Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020   •   406

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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)

Drilon wants NBI legal exec tagged in ‘pastillas scheme’ disbarred

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Frankiln Drilon on Wednesday urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to file a disbarment case against its official who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the ‘pastillas scheme’ in the Bureau of Immigration.

Drilon made the call following the arrest of Atty. Joshua Capiral, NBI’s head of legal assistance division, for allegedly accepting bribes from persons involved in the modus in exchange for exclusion from charges.

“Bantay salakay ang tawag dito. Yung inatasan na mag-imbestiga sa katiwalian sila yung gumagawa ng katiwalian,” he said in an interview over Teleradyo.

“He is a disgrace to the legal profession. We lawyers took an oath to tell nothing but the truth. Capiral violated that sacred oath of lawyers. All he did in the NBI is to enrich himself through corruption,” he added.

When asked whether the case of Capiral warrants a Senate investigation, Drilon said he will support an investigation if there is evidence of massive corruption in NBI – like in the case of PhilHealth and the Bureau of Immigration.

“At this point I think there is no evidence of massive corruption in the NBI. This is a laudable move for the NBI to arrest one of its members. The NBI should make an example out of Capiral that corruption has no place in the agency,” Drilon said.

“If we do not address this, everybody will believe that they can bribe the NBI and having that perception is not good in the fight against corruption,” he added.

Capiral was nabbed in an entrapment operation on Monday night. He underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.

The two are facing complaints for extortion under the Revised Penal Code and violation of the Anti-Graft Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employee, and Executive Order No. 608 which established a national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified matters.

Drilon said that Capiral’s case is among the reasons why the public tend to lose confidence in the government’s ability to stop corruption.

“This is one of the reasons why Filipinos are losing faith in the ability of the government to fight corruption. This only shows how rampant corruption is today,” he said.

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