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Palace says PH can’t invoke US defense treaty in Recto Bank incident

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines cannot invoke its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US) in the ramming incident involving Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, a Malacañang official said on Tuesday.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles explained that the mechanism of the MDT cannot be triggered in this incident because it does not constitute an armed attack.

“MDT can only be used if there is military act, aggressive armed attack, on a public vessel, on troops, on an airship,” Nograles said.

Nograles made the statement in response to Senator Panfilo Lacson’s suggestion to invoke the treaty as a last resort should the tension escalate between the Philippines and China over the Recto Bank incident.

Lacson earlier said the country can present to the US evidence about the incident, and invoking the treaty would justify its presence in the disputed waters to prevent further hostilities.

However, Nograles said that is not how the MDT works.

“If it is not a military attack, then I don’t think that mechanism is available. We’re not even going to start about that,” he said.

The MDT, signed by the Philippines and U.S. in 1951, states that both countries would assist each other when either one is attacked by a foreign force.

The treaty’s Article IV states that an armed attack against any of the parties “declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, on the other hand, said that invoking the treaty with the US would be “jumping to conclusions” because the incident has yet to be considered an aggression.

“Hindi pa nga natin alam nga iyong ano, facts eh. Kung sinalakay tayo… hindi ba sabi ko, ‘Then that treaty will be in operation.’ But we don’t know the facts yet,” he said.

Duterte on Monday described the sinking as a maritime accident, which according to Panelo, was his way of trying to be cautious so as not to blow the issue into an international crisis.

Malacañang said that concerned investigating bodies are still conducting inquiry and fact-finding into the issue, headed by the Maritime Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

READ: Marina, PCG to conduct further probe on West PH sea collision

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi would lead the government response primarily focused on assisting the 22 Filipino crewmen who were rescued from the sinking boat.

The Palace earlier said that the Philippine government would wait for the investigation to be concluded before taking any action. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

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)

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Malacañang says Duterte’s 4th SONA will be ‘short’

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Courtesy : PCOO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to deliver a ‘short’ speech for his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President’s speech will not be lengthy this year, probably because of the pre-SONA forums held by his administration in the run-up to the event.

“By the way, he (Duterte) said that, because I asked him about the SONA this morning. He said, ‘Oh, it will be short,’” Panelo told reporters in a Palace press briefing.

The president, in numerous times, has been observed to give lengthy speeches that would sometimes extend for hours.

When asked how short will be Duterte’s speech, Panelo replied with “Di naman sinabi, basta ang exact words niya, ‘short lang’. You count from the two hours, one, two, three, maging tatlo.”

Duterte’s first SONA in 2016 lasted for more than one hour and 30 minutes, his second SONA lasted for two hours while his last year’s SONA lasted for 48 minutes.

READ: Duterte to explain Chinese fishing in PH waters at 4th SONA

Panelo did not provide any detail on the topics that Duterte might discuss in his speech but the President earlier said he would use SONA to ‘educate’ the public on the constitutionality of his decision to allow Chinese fishermen to trawl in the Philippine waters.

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Iran ready to talk to U.S. if sanctions lifted

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at televised address | Courtesy: Reuters footage

Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday (July 14).

“When a big power that is a bully, well then we have to stand up to it. It must stop being a bully. We have always believed in talks. Always, right this hour, right this moment, if they stop the oppression, if they stop the belligerence, if they lift sanctions, return to the table, return to to logic; we are ready,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vin Shahrestani)

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