Palace not keen on Robredo impeachment talk

Robie de Guzman   •   July 15, 2019   •   1273

Vice President Leni Robredo | Courtesy : OVP

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday distanced itself from the impeachment threat against Vice President Leni Robredo over her remarks supporting a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution seeking to review the human rights situation in the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said it will leave it to the courts to decide whether Robredo should be impeached.

“You know, we have better things to do. There are so many problems in this country. I will leave it to those who would want to initiate whatever they want to initiate against whomsoever,” Panelo told reporters in a Palace press briefing.

The Palace official made the statement after Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Manuelito Luna threatened to file an impeachment rap against Robredo for backing the resolution seeking to probe the killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

“Vice President Robredo’s expression of support to the UNHRC against the Philippine government may cause her to be impeached,” Luna said in a statement.

“For the nth time, she has made it appear that the government is guilty of human rights abuses, and that’s betrayal of public trust,” he added.

Luna, however, clarified his statement was just a warning.

When asked if Robredo’s expression of support for the UN resolution can be used to impeach her, Panelo replied: “If gross ignorance is the ground for impeachment, is that a ground under the Constitution? But I will let the advocate pursue that line.”

“There are many legal opinions as there are lawyers, impeachment court will be the ultimate decider of that legal issue,” he added. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte won’t interfere in Cardema-Guanzon row – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019

File: President Rodrigo Duterte (PCOO)

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Monday said that President Rodrigo Duterte will not interfere with the row between Duterte Youth Party-list nominee Ronald Cardema and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Rowena Guanzon.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Cardema and Guanzon’s feud is between the two of them.

He added that the president will not meddle in the issue as he respects the independence of Comelec and other constitutional bodies.

“The case between Mr. Cardema and Commissioner Guanzon, I think it’s between the two of them,” he said.

“Moreover, the President respects the independence of any constitutional body. The President has not and will not interfere on any function of the Commission as well as other constitutional bodies,” he added.

Guanzon has been vocal about her opposition to Cardema’s nomination as the Duterte Youth Party-list representative and accused the latter as the one behind the threats against her.

Cardema, in turn, accused Guanzon of extortion, which she denied.

The Commissioner also dared the former to file an impeachment case against her.

READ: Comelec 1st division cancels Cardema’s nomination as Duterte Youth party rep

The feud between the two follows the decision of the poll body’s first division to cancel Cardema’s nomination as representative of the Duterte Youth party because the law states that youth representatives must be from 25 to 30 years old.

Instead of having word war, Panelo advised Cardema to file an appropriate complaint against Guanzon to settle the issue. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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)

DOJ launches preliminary investigation into VP Robredo’s sedition case

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched the preliminary investigation on the complaints of sedition filed against Vice President Leni Robredo and some members of the opposition.

Present in the investigation were respondents who belong to the free legal assistance group namely Atty. Erin Tañada; Atty. Chel.Diokno; Atty. Florin Hilbay; Atty. Philip Sawali and former Supreme Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te.

Also present was primary respondent and witness in the case, Peter Joemel Advincula alias Bikoy.

Robredo and 35 others were being linked to the so-called ‘Project Sodoma’ or a plot by opposition groups to oust President Rodrigo Duterte. Part of such plan was the release of the narco-video series ‘Ang Totoong Narcolist.’

Representing the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) was Assistant Solicitor General Angelita Miranda which the opposition argued as questionable.

“Ang OSG (ay) tribune of the people ‘no. Hindi tuta ng Malacañang, (OSG is the tribune of the people not a puppet of Malacañang),” noted Atty. Rene Saguisag, the legal counsel of opposition senator Risa Hontiveros.

“It should not sandbag itself into becoming a defender of the attempt of the administration to eliminate all dissent and dissenters,” he added.

Other respondents also aired their disappointment over Miranda representing the police.

“Inamin naman nila na nakialam sila sa paggawa ng salaysay ni Advincula, (They admitted their part in writing Advincula’s statement),” Diokno, for his part, said.

“Iyon ay sa palagay ko isang lehitimong tanong. Sino ba talaga at bakit ba talaga ano ba talaga nasa likod nitong kasong ito? (The question now is: Who is behind this case, what is his reason and why?)” he added.

“Noong tayo po ay solicitor general, hindi ko naisip na makialam sa investigation ng criminal matters dahil iyong power ng OSG in criminal cases ay limited doon sa appeal na mawawala iyong independence ng opisina na iyon kung sa lebel pa lang ng imbestigasyon ay nakikialam na sila,” argued former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

(When I was solicitor general, I did not think of meddling with the investigation of criminal matters because the power of the OSG when it comes to criminal cases is limited only to the appeal. The independence of the office will be tainted if it will intervene with the investigation.)

Miranda refused to make a statement to the media but she did mention a provision written in Executive Order 292 which allows the OSG to “act and represent the Republic and/or the people before any court, tribunal, body or commission in any matter, action or proceeding which, in his opinion, affects the welfare of the people as the ends of justice may require.”

The respondents were supposed to submit their respective counter-affidavits but according to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas they have received 15 motions already from the respondents.

Torrevillas heads the DOJ Panel.

Most of the respondents, Torrevilas said, have been requesting for a suspension of the trial until the latter gathers evidence from the CIDG.

The DOJ Panel gave the CIDG 10 days to produce the evidence and comply such as video footages of contained in a USB.

In case the motions are resolved, the respondents have until September 6 to submit their counter-affidavits.

Meanwhile, supporters of Robredo were determined despite the heavy rains.

“Hindi sedisyon ang sabihin ang katotohanan kaya narito po ang mamamayan na magpahayag para sabihin sa (Telling the truth is not an act of sedition, that’s why we’re here to tell the) Department of Justice: Drop the charges,” argued former DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman. – MNP (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

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