Lacson blasts UN official for calling on Duterte not to sign Anti-Terror bill

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020   •   1344

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has criticized a United Nations official for urging President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill.

In a statement, Lacson expressed doubt that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet actually read the provisions of the measure which seeks to strengthen the country’s campaign against terrorism.

Bachelet, in a speech during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, asked Duterte not to sign the bill, warning that its passage heightens concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism. She also warned of the measure’s potential “chilling effect” on humanitarian and human rights work.

Lacson questioned Bachelet’s statement since the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was crafted based on the guidelines and standards set by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1373.

“It was the UN that prodded the Philippines to strengthen its laws against terrorism. So, is this the United Nations going up against the United Nations?” the senator asked.

“The problem with the critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill like the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the others is that they criticize without even reading the bill itself,” he added.

Lacson said that Bachelet and others opposing the measure are only “jumping into the wagon of criticisms” and have let themselves be influenced by the “avalanche of misinformation” about the bill.

“There are people, learned as they are, merely jumped into the wagon of criticisms without thoroughly reading and understanding the provisions under the proposed measure,” he said.

“All the misinterpretations and misconceptions triggered by an avalanche of misinformation and disinformation that dominated the mainstream and social media platforms have unduly influenced their thinking,” he added.

Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill despite oppositions from various groups.

Some people have been campaigning for the junking of the bill, which they claim can be used to silence the critics of the Duterte government.

Lacson, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has repeatedly stressed that the bill seeks to stop terrorism and protect people from terrorists.

He also underscored that there is a difference between the “designation” of terrorist individuals, groups, organizations/associations, and “proscription” of terrorist organizations.

“Designation as defined under the bill is a purely administrative process intended to trigger the issuance of a “freeze order” by the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said.

“Proscription, on the other hand, needs court intervention that requires due notice and hearing by the Court of Appeals,” he added.

Lacson also reiterated that the bill is a good measure, constitutional, and one that is swift and effective in fighting terrorism.

The senator previously said that he would join protests should authorities commit abuses in implementing measure.

Malacañang earlier said that the bill is now under final review before the president decides if he will veto or sign it into law.

Lacson seeks review of PH-China ties amid West Philippine Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson is pushing for a review of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China in the wake of China’s recent incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, Lacson stressed that a review of the diplomatic relations between the two countries is “timely and called for” following reports on China’s continued activities in the Philippine territorial waters despite the diplomatic protests filed by the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“What kind of friend – or benefactor – would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?” said Lacson, who chairs the Senate committee on national defense.

“Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat. The Senate must support him in this regard,” he added.

In pushing for a review of Philippine-China diplomatic ties, Lacson pointed out the Philippines must become “innovative and creative” in approaching the issue as diplomatic protests no longer seem effective.

“There are so many possibilities to explore,” he said.

On the other hand, Lacson said the review should go hand in hand with seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the United States, Australia, even Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the region as he pointed out China has already made at least three incursions into Philippines EEZ – Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and now Julian Felipe Reef.

Lacson said Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, the principal author and sponsor of a recently filed Senate resolution on the WPS issue, has accepted his proposed amendments.

His first proposed amendment to the resolution is changing the word “condemning” to “strongly objecting.”

“To condemn means some sort of eternal divine punishment. Hence, no matter how unlikely, in case China eases up on its aggressive stance, our condemnation cannot be taken back,” he said.

His second proposed amendment was to “urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to consider a review of the long existing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China in order to send a clear message that the incursions into our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in utter disregard of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the rule of law is totally unacceptable.”

The senator also reiterated that the issue on the West Philippine Sea should not be connected with other issues, including vaccine donations.

“We should have a united stand on the West Philippine Sea, and this should not be connected to any other issue except sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

 

Lacson: Senate has no choice but to give order on pork import tariffs a chance

Robie de Guzman   •   April 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that the Senate has no choice but to give a chance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128, which mandates the temporary increase of pork importations at lower tariff rates.

“First, the Senate has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV [minimum access volume] have already taken effect,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte asked senators to consider his order’s intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing the inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s Economic Team.

The senator also lamented the lack of inter-departmental consultation regarding the move to reduce tariff rates on pork importation.

“Kung meron lang sanang nangyaring inter-departmental courtesy consultation, since EO 128 is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the President anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research,” he said.

Lacson reiterated that the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is “flawed.”

“I had pointed out during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, the 50% contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,” he said.

“Thus, at 15 kilograms of pork consumption per capita as estimated would mean 120 million kilograms less pork. That should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350,000,000 kilograms in additional in-quota MAV allocation,” he added.

Lacson said Duterte’s appeal “might as well be directed” toward the 80,000 backyard hog raisers, their families, farmhands, and all others now being affected by the EO, both directly and indirectly.

Duterte made the appeal after the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Executive Order 128, which mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent in during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons from 54,000 metric tons of the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.

Malacañang earlier urged senators to “revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met.”

More people are experiencing severe hunger in Democratic Republic of the Congo — UN

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 7, 2021

The United Nations has raised concerns after the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has a record-high level of acute hunger.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), 27.3 million people face “acute” food insecurity. There are also around seven million people who are suffering from “emergency” levels of acute hunger.

One of the factors, according to the UN, is a slump in the country’s economy as well as the effects brought by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Militia violence also persisted in the area for decades.

Aristide Ongone Obame, FAO Representative in DRC said social and political stability are “essential to strengthen food security and boost the resilience of vulnerable populations”.

There is also a need to boost livestock and the growing of more food.

“The main agricultural season is around the corner and there is no time to waste,” he said. -AAC

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