Death of Al-Baghdadi, not the end of ISIS — Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2019   •   390

People walk amound the rubble of destroyed buildings at the site that was hit by helicopter gunfire which reportedly killed nine people, including Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS or so-called Islamic State, near the village of Barisha, Idlib province, Syria, 27 October 2019 (issued 28 October 2019). EPA-EFE/YAHYA NEMAH

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang expressed relief in the recent demise of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in Syria.

The Palace, however, acknowledged that such report couldn’t do much to resolve global terrorism involving the militant group ISIS.

“The death of a leader does not mean the extinction of that group,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

“Then again, it may also cause discouragement the on the part of the terrorist group. But as far as we are concerned, whether the leader dies or not, we will secure that part of our country from them,” he added.

Al-Baghdadi was reportedly killed in an operation initiated by the United States Special Forces in Syria.

No less than U.S President Donald Trump broke the news on Sunday (October 27) saying Al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest when US troops cornered him in a dead-end tunnel in Northwest Syria, in defiance to his impending arrest.

“Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said in a televised speech.

“He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it,” Trump added.

The terrorist leader’s identity was confirmed through a DNA test from the human specimen recovered in the blast site.

“The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years,” Trump continued.

“Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring night-time raid in north-western Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style,” he added.

Trump expressed gratitude to the governments of Turkey, Russia, Syria and Iraq for their support to the success of the operation.

It was in 2010 when Al-Baghdadi started to lead the Islamic State carrying US$25M bounty on his head. — MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

Syria’s Aleppo airport receives first scheduled flight in eight years

UNTV News   •   February 19, 2020

A SyrianAir passenger plane landed on Wednesday (February 19) at Aleppo’s civilian airport, the first scheduled flight to touch down in the country’s war-devastated economic hub for eight years.

The reopening of the airport comes days after the Russian-backed Syrian army said it had seized rural areas northwest of Aleppo, a major strategic gain in weeks of bombing of the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria.

On an organized trip, local and international media were invited by the Syrian transportation ministry to travel on the first plane that took off from the capital Damascus, and land at the Aleppo airport.

Government officials hope the resumption of commercial flights will help revive the economic activity in the city, which was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war between 2012 and 2016. Rebel-held eastern Aleppo was regained by government forces in 2016.

Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said authorities were waiting for approvals to resume international flights, with plans to reopen the route to Cairo next month.

Aleppo’s other airport Nairab is a major military base that the Syrian air force uses to strike opposition areas and has also been a target of Israeli strikes on alleged Iranian bases.

In another strategic gain for President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian government forces aided by Iranian-backed militias consolidated their control over the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, a vital trade artery in northern Syria.

The highway, the fastest route between Syria’s two biggest cities, should be ready for civilian use in the coming days for the first time in years, the authorities said. (Reuters)

(Production: Firas Makdesi, Kinda Makieh, Michael Fiorentino)

Formal complaint necessary for gov’t to act on alleged ‘pastillas’ scheme in BI

Marje Pelayo   •   February 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang vowed to take action on the reported anomaly inside the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the so-called ‘pastillas’ scheme.

But the Palace said, it could only act on the matter once a formal complaint is filed.

“Any violation, any transgression, any anomaly, the Palace frowns on it and will act on it, if there are complaints formally filed before its office,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Based on an expose by Senator Risa Hontiveros, BI personnel were allegedly taking bribes of up to P10,000 from Chinese nationals who wanted to enter and work in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry.

Panelo said the Palace is expecting BI Commissioner Jaime Morente to spearhead the investigation and enforce the necessary actions on involved BI personnel.

“The Immigration commissioner is tasked to do his job. Meaning, apart from the usual governing of his own territory, he has to know if there is an anomaly in his territory and respond to it,” the Palace Spokesperson said.

Five immigration officials were already relieved following the Senate inquiry yesterday.

Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte would not hesitate on stopping POGO operations in the country if evidence of corruption is proven because that would definitely have a huge impact on the country’s economy.

“Di ba sabi nga ni Presidente, ‘there is no sacred cow in this government. If it’s against the interest of the people and general welfare, I’ll stop it.’ This is the kind of President we have,” Panelo said. — MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Palace requires visitors, personnel to answer health declaration form amid nCoV threat

Robie de Guzman   •   February 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Thursday started requiring Palace visitors and personnel to fill out a health declaration form amid the outbreak of deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Media members covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s event on Thursday afternoon were asked to answer the questions in the form, which include one’s personal information, travel history for the past 14 days and recent interactions with farm or wild animals.

All Malacañang visitors and personnel were required to sign the form prior to their entrance. Duterte is scheduled to lead the oath-taking ceremony of newly-appointed government officials in the Palace Thursday afternoon.

In a statement, Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander Brig. Gen. Jose Eriel Niembra said the move is part of the government’s measures to curb the spread of the virus.

The Palace’s action comes after the country confirmed three cases of novel coronavirus infection with one death.

The form also contains questions on one’s health and if they have experienced fever, cough, colds, and difficulty in breathing, which are among the symptoms of 2019-nCoV, in the last 14 days.

Palace guests and employees are advised to ensure that information given in the form is “true, correct, and complete.”

Failure to answer any question or giving of falsified information may merit serious consequences under the Revised Penal Code.

Aside from the distribution of health declaration form, Malacañang also implemented preventive measures including temperature screening and use of alcohol and hand sanitizer at the Palace gates. Those with body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher will be denied entry.

PSG members on Palace duty have also been required to wear face masks.

The Palace said the health protocol will be imposed until lifted by the Office of the President and the Department of Health.

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