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Without immunity, Duterte faces 1st crime rap in local court

Finally without immunity, former president Rodrigo Duterte was slapped with a criminal charge in a Philippine court for grave threats against an incumbent member of the House of Representatives.

ACT Teachers Party Representative and Deputy Minority Leader France Castro filed a grave threat complaint against Duterte after the latter publicly said in a television interview last week he will kill the legislator and other alleged Communists.

“He no longer has immunity. He is no longer president. He should not do this to a congressperson, much more to fellow Filipinos,” Castro said after she filed her complaint at the Quezon City Hall of Justice on Tuesday, October 24.

Castro, accompanied by her lawyers Antonio La Viña and Rico Domingo, charged Duterte with violation of Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code, punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of PhP100,000.

In a live interview with United States fugitive Apollo Quiboloy on Sonshine Media Network Inc. channel last Tuesday, Duterte he will kill Castro and other alleged Communists.

“But, the first target of your (Vice President Sara Duterte) intelligence fund would be you, France. I want to kill all of you Communists,” Duterte said in Filipino.

Duterte also admitted to killing more Communists in Davao where he ruled as a multi-term mayor.

Duterte added, “The intelligence fund, I bought (used) it, I had them all killed. That is why Davao is like that. Your colleagues, I really had them murdered. That is the truth.”

Castro, in mourning at the time for the death of her father, did not issue a statement.

Castro and fellow Makabayan bloc members Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Youth Party Representative Raoul Manuel against earned the ire of the controversial politician for leading the opposition to confidential and intelligence funds to agencies without security mandates.

Sara Duterte has requested the combined amount of PhP650 million for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education that was eventually disallowed by Congress.

“Threatening the lives of elected representatives is a blatant violation and a dangerous attack on the rights of individuals who are merely pushing for transparency and accountability in government spending,” Brosas said after the filing.

“We take his threats seriously, especially with his administration’s bloody legacy of extrajudicial killings and political persecution,” Brosas added.  

READ: Trillanes: ICC receives Duterte video admitting to mass murder

Duterte’s latest threats have also been submitted by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV to the International Criminal Court where the 78-year old former president is also facing charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teacher solon: VP threatens confidential funds critics with police action

Vice President Sara Duterte is ordering the police to now treat critics of her office’s confidential funds as enemies of the state, ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. France Castro said.

In her failed defense of her hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds, Dutere resorts to personal attacks and tells the police how to look at her critics, Castro added.

“What happened to her statement that she and her office can live without confidential funds? Why is now fighting tooth and nail just to retain her confidential funds?” Castro asked.

The teacher solon said the vice president is gaslighting (psychologically manipulating) those calling for transparency and accountability after it was revealed by House of Representatives ally Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo in the national budget deliberations that Duterte’s office spent P125 million in just 11 days last year.

Duterte remarked during the 122nd Police Service Anniversary of the Philippine National Police Regional Office 13 last October 4 that her critics have “insidious motivations” in questioning confidential funds.

“Anyone who attacks or undermines funds allocated for peace and order is naturally assumed to have insidious motivations. Such actions go against the protection and well-being of our citizenry. Those who seek to compromise the security and development of our nation jeopardize the very fabric of our society and hinder our progress,” Duterte said.

The vice president added that the Department of Education (DepEd) that she heads is part of the Anti-Terrorism Council as well as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Neither the Office of the Vice President nor DepEd have clear national security mandates, however.

Castro condemned Duterte’s remarks aimed at making it appear that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri; Senators Joel Villanueva, Koko Pimentel, and Risa Hontiveros; as well as the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives; Speaker Martin Romualdez; and Reps. Elizaldy Co and Edcel Lagman have dangerous reasons in wanting to remove confidential funds in her budget.

“In essence, she is saying we give her funds when she asks and she should not be questioned how these are spent,” Castro said.

“Instead of trying to justify her illegal confidential fund spending in 2022 and asking for more secret funds, VP Duterte should concentrate on how to improve the dismal state of education now,” Castro said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups decry attempts to distort historical facts on martial law

By Nuel M. Bacarra

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) hit Senate Bill 452 authored by Sen. Robinhood Padilla to “distort” historical facts on Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s martial law by declaring September 21, its anniversary of declaration, as special non-working holiday to be known as “Unsung Heroes Day.”

Bonifacio Ilagan, SELDA spokesperson, said Padilla ”…willfully distorts history’s damning judgment of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines and turn the infamous day of the martial law declaration into a national holiday honoring ‘unsung heroes,’ the ‘unsung heroes’ being the state security forces that actually had their hands bloodied in rampage of human rights violations.”

“We all know of course, that as Marcos Sr. was about to end his second and last constitutional term, he declared martial law to perpetuate himself in power, using the so-called communist threat as a convenient pretext,” Ilagan added.

Earlier, House Deputy Minority leader and ACT (Alliance of Concerned Teachers) Party-list Rep. France Castro also criticized the memorandum of Department of Education (DepEd) through its Bureau of Curriculum Development that mandated to change the “Dikatadurang Marcos” (Marcos Dictatorship) to just “Diktadura” (Dictatorship) in Grade 6 Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) curriculum.

“The decision to remove ‘Marcos’ from the term ‘Diktadurang Marcos’ is a clear revision of history and an insult to the countless victims of human rights abuses and atrocities committed during the martial law period,” Castro said.

Castro also invoked Section 27 of Republic Act 10368 that mandates the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission that coordination and collaboration should be properly exercised with DepED to ensure the teaching of martial law atrocities and the lives of the victims are part of the basic, secondary and tertiary education curricula.

Castro added, “The move to eliminate the name ‘Marcos’ from the ‘Diktadurang Marcos’ is a blatant attempt to whitewash the crimes and atrocities committed under his regime.”

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) criticized as well the Marcos Jr. government on its attempt at “rebranding” saying, “The current regime wants to make sure the Marcos name is not associated with negative images of human rights violations, tyranny, power-grab and military rule.”

BAYAN added that the effort to distort historical facts in the country “points to an apparent long term plan to entrench the Marcoses in the highest positions of governments, even after the term of Marcos Jr. has ended.”

“The steady drive to rewrite history serves a long term agenda for staying in power,” BAYAN said. #

Makabayan solon, DND condemn Chinese envoy’s threat against OFWs in Taiwan

A Makabayan solon and the Department of National Defense (DND) separately condemned an alleged threat made by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian against Filipinos in Taiwan.

House of Representative Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said Huang’s statement is a threat and an imposition on a sovereign country.

“It is condemnable that China seems to be issuing a threat not just against the Philippines as a country but to innocent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were obligated to work abroad to create better lives for their families,” Castro said in a statement Saturday, April 15.

In a public speech Friday, the Chinese envoy said, the “Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs.”

“The Taiwan question is entirely China’s internal affair, as is the Mindanao issue to the Philippines. You will never allow any third party to meddle with resolving rebel issues in Mindanao,” Huang said.

This did not sit well with the progressive solon who said Huang’s statement must be condemned.

The DND in a separate statement took exception to Huang’s assertion the Philippines is “meddling” in Chinese internal affairs concerning Taiwan.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines’ primary concern regarding the heated situation between China and Taiwan are the expatriate Filipinos in the island.

Pique at new EDCA sites

While it appears to directly threaten Filipino workers in Taiwan, Huang’s speech was in fact obviously directed at the Philippine government’s decision to open four new military sites the for United States military to be closer to China.

“Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large,” Huang said.

The Chinese Ambassador also likened the situation in Taiwan to Mindanao, implying that China does not meddle with Moro independence struggles in Southern Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

MAKABAYAN warns: New Year air travel crisis pretext to airport privatization

Like millions of Filipinos, development worker Tata Catarata went back to their home province of Cebu to spend the holiday season with their family. They booked a return flight to Manila on the first day of 2023. But like tens of thousands of other passengers, they were stranded at their airport of origin, belatedly informed that their flight had been cancelled because the country’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system is down.

“We arrived at the Mactan International Airport at past 2 pm. Upon entering the gate towards checking in, we were barred and simply told that flights are canceled. We asked why and they could not explain. Basta lang, it’s canceled,” Tata bewailed.

Early on the first day of the New Year, just when domestic and international travel is at its peak, the Philippines was hit by an air travel crisis. As the day wore on, the government said a reported 361 incoming and outgoing flights at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) had either been cancelled or diverted, many of which flew all the way back to their airports of origin. About 56,000 passengers were stranded all over the archipelago yesterday, including Tata’s family.

Without providing specifics, transportation secretary Jaime Bautista said “technical issues” brought about the suspension of NAIA operations. Speculations said the radar system was down, preventing airplanes from taking off or landing. Initial and unconfirmed reports said Manila’s radar sytem was brought down by an electricity outage that has since been disputed by power supply providers. In a subsequent statement, Bautista said NAIA’s ATM needs at least Php13 billion pesos for its much-needed upgrade.

But it is not only airport operations that made the problem worse for the affected passengers. Tata said local airlines were of no help to them either.

She said they decided to follow the advice of the government to have their flights rebooked. But the Philippine Airlines (PAL) ticketing office in Cebu was already jam-packed when they arrived and they were barred from entering the premises. An airline representative told them to rebook online but repeatedly failed. Tata said she had to brave the crowd and waited to be accommodated at the ticketing office. It took her eight hours to finally be rebooked, she added.

“I asked PAL if there is food and accommodation for us as secretary Bautista said. PAL said there’s none because the situation was not their fault. But, definitely, it’s also not the stranded passengers fault, is it? So who is accountable here?” Tata said.

Respect passenger rights

Bautista said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has directed the airlines to provide food and refreshments, transportation lodging and accommodation for all affected passengers free of charge. But this failed to prevent thousands of passengers spending the first night of 2023 at NAIA’s various terminals, the airlines refusing to heed the government’s directive.

The affected passengers should automatically be taken care of and receive compensation for the inconvenience they suffer if only the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights passed, former Representative and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares lamented.

Colmenares said his sponsored bill had passed the House of Representatives (HOR) in 2016 but failed to become law due to lack of support in the Senate.

Colmenares explained that in case of flight delay, airlines should offer free re-booking, flight refund or endorsement to another carrier.

“For terminal delay of at least three hours, passengers have the right to avail themselves of refreshments or meals, free phone calls, text or emails and first aid,” he added.

“But from the reports we received many passengers went hungry yesterday and others slept on airports. This should be addressed immediately and the incident should not be used to justify another sale of government asset and increase in airline rates,” Colmenares said.

Incompetence or pretext to privatization?

Another Makabayan bloc Representative said the timing of the reported technical ATM glitch is “fishy”, happening as it did very closely after the DOTr announced just last December that the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government is pursuing NAIA’s privatization.

In a briefing last Wednesday, Bautista told reporters: “We have worked with the Asian Development Bank for the preparation of the terms of reference for the privatization of the Manila International Airport.”

“Todo naman yata ang pagtutulak na muli sa pribatisasyon ng mga key assets at services ng gobyerno na wala na namang konsultasyon sa mamamayan na papasan ng dagdag bayarin o singil dahil dito. Kahapon lang din ay tinanggal na ng DOTr ang libreng sakay sa EDSA bus carousel at plano din pagsasapribado nito,” said HOR Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said.

(It looks like the privatization of the government’s key assets and services are being pushed to the hilt even without consulting the people who will bear the brunt of added costs. Just yesterday, the DOTr also ended the free ride service on the EDSA bus carousel that is in line with proposal for its privatization.)  

“Sa annoucement ng DOTr sa pribatisasyon ng NAIA noong Dec.30 at nangyaring ‘power outage’ kahapon ay di natin masisisi ang mamamayan na mag-isip na ito ay sinadya para mapabilis ang pagbebenta nito kahit di kinukonsulta ang mamamayan at ipaliwanag ang ireresulta nitong pagtaas pa ng singil sa pasahe sa eroplano,” Castro added.

(In DOTr’s December 30 announcement of NAIA’s privatization, we could not blame the people into thinking yesterday’s so-called power outage was staged to make the airport’s sale faster. This, even if the government has yet to consult the people and explain the impending increase in plane fares.) ###