Duterte vows to strengthen military, police to prepare for ‘dangerous times ahead’

Robie de Guzman   •   July 10, 2019   •   1207

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attends the 115th Police Service Anniversary at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Quezon city, metro Manila, Philippines August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Noel Celis/Pool

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday vowed to continue working on strengthening the country’s military and police forces to better prepare them for what he says are dangerous times ahead.

In a speech during the appreciation dinner for former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday night, Duterte said he would like to leave behind a strong Armed Forces and police when he completes his term in 2022.

Duterte said he should be prepared because of the incoming peril he senses.

“I see very dangerous times ahead. And I hope that we will be able to contain whatever there is,” he said.

“Lumalabas nga ‘yung pawis sa kamay ko just thinking about if it would go awry outside of Sulu and Basilan Islands,” he added.

The president further stated that while he has acquired the necessary military weapons to fight terrorism, he also expressed hope that Congress would make a move to further strengthen the country’s line of defense.

“We have acquired so many armaments. And there were things, kakaunti na lang, which I hope that Congress would tide us over to complete the instruments that we need in dealing, especially with terrorism,” he said.

Duterte also hopes that by the time he steps down from office, the country’s troops will be supplied with new weapons and tools to deal with terrorism because he is not sure if the next president will be able to do it.

“I hope that by the time I make my exit, nandiyan na lahat ‘yan because I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president. Hindi ko alam kung sino,” he said.

“And I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police and equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” he added.

On Monday night, the president met with military officials but the Malacañang has yet to release any detail on what was discussed during the said meeting.

This follows the June 28 twin blasts in Indanan town in Sulu, which killed eight people including three soldiers, and injured 12 others.

Authorities earlier confirmed that one of two suicide bombers behind the Indanan explosions was a Filipino.

The Philippine National Police Regional Crime Lab Office 11 reported that examination on reference DNA samples taken from Vilman Alam Lasuca and Alhussin Alam Lasuca concluded there is a 99.99% percentage probability match.

Vilman and Alhussin Lasuca are claimant mother and brother of one of the suspected bombers.

 “Hence, it can be concluded that one of the alleged suicide bombers is the son of Vilman Alam Lasuca,” RCLO 11 said in a laboratory report.

The identification of the second suspected bomber, on the other hand, is still underway as authorities are still collecting DNA samples to establish match on its identity, authorities said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Panelo: One-on-one interview with Duterte to push through on Tuesday

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 28, 2020

After its postponement on January 22, the one-on-one interview with President Rodrigo Duterte will push through on Tuesday (January 28), said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday.

The January 22 schedule for the one-on-one interview was postponed due to “pressing family matters”.

“Due to pressing matters, the tête-à-tête Part 2 of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo has been moved to January 28, 2020 at the Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace at 5:00 p.m.,” a previous media advisory read.

This will be the President’s second têtê-a-têtê. The first televised interview was held last September 2018.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

2 Bilibid convicts behind grisly killing of ex-Batangas solon – PNP

Robie de Guzman   •   January 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Two convicts detained at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) allegedly orchestrated the grisly killing of former Batangas Representative Edgar Mendoza and his two aides, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Thursday.

PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Brig. Gen. Joel Coronel identified the principal suspect as Sherwin Sanchez, who has been imprisoned since 2015 for murder charges.  

Investigation revealed that Sanchez was a client of Mendoza, a lawyer who handled his transactions concerning financial and properties.

Sanchez did not pay Mendoza for his services after the former was convicted.

Sanchez allegedly conspired with his fellow detainee, Arthur Fajardo, to have Mendoza killed.

Fajardo, a member of the Fajardo kidnap-for-ransom group who has been detained at the state penitentiary since 2005, then contacted his wife, Jael, who allegedly hired the killers.

Mendoza and his companions, bodyguard Nicanor Mendoza and driver Ruel Ruiz, were found burnt inside the former solon’s car in Tiaong, Quezon Province on January 9.

The day before they were killed, Mendoza and his aides went to the home of the family of Fajardo in Calamba, Laguna supposedly to collect a sum of money owed by Sanchez.

“Apparently, on the day he disappeared, and later on found dead, he was supposed to collect a sum of money from representatives of the principal suspect in Calamba,” Coronel said.

Investigation showed that Sanchez and Mendoza had disagreements on the amount for his legal services but later agreed on a sum amounting to millions of pesos.

However, Sanchez had no intention of paying the amount from the start and instead hired some gunmen to kill Mendoza. He allegedly contracted the killers for the sum of P100,000.

“There was a disagreement on the amount to be collected and also base on the revelations of the witnesses and some of the suspects’ confession, there was really no intention on the part of the suspect to the amount agreed by them,” Coronel said.

Police identified Sanchez and Fajardo’s cohorts as Jael Fajardo, Arthur’s wife; Madonna Palermo, Jael’s household worker; Kristine Fernandez, Jael’s errand runner; Carlo Acuña and Erickson Balbastro who were said to be members of the Fajardo kidnap-for-ransom group.

The five suspects were arrested by authorities on January 22.

Police found that prior to their murder, Mendoza and his aides were drugged with coffee laced with sleeping pills while they were in Fajardo’s home. They were later stabbed and struck in the head with a hard object.

The three victims were already dead when their remains were brought and burned in Tiaong, based on Balbastro’s statement.

Coronel said the suspects’ target was only Mendoza and that the two aides were “collateral damage.”

Police said they are hunting down a certain Rodel Mercado, said to be the one who stabbed and struck the victims.

PNP chief Archie Gamboa said three counts of murder have been filed against the suspects.

“This case is considered solved and it is now elevated in the prosecution office arm of the justice system,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Duterte signs into law higher taxes on alcohol, e-cigarette

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 23, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law imposing higher taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes, and other vapor products.

The Republic Act no. 11467 was signed to raise additional funds for the government’s Universal Healthcare Law.

Under the newly signed law, taxes on distilled spirits shall increase to P42 per proof liter this year and will increase by 6% every year starting 2025. There will also be an ad valorem tax imposed on the products which is 22% of the alcohol prices.

Meanwhile, taxes of wine and beer products will increase by P50 and P35 per liter respectively. These products will also be subjected to a 6% tax increase every year starting in 2025.

For vapor products, a pack of heated tobacco will have an excise tax of P25 this year. Salt nicotine products will have excise taxes set at P37 per milliliter while cigarette taxes are set at P45 per pack this year.

Taxes of all vapor products will increase by 5% every year in the succeeding years.

The law, meanwhile, exempts medicine for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol in value-added tax.

By 2023, the law will also exempt value-added tax on prescription drugs for cancer, mental illness, tuberculosis, and kidney disease.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President has vetoed section 5 of the Republic Act.

“The sin tax law that has been approved, there’s one provision that was vetoed, section 5, regarding the authority of the court to first grant seizure of properties as well as searching,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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