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Philippines Today

Secretary of Injustice

Published in On Distant Shore

VITALIANO Aguirre II first hit the headlines in 2012 when, as one of the private prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, he covered his ears while the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was scolding prosecutors for withdrawing the remaining articles of impeachment on the 26th day of the trial.

 

“You’ve been misleading the court! I’m very concerned that prosecution has been in bad faith all along. You’ve been saying to media, ‘Panalo na kami.’ Kami ang magdedesisyon niyan, hindi kayo. Ang yayabang niyo! Mga gago naman! (You are being conceited! Stupid!)” the feisty Santiago said in her speech.

 

After Sen. Jinggoy Estrada informed the body of Aguirre’s “disrespectful” act, then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile called for a recess, but Santiago continued to chastise Aguirre, who was later cited for contempt by the Senate, acting as an impeachment court.

 

Actually, Aguirre had not shied away from controversy even before that episode. The San Beda law class valedictorian was the lawyer for his classmate and fraternity brother, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, when then Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima was investigating the alleged Davao Death Squad.

 

Aguirre also represented retired police officer Bienvenido Laud, also known as “Tatay Laud,” whom he defended up to the Supreme Court to try to block authorities from searching his quarry in Davao City, said to have been a burial ground of those supposedly killed by the DDS.

 

In 2009, De Lima, armed with a search warrant issued by a Manila judge, led a team that dug the quarry in search of evidence to claims by a self-confessed killer that he and six others were instructed by “Tatay Laud” to bring bodies of their victims to three caves in the quarry site. They were stopped by Aguirre, who argued before the Supreme Court that the search warrant was invalid as it was issued by a judge in Manila, who, he said, had no territorial jurisdiction. The digging had already yielded some leg bones, skull parts and some license plates.

 

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the search warrant was valid after five years, in 2014, but no search was conducted again.

 

In 2016, after Duterte was proclaimed president-elect, Aguirre was among the first appointees to his Cabinet. In just the second month of his presidency, Duterte started the persecution of De Lima, alleging that De Lima had been having an affair with her driver, Ronnie Dayan, who Duterte also alleged functioned as De Lima’s collector for drug protection money when she was the Justice secretary.

 

A few months later, De Lima was detained on drug-related charges for allegedly using her position as Secretary of Justice to acquire money from drug pushers inside the National Bilibid Prison to make their drug business operational even though they are imprisoned.

 

In all these cases against De Lima, Aguirre was in the forefront of her public persecution and prosecution, which was obviously in retaliation for her vociferous opposition of Duterte’s brutal drug war and for her past investigation of the Davao Death Squad.

 

Shortly after De Lima’s incarceration in February, Aguirre proved he was also an effective rabble-rouser when he spoke in a pro-Duterte rally and asked boastfully who the crowd wanted to be arrested next, to which the Duterte trolls shouted “Trillanes!” When questioned by senators on his highly partisan act, he said it was just a joke.

 

After revealing him as a jester cum justice secretary, Aguirre earned another title as the “Fake News King” after he stated that Vice President Leni Robredo stayed in the home of Fil-Am community leader Loida Nicolas-Lewis, who has been erroneously tagged by Duterte and Aguirre as the leader of a plot to oust the President. This was denied by both Robredo and Lewis.

 

In February after the abduction and killing of South Korean Jee Ick Joo allegedly by rogue policemen, Aguirre blamed the Korean Mafia, which, he said, has extended its reach to the Philippines. This claim was never proven nor followed up.

 

Later, he again proved he was worthy of the title “Fake News King” when he told reporters that the wife of one of the inmates who testified against De Lima was ambushed. Of course, it was not true, with no less than the Philippine National Police denying there was such an ambush.

 

At the height of the Marawi siege on June 7, Aguirre suggested that Senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV, and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano might be involved in the planning of the siege. Showing a picture of the three and Rolando Llamas, former political adviser of former President Noynoy Aquino, meeting with the heads of the prominent Lucman and Alonto families allegedly on May 2, the justice secretary said the Maute attack could be part of a destabilization plot against Duterte because, he said, two weeks after the alleged meeting, the siege started.

 

It turned out that the picture was from the Facebook wall of Zamboanga del Sur Vice Governor Ace Cerilles and was taken on Sept. 4, 2015 at the Iloilo International Airport. At the same time, Aquino, Trillanes and Alejano proved beyond reasonable doubt that they were not in Marawi on May 2 and were, in fact, in the capital attending congressional session.

 

Aguirre never apologized for the grievous error, saying he made it clear to the media that it was just a raw intelligence report, but the reporters protested and presented video recording of the press conference.

 

Trillanes commented: “The incompetence of Aguirre is only matched by his stupidity. I would advise him to avoid getting his intel from Facebook conspiracy theorists.”

 

Like a troll, Aguirre has blindly defended Duterte’s deadly drug war. After the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa by policemen serving a search warrant in the wee hours of the morning inside the mayor’s cell, Aguirre submitted a resolution downgrading from murder to homicide the charges against the policemen and Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos.

 

Sen. Franklin Drilon, the Senate minority leader and a former justice secretary, called the DOJ resolution an “insult to the Senate” and a “big blow to [the] justice system in the country.” The Senate had recommended the filing of murder charges against Marcos and the other policemen in the Espinosa killing.

 

And then last week, amid widespread public outrage over the killing of 17-year-old Kian de los Santos, Aguirre sought to downplay the anger by describing Kian’s death as “blown out of proportion” and “isolated.”

 

Despite medical examiners’ findings that Kian was kneeling and bent on the ground when shot at the back of the head and in the back, testimonies by eye witnesses, and footage from the barangay CCTV, Aguirre insisted that the witnesses who gave statements on what they saw during the alleged police operations that night had been polluted, or brainwashed by Senator Risa Hontiveros, who has courageously taken the cudgels for Kian’s family.

 

Aguirre’s repeated relaying of fake news and obvious partisan views got the attention of a group of young leaders that calls itself Millennials Against Dictators (MAD) who filed a formal complaint with the Ombudsman for Aguirre’s alleged violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. They called for the removal of Aguirre for spreading fake information while acting in his capacity as a Cabinet official.

 

"Respondent grossly neglected his duties and has made a mockery of the justice system where perceived foes are publicly persecuted rather than properly investigated and prosecuted," it said.

 

This is the same justice secretary who said that Duterte cannot be charged with crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court because, according to him, criminals are not part of humanity.

 

He has been called a joker, the Fake News King, a rabble-rouser, and a fiesta barker. But based on the damage he has done as head of the Department of Justice, we can call him the Secretary of Injustice.

 

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DUTERTE DELIVERS ‘FIERY’ SONA

Published in Headline

Says war on drugs, corruption to continue; terrorists, communists, miners are warned

By ALFRED G. GABOT and CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 

(Photo from PCOO)

 

QUEZON CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte, buoyed by his phenomenal approval ratings despite controversies over alleged extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs, addressed both chambers of Congress and the nation on Monday, July 24, and impressed upon the continuation of the campaign against drugs with even greater determination than before.

 

At the same time, Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) described by many as “fiery” and lasted for two hours, warned the terrorists in Marawi City and nearby areas, the rebels from the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), the corrupt officials and employees in government and irresponsible miners.

 

Duterte was widely acclaimed in his SONA despite failing to avoid the "dirty words." Duterte even met rallyists who are critics of his administration outside the Batasan complex after his speech and also met members of the press afterwards.

 

Duterte vowed to press on with the fight against illegal drugs, calling it “the root cause of so much evil and so much suffering” in the country.

 

Illegal drugs “weakens the social fabric” and hinders business, the President stressed.

 

Duterte promised the fight against illegal drugs “will be unremitting as it will be unrelenting,” adding that the fight will continue “until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease.”

 

His ultimatum: “they have to stop, or the alternative is either jail or hell.”

 

He vowed to “make sure, very sure, that they will not have the luxury of enjoying the fruits of their greed or madness.” He said he will not lose the fight against illegal drugs, as to lose would spell “the destruction of the Filipino.”

 

He told critics of the fight against illegal drugs, including foreign governments and UN agencies concerned over the body count and collateral damage, that their “efforts are better spent” if they use the influence and moral ascendancy of their positions and organizations in educating people about the evils of illegal drugs, “instead of blaming the authorities for every killing that bloodies this country.”

 

Nonetheless, he stressed, “don’t get me wrong. I value human life, just as I value life,” but lamented



“I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and criminality,” he addressed the members of Congress. “Look beyond your biases, your political agenda. The search for change is within us.”

 

He underscored his determination to fight the scourge of drugs and criminality: “We will not be cowed. We will not be overwhelmed. This is where our resilience perseverance and determination are tested. We can and will overcome, together, toward a common goal.”

 

The quest for peace drove the spirit of his speech: “It is not the peace of the dead but the peace of the living that we seek.”

 

He mentioned the “red insurgency”, “the Moslem issue for centuries”, where so much lives have been lost. “Peace eludes us,” he noted. “Sometimes I am tempted to think the peace will not come in our lifetime. But it will not be for lack of trying.”

 

“The battle of Marawi has dealt a terrible blow to our quest for peace. I declared martial law in Mindanao because I believed that was the fastest way to defeat the Maute rebellion at the least cost of lives, and to prevent them from spreading hate across the island.”

 

He declared his “unwavering support” to the soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the police forces. “To those on the ground in the battlefields, I have your backs. I hold myself, me and me alone, responsible. The people of Marawi need help. If we cannot provide for the poor and the needy, we will not be able to keep from harm the rich. Our armed forces and the police are the silent heroes. Never fear. Do your duty. I stand behind you.”

 

Duterte said he has ordered the dismissal of ranking officials, including a former Cabinet member, pointing out that this should serve as a warning to corrupt members of the government service.

 

“Let the dismissal of several high-ranking officials whom I myself appointed serve as a warning to all that I will never back down on my commitment to cleanse this government,” Duterte said.

 

Duterte, at the same time, said he will raise the government’s budget for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) assistance from P400 million to P1 billion as he cited the overseas Filipinos’ contribution to the country’s economy.

 

“To ensure that their rights protected, I ordered the increase of our assistance for the OFW from P400 million to more than P1 billion,” Duterte said.

 

Duterte warned that the campaign in Marawi City against foreign-inspired terrorists will be pursued until the last terrorist is killed.

 

Duterte also defended his decision to put the entire Mindanao under martial law as the terror crisis in the Islamic city of Marawi continues to rage.

 

“The battle of Marawi has dealt a terrible blow to our quest for peace,” Duterte said.

 

“Alien ideology… has been injected to the local setting.”

 

Duterte said he declared martial law in Mindanao “because I believe that that was the fastest way to quell rebellion at the least cost of lives and properties.”

 

Meeting reporters after his speech, the President said he would build a military over the next two years that could fight on all fronts by recruiting 35,000-40,000 new soldiers, and buying planes and drones to tackle communist and Islamist rebels.

 

Duterte said security threats had increased in the Philippines and the military needed more troops and more modern equipment to meet those challenges.

 

"Today's demand necessitates an army that is strong," he told reporters. "I will build an armed forces that can fight all fronts everywhere."

 

He said he was prepared to "wait it out" before retaking Marawi City from Islamic State-inspired rebels holed up there for two months, because protecting civilians and hostages in the conflict zone was of paramount importance.

 

In his SONA, Duterte tagged the country’s communist rebels as enemies of the state who deserve to be bullied, in yet another signal of frayed ties between the President and the Left.

 

“I used to be friends with the NDF [National Democratic Front of the Philippines],” Duterte said in his State of the Nation Address.

 

“Times have changed because God placed me here. Bully daw ako. T*******o pala kayo, talagang bully ako. P****g i*a. Talagang bully ako especially to the enemies of the state,” the President said.

 

Talks between government and the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front have collapsed to the spate of attacks of New People’s Army rebels against government troops.

 

The President particularly cited the NPAs’ attack on the Presidential Security Group in Arakan, North Cotabato. Later, a chief of police and five of his men were killed in another NPA ambush in Negros Oriental.

 

“Pati ang pulis ko, araw-araw niyong ina-ambush… Pati ako papatayin. Convoy ko kasi iyon eh... Sabagay, malayo ako doon. Pero convoy ko 'yun. Ginamitan 'yun ng machine gun, kaya lang armorized,” he said.

 

He reiterated his earlier decision to halt peace negotiations with the communists. 

 

"Kayong mga Left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?" Duterte stressed.

 

Ending the decades-old communist insurgency has been a top priority for Duterte, but talks have been on and off under the feisty leader, who has accused the communists of being two-faced amid continued armed attacks against state forces.

 

The President has also lambasted the rebels for collecting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses and ordinary people.

 

Duterte warned mining companies that he would tax them "to death" unless they restore the "virginity" of exploited areas.

 

Duterte said he would use revenue from mining taxes to help host communities that were left "in agony."

 

"You have to come up with a substitute, either spend to restore the virginity of the source or I will tax you to death," Duterte said in his annual address to Congress.

 

Duterte said former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez showed mining communities a "clear picture of what was happening horrendously" in mining areas.

 

He also offered a "salute" to ABS-CBN anchor Ted Failon whose program, Failon Ngayon, showed the ill effects of mining on the environment in a recent episode.

 

“I am holding all mining companies and its officials responsible for the full and quick clean up restoration rehabilitation of all areas damaged by mining activities and extension of all necessary support to the communities that have suffered mining's disastrous effects to the health among others," he said.

 

The President told mining firms to stop destroying watersheds, forests and aquatic resources.

 

"The protection of the environment must be made a priority ahead of mining and all other activities that adversely affect one way or another and this policy is non-negotiable," he said.

 

Mining companies should also declare their correct income and pay all taxes, the President said.

 

President Duterte reiterated his support for the re-imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

 

"It is time for us to fulfill our mandate to protect our people. Tapos na 'yan. For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it's also about retribution," he said.

 

He also explained that the essence of the country's penal code is retribution.

 

"Our criminal system uses the revised penal code. That is a law given to us by the Spaniards; the original revised penal code, though it was translated into English. And those two books, the definition of crimes and the penalties and everything, and the thrust of that revised penal code, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of retribution. That is why you have penalty," Duterte said.

 

According to Duterte, instilling fear in criminals is the only way to stop them.

 

(Photo from metrocebu.com.ph)

 

MANILA — Endurance swimmer Ingemar “Pinoy Aquaman” Macarine is to pursue in the United Kingdom his quest to become the first Filipino to cross the 21-mile (33.8km) English Channel next month.

 

Macarine, an environmental lawyer who has staged several record-breaking open water swims around the country, will start his acclimatization training next week in the cold waters of English Channel, which separates southern England and northern France.

 

The acclimatization in Folkstone will focus on training Macarine’s body to endure the 15-degree Celsius water temperature in the channel, which according to him is one of his “greatest concern.”

 

“Most of the endurance swimmers who tried the area gave up because of the water temperature,” he said in a PNA report.

 

Macarine, 41, attempted the English Channel swim last year but went home empty-handed due to bad weather.

 

To prepare for this swim, Macarine said his swimming coach instructed him to “swim two hours every day in the cold water.”

 

According to the website of Channel Swimming Association’s (CSA), which manages the swimming attempts at the UK’s side of the English Channel, the crossing “usually start at or near Shakespeare’s Cliff or Samphire Hoe (in between Folkestone and Dover), and aim to finish at or near Cap Gris Nez (between Boulogne and Calais).”

 

Macarine considers the 21-mile swim “the Mt. Everest of long-distance swimming,” especially for him who comes from a country with tropical climate.

 

Thelmo Cunanan Jr., founder of the First Filipino International Movement that is organizing the First Filipino English Channel Swim, agrees.

 

“This is considered the “Mount Everest’” of open water swims and will be a test of physical and mental strength, courage, sheer human will and heart,” said Cunanan.

 

However, Macarine said his previous long-distance swims, including in the cold waters of the United States, have prepared him for the task.

 

Macarine successfully swam the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland in 2015, the Alcatraz Island Penitentiary to mainland San Francisco in California in 2014, and in Lake Lane in Florida in 2014. In May this year, the “Pinoy Aquaman” conquered the 8.4-kilometer icy cold waters of the Hudson River in New York.

 

Macarine, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), has a total of 32 open water swims under his belt.

 

This year alone, he completed six marathons swims in the country, including the 24 kilometer gruelling swim from Dumaguete to Siquijor, and the 18-kilometer Argao, Cebu to Loon, Bohol swim.

 

The Surigao-born swimmer said he intends to finish the English Channel swim in 16 hours.

 

“This swim, I will only be wearing regular swimming trunks, swimming cap and goggles,” he said, noting that he will not wear any thermal suit.

 

According to the CSA, the shortest distance to cross the English Channel is 21 miles, but some swimmers may have to swim longer if they miss Cap Gris Nez because of the current.

 

The association said the channel became popular among swimmers when Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old steamship captain, successfully crossed it in 1875.

 

Since Webb, about 1,100 solo swimmers have conquered the distance, the CSA said.

Advocacy

 

Macarine said he will try his crossing between August 15 and 20, citing strict rules set by the Channel Swimming and Pilots Association.

 

The association requires swimmers to register and assigns swimmers to a boat captain who is trained to monitor channel swimmers.

 

On any given day, 10 to 12 swimmers may be in the water, CSA said, but they are going at different speeds and taking different routes between England and France.

 

Macarine’s swim is part of his lifetime advocacy for clean seas, environmental tourism, and climate change awareness.

 

Just like in his previous open water marathons, Macarine will adhere to the Marathon Swimming Federation Rules and performed solo swimming without floating aid or help from any human or sea vessel.

 

The English Channel crossing is supported by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Comelec.

PHL now world's 13th largest country in population

Published in Latest News

(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

MANILA — The Philippines has slid to 13th place from 12th largest country in the world in terms of population.

 

POPCOM Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said the country has lost the 12th spot three years after taking the post.

 

"On July 1, 2017, Ethiopia overtook our spot, making the Philippines the 13th largest country in the world," said Perez.

 

The country currently has an estimated 104.3 million population, according to the POPCOM "Population Clock".

 

It was in 2014 when the United Nations (UN) had ranked the Philippines as the 12th most populated country with a 100 million population then.

 

Perez added that the country may further rank lower in the coming years.

 

This as 14th placed Egypt was found to have a higher population growth rate of 1.9 versus compared to the Philippines' 1.5.

 

And with the drop in the world's most populated country rankings, the POPCOM Official said the government is now more pressed to provide better services to Filipinos.

 

"This event is a challenge to provide a quality life for the babies and make every Filipino count in the progress and development of the country as the population increases rapidly every year," said the official.

 

"It is also a reiteration of POPCOM’s advocacy through the years that every child should be born wanted, and his/her basic rights on social services, such as health and education, are ensured for his/her total development," he added.

 

Meanwhile, he said the Philippines’ symbolic 100 millionth babies have already turned three years old on this day (July 27).

 

For that reason, POPCOM is providing their families with PHP5,000 gift packs for the babies’ developmental needs.

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