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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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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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MANILA — The House of Representatives has adopted a resolution calling Congress to constitute itself as a constituent assembly (con-ass) to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution toward a shift to federalism.


The Senate, meanwhile, is set to endorse also Con-Ass but the senators insisted they will vote separately with the House.


Members of the House approved via voice voting House Concurrent Resolution No. 9 convening both Houses of Congress into a constituent assembly.


House committee on constitutional amendments chair Roger Mercado said con-ass as a mode for Charter change would only cost P204 million as opposed to a constitutional convention, which would cost up to P11 billion.


Mercado's committee earlier in the day determined the provisions that need to be put up for discussion in the constituent assembly proper.


When asked if voting on Charter change should be done jointly or separately in a constituent assembly, Mercado believes that the House and Senate should vote jointly.


Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution states: “Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by (1) The Congress, upon the vote of three-fourths of all its Members.”


"On the part of the House of Representatives, we are limited to the provision. We cannot make any interpretation other than what is stated in our Constitution," Mercado said.


The proposed federal charter retains the position of the President, who would act as head of state, and introduces the position of a Prime Minister, who would be the head of the government. 

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MANILA – Four petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to nullify the full-year extension up to December 31, 218 of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, including the archipelagic provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.


The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) immediately asked the High Court to dismiss the last three petitions assailing the constitutionality of the full-year extension of martial law in Mindanao after the  court  consolidated all four petitions seeking to declare as unconstitutional the one-year extension given to martial law in Mindanao.


With this consolidation, the SC started conducting oral arguments for all four petitions on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 2 p.m. and will continue on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m.


The OSG  represented the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the oral arguments.


The four consolidated petitions against martial law in Mindanao, filed by the groups of opposition lawmakers led by Albay First District Representative Edcel Lagman, Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, human rights groups and militant groups; former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales; and the group led by Christian Monsod.


Petitioners argued anew that there is no factual basis required by the 1987 Constitution to justify the extension of martial law, claiming that the administration has even admitted that there is no actual rebellion in Mindanao.


The groups cited President Duterte's admission that the government has achieved victory over the ISIS-linked Maute terror group in October last year after a nearly five-month campaign to oust them from Marawi city.


They pointed out that the grounds raised by the executive branch in extending martial law, which was approved by Congress, "do not rise to the level of rebellion that constitutes a threat to public safety as contemplated by the Constitution."


With this, petitioners stressed that the extension order violated the constitutional provisions which only allowed the imposition of martial law when there was actual rebellion or invasion and when the operations of civilian government were substantially impaired that public safety required its declaration.


According to Monsod, the framers of the 1987 Constitution included the martial law provision despite its past horrors because “we want to cover an extraordinary situation. That is why the provision is specific, extraordinary and ultimate.”


"Martial law is supposed to be for exceptional case. We made the window smaller for declaration of martial law. We took away imminent danger, insurrection and the likes," Monsod recalled, who is one of the drafters of the Constitution and member of the 1986 constitutional commission.


Monsod told the SC that its decision in July last year upholding President Duterte's martial law declaration "seems to say that it is a measure of first resort rather than a last resort.”


He also reminded the justices of their duty to review the factual basis of the extension of martial law, arguing that there is no existing rebellion or invasion to justify it.


“You asked your honor why are we relying more on 15 justices rather than 292 Congressmen and 24 Senators [because] that is the essence of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances in our Constitution and there is a vetting process by which the 15 justices are assumed to have the wisdom, experience and the fortitude to stand up to the other powers of government,” Monsod told the high court during the oral argument.


The Office of the Solictor General (OSG) is expected to represent the respondents led by President Rodrigo Duterte in the oral arguments.


Solicitor General Jose Calida already sought the dismissal of the petitions for lack of basis.


“The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress,” Calida said.


“It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension,” he said.


According to Calida, the President requests the martial law extension but it is the Congress that extends martial law, if it finds that invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.


“In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis,” Calida opined.


In a 63-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the three petitions filed by Lumad leader Eufemia Campos Cullamat, human rights groups and militant groups; former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales; and the group led by Christian Monsod, who was one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution must be dismissed due to lack of merit, noting the proclamation of martial law was a matter entirely different from its extension.


“The declaration of martial law is an act of the President. The extension, on the other hand, is the prerogative of the Congress,” Calida said.


“It follows that the judicial review of the proclamation of martial law is different from judicial review of the extension,” he said.


According to Calida, the President requests the martial law extension but it is the Congress that extends martial law, if it finds that invasion or rebellion persists and public safety requires it.


“In view of the presumption of constitutionality accorded to the extension of martial law, it is incumbent upon all the petitioners to overturn the presumption, meaning, show facts that the extension is without basis,” Calida said.


The third petition against the extension of martial rule was filed by former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann "Etta" Rosales, who is a former party-list congresswoman and a lawyer.


Echoing the arguments of the two other petitioners, Rosales said there was no longer factual basis to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao since President Rodrigo Duterte already declared last October that Marawi City — the center of skirmishes between government troops and Islamic State-inspired Maute group — has been liberated.


The High Court ordered the OSG to submit its comment to the second and third petition not later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 13 with the comment to be personally served on counsel for the petitioners.


The parties were directed to submit their respective memorandum not later than 5 p.m. on January 20.


Both the minority bloc from Congress led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, as well as human rights advocates and the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) have earlier maintained that there is no need to extend martial law, especially that the government declared Marawi free from the clutches of IS-inspired groups.


The first petition was filed on Dec. 27 by opposition lawmakers led by Lagman, who asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the challenged re-extension pending adjudication of their petition.


The other petitioners are Reps. Tomasito Villarin, Edgar Erice, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Gary Alejano, and Emmanuel Billones.


The second petition filed on Monday (Jan. 8) by the NUPL and House lawmakers Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), Emmie de Jesus (Gabriela), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan) said the extension would give way to “alarmingly intensified and increased human rights violations” allegedly aimed at “quelling legitimate redress of grievances against the government”.


They said martial law was extended despite government admission that the Marawi siege was over in October last year.


In their 40-page petition, the group asked the SC to compel the respondents to present proof on the factual basis for the extension of Martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.


Monsod was joined by Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene "Kaka" Bag-Ao, Rey Paolo Santiago, Nolasco Ritz Lee Santos III, Marie Hazel Lavitoria, Nicolene Arcaina and Jose Ryan Pelongco.


Named respondents in the fourth petition were Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Rey Guerrero, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

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MANILA — More deaths are being attributed to the use of the controversial Dengvaxia dengue vaccine as the Department of Justice and the Public Attorney's Office continue their investigation and readying appropriate charges.


This developed as, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III revealed Sanofi Pasteur, the pharmaceutical firm who made and sold the vaccine to the Philippines where some 800,000 children were vaccinated has agreed to refund P1.4 billion to the government.


At press time, Sanofil has turned over P1.1 billion in refund, Duque told Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda and provincial officials in a meeting in San Fernando, Pampanga.


Duque, at the same time, assured Pampanga residents of DOH assistance.


Malacanang described as “a step in the right direction” the decision of pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur to refund some P1.4 billion worth of unused Dengvaxia vaccine.


“We welcome that refund but the position of the DOH (Department of Health) is for a full refund. Now, nonetheless, we view this latest step of pharmaceutical company as a step in the right direction,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.


Roque, however, said the refund should not affect the ongoing investigations “which will ultimate determine whether or not there is a criminal culpability on the party of Sanofi.”


The French pharmaceutical firm has reportedly announced it heeded the DOH’s demand to reimburse for the doses of Dengvaxia that were not used by the government in the public vaccination program.


The DOH suspended its dengue vaccination program after Sanofi Pasteur disclosed last November that Dengvaxia could result in severe dengue among those who had not been infected by the dengue virus before receiving the vaccine.


At the time of the disclosure, more than 830,000 public school children had already been vaccinated with Dengvaxia.


Earlier, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III urged the DOH to ask for a full refund of the P3.5 billion used for the entire contract of Dengvaxia vaccine. 

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DAVAO CITY — Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte tendered his resignation as vice mayor of the city during the City Council’s special session Monday, December 25.


The resignation will have to be acted upon by President Duterte or the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government before it becomes effective.


In a short but emotional speech, Vice Mayor Duterte said his decision to resign was due to the numerous issues thrown against him and his family.


The vice mayor cited the issue on the Bureau of Customs as one, and the very public spat he had recently with his daughter from his first wife.


Isabelle Duterte and the vice mayor recently had a public quarrel when the latter berated his daughter in his official Facebook page after Isabelle accused him of hurting somebody.


“When I was growing up my parents never failed to remind me of the value of the time honored principle of delicadeza and this is one of those instances in my life that I need to protect my honor and that of my children,” the Vice mayor said in his statement.


After declaring his resignation, Vice Mayor Duterte readily left the session hall with his sister, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, rushing after him.


The siblings later met at the office of the vice mayor and had a close-door meeting.


For her part, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said that she would support whatever decisions her brother makes. 

She said that based on the law of succession, Councilor Bernard Al-ag will now assume the vice mayoral post while all of Vice Mayor Duterte’s staff will be transferred to the Office of the City Mayor.

Before his resignation, Vice Mayor Duterte presided over the special session of the City Council that approved the resolution declaring a state of calamity in the city due to Tropical Storm Vinta.


“It is a difficult Christmas Day for many Dabawenyos including myself but we are strong and resilient and we shall move forward,” he added.


About 18,600 families were affected by the flooding due to the tropical storm.


At the same session, the City Council also approved the resolution allowing the city mayor to utilize the remaining balance of the city’s calamity fund amounting to P83.4 million to provide assistance to the victims of calamity in the city. 


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