Palace denies hand in filing of sedition raps vs Robredo, opposition

Robie de Guzman   •   July 19, 2019   •   1101

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Friday denied involvement in the filing of sedition charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and other known opposition figures over the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” video series.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that the Palace had nothing to do with the complaint, when asked if the move is part of the Duterte administration’s “crackdown” against the opposition group.

“We have nothing to do with this case. None at all,” Panelo said in a statement.

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) on Thursday filed the complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with videos, where a certain Bikoy linked members of the Duterte family to the narcotics trade.

Peter Joemel Advincula, who claimed to be the hooded figure “Bikoy” in the videos, was named in the complaint as a witness and respondent.

Aside from Robredo, other named respondents in the complaint were former Senators Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes IV, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima and members of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate.

Cyber libel, estafa, and obstruction of justice charges were also filed by the police against a total of 38 respondents.

The opposition Liberal Party has branded the charges as “harassment” and “persecution”, while de Lima belittled the case, calling it “pure hogwash.”

“Pure hogwash ‘yung mga kaso na naman yan. Basura yun,” she said in an ambush interview before the hearing of the charges filed against her at Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 205.

Panelo, meanwhile, called on administration critics to let the justice system work to determine the truth about the issue. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Palace says Sanchez not eligible for release under good conduct law

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez | Courtesy: PTV

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Friday that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez is not eligible for early release from prison under the new law increasing the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Sanchez, who was convicted of a heinous crime, is not entitled to benefit from the Republic Act 10592 which shortens a prisoner’s jail term for good behavior.

“Mr. Sanchez, under republic act number 10592 is not eligible so the President as the chief enforcer of the law have to follow the law,” Panelo said.

In an earlier statement, Malacañang supported Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in stressing that the law excludes “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” from the benefit of its coverage.

Sanchez has been in jail for over 25 years since he was convicted for the rape and murder of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez in 1995.

Panelo was the defense lawyer of Sanchez when he was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua.

The former mayor was reported earlier to be among the 11,000 persons deprived of who might soon be freed due to a 2013 law that increased the GCTA given to inmates and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

The news has sparked outrage among the public.

Sanchez’s eligibility under the new GCTA rule was also questioned by lawmakers and other sectors due to allegations of possession of illegal drugs after a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. An air condition unit and a television set were also seized from his cell, which are violation of prison rules.

The report on Sanchez’s possible release also “enraged” President Rodrigo Duterte, according to his former aide and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

“Nung nag-usap kami ng Pangulo talagang nagalit din siya, at sinabi niya di rin siya sang-ayon at may mga sinite din siya na batas na minimum, in short ayaw din nya, galit po sya,” Go said in a radio interview when asked about the president’s reaction.

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier said Sanchez may be disqualified from availing the provisions of the good conduct time allowance law for his alleged violations of prison rules.

The BuCor also assured to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who were convicted of high-profile, heinous crimes or grave crimes that show extreme moral depravity. (RRD with details from correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Robredo honors all freedom fighters during Marcos era on Ninoy Aquino Day

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday honored the sacrifices of the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, and all Filipinos like him who fought against dictatorship and for the restoration of freedom in the country.

In a message to mark Ninoy’s 36th death anniversary, Robredo recalled how Ninoy’s death had inspired a movement that brought down the “rapacious” regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Every Filipino alive at that time remembers where they were when Ninoy fell. It was the defining moment for an entire generation: a moment that would inspire a movement that would ultimately bring down the dictator three years later, and bring about a restoration of the freedom Ninoy had given up his life and liberty fighting for,” Robredo said.

The vice president also pointed out that Ninoy was not the only one who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country’s freedom.

“Thousands of Filipinos fell during the dark years of dictatorship, resisting till their last breath the cruelty and corruption it brought. Thousands more were estranged from their families, were thrown into prison, were subjected to brutality and humiliation. Many of them remain nameless and unheralded in our memorials and history books,” she said.

“So, when we celebrate the 21st of August, it is not just Ninoy Aquino we remember, but all those like him, both the nameless and the heralded, who gave of themselves so that we could be free,” she added.

“In this remembrance, we express both our deepest gratitude for the sacrifices made on our behalf, and, perhaps more significantly, our persistent commitment to defend the freedom they won back for us.”

Robredo also lambasted those who “dismiss the significance of Ninoy’s sacrifice,” or “question the validity of the movement it inspired,” and those who are pushing a revised version of history, claiming that the Marcos regime “was not so bad after all.”

“The simple truth is, Ninoy Aquino was a Filipino who gave his life for his country. His love for his homeland was seen not in easy talk or slick PR stunts, but instead blazed brightly through long years of imprisonment, of exile, and in the end, of martyrdom,” she said.

“Many talk about being willing to die for our country. Ninoy was one of the courageous few who actually did,” she added.

Ninoy, a staunch critic of the Marcos government, was assassinated upon his return from a three-year exile in the United States on August 21, 1983. He was shot and killed at he was shot and killed at the then Manila International Airport (now named after him) as he was escorted off the airplane.

Ninoy’s death led to protests that sparked snap presidential elections in 1986, which led to the 1986 EDSA Revolution that catapulted his wife, Cory Aquino to presidency.

Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang believes there is nothing wrong with the location of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hubs near military camps following concerns about its possible risk to national security.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Chinese-dominated POGO hubs’ will be better protected if these are near military installations.

“Military camps? Eh di lalong magaling kung military camps dahil binabantayan sila ng military for their protection,” he told reporters in an interview.

However, Panelo said he would defer to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson to assess any security issue being posed by foreign operated online gaming operations.

“The Palace will always defer to the National Security Adviser on matters of security in the country,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for his part, said that providing protection to POGO hubs by the military is a “very valid suggestion,” but this is not part of their mandate.

However, he assured they are ready to help when their assistance is requested.

“That’s a very valid suggestion. But it is not the job of the military to watch or protect the POGO workers,” Lorenzana said.

“That is the job of the Bureau of Immigration, Police, DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. If our assistance is requested, we will assist,” he added.

Esperon has yet to issue any comment on the issue as of this posting.

Several lawmakers earlier raised a concern about Chinese-dominated POGO hubs near military camps and other vital installations, saying these pose risk to the country’s security.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) earlier defended its decision to situate POGO hubs and its foreign workers in areas near military camps for their security and rights protection.

Pagcor chairperson and chief executive officer Andrea Domingo said hubs for online casinos and self-contained communities were mainly created to provide basic needs and ensure the safety of foreign workers employed in POGO hubs. She added that POGO workers are free to go wherever they want to.

Domingo’s statement came after the Embassy of China in the Philippines raised concern over the creation of self-contained communities as this might violate Chinese workers’ liberties.

“So, if their liberties are not restricted and according to them, ginagawa nga nila iyon to protect them, so, kung ganoon naman ang essence noong paglagay sa kanilang lugar, I don’t think that will be a violation,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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