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REPASO 2018: High-profile acquittal, conviction and Duterte’s anti-corruption drive

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

 

(Left-Right) Former PCOO ASec. Mocha Uson, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, former Senator Bong Revilla and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. UNTV News & Rescue

A number of big names made headlines this year in Philippine politics for their involvement in various controversies.

Mocha Uson

Celebrity blogger Esther Margaux Justiniano Uson a.k.a. Mocha Uson is among the most controversial personalities in Philippine politics in 2018.

Her appointment as Assistant Secretary to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) was a roller-coaster ride for a neophyte government official.

Uson drew flak over a number of controversial posts on her social media account such as the alleged inappropriate video on federalism with her blogger-friend Drew Olivar followed by another video which irked the deaf community.

Uson ended her short term in the Duterte Cabinet in October 2018 but vowed to continue on with her service to the public even as a private citizen.

After several denials, the former official signified her intention to re-enter politics as a party list representative.

Despite her exit from the government, Uson faces a number of charges at the Office of the Ombudsman such as violation of the Magna Carta for Disable Persons; Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; and the Cybercrime Prevention Act due to her controversial posts and commentaries on social media.

Uson, on her part, said such criticisms will not hinder her from exposing what the people needs to know.

“Actually hanggang ngayon pa rin, may bashing, kritisismo, di naman po mawawala iyan. Pero iyan naman po ang sensyales na buhay na buhay po ang demokrasya sa bansa natin. Wala naman pong problema sa kritisimo basta po sa bawat kritisismo ay tumutulong din tayo sa lipunan, sa bansa natin,” the former assistant secretary said.

Commisioners Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapeña

President Rodrigo Duterte again made a controversial move by re-appointing into government office former commissioners of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapeña.

Under their respective terms in BOC, billions worth of shabu slipped passed the security screening of the agency which raised questions against their credibility.

Faeldon resigned over the P6.4B shabu shipment controversy in 2017 but he was re-appointed by the President as Deputy Administrator of the Office of the Civil Defense and later on this year as Chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

Lapeña, meanwhile, was criticized for the P6.8B worth of shabu shipment discovered inside four magnetic lifters in July. While Congress was probing the incident, the President reassigned Lapeña to the Technical Educations and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Meanwhile, several government officials were axed from their positions in 2018 due to issues of corruption.

Among them were Former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño; Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar; former Chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor Terry Ridon; Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Dionesio Santiago to name a few.

According to a political analyst Atty. James Villasis, President Duterte has made his anti-corruption policy clear especially that he is determined to expose in public those who he dismissed for corruption.

However, Villasis said the integrity of his campaign has been tainted for giving ‘so much favor’ to Faeldon and Lapeña.

Villasis added that the question still remains on whether or not a case is formally filed against the sacked officials.

“Ang nakikita kasi natin ngayon ay medyo hindi gaanong naho-hold into accountability ang mga public officials na kaniyang dinismiss. Kasi some of them are just transferred to some agencies or to another agency, and some of them just returned back to their private citizens’ life,” he said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) Commissioner Greco Belgica believes otherwise.

“Fifty-four na po iyan, 54 officials. Lahat po ng tinanggal, iyun iba po kasi preventive suspension pending investigation. Iyong iba po waiting for decision ng pangulo pero iyong nadesisyunan na po ng Pangulo, nasa Ombudsman na po lahat,” Belgica explained.

“Ang may trabaho doon ay ang DOJ, Sila ang magpa-file noon. Siguro they’re still gathering evidence. Mahirap kasing mag-file ng wala kang ebidensya pa,” added Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV

In August, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 572 declaring the amnesty granted to Trillanes as ‘void ab initio’ on grounds that the senator failed to prove that he applied for amnesty.

This prompted the Department of Justice to revive the cases of rebellion and coup d’ etat against Trillanes in connection with the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny and the 2007 Manila Pen siege.

The Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 ruled in favor of the prosecution and ordered the arrest of Trillanes for the charges of rebellion.

Trillanes was allowed P200,000 bail.

But the second court, Makati RTC Branch 148 denied the government’s petition for Trillanes’ arrest for the coup d’etat case filed against him.

The case remains closed until it is ordered reopened while Trillanes’ petition questioning Proclamation 572 is still pending in the Supreme Court.

 

Mugshot of Senator Antonio Trillanes during his booking procedure at Makati Police Station on September 25, 2018 | Photo courtesy of NCRPO

Former First lady, Ilocos 2nd District Cong. Imelda Marcos

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division in November ordered the arrest of former First Lady and Ilocos Norte 2nd District Representative Imelda Marcos after she was found guilty of seven counts of graft in a trial considered as the longest in the anti-graft court’s history reaching nearly three decades or 26 years.

The anti-graft court sentenced the 89-year-old former First Lady to a minimum of six years to a maximum prison term of 11 years for each count of graft with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

However, Marcos was set free on bail of P150,000.

Former Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.

Former Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., meanwhile, walked free in the first week of December after the Sandiganbayan acquitted him of plunder in line with the P10-B ‘pork barrel’ scam, the first acquittal among the cases on the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

However, the court did not clear him of the 16 counts of graft pending before the Sandiganbayan.

The anti-graft court allowed his temporary release on bail of P480,000.

Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan Special Division convicted alleged ‘pork barrel’ queen and mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and Revilla’s former aide Richard Cambe.

Napoles and Cambe were sentenced to ‘reclusion perpetua’ or 40 years imprisonment.

Former President now House Speaker Gloria Arroyo

Just before the year ends, The Pasay City Regional Trial Court acquitted Former President and House Speaker Gloria Arroyo of charges of electoral sabotage in connection with the 2007 midterm polls.

In an order signed December 17 and made public Friday (December 29), the court dismissed the case “for failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused Arroyo beyond reasonable doubt”.

The court also ordered the return of the P1 million pesos bail posted by Arroyo for her provisional liberty in 2012. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) upheld a resolution seeking to launch an international investigation on the human rights situation in the country in relation to the Philippines’s war on drugs.

During the 44th session in Geneva on Thursday (July 11), the Council adopted Iceland’s resolution to probe the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs with 18 of the 47-member human rights body voted in favor, 14 against and 15 abstentions.

This formally asked UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet “to prepare a comprehensive written report” on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

In response, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin through Ambassador Evan Garcia expressed the Philippines’ rejection of the Iceland-initiated resolution.

“The Philippines reject this resolution. It cannot in good conscience abide by it. We will not accept a politically partisan and one-sided resolution so detached from the truth on the ground,” the Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN reading Locsin’s statement.

Malacañang, meanwhile, 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 President Duterte.

“The overwhelming majority of the Filipino electorate, who mercilessly crushed the intellectual and nationalist pretensions of those who peddled the bogus news, untruthful accounts and vicious propaganda on the President’s campaign against illegal drugs, are grossly and thoroughly insulted by the resolution that echoes such falsities,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Friday, July 12.

Panelo added that the resolution has no other purpose but “to embarrass the Philippines before the international community and the global audience.”

In its resolution Iceland “urges the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with international norms and standards including those on due process and the rule of law.”

But the Palace remained firm in its stand that it is still the President who will decide on whether to allow the United Nations to proceed with the investigation.

Panelo warned that should the probe proceed impartially, the result will only lead “to the humiliation of the investigators” as well as all the proponent countries since “there never have been – nor will there ever be – state-sponsored killings” in the country.

“Any attempt to undermine our sovereignty will receive an uproarious rejection from our countrymen, it being a naked affront to their authority to run their domestic affairs they deem fit under the prevailing circumstances,” Panelo concluded.

HOW COUNTRIES VOTED?

Affirmative votes

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Bahamas
  5. Bulgaria
  6. Croatia
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Denmark
  9. Fiji
  10. Iceland
  11. Italy
  12. Mexico
  13. Peru
  14. Slovakia
  15. Spain
  16. Ukraine
  17. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  18. Uruguay

Negative votes

  1. Angola
  2. Bahrain
  3. Cameroon
  4. China
  5. Cuba
  6. Egypt
  7. Eritrea
  8. Hungary
  9. India
  10. Iraq
  11. Philippines
  12. Qatar
  13. Saudi Arabia
  14. Somalia

Abstain votes

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bangladesh
  3. Brazil
  4. Burkina Faso
  5. Chile
  6. Democratic Republic of Congo
  7. Japan
  8. Nepal
  9. Nigeria
  10. Pakistan
  11. Rwanda
  12. Senegal
  13. South Africa
  14. Togo
  15. Tunisia

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Duterte orders freezing of several Customs officials, employees

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 11th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a situation briefing with members of his Cabinet and local government officials to discuss disaster response measures in the aftermath of Tropical Depression (TD) ‘Usman’. at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) in Pili, Camarines Sur on January 4, 2019 ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the freezing of several high-ranking officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) over corruption allegations.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said these officials are facing administrative and criminal charges for unlawful activities. Their names, he said would be disclosed “at the appropriate time.”

“The President’s latest action underscores this Administration’s zero tolerance on corruption among erring officials,” Panelo said in a statement released on Wednesday night (July 10).

“We continue to dismantle corruption in the bureaucracy and rid it of corrupt officials and employees… The anti-corruption campaign is continuing as it is relentless. No one will be spared,” he added.

Duterte’s order was issued days after he warned of firing several Customs officials who are accused of corruption. The president also bared he was mulling over another revamp in the BOC.

READ: Duterte mulls another Customs revamp

He also mentioned anew his earlier proposal of bringing the military into the BOC to address corruption allegations in the agency.

It can be recalled that in October 2018, the president said he is considering asking military men to take over the BOC due to the rampant corruption and drug smuggling activities.

Although there are reports that corruption and bribery still continue to thrive in the BOC, Malacañang said on Tuesday that Customs chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero still enjoys the trust and confidence of the president. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte will explain his decision on allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippine waters during his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

The chief executive said he will explain why his decision was not unconstitutional.

“Maybe during SONA, I will educate people. By any stretch of imagination, hindi unconstitutional iyong ginawa ko (what I did was not unconstitutional). As a matter of fact, it was in keeping with the law,” he said.

READ: Allowing China to fish on PH waters a ground for impeachment vs Duterte, law experts say

Duterte also slammed his critics for saying his action to allow Chinese fishermen in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an impeachable offense.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo also reiterated that the president will explain his decision and not defend it.

“He will not defend; he will educate people who think that what he did was unconstitutional. He will lecture on the constitutionality of what he has done,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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