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MANILA — After landing on the cover again of the Time Magazine this time as one of the world's strong men long with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan., President Rodrigo Duterte ranked high in the prestigious Forbes Magazine’s World’s Most Powerful Man for 2018.

 

According to its description, “There are nearly 7.5 billion humans on planet Earth, but these 75 men and women make the world turn. Forbes’ annual ranking of The World’s Most Powerful People identifies one person out of every 100 million whose actions mean the most.”

 

Forbes cited Duterte’s notable campaign against illegal drugs. It also noted that Duterte never fails to make it to the headlines for his “raw and vulgar” rhetoric such as calling former US President Barack Obama a “son of a whore” among other rants against his critics.

 

In 2017, Duterte ranked 70th in the magazine’s list of 74 men and women who “make the world turn.”

 

Number one in this year’s list was China’s Xi Jinping, followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

 

Also among the top 10 were Microsoft giant Bill Gates, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Google CEO Larry Page.

 

Duterte earlier slammed Time Magazine for portraying him like a "despot" in its latest issue.

 

Speaking to military officers in Malacañang, Duterte  took exception to the magazine's cover that lumped him with world leaders perceived to be "strongmen" including the man described by the President as his "idol,"  President Putin.

 

Time Magazine described Duterte as "a former mayor who talked more like a Mob boss than a President, on his promises to wipe out the drug trade with his own brand of justice."

 

The Philippine government has many times defended the anti-drug campaign, saying it was not behind reported summary killings. 

 

Over 4,000 have been killed in anti-drug operations. The drug suspects allegedly resisted arrest, prompting police officers to defend themselves. 

 

Ian Bremmer, in his Time Magazine article stated: "In every region of the world, changing times have boosted public demand for more muscular, assertive leadership. These tough-talking populists promise to protect 'us' from 'them.' Depending on who’s talking, 'them' can mean the corrupt elite or the grasping poor; foreigners or members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities." 

 

"Or disloyal politicians, bureaucrats, bankers or judges. Or lying reporters. Out of this divide, a new archetype of leader has emerged. We’re now in the strongman era," the article added.

 

Reacting to the Forbes Magazine list, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated that “President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has many times acknowledged that the true source of power is the people…the Presidency, in the mind of PRRD, begins and ends with public trust where real power emanates.”

 

The President refused to acknowledge the Time Magazine list, saying, “I’ll never be one. Huwag kayong maniwala diyan sa (Do not believe) Time Magazine. Para lang iyan mahalin, mabili (They just want to sell copies). Wala akong pakialam diyan sa strongman, strongman (I don’t care for the ‘strongman’ tag)."

 

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(Photo from Manila Bulletin)

 

MANILA — It's official. Former Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa is the new chief of the Bureau of Corrections, the government agency in charge of the national penitentiary and penal colonies.

 

This as dela Rosa formally took his oath as the new Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief before Justice Secretary Menardo Guevara.

 

Dela Rosa said he is evaluating the specifics of which buildings in the facility need immediate repairs, adding that at times inmates and jail guards have no choice but to be soaked during downpours due to the leaks in the dilapidated roofs.

 

Aside from noting the need to address over-congestion in the facility, dela Rosa said he is looking at the immediate segregation of local from the foreign, noting that communication between the two could be providing support in running the drug trade.

 

"Yung Chinese drug lord sila ang may contact dun sa supplydoon China, tapos itong mga local drug lords, Filipino drug lords sila ang mga contact sa local distribution dito sa Pilipinas. So ang drug problem is dalawang components yan – supply and demand. So kung i-segregate mo yung supply side, yung mgaChinese, hindi sila makipag-communicate dito sa mga Pilipino na drug distributor hanggang supply lang silaIto namang sa side ngFilipino drug lords, pag walang supply na makarating, kahit na anong demand sa labas, kahit gaano kalakas ang demand, wala silangsupply. Between supply and demand, they should be cut-off, hiwalay sila," dela Rosa said.

 

(The Chinese have contacts in China, local drug lords have contacts in local distribution. The drug problem has two components-- supply and demand. So if you segregate the supply side, which are the Chinese, they could not communicate with the Filipinos who act as distributor. They will only be limited to supply. These Filipino drug lords, they will be left with a wanting demand. Between supply and demand, they should cut off, they are separated.)

 

Dela Rosa also ordered the return of inmates billeted at the facility's hospital for months to their cells.

 

"Eh kaso sa ngayon halo-halo sila yung iba pang drug lord dun ilang buwan na sa hospital. Sa ospital kasi anybody can go there. So yung mga Filipino drug lords can go there at makipag-communicate dito sa mga Chinese drug lord na naka-confine," dela Rosa said.

 

(The problem now is that they are mixed together with other drug lords for months inside the hospital. It is because anybody can go to the hospital. So the Filipino drug lords can go there and communicate with the Chinese drug lords who are confined.)

 

Dela Rosa said they will also look into the effectiveness of cellphone jammers installed in the facility earlier during the previous administration, adding that they will look into the technical details of the cellphone jammer antenna.

 

Some suspected the antenna have been programmed to act as a booster instead of actually blocking cellphone signals inside the facility, dela Rosa said.

 

Guevara, said the President has given dela Rosa marching orders to do all what is necessary to accomplish eliminating the drug trade in the national penitentiary.

 

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PHILIPPINE RISE — President Rodrigo Duterte marked the first anniversary of his renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise by sending off an all-Filipino team of 50 scientists to the vast area near Cagayan Valley to begin the country’s first massive scientific marine research there.

 

The send-off program commemorated the 2012 United Nations declaration that the submerged plateau, then known as Benham Rise, is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf. The President, at the same time, issued a new order proclaiming parts of the region as a protected area.


The President was also poised for a two-day visit to the Philippine Rise which consists of 13-million-hectare seamount in the Pacific Ocean near the Cagayan Valley but later decided that the program in Casiguran Bay on board a Philippine warship was enough to show how the Duterte administration is protecting the vast territory believed to be a rich sourch of fish and aquatic resources.

 

.Accompanying the President in sending off the 50-strong scientific team are Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu and some members of Congress, including Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

 

The marine research is the first nationally-coordinated research to be conducted in the undersea region off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora since Duterte signed Executive Order No. 25 renaming Benham Rise to Philippine Rise on May 16, 2017. It is a follow up of research of the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Oceana and other groups in the past.

 

The major research is part of the Coordinated National MSR Initiatives and Related Activities (CONMIRA) that the national government agencies and research institutions are conducting in the Philippine waters from April to November this year.

 

CONMIRA is comprised of the Bureau of Food and Aquatic Resources, Marine and Geosciences Bureau and Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Mapping and Resource and Information Authority, Philippine Navy and University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).

 

Duterte earlier ordered to stop all the marine explorations by foreign entities in the Philippine Rise and instead give priority to Filipino scientists.

 

Last week, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that around 50 Filipino scientists will conduct the MSR.

 

 Dr. Cesar Villanoy of the UP-MSI said there is a need for more scientific exploration to determine the economic potential of the Philippine Rise.

 

Villanoy said the government should also develop a sustainable management framework for the development and protection of the area believed to be rich in marine resources, natural gas, oil and minerals.

 

He suggested to having a practical cooperation, possibly with other countries, for technological capability since research expeditions in Philippine Rise require the use of modern equipment such as remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) and Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS).

 

Villanoy said the MSR is a step towards creating a more comprehensive understanding of the area.

 

“This is just the beginning to know what is at the rise and understanding processes,” Villanoy said.

 

Dr. Mario Aurelio, director of UP National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP NIGS), has assured the Filipinos have the expertise to conduct MSR in Philippine Rise.

 

Aurelio, however, said the government should pursue a plan to establish a comprehensive National Marine Research Agenda (NMRA) that would fully equip local scientists by acquiring research vessels and other equipment particularly ROVs and BRUVS.

 

He said Duterte can issue an executive order for the establishment of NMRA that would incorporate all the sectors from solid earth to atmospheric and meteorological research.

 

For the past five years, the DENR has been conducting studies, which indicated large deposits of methane in solid form.

 

On the other hand, marine scientists from BFAR, UP and Oceana have documented a dazzling array of soft and hard corals, at least 200 fish species, algae and sponges as some of the biological diversity in the Philippine Rise.

 

The UP-MSI conducted the first oceanography survey in July 2012 while BFAR started a series of annual expeditions in 2013.

 

The results of the surveys boosted the Philippines’ submission to an extended continental shelf (ECS) in 2009.

 

Four years later, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) awarded and validated the country's claim, thus extending the country’s continental shelf by 118 nautical miles beyond the 200-NM legal continental shelf limits.

 

The Philippine Rise is geomorphologically distinct from the deep oceans floor. It forms a thick crust lying at about 3,000 to 3,500 meters below sea level, except for Benham Bank which is the shallowest point at 43-70 meters below sea level.

 

The Philippines has now sovereign rights and jurisdiction on both the water column and the seabed and subsoil of the extended continental shelf to conduct MSR, explore and exploit living and non-living resources, to establish artificial islands, and to protect and preserve marine environment.

 

The foreign researchers may do scientific research for as long as it has approval from the Philippine government.

 

The Benham Rise was named after American geologist Andrew Benham who surveyed the area in the 1930s.

 

Aside from sending off a team of Filipino scientists, Duterte is set to sign an executive issuance, most likely a presidential proclamation declaring the Philippine Rise and Kalayaan Island Group as Marine Protected Areas.

 

Another highlight of the Philippine Rise Commemoration Activity is the casting of ocean buoy and laying of flag marker in Benham Bank. 

 

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QUEZON CITY — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Rosario Uriarte of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the state lottery agency, amounting to P366 million.

 

“Here considering that 10 persons have been accused of amassing, accumulating and/or acquiring ill-gotten wealth, it would be improbable that the crime charged was plunder if none of them was alleged to be the main plunderer. As such, each of the 10 accused would account for the aliquot amount of only P36,599,791.50, or exactly 1/10 of the alleged aggregate ill-gotten wealth, which is far below the threshold value of ill-gotten wealth required for plunder," the anti-graft court's First Division said in an 11-page decision dated May 11, 2018.

 

“It is notable that the COA, although frowning upon PCSO's co-mingling of funds, did not rule such co-mingling as illegal. As such, sourcing the requested additional CIF's from one account was far from illegal,” the court added.

 

The Supreme Court earlier acquitted Uriarte’s co-accused Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, and Reynaldo Villar on demurrer to evidence on April 6, 2015.

 

The High Court upheld the acquittal of former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyyo and Benigno Aguas on Apr. 18, 2017. It became final and executory on May 30, 2017.

 

Uriarte surrendered to the operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation on Nov. 16, 2016. She was later arraigned on Nov. 22, 2016, and entered a “not guilty” to the charge against her.

 

She was allowed to post bail for her temporary liberty on June 22, 2017.

 

“In fine, the prosecution's failure to properly allege the main plunderer should be fatal to the cause of the State against the petitioners for violating the rights of each accused to be informed of the charges against each of them,” the Sandiganbayan said.

 

“The prosecution has not adduced any new or compelling evidence to warrant a finding different from what has already been rendered by the Supreme Court. Thus, as the High Tribunal categorically cleared Uriarte of culpability from the instant charge of plunder, it behooves this Court to acquit her,” the anti-graft court said, in clearing the former PCSO official of the charge.

 

With her acquittal, the Sandiganbayan also ordered the lifting of the hold departure order against Uriarte and her bond released.

 

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CAMP CRAME, Quezon City — President Rodrigo Duterte has announced the appointment of National Capital Region Police Office Oscar Albayalde as the incoming chief of the Philippine National Police.

 

The announcement immediately was lauded by leaders and the 190,000-strong PNP now headed by Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa.

 

Turnover of command reportedly will be on April 19 at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.

 

Duterte also announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, current chief of the Western Mindanao Command, as incoming chief of staff of the Armed Forces.

 

Galvez will replace Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero whose extended term expires also this April. Guerrero will be next administrator of the Maritime Autority (Marina) while dela Rosa will be the next chief of the Bureau of Prisons.  

 

“The PNP welcomes the appointment of Director Oscar Albayalde as incoming PNP chief, as announced by the President in his speech in Malacañang during the awarding of Gawad Saka 2017. The 190,000-strong PNP uniformed and non-uniformed personnel will give its full support to his leadership. His proven track record of service assures us that the policies of the government relative to public order and safety will be sustained,” said PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent John C. Bulalacao.

 

 Albayalde, who hails from San Fernando, Pampanga is a known nemesis of rogue and incompetent cops in Metro Manila.

      

“Si Albayalde lang sa PNP kasi tinanong ko ‘yung mga taga-Davao...” Duterte said in a speech at the Malacañang Palace.

 

The President added that locals in Davao described Albayalde as very strict, making the latter fit for the post.

 

“The stricter, the better,” the President said of the police official known for sacking officers he would find sleeping on the job during surprise inspections.

 

Albayalde said:“I am very very much thankful to the Good Lord and the President for giving trust and confidence in me.”

 

“Rest assured that I will not betray their trust and confidence. Yun ang maipapangako ko sa kanila,” Albayalde said.

 

He vowed to continue his work habit and support President Duterte’s reform programs particularly when it comes to the crackdown against criminality, terrorism, drugs and corruption.

 

Never assigned in Mindanao and although not a native of Davao City, Albayalde thanked Gen. Dela Rosa for supporting him all throughout his career.

 

“I would like to thank him (Dela Rosa) for his support. Hindi niya alam na malaking bagay ‘yung pag-eendorse  niya sa akin sa ating Presidente. So I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart, at ibinigay din niya sa akin yung tiwala niya. So again, I will not betray his trust and confidence,” he said.

 

He acknowledged that it was Gen. Dela Rosa’s endorsement which won him the race for the top PNP post.

 

President Duterte since last year had been taking notice of how Albayalde had been doing his job as Metro Manila police chief.

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Photo: Presidential Communications Operations Office

 

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has accepted the resignation of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

 

“I accepted the resignation of Vit Aguirre, my fraternity brother,” Duterte announced in a Malacanang event a day after Aguirre attended his last Cabinet meeting.

 

Speaking in Malacañang, Duterte said Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra is acting justice secretary.

 

Prior to Duterte’s announcement, Aguirre had attended Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.

 

There had been talk about Aguirre’s impending departure from the Duterte Cabinet even before the Holy Week, but the justice chief’s attendance at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, April 4 seemed to suggest otherwise. At the end of the Cabinet meeting, Aguirre even had his photo taken beside Duterte, which he released to the media.

 

The justice chief’s resignation follows weeks of speculation after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said changes in the Cabinet were underway due to Duterte’s dissatisfaction with some secretaries.

 

Aguirre had earlier said he did not feel alluded to by the President’s statement.

 

Rumors of Aguirre’s departure from the Duterte government started mid-March when the Department of Justice (DoJ) panel of prosecutors dismissed drug trade charges against confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and his alleged partner in the Visayan drug trade, Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim.

 

Lim was among the first alleged drug lords to get a death threat from Duterte himself early in his administration. The dismissal of charges against the alleged big-time drug lord raised doubts on the legitimacy of the government’s war on drugs.

 

It also put the DoJ at odds with the police, as panel of prosecutors blamed the latter for giving them weak evidence against the alleged drug lords. The Philippine National Police, in turn, criticized the prosecutors for not giving police a heads up that they needed stronger evidence against the suspects.

 

Duterte was furious over the dismissal of charges and had “joked” about putting Aguirre behind bars if charges against Espinosa and Lim are dismissed with finality, according to his spokesman. This prompted Aguirre to assemble a new team to conduct fresh investigation into the charges. Lim is scheduled to appear before the DoJ on April 12 for new hearings.

 

In the weeks that followed, more controversies hounded Aguirre and the DoJ.

 

Aguirre put alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles under provisional state protection. It was also revealed that Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, enjoyed easy access to him and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

 

Aguirre previously served as Vice President and chief legal counsel of Clark Development Corporation under former President Benigno Aquino III.

 

Guevarra, the new justice secretary, was said to be responsible for writing important Palace documents like executive orders and memorandum orders from the President.

 

Also, he supposedly drafted the martial law proclamation in Mindanao.

 

He graduated from the Ateneo School of Law and placed second in the 1985 bar examinations.

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QUEZON CITY — Alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles will remain in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

 

This as the Sandiganbayan has denied the petition of Napoles to transfer her to a government safehouse.

 

Napoles had been placed by then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II under provisional protection as state witness in the pork barrel fund scam.

 

The Sandiganbayan found strong evidence against Napoles to hold her for trial in connection with the multi-billion-peso scam.

 

Meanwhile, newly-appointed ad interim secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Menardo Guevarra will give top priority to review the controversial drug case involving Cebu businessman Peter Lim and self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and Janet Lim Napoles.

 

Guevarra said he will also make priority to review the decision of his predecessor, Vitaliano Aguirre II, to place alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles under provisional coverage of the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

 

“I will give top priority to a review of recent DOJ actions on Kerwin Espinosa and Napoles. I will reserve any judgment though till I have thoroughly studied the matter,” Guevarra said.

 

In a four-page ruling, the First Division pointed out that Napoles is “presently under detention for a lawful case.”

 

The anti-graft court has already denied her bail petition in connection with the P224.5-million plunder case of former Senator Bong Revilla.

 

The resolution stressed that her protective custody under the witness protection program would be “contrary to the clear and express import” of Article XI, Section 1 of the 2012 implementing rules and regulations of the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act.

 

The provision reads: “The Program shall not take into protective custody a witness who is under detention for any lawful cause. However, it shall direct the custodian of the witness to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the witness.”

 

“Notably, the said provision does not admit of any exception. Verily, the denial of the instant motion is warranted under the premises,” it added.

 

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Efren N. de la Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg and Edgardo M. Caldona.

 

In her previous request for transfer of custody, Napoles cited the Department of Justice’s February 27 approval of her provisional admission into the Witness Protection Program.

 

Napoles also said she wanted to be in a secure facility because of the intimidation and threats to her life inside the detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

 

Napoles has pending plunder and graft cases before the other divisions (Third and Fifth) of the Sandiganbayan.

 

As of press time, the Third and Fifth Divisions, which handle the P172.8-million and P183.8-million plunder cases of former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, have yet to issue their resolutions on Napoles’ motion.

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DAVAO CITY — A Mindanao State University (MSU) professor and leader of Save Sulu Movement has supported pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on possible Marawi-like siege in major cities in Mindanao.

 

This as Prof. Octavio Dinampo warned of another siege as he confirmed information of an ongoing recruitment by the terrorist group left by slain Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

 

At the same time, Dinampo called on Mindanaoans to continue to be vigilant against the plan of the terrorist group Abdullah Al Islamiah to launch another Marawi-like siege in major cities in Mindanao.

 

He identified the terrorists' targets as the cities of Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, and General Santos.

 

Dinampo said Abdullah Al Islamiah has continued with its recruitment especially in six Sulu municipalities – Jolo, Patikul, Indanan, Maimbung, Parang, Kalilangan Caluang, where they are moving at nighttime when soldiers are sleeping. The areas are adjacent to each other which made it easier for the group members to move from one place to another.

 

He said there is a need for the military to take over these areas to keep the group’s movement under control.

 

He said the group now is led by Malaysian militant Amin Baku, the most senior terrorist leader and could be the emir after Hapilon.

 

“God forbids something is being cooked by this group,” he said.

 

Dinampo said the members of the group maybe few but, they are bringing a very dangerous idea and recruiting people who are mostly unschooled and gullible with the promise of money.

 

Also, he alleged that the group is backed up by the rich people mostly politicians. It is even more dangerous as leaders of the group are not afraid to die. They consider death as honourable, Dinampo said.

 

Dinampo warned to watch out in May when Muslims observe Ramadan.

 

He recalled that the Marawi siege was originally planned for May this year but it was moved ahead when authorities served the warrant of arrest to Hapilon.

But, now the group is targeting mainland Mindanao, Dinampo said based on his research and monitoring.

 

“We have information that the group behind this has recently met to discuss the possibility of moving on with the original plan. They reportedly met in December to talk about the original schedule in Marawi,” Dinampo further bared.

 

Dinampo urged people in Mindanao especially in major cities to continue to be vigilant.

 

The Save Sulu Movement is a civil society organization working to end hostility and terrorism in Mindanao. 

 

To fully neutralize terror threats, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now studying the recruitment patterns of the extremist militants.

 

Brig. Gen. Bienvenido Datuin, AFP spokesperson, said this would greatly help the military in preventing and countering violent extremism from taking root in the country.

 

But he said that they are still to confirm reports that terror groups are now recruiting new members in an attempt to beef up their numbers from heavy losses in AFP-initiated offensives against them.

 

Earlier, the military official said that they were closely monitoring coastal waters and other areas under the Western Mindanao Command following reports that around 40 terrorists had managed to infiltrate the area.

 

Menwhile, a key leader of the Islamic State-linked Maute terror group which took part in the five-month long siege of Marawi City was presented by police officials to the media Monday after he was arrested in Divisoria by elements of the Manila Police Department working with military intelligence officers over the weekend.

 

Spouses Abdul Nasser and Raisalam Lomondot, both from Lanao del Sur were arrested along C. M. Recto Ave. in Divisoria, Manila on Saturday while in possession of a grenade and a handgun.

 

"We are able to send a message to the Maute that you can run but you cannot hide. The long arm of the law will catch up with you," Philippine National Police Director General Ronaldo dela Rosa said of the development during a press briefing.

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MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the four consolidated petitions seeking to halt the full-year extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.

 

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive was issued following Feb. 6 regular en banc session of the magistrates.

 

Voting 10-5, the SC dismissed the four petitions filed by congressmen led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman et al; another group led by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, et al; former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales; and a group led by Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the Constitution seeking to declare the martial law extension in Mindanao as unconstitutional.

 

“The Court finds sufficient factual basis for the issuance of Resolution of Both Houses No. 4 and declares it as constitutional. Accordingly, the consolidated Petitions are hereby dismissed,” Te said during the press briefing.

 

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam while nine other magistrates concurred, namely Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Samuel R. Martires, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.

 

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa dissented from the ruling.

 

The Court pointed out that Congress had discretionary authority to formulate, adopt and promulgate its own rules.

 

"Each House of Congress has full discretionary authority to formulate, adopt and promulgate its own rules; the exercise of this power is generally exempt from judicial supervision and interference," read the summary of the SC ruling penned by Tijam.

 

It also rejected the argument of petitioners that the extension should have only been limited to 60 days, saying the Constitution did not fix a period of duration for such extension and was also actually silent as to how many times the Congress could extend martial law declaration by the President.

 

Even the alleged undue haste in granting the request for extension, according to the Court, cannot be a ground to nullify the extension.

 

However, the SC noted that it can only intervene when there is a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use of the power such as would constitute a “denial of due process.”

 

The Court explained that it can only step in once there is clear showing of arbitrary and improvident use of such power by Congress under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, which it said is lacking in this case.

 

It also rejected the argument of petitioners that the extension should have only been limited to 60 days, saying the Constitution did not fix a period of duration for such extension and is also actually silent as to how many times the Congress could extend martial law declaration by the President.

 

The SC also found basis to the arguments of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) that the extension is necessary for public safety.

 

The SC likewise ruled that the factual bases for the martial law declaration remain in Mindanao, citing the facts submitted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines during oral arguments last month.

 

"The rebellion that spawned the Marawi incident persists. Public safety requires the extension, as shown by facts presented by the AFP," it explained.

 

As to the fear of the petitions that the extension would result to widespread violation of the constitutional rights of the people in Mindanao, the Court noted that the Constitution had provided safeguards against abuses.

 

Victims of human rights abuses, according to the SC, also have legal remedies such as the writs of amparo and habeas data and may seek refuge under the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

“Petitioners failed to satisfy the requisites for the issuance of an injunction. The claims of violation of human rights are speculative and lack nexus between the exercise of martial law powers and their apprehension of such violations,” the Court ruled.

 

The SC received the first petition filed on Dec. 27, 2018, by the minority bloc from Congress led by Lagman together with Representatives Tomasito Villarin, Edgar Erice, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Gary Alejano and Emmanuel Billones.

 

The second petition filed on Jan. 8, 2018 by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and party-list congressmen Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Emmie De Jesus (Gabriela), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan).

 

The third petiton was filed by former Human Rights Commission head Loretta Ann “Etta” Rosales while the fourth petition was filed by a group led by former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod.

 

All petitions stated that the extension, which was approved by Congress in a joint 240-27 vote last December, lacked sufficient factual basis as Marawi City was already liberated and key leaders of the rebellion were reported dead.

 

Last January 17, the high court ended the two-day oral arguments on the four consolidated petitions against the martial law extension in Mindanao.

 

On Dec. 13, 2017, a total of 240 members of Congress voted to approve to extend martial law in Mindanao, while only 27 voted against it. The approved extension would take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2018 until Dec. 31, 2018.

 

In December last year, the high court upheld with finality the constitutionality of Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

 

The SC’s 82-page landmark decision, penned by Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, said that the 1987 Constitution granted Duterte the prerogative to put any part of the country under martial rule.

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(Photo from Facebook | @GwenGarcia3rd)

 

QUEZON CITY/CEBU CITY – The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service of Cebu Congresswoman and Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia for grave misconduct in connection with the purchase of property allegedly partly submerged under water.

 

The Ombudsman directed Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to implement the decision, which carries the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office, cancellation of eligibility, and forfeiture of retirement benefits, a statement from the Ombudsman’s office said.

 

Responding to the order, Garcia, a former governor of Cebu, said the Ombudsman’s decision could have something to do with her active role in the impeachment proceeding against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

 

“Without touching on the merits of the case, the timing is rather suspect. It does seem as though the Ombudsman has singled me out on an act that was done when I was governor several years ago, and you’d wonder whether this was purposely done precisely because as you saw, I am very actively in this impeachment hearing against Chief Justice Sereno,” she said.

 

“Be that as it may, I leave it to the leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as regards that dismissal order,” she added.

 

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the House plenary would decide on the dismissal order.

 

The case stemmed from the purchase of the Balili property in June 2008 when Garcia was Cebu governor.

 

The property, a sprawling 249,246 square meter lot located in Tinaan, Naga, Cebu, was bought for P98,926,800.00. Local authorities later discovered that 196,696 square meters of the property were underwater and part of a mangrove area, the Ombudsman said.

 

In April 2012, the local government conducted a public bidding “for the supply and delivery of backfilling materials and other incidentals of its submerged and mangrove portions.”

 

The project was awarded to Supreme ABF Construction as the lowest calculated and responsive bidder with a total tendered bid of P248.75/cubic meter. Based on the records, the provincial government released a total of P24,468,927.66 to the winning contractor.

 

Upon scrutiny, the Ombudsman found that Garcia had no authority from the Sanguniang Panlalawigan when she entered into contracts with ABF Construction, according to the statement.

 

“While this Office finds merit on her assertion that the P50million allotment for the airport/seaport and other economic enterprise site development program (a capital outlay expenditure that was carried over to the 2012 Annual Budget of the province), was a valid source of appropriation for the Balili project, such appropriation did not validly confer authority to respondent Garcia to enter into a contract with ABF Construction for the Balili project,” the Ombudsman’s office said.

 

“She failed to point out the specific provision in the appropriation ordinance which supposedly authorized her to enter into the contract,” the Ombudsman said in its January 15, 2018 decision,” it added.

 

The Ombudsman also added that “Garcia violated Sections 46 and 47, Chapter 8, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 and Section 86 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines which proscribe entering into a contract unless a certification of appropriation and fund availability for the expenditure is issued.”

 

“It is undisputed that the [certification of available funds] was issued only after the [second] contract was entered into by respondent Garcia.”

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