Philippines president rejects rebels’ demand to free more prisoners

admin   •   December 12, 2016   •   7558

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a visit to Camp Servillano S. Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac, Philippines December 11, 2016. REUTERS/ Czar Dancel

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a visit to Camp Servillano S. Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac, Philippines December 11, 2016. REUTERS/ Czar Dancel

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday rejected a demand by Maoist-led rebels to free more prisoners as part of a ceasefire deal, saying he had made enough concessions and was willing to let peace talks collapse if necessary.

For decades the government and the communists’ political arm, National Democratic Front, have held intermittent peace negotiations but without success. The release of political prisoners has proved a major stumbling block.

Before the resumption of peace negotiations in Oslo in August, four years after the collapse of the last attempt, Duterte let 22 rebel leaders out on bail, including two senior guerrilla commanders.

Last month, he also freed four elderly and sick prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

But rebel leaders immediately demanded the release of 130 more rebels, a call Duterte has ignored until now.

Since the rebellion erupted nearly five decades ago, it has killed about 40,000 people and stunted growth in resource-rich rural areas of the Philippines. The rebels’ armed wing, New People’s Army, is active in almost all but the Muslim majority provinces, and are particularly strong in the mining areas in the southern island of Mindanao.

“I wanted them to start the talks but they want me to free 130 more, so I told them, no, I cannot,” Duterte told soldiers at an army base north of Manila, close to where NPA first emerged.

“As a matter of fact, I conceded too much too soon. Now, it’s up to them if they will terminate the peace talks. Let them terminate it. I have freed their leaders, what more do you ask of us? I am running out of cards.”

Duterte said violence between the two sides has declined in the last six months. The two sides have held two rounds of talks since August and plan to meet again early next year with the aim of agreeing on a set of political, economic and social reforms to address the rebellion within 12 months.

The rebels want farmlands to be distributed to landless farmers, the nationalization of industries and to share political power with the government.

Duterte, former mayor of Davao, a city that was once seen as a breeding ground for rebels, told soldiers at the base that he knew they were hurting from his decision to re-start peace talks and free top communist rebels, but that he was determined to end the conflict.

About 500 people suspected to be rebels are in jail, which include two men who were convicted of killing the U.S. military adviser, Colonel James Rowe, in 1989. — Reuters

Duterte declares Nov. 2, Dec. 24 & 31 ‘Special working days’ for this year

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has issued a proclamation amending some dates that have long been traditional holidays in the country and making them now ‘special working days.’

Under Proclamation No. 1107, the president declared the following days as ‘special working days’ for the year 2021:

  • November 2 – All souls’ day
  • December 24 – Christmas eve
  • December 31 – New Year’s eve

These dates were previously classified as special non-working days under Proclamation No. 986 s. 2020.

“For the country to recover from the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to encourage economic productivity by, among others, minimizing work disruption and commemorating some special holidays as special (working) days instead,” Duterte said in his order.

The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the country’s economy into a slump last year due to a lockdown that affected many businesses and workers.

Duterte designates NBI as sole body to probe PNP-PDEA ‘misencounter’

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has designated the National Bureau of Investigation to be the sole agency to investigate the alleged misencounter between cops and operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Malacañang said Friday.

“Nagdesisyon po ang ating president na tanging NBI lang po ang mag-iimbestiga duon sa putukan na nangyari sa panig ng mga kapulisan at PDEA diyan po sa Quezon City,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The shooting incident involving policemen and PDEA operatives occurred on Wednesday afternoon near a mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Four individuals – two cops, a PDEA agent and an informant – were killed in the gun battle.

The PNP and PDEA earlier said that a joint Board of Inquiry has been created to look into the incident.

But due to Duterte’s order, the joint probe will have to be discontinued.

“’Yung mga binuong joint panel para imbestigahan yan, na binuo po ng PNP at PDEA ay di na po magtutuloy sa kanilang imbestigahan,” Roque said.

Both PNP and PDEA assured to work with the NBI in compliance with Duterte’s directive. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to personally welcome first batch of Sinovac vaccines on Feb. 28

Marje Pelayo   •   February 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to witness in person the arrival of the Philippines’ very first batch of COVID-19 vaccines scheduled on Sunday (February 28) at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed in a message that the event on Monday is part of the President’s schedule.

He is expected to be joined by other government officials in welcoming the shipment of the much-awaited 600,000 doses of CoronaVac of the pharmaceutical firm Sinovac donated by China.

A total of 100,000 doses of the CoronaVac will be reserved for members of the military.

Once the vaccines arrive, the government is expected to kick-off the nationwide vaccine rollout on Monday (March 1) which will prioritize frontline health workers, uniformed personnel, and senior citizens among other sectors.

The vaccine turnover rite was also confirmed by China through its envoy to the Philippines, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.

“It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The donation of vaccines is another testament to the solidarity as well as profound friendship and partnership between our two peoples and two countries,” Ambassador Huang said on Facebook.

“I want to thank all those who have worked so hard in order to make this happen! I hope the vaccines will help kick off Philippines’ mass inoculation campaign to curb the pandemic and allow Filipinos’ life to return to normal at the earliest,” he added.

Meanwhile in a post on Twitter, the Chinese Embassy refuted claims that Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t be given to health workers who have high exposure to positive cases.

The Embassy said the pharma company’s first trial inoculation on health workers in Brazil yielded positive results.

“Even under such extremely challenging conditions, the vaccine has show 100% protection to prevent fatal cases or severe cases that need hospitalization, 80% protection to prevent mild case which don’t need any medical intervention,” it said.

Thus, the Embassy said, “the Sinovac is good for medical workers with exposure to COVID-19.”

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