plans-not-shortcut-measures/3148384121883172/

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[From the web] Lagman: Duterte Administration must answer critical questions on COVID-19

The following overriding and critical questions about the COVID-19 pandemic afflicting the country need immediate candid answers from the Duterte administration:

  1. Why is the President’s Contingency Fund of P13 billion barely untouched when it was purposely appropriated to respond to calamities like the deadly novel coronavirus? Reliable sources reveal that only a low of P1 million and/or a high of P1 billion had been disbursed from the contingent fund which has an unutilized balance as of today of not less than P12 billion.
  2. Why are impoverished local government units, particularly rural barangays, saddled with the obligation to provide food, work and cash assistance to affected citizens and displaced workers when they do not have the financial wherewithal to positively and adequately respond even as the Office of the President and national agencies have the sufficient funds under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA) just waiting to be disbursed to meet the crisis?
  3. Why is the mortality rate of the Philippines at 6.2% of infected patients (19 deaths out of 307 COVID-19 positive patients) is much higher than the global death rate of 4.3%?

Read complete story @edcellagman.ph

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[Statement] Power to the people’s collective struggle against autocratic rule -iDEFEND

Photo from iDEFEND website

President Duterte steadily marches towards authoritarian rule, with the Courts, the Executive branch and the Philippine Congress delivering one after the other, legislative, judicial and executive measures versus popular dissent and criticism. On February 10th Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a Quo Warranto petition before the Supreme Court seeking to forfeit the franchise of media corporation ABS CBN and subsequently sought a gag order against any public discussion on the issue. On February 14th the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest against former Senator and opposition figure Antonio Trillanes and 10 others on charges of conspiracy to commit sedition.

This week the Philippine Senate approved the Anti-Terrorism Bill, replacing the Human Security Act (R.A. 10354-2007). The bill seeks lesser penalties for erroneous arrests and human rights violations committed by law enforcement personnel in the pursuit of anti-terror operations. The soon-to-be legislation will utilize police powers over public and private communication and surveillance facilities, and allow the Courts to delegitimize civil society groups by tagging them as terrorist organizations. It also removed compensation to victims of illegal detention. The bill is the latest in the arsenal of repression pointed at human rights defenders and people’s organizations who continue to oppose political, social and economic policies of the Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines becomes a potential testing ground for a mandatory ROTC being finalized at the House of Representatives, for all senior high school and college students. The consolidated bill will eliminate the National Service Training Program (NSTP) which provided students the option to choose service programs that are relevant to them. Students and youth groups have raised the alarm over what they consider as another corrupt, sexist and abusive program designed to kill critical thinking among young people.

Alongside these measures are a string of legislation and executive issuances aimed at curbing civic spaces, among them- Executive Order No.70 establishing a “whole of nation” approach to counter-insurgency; cyber libel in R.A. 10175 (Anti-cybercrime law); DILG Memorandum Circular 2019-116 directing NGOs to submit their profiles and projects for review; and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Memorandum Circular no. 15 requiring non-profit entities to divulge information on all their partners, funders and local areas of operations, under threat of revocation of their SEC registration.

The systematic weakening of democratic institutions and processes did not start with signed orders or a proposed law; it started with a bullet to the head of the first drug suspect. Duterte does not want to eliminate a few opposition voices; he wants the population terrorized towards the annihilation of questions in the face of brazen corruption, foreign and elite economic domination, environmental destruction and tyranny.

However, we know that the fall of dictators also starts with a growing doubt, consistent voices of discontent, the whistleblowers, the small acts of defiance and courage, and finally the united stand of the people against injustice.

On the 34th commemoration of the power of the people to liberate themselves from oppressive rule, we renew our commitment to forge onwards, arms linked with freedom-loving sisters and brothers around the world, and realize a society where human rights, equality, justice, and peace drive the development of every citizen.

Read more @idefend.ph

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[Press Release] Report: Worsened human rights crisis in 2019; Duterte’s real legacy is full-scale assault on people’s rights -PhilRights

Photo from PhilRights FB page

PhilRights’ report The Killing State: 2019 Philippine Human Rights Situationer describes a worsening human rights situation creating a hostile environment for ordinary Filipinos.

QUEZON CITY – President Duterte’s real legacy is the full-scale assault on people’s basic rights and the dismantling of democratic guarantees of Filipinos, the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) asserted.

“If we talk of Duterte’s real legacy, his administration needs to look no further than the thousands of dead bodies found in city streets and the countryside,” said Prof. Nymia Pimentel-Simbulan, executive director of PhilRights.

PhilRights’ conclusion was based on its new report released today, which outlined how the human rights situation in the Philippines continued its descent to violence, fear, and impunity, festering into a full-blown human rights crisis.

Prof. Pimentel-Simbulan noted that Pres. Duterte’s core principle of governance is violence, which is manifested through the continuation of the so-called war on drugs, the escalation of attacks on human rights defenders, activists, and the media, and the disregard for social and economic justice.

“The president’s impulse for violence has had a profoundly negative impact on the rights and dignity of many Filipinos,” said Prof. Pimentel-Simbulan. She questioned the government’s continued anti-human rights agenda including the push to reimpose the death penalty, which is in direct violation of the Philippines’ obligations to international human rights law.

2019: A Human Rights Crisis

PhilRights’ report looked back at key events in 2019 that impacted the human rights situation in the country and found that the demonization of human rights, coupled with weaponization of laws and the constant incitement of violence by the president himself have created a hostile environment for ordinary Filipinos.

Of particular concern is the widespread violence perpetrated by the ongoing anti-drug campaign and the implementation of Memorandum No. 32 and Executive Order No. 70, among other issuances, which have resulted in escalating attacks against human rights defenders, activists, and the media.

The report also highlighted the administration’s failure to deliver on its promises of genuine improvement in the lives of Filipinos, especially on issues of food security, employment, and our farmers’ plight under the Rice Tariffication Law. “In 2019, it became even more clear that this administration is massively beholden to the interests of the powerful few, at the expense of the economic, social, and cultural rights of our citizens,” said Prof. Pimentel-Simbulan.

Fighting back

PhilRights views 2020 as an important year in the fight for human rights. The group noted the upcoming report of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Philippines in June and the anticipated decision of the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor on whether to proceed with a full investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity against Pres. Duterte and other administration officials.

In the report, Prof. Pimentel-Simbulan emphasized the need for action: “We believe that our people, guided by the ideals of principles of human rights and democratic rule, can seize this country from the clutches of authoritarianism.”

—————-

About PhilRights

PhilRights is a non-stock, non-profit organization duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Established in 1991 as the research and information center of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), PhilRights is also an associated NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI) and carry a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC).

PhilRights envisions a just, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Philippines founded on a culture of human rights and gender equity. Our work is focused on ushering in a society where each individual is able to fully realize their potential as a human person, participates effectively in the economic, political and cultural life, and shares equitably in the benefits of economic progress.

Our institutional programs are Human Rights research, education, and information. For more information, please visit http://www.philrights.org.

Facebook: @HumanRightsPhilippines | Twitter and Instagram: @PhilRights | Youtube: /PhilRights

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[Statement] NUJP calls on public to defend press freedom amidst Duterte’s fresh tirades vs ABS-CBN

President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest tirade against ABS-CBN bears all the signs of a shakedown and raises questions over his real intentions for seeking to block the renewal of the broadcast network’s franchise.

On Monday, December 30, speaking to earthquake victims in M’lang, Cotabato, Duterte did not so much threaten again, which he has repeatedly done since soon after assuming office, as predict that ABS-CBN’s franchise, which expires on March 20, would, indeed, not be renewed.

“Mag-renew kayo, ewan ko lang kung may mangyari diyan (You try to renew, let’s see if anything happens),” he said.

Words that appear to be marching orders to his minions in Congress, led by Alan Peter Cayetano, who has admitted having “personal objections” to renewing the franchise in a clear conflict of interest.

To date, the House of Representatives has yet to act on bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.

And then, Duterte’s bombshell: “Kung ako sa inyo ipagbili niyo na ‘yan (If I were you, I would sell that).”

His statement leaves the network owners, the Lopez family, with a stark choice: sell or lose everything.

But sell it to whom and for whose benefit?

The fact is Duterte has already shown a propensity for coercion, as he did in 2017 when he publicly told ABS-CBN to support his federalism drive and he would agree to settle his difference with the network.

We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on citizens who cherish democracy to band together and protect the free arena of ideas that the closure or forced sale of ABS-CBN would severely weaken. The alternative— the death of freedom of the press and of free expression— is too horrible to contemplate.

#ABSCBNIsNotForSale

National Directorate
+639175155991

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[From the web] Duterte’s secret SALN: The lie of his FOI -PCIJ

Rodrigo R. Duterte is a most secretive President when it comes to the details of his wealth. To this day, eight months after the April 30 deadline for filing, he has not released a copy of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for 2018. By all indications, Duterte sticks out as the lie of his own Freedom of Information (FOI) edict.

BY MALOU MANGAHAS
December 11, 2019

ACCORDING to President Rodrigo R. Duterte, a public official’s solemn oath would be to uphold three principles: “serve and protect the people, practice transparency and accountability, and shun corruption.”

This was his marching order to dozens of legislators and local officials who were elected in May 2019, at their oath-taking ceremony in Malacañang last June 30.

“As you assume office, it becomes your highest duty to practice and uphold accountability and transparency in government, and to ensure that graft and corruption will not have a place in this administration,” Duterte had said. “Let me just shorten our oath of office in two sentences — actually it’s just — we swear to preserve the Republic of the Philippines and to defend the people. That’s the long and short of it.”

But Duterte, a most secretive President when it comes to the details of his wealth, does not always do what he says.

Indeed, by all indications, Duterte sticks out as the lie of his own Freedom of Information (FOI) edict.

To this day, eight months after the April 30 deadline for the filing of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Duterte has not released a copy of his SALN for 2018.

This would be the first time in the last 30 years that a President has not released his or her SALN. Since the SALN Law was enacted on Feb. 20, 1989, all five presidents before Duterte had publicly disclosed their annual SALNs without fail, year on year, via either the Office of the Ombudsman or the Office of the President.

Read more @pcij.org

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[From the web] Duterte Threatens to Shut Down TV Network -HRW

Closing ABS-CBN Would Degrade Philippines Press Freedom

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

President Rodrigo Duterte ramped up his attack on the Philippine media, vowing to block the renewal of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest and most influential broadcast network. “Your franchise will end next year,” the president said on Tuesday. “If you are expecting it to be renewed, I’m sorry. You’re out. I will see to it that you’re out.”

This is Duterte’s third such threat against ABS-CBN. He accused the network of unfair reporting, as well as of allegedly taking his advertising money in the 2016 elections but then failing to run his political ads. He earlier threatened to file charges against the media company for allegedly defrauding him. The company has denied the allegations of unfair or biased reporting.

Under Philippine law, broadcasters must secure congressional franchises in order to operate. ABS-CBN’s franchise, issued in 1995, will expire in March 2020. Duterte has exploited this impending renewal to threaten the network, accusing it of slanting its reporting against him and favoring politicians identified with the political opposition. The Lopez family, which controls the network, is known for its activist past, having fought against the Marcos dictatorship. It paid dearly for that opposition when Ferdinand Marcos shut the network down during martial law in 1972. Duterte has politically allied himself with the Marcos family, which has been trying to rehabilitate its long-tattered image of abuse and corruption.

But perhaps the real reason for these threats is ABS-CBN’s critical reporting of Duterte, particularly his murderous “war on drugs.” The network has aired and published award-winning reports on the extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users by the police. Apart from ABS-CBN, the government has also targeted Rappler, the online media company that earned Duterte’s ire for its thorough documentation of the “drug war” killings and other abuses.

Duterte is misusing the government’s regulatory powers to settle a score with ABS-CBN. These actions are part of a broader crackdown on media outlets and civil society groups that dare criticize him. Philippine congress members should resist the president’s effort to shut down ABS-CBN. Appeasing a vindictive president who is hell-bent on frustrating accountability for his policies will have far-reaching implications for media freedom, human rights, and democracy in the Philippines.

Read more @ https://www.hrw.org/asia/philippines

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[Statement] On Duterte’s firing of VP Leni Robredo -HRW

Vice President Robredo barely warmed her seat before President Duterte fired her as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. Was his offer of involving her in finding solutions to the situation of drugs in the Philippines ever really serious? He didn’t even give Robredo the chance to show what she could do to make the campaign against drugs effective and, most important, non-violent and rights-respecting. By firing her on such ludicrous grounds, Duterte reveals he was never even remotely sincere and exposes his game to appoint her as a total sham. Robredo does a great service to the Filipino people and her country by continuing her strong criticism of the rights-abusing “drug war” and demanding accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes against human rights.

Carlos Conde
Asia researcher
Human Rights Watch
@condeHRW

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[From the web] Duterte is making a big mistake – by Christian Gultia and Ernesto Neri

Political persecution and killings of activists and human rights defenders have been consistently at the top of the government’s agenda since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016. To date, more than 2,000 human rights defenders have already been attacked through various forms including threat, intimidation, harassment, trumped-up charges, and extrajudicial killing. The massive crackdown against activists has transformed the Philippines into one of the most notorious countries for civil society.

War against dissent

The administration has been successful in orchestrating a systematic and organized campaign against dissenters and members of the opposition. The purest form of the strategy, which populists like Duterte use to stifle dissent, is the process that we call “othering” – a process of social exclusion, separating the “us” from “them.” To put it simply, the government made it a norm to exclude individuals or groups who are against the state’s policies and direction as “enemies” of change, and as a response, the government must get rid of them.

Drug dependents who have fallen prey to the war on drugs are victims of the process. The public has been conditioned to believe that those who are engaged in drug activities, especially those who engage in small-scale drug transactions, are irreformable. Any attempt to rehabilitate them would mean wasted state resources.

The same process is being used against dissenters and activists through red-tagging or branding them as communists. Only recently, offices of national democratic organizations were raided and their members were arrested.

Read more @www.rappler.com

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[Statement] #HandsOffSkimmers -UPV-USC, LCCS, and student organizations

Unity statement of UPV-USC, LCCS, and student organizations against the doxxing and harassment targeting members of the Skimmers Academic Organization by State-sponsored trolls of the Duterte administration

Last Wednesday, October 16, 2019, UP Visayas kicked off its Pahampang Season through the annual Cheering Competition where all academic organizations best each other through cheers that tackle social and political issues from the university administration level all the way to national and global scales.

For this year, Skimmers, the academic organization under the Division of Humanities, won 1st place. Their performance highlighted press freedom, media killings, and exploitation. It also took up issues on the West Philippine Sea, Rice Tarrification Law, CHED’s Memorandum that removed Filipino, Panitikan, and the Philippine Constitution as core subjects in college, and the government’s call for mandatory ROTC.

A video of Skimmers’ performance was uploaded on social media and immediately gained traction after certain groups and pages singled out a line in Skimmers’ cheer condemning the Duterte administration’s inaction over the Philippine claim on the West Philippine Sea.

The line’s satirical nature did not sit well with Duterte supporters as they took their threats and harassment to Facebook and launched different attacks against Skimmers and its cheerers. These threats are made more pressing and credible as the pages and groups supporting Duterte publicized some personal information of the Skimmers Governor and Skimmers adviser, making them a target.

The attacks intensified when Mocha Uson herself shared a snippet of the Skimmers’ cheer on her personal blog, with the caption “Let’s kill the President daw? Yan na ba talaga ang tinuturo nila sa University of the Philippines ngayon?”. The post in question has over 321,000 views and 2,000 shares at the time of writing, which has inspired Duterte supporters to send video threats to several Skimmers cheerers, post their photos without consent (which is a clear violation of the Data Privacy Act), and red tag the University along with its University Student Council.

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[In the news] UP Visayas community condemns threats against students after viral cheer routine -GMA news

The University of the Philippines Visayas’ Student Council and other student organizations over the weekend said they “strongly condemn” the harassment received by UPV organization the Skimmers after their cheer critical of the Duterte administration’s policies went viral.

“With the increased instances of red-tagging by this oppressive state whenever the University raises awareness and action on societal issues, we will not and will never tolerate any kind of harassment or unjust behavior towards our constituents, whether we are facing a single troll or the whole Duterte administration. We won’t let this go unanswered,” the groups said in a statement.

The Skimmers became the target of online threats and harassment by pro-Duterte groups after their cheer, which highlighted social and political issues, went viral on social media last week.

The group showcased a cheer routine that criticized the Duterte administration and tackled issues such as media oppression and repression; the “red-tagging” of students and schools; the administration’s policy towards China regarding the West Philippine Sea; and the Rice Tariffication Law.

Read more @www.gmanetwork.com

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[Off-the-shelf] The Killing State: The Unrelenting War Against Human Rights -PhilRights

Findings of the 2017-2019 Documentation of Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) committed in the context of the so-called War on Drugs
by the Philippine Human Rights Information Center

Since Rodrigo Duterte’s inauguration as the 16th president of the Philippines in 2016, the country has witnessed a steep surge in gross violations of human rights. Three years into his presidency, President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs continues without letup, despite his own admission that the drug problem has not been—and cannot be—solved.

The number of victims continues to mount and the violence and brutality are just as severe. Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) have become the hallmark of the Duterte administration’s governance.

The challenges to human rights organizations are as urgent as ever: to respond to the rise in cases of gross human rights violations, to provide support and intervention to victims and families, to campaign for rule of law and respect for human rights, and to fight against impunity. Among these challenges is the urgent task of documenting the cases of violations, so that they are not erased from public memory, and to gather evidence that could be used for exacting accountability.

PhilRights’ documentation abides by the principles and investigation guidelines set by The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Deaths (2016).2 This document, also known as the Minnesota Protocol, was issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) to set international legal standards to prevent unlawful deaths and investigate extra-legal, summary, and arbitrary executions.

The Minnesota Protocol clarifies that a “potentially unlawful death” may (1) have been due to the acts or omission of the State, its organs or agents including law enforcers, paramilitary groups, militias or death squads allegedly “acting under the direction or with the permission or acquiescence of the State,” and “private military or security forces exercising State functions,” (2) have happened when the victim was in detention by or in custody of the State, its organs or agents, and (3) have been due to the failure of the State to fulfill its obligation in protecting life. Under international law, a “potentially unlawful death” is the product of an arbitrary, summary, or extra-legal execution or an alleged extrajudicial killing. In the event that the victim survived the incident, the violation is referred to as “frustrated or attempted extrajudicial killing.”

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The Killing State: The Unrelenting War Against Human Rights

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[In the news] Watch drug war documentary before dismissing it, says filmmaker -INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — A British filmmaker is urging President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters to watch his documentary on the war on drugs before dismissing it as mere ‘black propaganda’.

James Jones said his team did not come to the Philippines with a biased notion of the Duterte administration’s drug war, contrary to recent statements by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that the film “On the President’s Orders” ‘reeks of malice’.

“So the last question relates to President Duterte’s administration’s response this week, when the spokesman came out and described the film as black propaganda which reeks of malice, despite not having seen the film,” Jones said in a prepared video which was shown to reporters after a private screening on Wednesday night.

“You know it’s not entirely unexpected if you make a film about the drug war and you’re a foreign journalist, it comes with a territory, I suppose. But all I would say is that we didn’t come with a particular agenda,” he added.

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Watch drug war documentary before dismissing it, says filmmaker

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[In the news] HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS: Concealing drug war film’s venue says a lot about PH atmosphere of fear -INQUIRER.net

The decision to keep secret the venue of the latest advance screening of “On the President’s Orders” says a lot about the atmosphere of fear in the country, a human rights advocate said on Wednesday night.

“Haven’t we pondered if our situation today is not normal? The fact that we have to hide, that we have to scrutinize people who would watch the documentary with us, isn’t that unusual?” said Dr. Nymia Simbulan, executive director of the nongovernment Philippine Human Rights Information Center (Philrights).

“That the government is saying that we are free, that democracy exists, but there are doubts, fears, and the conscious decision to be on guard. This proves that there is something wrong with the current government,” Simbulan told reporters gathered in Quezon City.

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Concealing drug war film’s venue says a lot about PH atmosphere of fear

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[In the news] Drug war killings must be told, says Emmy winner director Jones -GMAnews

ON THE PRESIDENT’S ORDERS
Drug war killings must be told, says Emmy winner director Jones

“On The President’s Orders” could pass as an action film about the murky world of drugs, politics and crime that people looking for thrilling entertainment watch, except that some of its scenes were real-life happenings.

A CCTV footage used in the movie showed a tricycle driver waiting for a passenger in Caloocan City with his toddler kid inside the vehicle. Moments later, in broad daylight, he was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in a motorcycle.

Scenes showing police operations in communities — knocking on houses, interrogations, arrests, buy-bust, and the like — were shot based on testimonies of victims and their families, who have actually experienced the brunt of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Read more @www.gmanetwork.com

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