US’ assurance of aid is nothing new, expert says

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 4, 2019   •   1437

President Rodrigo Duterte meets United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City. | Photo credits: MPC POOL

The United States has always assured the Philippines of aid amid sea dispute with China, according to defense expert and Institute for Policy, Strategy, and Development Studies member, Jose Antonio Custodio.

Custodio said there is nothing new with this statement because even previous American officials have said it before.

“Kung ano iyong sinabi ni [Mike] Pompeo, it’s what exactly mentioned also by earlier American officials, Thomas Hubbard to be exact,” he said.

(Whatever Pompeo said, it’s what exactly mentioned also by earlier American officials, Thomas Hubbard to be exact.)

He also said that it would be better for the Philippines to strengthen their own capabilities in defending its territory.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte said it might be difficult for the United States to provide assistance to the country if there will be an attack in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sabi ko, okay man sinabi ni Mattis sa akin: ‘We guarantee you na nandiyan kami sa likod.’ Pero ang problema nito, iyong i-invoke niya iyong Defense US Treaty which was entered into by us, by our — mga ninuno natin. Ang attack sa America or ang attack sa atin pareho. But sa America, magdaan pa ng Congress. Any declaration of war will pass Congress,” Duterte said during his speech in Zamboanga City last Sunday.

(I said, what Mattis said was okay: ‘We guarantee, we have your back’. But the problem is, he invoked the Defense US Treaty which was entered into us by our ancestors. The attack on America or attack against us is the same but in America, it will go through Congress. Any declaration of war will pass Congress.)

Malacañang had previously said that the seven-decade-old treaty need amendments.

“There may be some kinks in the treaty that need to be clarified. It’s much better perhaps that it’s clear-cut in the treaty itself so I think there’s still a need to review despite the policy statement,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said during a press briefing.

However, for Custodio, there is no need to amend the treaty because “the treaty itself is good enough message that if China attacks us, then they will have to face the US.”

The Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in Washington on August 30, 1951 and it aims to further strengthen the collective defense of the Philippine and the US.

Based on the treaty it desires “for the preservation of peace and security pending the development of a more comprehensive system of regional security in the Pacific area.” —Aileen Cerrudo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Duterte’s China visit to skip Fujian province

Marje Pelayo   •   August 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte and his delegation are set to fly to China for a working visit in response to the invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It will be Duterte’s fifth visit to Beijing and his eight meeting with Xi.

The two leaders will meet on August 29 when they will discuss several agreements on education, science and technology, economy and social development.

The President himself also stressed that he would insist the Hague Arbitral Ruling during his meeting with the Chinese President along with other sensitive issues like the code of conduct and joint exploration in the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We cannot preempt what does the President will discuss in particular regarding the arbitral ruling. So, it will be his call during the meeting with the President with his counterpart,” explained Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre.

The Philippine delegation will also attend a business forum in China in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The President’s itinerary includes a meeting with Vice President Wang Qishan and some relax time in the opening of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Guanzhou on August 31 in support to the Philippines’ GILAS team in their game against Italy.

Meanwhile, contrary to earlier announcements, President Duterte will no longer push through with his visit to Fujian province where he was supposed to grace the launching of a university building as tribute to his mother, Soledad.

According to the President’s close in staff, this is not the right time for it.

“But for this particular visit, there was a plan and then the recommendation now is to move it at a later date because it’s more appropriate to be done at a later date and not at this particular time,” noted Robert Borje, the Chief of the Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)


Palace says Sanchez not eligible for release under good conduct law

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez | Courtesy: PTV

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Friday that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez is not eligible for early release from prison under the new law increasing the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Sanchez, who was convicted of a heinous crime, is not entitled to benefit from the Republic Act 10592 which shortens a prisoner’s jail term for good behavior.

“Mr. Sanchez, under republic act number 10592 is not eligible so the President as the chief enforcer of the law have to follow the law,” Panelo said.

In an earlier statement, Malacañang supported Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in stressing that the law excludes “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes” from the benefit of its coverage.

Sanchez has been in jail for over 25 years since he was convicted for the rape and murder of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez in 1995.

Panelo was the defense lawyer of Sanchez when he was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua.

The former mayor was reported earlier to be among the 11,000 persons deprived of who might soon be freed due to a 2013 law that increased the GCTA given to inmates and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

The news has sparked outrage among the public.

Sanchez’s eligibility under the new GCTA rule was also questioned by lawmakers and other sectors due to allegations of possession of illegal drugs after a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. An air condition unit and a television set were also seized from his cell, which are violation of prison rules.

The report on Sanchez’s possible release also “enraged” President Rodrigo Duterte, according to his former aide and now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.

“Nung nag-usap kami ng Pangulo talagang nagalit din siya, at sinabi niya di rin siya sang-ayon at may mga sinite din siya na batas na minimum, in short ayaw din nya, galit po sya,” Go said in a radio interview when asked about the president’s reaction.

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier said Sanchez may be disqualified from availing the provisions of the good conduct time allowance law for his alleged violations of prison rules.

The BuCor also assured to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who were convicted of high-profile, heinous crimes or grave crimes that show extreme moral depravity. (RRD with details from correspondent Rosalie Coz)

US tests first land-based cruise missile after quitting INF treaty

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday announced the test of a medium-range land-based cruise missile for the first time after pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

It was reported that the “conventionally configured” test missile hit the target after flying more than 500 kilometers on Sunday local time in San Nicolas Island, California.

That was the first time the United States carried out a missile test previously prohibited by the INF, marking the resumption of an arms race.

According to the statement, the data collected from this test will be applied for development of future intermediate-range capabilities.

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 between the former Soviet Union and the United States, had banned land-based missiles with a range of 500 km (310 miles) to 5,500 km (3,410 miles).

The treaty ceased to operate on Aug 2 after the United States and Russia accused each other of violating it.

On the same day, the U.S. Defense Department announced the full development of the ground-based conventional cruise missile previously banned by the arms control treaty. (Reuters)

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