Ceasefire extension with NPA up to Duterte, anti-insurgency task force – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 20, 2020   •   513

MANILA, Philippines – The decision on whether or not to extend the administration’s unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels is up to President Rodrigo Duterte and the National Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict, Malacañang said on Sunday.

“On whether government would extend the unilateral ceasefire, this matter is something the National Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict can discuss with the President,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

The government’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) lapsed on April 15 while the rebels extended its truce until April 30 or until the end of the COVID-19 Luzon-wide community quarantine.

However, Roque said the rebels violated their own declaration of ceasefire when they “forcibly seized relief goods last April 7 intended for Barangay Guinmayohan residents in Balangiga, Eastern Samar” who were affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“The call for peace is everyone’s desire and it has become more urgent in the present state of calamity and public health emergency,” he said.

“We find it, however, unfortunate that the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) themselves violated their own declaration of truce in the form of violent armed encounters with government troops,” he added.

The CPP earlier denied it was behind the incident in Samar, accusing the military of resorting to outright lies and propaganda amid the COVID-19 crisis.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines stood by the veracity of its report against the CPP-NPA. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte hits gov’t critics, vows to uphold human rights at UN

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte blasted the critics of his administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism, whom he said are using the human rights issue to discredit functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected government.”

In a pre-recorded message aired at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte highlighted the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Law which was passed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure drew criticisms, with several groups claiming this could be used to silence and prosecute political opponents.

“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights; some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” Duterte said in his message.

This is the first time that Duterte participated in the gathering since he became president four years ago.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly elected which in its last two years, still enjoy the same widespread approval and support,” he said.

“These detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates while preying on the most vulnerable humans; even using children as soldiers or human shields in encounters. Even schools are not spared from their malevolence and anti-government propaganda. They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” he added.

Duterte said his administration remains committed to protecting human rights and continue to take part in “ open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the United Nations.

“But these must be done in full respect of the principles of objectivity, non-interference, non-selectivity, and genuine dialogue. These are the fundamental bases for productive international cooperation on human rights,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte calls for equal access to COVID-19 vaccine at UN assembly

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – In his first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized that all countries, rich or poor, should have equal access to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine “as a matter of policy.”

In a pre-recorded video message to the UN convention that aired on Wednesday, Duterte stressed the necessity of coordinated international plans and efforts to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, which he called as the “biggest test the world and the United Nations faced since World War II.”

He also pointed out that ensuring universal access to COVID-19 technologies and products to combat COVID-19 would be “pivotal in the global pandemic recovery.”

“The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy,” he said.

“The Philippines joins our partners in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good,” he added.

Duterte also welcomed the launch of UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund which is designed to aid low and middle-income countries to overcome the health and development crisis caused by the pandemic as well as support those severely affected by the economic and social disruption it caused.

“COVID-19 knows no border. It knows no nationality. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no age. It knows no creed,” he said.

“The Philippines values the role that the United Nations plays in its fight against the pandemic. As a middle-income country whose economic advances have been derailed by the pandemic, we welcome the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund,” he added.

During his speech, Duterte also recognized the sacrifices of medical professionals and other workers who are on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic.

“We salute all frontliners who put their lives on the line even in countries not their own. So also do we honor and recognize the healthcare professionals who selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite its virulence and unknown characteristics,” he said.

The viral respiratory disease has so far infected over 31 million people across the globe.

In the Philippines, the number of COVID-19 cases has reached 291,789 as of Tuesday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte invokes PH’s arbitral win against China in UN speech

Marje Pelayo   •   September 23, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (September 23) invoked the Philippines’ arbitral win against China over the disputed territories in the South China Sea.

The President raised the matter during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, his first since his election as president of the Republic of the Philippines. 

Before the heads of governments in the UN, President Duterte stressed that the Philippines reject any attempts to undermine the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that was declared in July 2016.

“The Philippines affirms that commitment in the South China Sea in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award. The Award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” he said.

“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This – as it should – is the majesty of the law,” he added.

Reacting to his speech, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the President’s statement in the UN General Assembly should cast all doubts about his position in the territorial dispute with China.

In response to Lacson, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin clarified that President Duterte never was a ‘slave’ to China as critics commonly think.

Locsin stressed, it just so happened that the territorial dispute is something that the President inherited from the administrations before him.

The Philippines and China’s long-standing maritime dispute over territories in the West Philippine Sea has led to Manila filing a case in 2013 with the international arbitral tribunal challenging Beijing’s massive claims in the South China Sea.

The Arbitral court ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016 invalidating China’s self-imposed “nine-dash line’ — an undefined and vaguely located demarcation line that China uses to back its claims and reject the ruling.

Since his presidency, President Duterte has been criticized for not upholding the ruling as he most of the time insists that the Philippines cannot do anything to counter China given the latter’s military might and dominance.

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