President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio to a debate on the West Philippine Sea issue has gone more weirder and weirder. After the latter has accepted the challenge, presidental spokesperson Harry Roque said the president is ready anytime. The President has since gone silent however, followed by Roque’s announcement that he had been designated to be his representative. Roque then enumerated issues to be debated upon, an imposition promptly rejected by the retired magistrate. #
Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.
Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”
The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.
The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”
“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.
The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.
Philippine Human Rights Bill
Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.
The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”
The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.
If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:
- Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;
- Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
- Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
- Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
- Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.
Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.
“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.
“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.
Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and others.
PH government response
In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.
“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.
“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.
Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”
“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.
Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.
“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said that Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque should apologize to CNN Philippines for berating its reporter in an online press briefing Tuesday, May 12.
In a statement, the media group said Roque owes the media company and reporter Triciah Terada an apology for “his boorish and, as it turned out, misbegotten tirade.”
Reacting to a CNN tweet on Monday, May 18, Roque denied he admitted that the government has no coronavirus mass testing program and would leave it to private businesses.
“It was reported that the government has no plan or action, or that the expanded target testing is not a priority. This is very wrong,” Roque said in Filipino.
He said reporter Terada quoted him “out of context,” adding that CNN’s tweet insinuated that the government has passed on to the private sector the responsibility for expanded testing.
CNN said in a statement it is standing by its story, adding the report was not written by Terada.
“CNN Philippines assures the public that we reported the facts in the May 18 story,” it said.
Roque was in fact responding to the request of GMA’s Joseph Morong to confirm that government had no mass testing program, to which he replied, “[I]n terms of mass testing that Wuhan (China) did with all its 11 million residents, we have no such program and we leave that to the private sector.”
NUJP said that, ironically, even as he berated Terada, Roque unwittingly proved in effect the report right when he said, “It is not mass testing that we are doing, it is expanded targeted testing.”
Multiple news organizations also carried the same story that quoted Roque.
“Officials who earn public ire for their pronouncements should not blame journalists who are merely doing their jobs,” NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
The Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said President Rodrigo Duterte is bent on completely shutting down the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
Reacting to a statement issued by presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza Thursday (June 5), the CPP said the government’s claims that the doors for resuming peace talks with the NDFP are still open is an outright lie.
“[T]he GRP has repeatedly terminated the talks and make it appear that it is the NDFP which closed its doors,” the CPP said.
In a statement, Dureza said that while the doors for the resumption of the peace talks are still open, it is subject to the following wishes of the President:
- There will be no coalition government,
- There will be a stop in the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax,
- The venue of the talks will be local,
- There will be a ceasefire agreement in which armed NPA (New People’s Army) members are encamped in designated areas.
Dureza added the government may pursue localized peace arrangements.
“This ‘way forward’ in the stalled peace talks was decided following the consolidation of various positions expressed during the command conference convened by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last night in Malacañang,” Dureza said.
The CPP, however said, that by demanding that future talks should be held in a local venue, Duterte is driving another nail to completely shut down the NDFP-GRP peace talks.
“He (Duterte) knows fully well that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines is unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP, unless he thinks the NDFP will be negotiating only to surrender the Filipino people’s aspirations and give up all its revolutionary principles,” the CPP said.
The underground party added that by completely shutting the door to the negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial law or a general crackdown, use the terror proscription against the CPP and NPA against his critics and dissenters against his tyranny, and push charter change for pseudo-federalism to perpetuate himself in power.
The CPP also pointed out that Dureza’s statement did not mention the fact that Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation No. 360 last November 23, 2017 that formally terminated peace negotiations with the NDFP.
Duterte’s proclamation has never been rescinded, the CPP said.
Duterte also derailed efforts to resume talks by cancelling its scheduled resumption last June 28, it added.
Dureza’s statement was reiterated by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing in Malacañan Thursday morning.
Roque told reporters that Duterte is still open to the talks, provided his preconditions that the talks are held in the Philippines and that the NPA encamp are met.
Roque also revealed that the government is planning to come out with its so-called guidelines on localized peace talks.
“If the CPP-NPA would agree to these demands, the talks may still continue,” Roque said.
The Philippine Peace Center (PPC), however said Duterte’s preconditions “show utter ignorance, if not highhanded arrogance, in the conduct of peace negotiations,” adding such preconditions poison the atmosphere and is contrary to any serious, honest-to-goodness negotiation.
“To impose such preconditions on the NDFP is tantamount to demanding its capitulation or surrender, and therefore unacceptable,” PPC executive director Rey Claro Casambre said.
Casambre said that Duterte’s preconditions are absurd because they ignore that both sides have agreed to resolve the armed conflict through peaceful negotiations, with neither one imposing its will or its demands over the other across the negotiating table.
Casambre added that Duterte’s new preconditions violate GRP’s own set of principles and guidelines governing its position and conduct in the peace negotiations.
Quoting Executive Order (EO) 125 by the Fidel Ramos administration and EO 3 by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government, Casambre said the GRP has committed to “[a] comprehensive peace process seeks a principled and peaceful resolution to the internal armed conflicts, with neither blame nor surrender, but with dignity for all concerned.”
Casambre advised the GRP to get its act together, saying government officials commenting on the peace talks should learn the basics as well as the nuances from the more knowledgeable and hands-on Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process and the GRP Panel.
“The result of all these ignorance and arrogance is that not only the GRP but the entire Filipino people are being deprived a useful venue for addressing and resolving the roots of the armed conflict,” Casambre added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Verbal attacks by government officials against Professor Jose Maria Sison is sounding like the death knell on the peace talks under the Rodrigo Duterte regime, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.
Agcaoili said that the orchestrated tirades against Sison by Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, acting Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año and presidential spokesperson Harry Roque are purely lies and attacks by “peace spoilers.”
Lorenzana, Año and Roque have repeatedly blamed Sison for the impasse on the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines after the prospective fifth round of formal talks has been cancelled for the fifth time last month.
“Let us not be lulled or hoodwinked by Sison’s glib tongue about reforms. They will institute reforms all right, but along communist lines when they have finally won,” Lorenzana said in a recent statement.
“In fact, they don’t even have to win because their socialistic CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) , which they are trying to ram down our throats, will ensure that they will have a foothold in governance,” he added.
Año also accused Sison of being out of touch with what is happening in the Philippines while Roque in turn said the Communist Party of the Philippines founder is “arrogant”.
Agcaoili, however, said the GRP officials are falsely blaming the wrong person for the impasse, adding it is Duterte who should be blamed for the problems faced by the negotiations.
“Lorenzana, Año and Roque must have been in another planet when GRP President Duterte issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace talks. That proclamation has never been rescinded impliedly or otherwise,” Agcaoili said.
“In fact Duterte postponed the mutually agreed upon date for resumption of the formal talks on June 28-30, 2018, in Oslo, Norway, which would have been the occasion to remove the impediments put up by the GRP to move the peace negotiations forward,” he added.
‘Not even original’
Agcaoili also clarified it was the government that suggested a coalition government with the NDFP.
“For the record, the NDFP has never put forward any demand for a coalition government. This has been clarified several times by Prof. Jose Maria Sison to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, since October 2017,” he said.
Agcaoili said it was during the time of former President Benigno Aquino when former GRP chief negotiator Alex Padilla under orders by then Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles who raised the spectre of a coalition government.
Agcaoili added that it was also with the Aquino administration that the NDFP draft of CASER was originally described as “socialist”.
“So, an allegedly anti-Aquino regime has adopted the false narrative of its arch enemy to waylay the peace talks,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza for his “irresponsible journalism” accusation against several news outfits, adding the official owes journalists an apology.
In a statement Tuesday, June 19, the NUJP said Dureza is too quick to hurl accusations of irresponsible journalism against news outfits that reported that Norway would no longer be the third-party facilitator for peace talks between the government and communist rebels.
In a Facebook post, Dureza stated Monday the media report saying Norway is being removed or is no longer “facilitator” in the peace negotiations between the philippine government and the communist rebels is a total fabrication.
“It is an example of irresponsible journalism,” Dureza added.
The NUJP, however, did not take Dureza’s statement sitting down, saying he should have checked presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s claim against the record
“[Dureza], at the very least, should be aware that the source of the story, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, has built a reputation for prevarication within an administration that has time and again proven itself to be the prime purveyor of falsehood and, in fact, has welcomed experts of this dark craft into the bureaucracy.”
NUJP pointed out that during the question and answer portion of Roque’s press briefing at Malacañan Monday morning, CNN Philippines’ Ina Andolong asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte wanted the talks held in the country “and not be facilitated by Norway” and what the formal process for transferring the venue might be.
NUJP said Roque did not give an unequivocal reply to these questions, prompting Andolong to ask further: “Who will be facilitating the talks here then?”
“Wala na po siguro, nandito na naman tayo sa Pilipinas,” Roque replied, adding President Rordrigo Duterte could not understand why the peace negotiations have to be held abroad. (Perhaps there would no longer be one, as we are here in the Philippines already.)
That “Perhaps there would no longer be one” is what many news outfits reported, NUJP said.
The NUJP said that while Dureza had reason enough to worry about the reports, the fault lay not with media but with the government’s all too often muddled communications, particularly Roque who eventually tried to weasel his way out of a bad situation by claiming, in a subsequent statement, that he had only talked about Duterte’s wish for the talks to be held in the country.
In a subsequent statement, Roque said that he hopes the record is set straight that what he said was that any peace negotiation that would be entered into by the Philippine government and the NDFP should be held inside the country, referring to the venue of the talks.
But the NUJP said that records are clear that Roque is, “at best, cherry picking through his words, at worst, brazenly twisting the truth.”
“Which seems par for the course as far as this administration goes,” NUJP added.
NUJP said Dureza, himself a former reporter, owes the journalists he wrongly accused an apology.
“And while, truth to tell, we do not expect one, we would love to be surprised,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Jeepney drivers and operators condemned Malacañan Palace’s suspension of classes Tuesday based merely on “slightest threat of a [jeepney] strike.”
In a statement, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) chairperson George San Mateo said there is no truth to Malacañan’s announcement the group planned to have more jeepney strikes after Monday.
“As Piston announced last March 14, the transport strike was scheduled only for Monday (March 19),” San Mateo said.
“Piston forcefully condemns Malacañan’s announcement based on a false information aimed at confusing the people. This is the [Rodrigo] Duterte’s way of trying to undermine the drivers and operators’ call against the jeepney phaseout,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announcement Tuesday morning the suspension of classes following instructions from Duterte.
“The President has instructed that he will suspend classes even with the slightest threat of a strike to ensure the protection and well-being of students,” Roque said.
Roque made a similar announcement Monday, saying the Palace will call for a class suspension in Metro Manila Tuesday until Friday “if and when Piston pushes through with its threat to continue its nationwide strike.”
Piston and San Mateo said Roque’s claim is “fake news.”
Piston clarified Monday night there will be no more transport strikes this week.
“The strike was only for one day today, March 19. It is only Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who is coming out with the fake news there may be a strike tomorrow (Tuesday),” the group said.
Piston said it is impossible for Malacañan not to know there are no extensions after full coverage by media and government intelligence agents of Monday’s strike.
Piston opposes the Duterte government’s plan to immediately replace the iconic jeepneys with expensive vehicles
The group added they are for modernization of public mass transport in the country, but not at the expense of millions of families who depend on the jeepney for their livelihood and affordable mode of transport. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)