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REPASO 2018: Crimes against local executives and Duterte’s war on drugs

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2018


Twelve mayors and seven vice mayors were killed this year in various crimes recorded by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

We noted some considered high-profile including the latest murder of a party list congressman.

Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili was gunned down in broad daylight during a flag raising ceremony in July. The incident was caught on live video posted on social media.

Four months after the incident, authorities still have no hint on the suspect.

“Unfortunately kahit na sa broad daylight, talagang masyadong walang klarong ebidensya to link some people,” explained PNP Spokesperson PCSupt. Benigno Durana Jr.

Halili was known for his controversial ‘shame campaign’ which paraded drug suspects on the streets of Tanuan City.

Halili, however, was among the personalities included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘narcolist’ of officials involved in illegal drugs.

Also in July, General Tinio Nueva Ecija Mayor Ferdinand Bote was also shot dead.

Unlike Halili’s case, the police were able to identify the mastermind in the crime in the person Christian Saquilabon who remained on the loose.

According to report, Bote was ordered killed by Saquilabon over a P96-million contract to develop a national park in his General Tinio, the second biggest municipality of Nueva Ecija.

Authorities consider politics as the motive behind the murder of Trece Martires, Cavite Vice Mayor Alex Lubigan on July 7 after he announced his bid for the mayoral race in 2019.

The following local executives were also killed allegedly for similar reason:

Vice Mayor Al-Rashid Mohammad Ali of Sapa Sapa, Tawi Tawi (July 11);

Mayor Mariano Blanco of Ronda, Cebu (September 5);

Mayor Alexander Buquing of Sudipen, La Union (October 1);

Vice Mayor Alfred Concepcion of Balaoan, La Union (November 14);

The police are looking into several angles in these cases including their possible links in illegal drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte once said he is determined to reward police personnel who will be able to neutralize any local official involved in illegal drugs.

Since he took office, a total of 12 mayors and 7 vice mayors were killed for various reasons under his administration.

The 2019 midterm polls in drawing near but the Philippine National Police (PNP) maintain that they will not augment yet their forces in areas with intense political rivalries as they are confident of the measures they already imposed.

“May nakita na tayong election hotspots. Na-identify na rin po natin iyon at tinitingnan din po natin iyan dahil we have the option to deploy our special action force,” said PCSupt. Benigno Durana, the PNP Spokesperson.

As always, the PNP reminds the public not to cast their vote for politicians involved in illegal drugs.

“They are not a blessing but a curse to our nation,” Durana concluded.

As for the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, authorities recorded over 5,000 deaths and over 164, 000 arrests this year.

The most controversial was the conviction of three Caloocan cops for killing 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos in an anti-drug operation.

These ‘bloodsheds’ have caused alarm to several human rights advocates but the government remains resolute in ending the criminality and the illegal drug menace in the country.

Just before the year ends, Ako Bicol Party list Congressman Rodel Batocabe was shot during a supposed solemn gift-giving activity in Barangay Burgos, Daraga, Albay.

Batocabe and his police escort, SPO1 Rolando Diaz, were declared dead on arrival at a hospital after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds.

Authorities are looking into politics and the New People’s Army (NPA) as behind the killing but until now, they have not identified any suspect yet despite testimonies from several witnesses. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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Senators divided over PH’s possible withdrawal from UN human rights body

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

UNHRC Hall | Courtesy: United Nations Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s tweet about the Philippines’ possible withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) earned mixed reactions from members of the Senate.

In reaction to the issue, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the Philippines may face unfavorable consequences in the future with its withdrawal from different UN bodies.

“It may be a matter of time when we will be left to our own devices. We do not know when, but being a developing country, we may need to knock on the doors of the community of nations sooner or later,” Lacson said in statement on Monday (July 15).

For his part, Senator Francis Pangilinan believes there will come a time when the Philippines will have to explain the outcome of the government’s drive against illegal drugs.

“We can run but we can’t hide. Sooner or later we will have to explain if not to the international community at the very least to ourselves and our citizens why tens of thousands have been killed,” Pangilinan said.

“Yet the drug menace has become worse while drug syndicates and customs officials behind the smuggling of tons of shabu through the BoC go unpunished,” he added.

But Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed support to whatever the Foreign Affairs Department proposes best for the country.

“He would be in the best position to assess what is beneficial for our country as far as diplomacy with others is concerned,” Sotto said of Locsin.

Locsin posted the idea on Saturday (July 13) when a netizen inquired about how the Philippine representation in Iceland reacted to the Council’s approval of Iceland’s resolution seeking to probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines in relation to the Duterte administration’s drug war.

READ: Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

The resolution garnered 18 affirmative votes, 14 negative and 15 abstentions. – with details from Nel Maribojoc.

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PH mulls severing ties with Iceland, 17 other nations – Malacañang

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

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is mulling over the possibility of cutting ties with Iceland and 17 other nations that voted in favor of a resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct a comprehensive review on the human rights situation in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Monday (July 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said they will take a serious look into the country’s diplomatic relationship with other nations, adding that Iceland and other nations’ move can be considered as interference in the Philippines’ domestic affairs.

On July 11 (Thursday), 18 of the 47-member of the UNHRC voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland, tasking the UN Human Rights Office to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines’ human rights situation amid its ongoing anti-drug campaign.

Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

“’Pag ang isang bansa ay nagpapahayag ng mga posisyon na makakasira sa ating kasarinlan o sovereignty ay kailangang talagang putulin natin ang relasyon natin sa kanila kung wala silang gagawin kundi siraan tayo ng siraan sa mga kalakaran na di naman batay sa tunay na pangyayari dito sa ating bayan,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

(If a country is making declarations that are affront to our independence or sovereignty, if they continue to do or say negative things that are not based on facts or occurrences in our country, then we need to sever our ties with them.)

However, Panelo said that Duterte will have the final say on the matter, as well as on calls for the Philippines to withdraw its membership from the UNHRC.

READ: Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

“In the ultimate analysis, he is the chief architect of foreign policy. Then, it’s the call of the President,” he said.

The palace official assured that they will also factor in every aspect, including the welfare of Filipinos living and working in the mentioned 18 countries, and circumstances that could lead to the cutting of ties.

The UN resolution asked the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, including preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation of retaliations on human rights defenders.

The resolution also urged the Philippine government to take up measures against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations and hold those involved accountable.

With the adoption of the Iceland-led resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was tasked to prepare a report on the Philippines human rights situation by June 2020.

Although the Duterte administration does not consider the resolution a legally-binding document, Panelo said the government is willing to respond to the UN council’s formal questions or communication about Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“They have to believe what this government tells them, because this government does not lie,” Panelo said.

However, he stressed that the government will not oblige if the questions are designed to “embarrass” the Duterte administration. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Iceland hopes PH gov’t will work with UN drug war probe

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

MANILA, Philippines – The government of Iceland expressed hope that the Philippines will cooperate with the investigation that would be conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) amid allegations of human rights violation in relation with the government’s war on illegal drugs.

Icelandic Foreign Miniser Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson made the statement in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments, slamming the Nordic island nation after it endorsed a resolution seeking a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“The resolution is very modest, focusing on impartiality and cooperation with the U.N. to get clarity around the contested facts. I sincerely hope that this will eventually prompt Philippine authorities to work with the U.N.,” he said.

Last Friday (July 12), Duterte criticized Iceland, saying it does not understand the problems faced by the Philippines.

“Ano ang problema ng Iceland? Ice lang. That’s your problem you have too much ice and there is no clear day or night there. Parang alas kwatro ng hapon ang araw pati gabi. So you can understand why there is no crime, there is no policemen either, and they just go about eating ice… they don’t understand the social, economic, political problems of the Philippines,” he said in a speech during the 28th anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Aguinaldo.

The UNHRC on Thursday adopted the Iceland-led resolution seeking for a comprehensive review on the alleged human rights violations under Duterte’s drug war.

Eighteen countries voted for the resolution, 14 rejected it, including the Philippines and China while 15 nations abstained.

With the adoption of the resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was tasked to prepare a report on the Philippines’ human rights situation by June 2020.

The Philippine government has lambasted the passage of the resolution in a poll held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Malacañang earlier said the adoption of the ‘grotesquely one-sided’ resolution is an insult to the majority of Filipinos who expressed satisfaction on the kind of “forceful and effective” governance of Duterte.

READ: Palace slams UN resolution as ‘grotesquely one-sided’ and ‘insulting’

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin also rejected the Iceland-led resolution and warned of “far-reaching consequences” for nations who supported the resolution.

Rights advocates have claimed that thousands of people have died since Duterte launched his campaign against illegal drugs in 2016.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights earlier called on the government to fully cooperate with the UN probe “to show that it has nothing to hide and is willing to adhere to the global standards expected of a member of the UNHRC.” (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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