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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 15, 2019   •   818

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.

Reduce meat consumption to curb global warming — U.N. report

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

Global meat consumption must fall to curb global warming, reduce growing strains on land and water and improve food security, health and biodiversity, a United Nations report on the effects of climate change concluded on Thursday (August 8).

Although the report stopped short of explicitly advocating going meat-free, it called for big changes to farming and eating habits to limit the impact of population growth and changing consumption patterns on stretched land and water resources.

Plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food could free up several million square kilometers of land by 2050 and cut 0.7-8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said.

The IPCC met this week in Geneva, Switzerland to finalize its report which should help to guide governments meeting this year in Chile on ways to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Land can be both a source and sink of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, and better land management can help in tackling climate change, the IPCC said.

But it is not the only solution and cutting emissions from all sectors is essential to quickly curtailing global warming.

Since the pre-industrial era, the land surface air temperature has risen by 1.53 degrees Celsius, twice as much as the global average temperature (0.87C), causing more heatwaves, droughts, and heavy rain, as well as land degradation and desertification.

Human use directly affects more than 70% of the global, ice-free land surface and agriculture accounts for 70% of freshwater use, the IPCC added in the report.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for 23% of total net man-made greenhouse gas emissions during 2007-2016. When pre- and post-production activity in the food system are included, that rises to up to 37%.

Last year the IPCC’s first special report warned that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), rather than the 2C target agreed under the Paris accord, required rapid change across society.

The IPCC warned of more disruption to global food chains as extreme weather becomes more frequent due to climate change and said environmental costs should be factored into food.

It projects a median increase of 7.6% in cereal prices by 2050, meaning higher food prices and an increased risk of hunger.

While an estimated 821 million people are undernourished, changing consumption habits have already contributed to about 2 billion adults being overweight or obese.

While forests can soak up heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere, desertification and deforestation can amplify warming due to the loss of vegetation cover and soil erosion.

Measures to cut emissions, such as the production of biofuels, biochar – made from biomass – as well as planting trees, will also increase demand for land conversion.

Reducing deforestation and forest degradation could result in a reduction of 0.4-5.8 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent, the report said. (REUTERS)

(Production: Marina Depetris)

Lacson open to talking to Duque amid conflict of interest claims

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2019

(L-R) Senator Panfilo Lacson and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he is open to a dialogue with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who is facing allegations of conflict of interest.

Lacson made the statement in response to Duque’s remark that he is trying to reach out to the senator to clarify his claims.

READ: Duque to reach out to Lacson on conflict of interest claims

However, rather than having a dialogue, the senator believes it would be better for Duque to explain the issue to the public.

“At the end of the day its between him and God, it’s between him and his conscience, it’s between him and the public,” Lacson told reporters in a briefing on Thursday.

Lacson recently revealed that Duque’s family-owned Doctors Pharmaceuticals company bagged government contracts in 2016 and 2017. He also said that Duque’s family owned the building being leased by PhilHealth in Pangasinan.

Duque has repeatedly denied the allegations, insisting that he already divested from his family’s firm.

The senator also bared that the health chief has been setting up meetings with several congressmen who are allies of former President and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was during Arroyo’s presidency when Duque was appointed as Health secretary in 2005.

“Ang impormasyon ko nakikiusap siya sa kaalyado ng dating Pangulong Arroyo na magkaroon ng pagpupulong sa mga kongresista, kung bakit hindi ko alam,” Lacson said.

(Based on the information I received he is talking with the allies of former President Arroyo to have a meeting with congressmen. Why? I don’t know.)

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is set to investigate Duque and other issues dogging the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Phillhealth).

Lacson hopes that Duque will attend the inquiry to shed some light on these issues, particularly the alleged corruption within Philhealth.

“It seems na meron talagang mafia-like group sa PhilHealth na nagmamanipula ng pondo,” he said.

(It seems there really is a mafia-like group in PhilHealth that manipulates funds.)

Lacson said his exposé about the anomalies in PhilHealth is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to fight corruption, which the chief executive emphasized in his fourth State of the Nation Address last July 22. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

Appointing ex-cops, soldiers in gov’t is Duterte’s prerogative, Senators say

Robie de Guzman   •   August 1, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte salutes one of the awardees during his visit to Camp Juan Ponce Sumuroy in Catarman, Northern Samar on October 2, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Some Senators on Wednesday said there is nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to appoint former military and police officers to government posts.

This is in response to Senator Richard Gordon’s expression of disapproval with Duterte’s “frequent” appointment of uniformed officials following the appointment of retired Lt.Gen. Emmanuel Salamat as a Board member of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

READ: Duterte moves MWSS chair to JBC, appoints former military man to gov’t

Gordon on Wednesday said that Duterte’s move to appoint former cops and soldiers to government agencies is “dangerous.”

“It’s a dangerous one because civilian authority must remain supreme over the military. Dapat three years muna bago ka i-appoint… para mawala muna yung ties mo, the ties that bind,” he said in a statement.

Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that appointing such individuals whom he feels can help his administration’s policies and programs is the president’s prerogative as stated in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“After all, if his appointees would fall short and fail to deliver, the ultimate responsibility lies in the President who will be accountable to the people,” Lacson said in a statement.

The senator added that presidential appointees are subject to confirmation by the Commission of Appointments.

Lacson, a former National Police chief, also said that an appointee should be judged on their competence and integrity and not on their professional background.

“Without sounding biased since I also came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police, what if those appointees would also question the wisdom of appointing too many lawyers in government? What is important is the competence and integrity of those appointees, and not their professional background,” he said.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, also a former National Police chief, meanwhile questioned the rationale behind Gordon’s proposal to wait for three years before appointing a retired uniformed officer.

“Civilian officers and retired military officers are both civilians so what is the rationale behind the three-year ban? The moment a military officer retires from the service and hangs his uniform, he reverts back to civilian status,” he said.

Duterte earlier explained that his penchant for choosing former military and police officials to be part of his Cabinet is mainly due to their diligence and their capacity to follow orders.

Among those appointed by Duterte are former Armed Forces of the Philippines chiefs of staff Eduardo Año, Roy Cimatu; former Philippine Army Chief Rolando Bautista, and former Northern Luzon Command chief Salamat.

Año now leads the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Cimatu heads the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while Bautista leads the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Other former military and police officers appointed by the president are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan, TESDA chief Isidro Lapeña, Bases and Conversion Development Authority chief Glorioso Miranda, HUDCC chairperson Eduardo del Rosario, MMDA chair Danilo Lim, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and PCSO general manager Royina Garma.

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