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Robredo meets with 22 fishermen in Recto Bank incident

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2019

Courtesy : OVP

Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday conducted a closed-door meeting with the Filipino crew of the boat which was hit and sank by a Chinese vessel near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea last June 9.

Robredo arrived at the San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro around 10 a.m. to speak with the 22 crewmembers of F/B Gem-Ver 1 who were left floating at sea after the ramming incident but were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

The meeting was held at the residence of one of the fishermen and owner of the boat.

The Vice President’s visit comes after boat captain Junel Insigne retracted his previous statement that the Chinese boat intentionally hit their boat. He changed tune after a closed-door meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Wednesday.

Some Makabayan congressmen alleged that the boat captain was intimidated and pressured to change his statement, which Piñol denied.

READ: Makabayan bloc believes boat captain was pressured to change statements

The Agriculture chief said he only based on the account of the boat’s cook, Richard Blaza, who was allegedly the only one awake when the incident occurred.

Robredo earlier said she wants the Chinese crew to face charges for hitting and abandoning the Filipino fishers at sea.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea requires member-states to mandate ships flying their flag to rescue persons distressed at sea. Beijing and Manila are signatories of the said policy.

A diplomatic protest has already been filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs over the incident.

Investigations are also underway on the boat ramming incident. (with details from Sherwin Culubong)

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PH to deploy social welfare attachés for OFWs under new law

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

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law establishing the Office for Social Welfare Attaché to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFW), especially those who have fallen prey to illegal recruiters.

Duterte signed the Republic Act 11299 on April 17, a copy of which was made public on Monday (July 15).

The newly-signed law amended the Republic Act 8402 or the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 to include the said office.

It mandates the Office for Social Welfare Attaché (SWA) to deploy personnel to countries with large concentration of Filipino workers, as determined in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the measure, a social welfare attaché’s duty includes management of cases of Filipino workers in distress, such as victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of physical or mental abuse, and case of abandoned or neglected children;

SWAs are also mandated to undertake survey and prepare social welfare situationer on the OFWs in their areas of assignment; establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies or individuals which may be mobilized to assist in the provision of appropriate services.

They should also respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of Filipino workers and their families; establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families to provide effective social welfare services; submit regular reports on plans and activities undertaken, recommendations and updates on the situation of OFWs.

The law states that the budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development while the DFA, DOLE, the Department of Health and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are tasked to craft the measure’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days after the effectivity of this act.

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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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PNP: No comment on UN resolution to probe human rights situation in the Philippines

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Friday, July 12th, 2019

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has not commented on the United Nations (UN) resolution to probe the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Out of the 47 countries that are members of the UN Human Rights Council, 18 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 14 voted no while 15 countries abstained.

PNP spokesperson Col. Bernard Banac said that the issue “will be appropriately addressed by the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

“Meantime, the PNP will remain guided by instructions of higher authorities,” he said in a statement.—AAC

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