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MARAWI CITY — The war between the IS-inspired Maute terrorists and government troops in Marawi City may be over soon.

 

This as President Rodrigo Duterte's visited Marawi City for the third time, this time in the main battle area further boosting the morale of fighting troops in the so-called main battle area.

 

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said of the visit:. "The third visit was not just about the Commander-in-Chief in close proximity with the men, it was a seal of his commitment to walk the talk -- literally and figuratively," he added.

 

Although many of his advisers consider the President's second visit to Marawi's Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA) last August 4 to be daring, this time, the Chief Executive went inside the Main Battle Area (MBA) around 4: 20 p.m.

 

"He (Duterte) braved the perils of sniper fires, Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs), and Unexploded Ordnance in the yet to proclaimed 'Cleared' portions of the MBA -- just so he can be with his Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Policemen in the front-lines," the AFP chief stressed.

 

Duterte, in justifying his third visit to Marawi City, said that he wants to show his unity with the Filipino soldiers engaged in neutralizing the terrorist group.

 

"I am here once again to show -- not just say -- my unity with you. That much as you all are willing to die for your country with unquestioning resolve to follow the orders to 'Charge!' coming from your Commander-in-Chief, I am and I can be in the same muddy ground that you now stand; drenched like you under the same rain; and somehow smell like you in this battleground," Año quoted the President as saying.

 

Upon touchdown, Duterte boarded a convoy where he received an informal briefing from Joint Task Force Marawi head Brig. Gen. Rolando Bautista as the vehicles moved around portions of the MBA for grounds inspection up to the foot of Mapandi Bridge -- the site of one of the bloodiest encounters between government security forces and the Daesh-inspired Maute Group.

 

At one point, he alighted from his vehicle, walked towards the Casualty Evacuation Area without bulletproof vests on, and went further to greet and console the wounded soldiers being treated there.

 

He came as close to the fight area after he climbed a sniper position and twice pulled the trigger of a sniper rifle trained on an identified position of terrorists trading shots with military marksmen.

 

Talk-to-the-troops followed at the camp of Task Force Trident under Major Gen. Danilo Pamonag where Duterte handed combat watches, Soldier's Individual Packs, and P5,000 each intended for all the troops in Marawi.

 

"It was not just his physical presence, but his unspoken words that he has the back of his men covered," Año said.

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(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

 

MANILA — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno broke her silence over the impeachment complaint filed against her by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI) before the House of Representatives, stating that she has not done anything wrong.

 

“I have done nothing wrong. Nothing can be proven against me. I have served the country with all faith and diligence,” Sereno said uring the Ulat sa Hudikatura in Cebu.

 

Alam mo 'yan ang masarap sa malinis na konsensya, it [impeachment] does not affect me at all. The work is there. It is enormous. Just imagine. If I take an inordinate amount of time looking at it and being exasperated by those documents, work will not be done so just give it the right attention so that you understand that when the appropriate time comes, you are ready,” Sereno added.

 

Sereno said she does not want to be bothered by impeachment threats because she wants to focus on the various judicial reforms needed to expedite judicial processes.

 

“If I take an inordinate amount of time looking at it and being exasperated by those documents, work will not be done so just give it the right attention so that you understand that when the appropriate time comes, you are ready,” she noted.

 

The Chief Justice said she gives the allegations against her the "right attention" so she could prepare her answers when the right time comes.

 

"But I shouldn't be fazed because I have done nothing wrong. Nothing can be proven against me that will show that the chief justice has betrayed her oath of office. I have served the country with all faith and diligence. I will never waver from that pledge," she stressed.

 

Last August 2, VACC founding chair Dante Jimenez led the filing of the impeachment bid against Sereno on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

 

Jimenez noted in the complaint that Sereno culpably violated the Constitution for the following reasons:

-- issuing an administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and re-opening the Regional Administration Office (RCAO) in Western Visayas in the absence of an authority from the Court en banc;
-- violating the constitutional provision that appointive government officials shall not hold another public post unless provided for by law, in appointing Atty. Solomon Lumba as her staff head. Lumba was a faculty member of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law when he was appointed as Chief Justice staff head;
-- appointing Atty. Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philippine Mediation Center Office Chief by mere memorandum which was not referred to the court en banc for its consideration;
-- granting to members of her staff travel allowances for foreign travel charged to the Supreme Court funds without court en banc approval.

 

VACC also said that Sereno betrayed public trust through “inexcusable negligence”, for sitting on the applications for the vacant posts in the Supreme Court.

 

Lawyer Larry Gadon, on the other hand accused Sereno of living a lavish lifestyle when she purchased a Toyota Land Cruiser worth P5.1 million using public funds.

 

Gadon said Sereno wanted a luxury vehicle on top of her “coterie of security personnel riding in separate vehicles and traffic escorts two motorcycles,” which were also purchased “using Supreme Court funds.”

 

He added that Sereno also uses taxpayers’ money to stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the Philippines and abroad, and flying on business or first class together with her staff and security.

 

But Sereno maintained that she has been living a life of modesty.

 

“I have always lived a life of modesty. I have been prudent in use of the court's resources al the expenses for judicial reform, my travels, my security requirements are all regular and above board. Public docs the records will speak for itself and I have not objected in the public release of the same,” the Chief Justice noted.

 

The SC earlier granted the release of additional documents for the impeachment of Sereno as requested by Gadon, who is set to file the second impeachment complaint.

 

The High Court granted Gadon's plea for the release of 20 documents which shall be used against Sereno impeachment case before the House of Representatives.

 

Among these were Sereno's SALNs since she was appointed to the SC in 2010 and documents pertaining to the purchase of Sereno's luxury service vehicle and to her travels.

 

Last Aug. 10, the VACC has already received the records from the Supreme Court in support of the impeachment complaint filed against Sereno.

 

The SC, in an en banc session last August 8, granted the release of documents, except the copy of the memorandum dated July 10, 2017 issued by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro.

 

The SC also granted the release of Sereno's memorandum for appointment of lawyer Solomon Lumba as her staff head and the subsequent letter of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio withdrawing his signature in the said appointment over an internal issue.

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By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 

(Photo from PCOO)

 

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — President Rodrigo R. Duterte personally showed support to poultry raisers of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija affected by avian flu by joining a boodle fight to assure the people that poultry products from the two provinces are safe to eat.

 

Duterte, along with former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol, Gov. Lilia PIneda and other officials, ate "balut," chicken, quail and "itik.:

 

At the same time, Duterte distributed checks to chicken, quail and duck raisers affected by bird flu as indemnity and assistance for the culling of some 700,000 birds in poultry farms in four towns in the two provinces.

 

In the presence of former Pampanga congresswoman Andrea Domingo, now Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), Mr. Duterte said the assistance to the poultry raisers maybe increased possibly from Pagcor funds.

 

The President also presented citations to soldiers, policemen and other local and national officials who helped in culling the birds and in containing the avian flu before it could spread to other areas.

 

Duterte also assured that the national government will continue its surveillance and vigilance to mitigate the impact of bird flu.

 

Speaking before some 1,000 people from the local government units and poultry raisers, Duterte said Pampanga is not only a factor in food security but part of the food chain.

 

“The efforts and sweat poured in by the Kapampangans play a crucial role in securing the country’s food chain,” the President added.

 

He also pointed out the resiliency of the Kapampangans in these trying times, and that he is confident that the LGUs can contain the avian flu outbreak.

 

The President, together with Secretary  Piñol, awarded an indemnity check to San Luis town worth P20,723,790.

 

He also gave checks to two poultry farm owners from Jaen town, Mary Grace Castro and Manuel Ruiz Luiz, whose poultry farms were depopulated because of the avian flu outbreak.

 

Shortly after the awarding ceremonies, President Duterte, along with Piñol, Governor Pineda, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Bulacan Goveror Willy Alvarado and local chief executives ate chicken, balut, and eggs in a boodle fight here to show the public that poultry products in Pampanga are safe.

 

  Piñol said an opportunity was presented by the crisis brought about by the avian influenza outbreak after a group of German and Colombian engineers committed to provide technology to turn chicken manure to organic fertilizer.

 

He said the group is now establishing a facility for the project.

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MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has disclosed that the family of former president Ferdinand Marcos is willing to “open everything” and “return” to the Philippine government some wealth in question, including a few gold bars.

 

“The Marcoses -- I will not name the spokesman -- sabi nila na they’ll open everything and probably return ‘yung nakita lang,” the President said during his speech after the mass oath-taking of newly-appointed government officials in Malacañang.

 

Sabi nila na, ‘malaki ang deficit mo sa… maybe this year, ang projected deficit spending would be big,’ sabi niya. Baka makatulong. Pero hindi ito malaki,” Duterte said.

 

He said that the deal includes even some gold bars.

 

“But we are ready to open and bring back, sabi niya, ‘pati ‘yung a few gold bars.’ Hindi ganun kalaki, it’s not a Fort Knox, it’s just a few. But sabi nila, isauli nila para walang ano,” Duterte said.

 

The President likewise said that an explanation was given by the Marcoses for the wealth in question and that he was accepting it.

 

“And the only reason really was sabi nila, that the father was protecting the economy. Now, of course, the eventual kung maalis siya. But he was thought of regaining the Malacañan and that is why ganito ang lumabas. Parang naitago,” he said.

 

“I will accept the explanation, whether or not it is true, wala na eh. And they are ready to return. How much, they would give me an accounting,” Duterte said.

 

Duterte said he is now trying to look for a person not identified with any concerned party to handle the negotiations.

 

“So I am now scouting around. I have yet to select the guy para walang duda. Baka sabihin na naman ‘nag-hao-siao,’ there is a back channeling,” he said.

 

“I’m looking at a former Chief Justice. Sila na lang mag-usap. Then another certified public accountant (CPA), and maybe a representative of all that is accepted also by all. Para… So that tatlong tao ‘yan, mag-usap sa kanila,” Duterte said.

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(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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(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)

 

MANILA — The United States (US) has vowed to work with the Philippines to resolve the issue involving the Balangiga bells, which were seized by US troops from a town in Samar 116 years ago.

 

”We will continue to work with our Filipino partners to find a resolution,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement issued following President Rodrigo Duterte's call for US to return the bells.

 

"We are aware that the Bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” it added.

 

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, in his second State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA),, called on the US to return to the Philippines the bells of the Balangiga church.

 

The President said those bells belonged to the Philippines and were part of its national heritage.

 

During the Philippine-American war in 1901, Filipino freedom fighters from the village of Balangiga defended Samar Island from American colonizers, resulting in death of 48 American officers and men and 28 Filipinos.

 

The US troops looted three bells from the burned out Catholic town church, which they took back to the US as war booty.

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(Photo from pcoo.gov)

 

MARAWI CITY (PhilAmPress) – Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of National Defense and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have not made their recommendation on the martial law in Mindanao as the battle against terrorists in Marawi City has not stopped, President Rodrigo Duterte has hinted he is likely to extend the martial rule when it expires on July 22.

 

This developed as the number of fatalities in the Marawi siege which flared up on May 23 has breached 600 as more soldiers and terrorists are killed in the battle.

 

In a related development, a Second Quarter 2017 survey of the Social Weather Station showed that 57 percent of those surveyed support the declaration of martial law in Mindanao but more than six out of 10 oppose expanding it to Visayas and Luzon.

  

The extension of martial law maybe made before the President delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress on July 24, two days before the 60-day martial law decree expires.

 

The 1987 Constitution states that Congress, upon the initiative of the President, “may extend such proclamation [of martial law]or the suspension [of the writ of habeas corpus]for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

 

The Supreme Court in its July 4 ruling that upheld Duterte’s martial law declaration under Proclamation 216, raised the possibility of extending military rule beyond 60 days.

 

While in Iligan City visiting the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, Duterte told reporters that he will not lift martial law in Mindanao before his SONA as the situation in Marawi has remained critical.

 

“No,” the President stressed when asked if martial law would be lifted before his SONA.

 

He reiterated that he would make the decision based on the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other security forces like the DND and the PNP.

 

Duterte said he had consulted with the military and was told that the situation in Marawi City was still“critical.”

 
“I consulted them and said it was critical. Ang magsabi sa akin na hindi na critical, ang Armed Forces pati ang pulis (Only the Armed Forces and the police can tell me if it is no longer critical),” he said.

 

 “So, I have just to rely on the word of the Armed Forces and the police because they are the one keeping this Republic healthy and alive,” he added.

 

“Pag sinabi na nilang wala nang delikado [When they say the situation is no longer delicate] and everything is okay, that’s the time we lift martial law,” he added.

 

The President said that he does not “have an independent study” of the situation on the ground.


 “It’s not my job. And I cannot do it physically even,” he said.

 

PNP chief Director General Ronald de la Rosa, meanwhile, sees the need to extend martial law in Mindanao because the security situation there, particularly in Marawi City, is still critical.

 

De la Rosa and Interior and Local Government Secretary Catalino Cuy briefed some senators on the law and order situation and concerns of local governments in Marawi City. Present during the closed-door briefing were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader


Vicente Sotto III and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II and Joseph Victor Ejercito.

 

President Duterte will meet with members of the Senate majority bloc on July 17, said Sen. Pimentel, adding their agenda would be the “BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) and the entire agenda of the Duterte administration, including martial law in Mindanao.”

 

Meanwhile, President Duterte indicated that he needs 10 to 15 more days to end the crisis in Marawi City, adding he was surprised the terrorists have not run out of weapons and ammunition.

 

"Palagay ko, 10 to 15 days, okay na," he said during the 10th listing anniversary of the Davao-based Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc. at the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati City. "I need 15 more days."

Duterte said he will once again try to go to Marawi City this week after his first two attempts failed due to bad weather. He reiterated that he wants to be with the soldiers while there is still fighting going on.

Echoing Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte said he too was surprised that the Maute group was able to stockpile weapon in the city.

"This is the 45th, 46th day? Hindi maubus-ubos ang [armas], lalo na 'yung grenades," he said.

 

Duterte said he needed to visit Marawi City to check on troops at the frontlines of the government’s battle against pro-ISIS Maute Group fighters in the besieged city. He had already attempted to fly to Marawi twice but each time the weather was not conducive to flying.


“I have to be with the men, the fighting forces of the government. I should show my face there. Hindi naman pwede iyang peace time ka na pumunta,” Duterte said in a brief interview posted on the Facebook page of the Presidential Communications Office.

“Hindi naman na you place yourself in jeopardy, but during the fighting, you should show yourself, that you are one in the desire to protect the Republic,” he added.


“This is the second time. The last time I was not able to go in because also of the weather. Dito naman, ngayon ganoon din nangyari. We were circling many times but we could not penetrate, the weather was really squallid,” he said.


Marawi City has been under siege since May 23, when Maute fighters attacked several key installations in the city. While still in Russia that day, Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao to quell the terrorists rebellion.

 

The AFP has said it would give its recommendation on martial law to the President next week.


Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has previously expressed hope to end the fighting in Marawi in time for Duterte’s second SONA.

 

In the meantime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is already finalizing its recommendations on the possible extension or lifting of martial law.

 

“It’s already being done and in a few days it will be submitted to the (Executive) Secretary for his consideration because he is the administrator of martial law. And that recommendation will make its way up to the Commander-in-Chief who will be provided an advance copy,” AFP Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Resituto Padilla Jr. said during the Mindanao Hour press briefing in Malacañang.

 

He said that the final assessment would be based on whether the rule of law as well as peace and security in most parts of Mindanao had been re-established.

 

The AFP official likewise stressed however that whatever recommendations the military submit, the final decision is up to President Duterte.

 

“The Department of National Defense or the AFP could only recommend, pero ang eventual decision ay kinakailangang manggaling sa political leadership na merong mas malawak na pinag-iisipang o pinagbabatayan ng kanilang desisyon,” Padilla said.

                   
The Supreme Court has upheld Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.


The SWS survey found that 63% of respondents disagreed with the expansion of martial law in the Visayas and only some 23 percent agreed, while 13% were undecided about the matter.


The survey also found that 67% disagreed with the expansion of martial law in Luzon while only 20% agreed, while 13% were undecided.

 

“Extending martial law is the decision of the President which PRRD said would rest on the assessment and the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other stakeholders of the Marawi situation,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

 

His statement was issued following remarks by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who said that he would push for a five-year extension of martial law.

 

“If I can convince my colleagues, I will push for an extension until 2022, because two months is too short. Five months or one year or two years is too short,” Alvarez said Saturday.

 

However, Abella pointed out that the Speaker has already clarified that “his remarks to extend martial law until 2022 is his personal opinion.” Many senators said they oppose Alvarez proposal.

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(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

MANILA (via PhilAmPress) ― The United States continues to stand by the Philippines in the latter’s fight against terrorism and in efforts to fully secure and rebuild the ravaged Marawi City, according to US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim.


Kim made the assurance in remarks at the commemoration of the 241st anniversary of US Independence.

 

“We will continue to stand by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as they courageously fight terrorism to keep this country safe,” Kim told a gathering of diplomats and officials at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

 

He noted the US and the Philippines share common core values.


“And we are proud of the support and President Duterte’s determination to secure and rebuild Marawi,” he said.

 

Earlier, The United States has transferred 12 Ford F-550 trucks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) during a ceremony at Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite.

 

Present at the ceremony last June 29, 2017 were representatives from the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group, as well as Capt. Alfonspin P. Tumanda Jr. and Cmdr. Jim P. Razo, the Commander and Deputy Commander of Philippine NAVSOG, respectively.

 

These trucks will help ease the mobility of the NAVSOG units spread throughout the Philippines including units located in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, and Davao, a US Embassy in Manila statement said.

 

They will also aid in the transport and deployment to critical areas of rigid-hulled inflatable boats that were previously delivered by the U.S. to the AFP, it added.

 

The statement further said through a variety of assistance packages over the past three years, the U.S. has provided the Philippines with over US$200 million of grant assistance to assist our partner forces in building the required capabilities for success.

 

Earlier, the ambassador said the US would continue its assistance to Filipino troops, especially those fighting Maute and Abu Sayyaf militants in Marawi.

 

“Our thoughts are with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the residents of Marawi,” Kim said.

 

“They are going through a very difficult time and I will now assure them that we will continue to support them in any way possible going forward,” he added.

 

“This is a good time to think about and reflect on America and America’s friendship with the Philippines.”

 

US Defense Secretary James Mattis assured the Philippines in his address at a regional security summit in Asia last month that the US remained committed to helping a long-time ally under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

 

The US, he added, was unwavering in its commitment to help in the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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MARAWI CITY/MANILA — Even as the war against terrorists in Marawi City has resumed after an eight-hour truce, President Rodrigo Duterte met Muslim and Mindanao leaders in Malacanang on June 27 to celebrate the Eid’l Fitr, the end of the Muslim Ramadan.

 

During the rites, Duterte, who showed up after six days of absence, stressed anew his promise to the Filipinos that he would secure lasting peace in Mindanao, adding that Marawi City will rise again from the rubbles of the war on the terrorists.

 

"Sabi ko tatapusin ko talaga ito but one thing I will promise you: I will see to it that Marawi will rise as a prosperous city again," Duterte said

 

In his first public speech in six days, the President vowed to release P20 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi, a cultural and trade center located at the heart of mainland Mindanao.

 

"I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. Kailangan ko talaga itayo ang Marawi kasi, kung hindi, I will remain forever a kontrabida," said Duterte, the first Mindanaoan president. (I need a big amount because I will rebuild Marawi. I badly need it because if I fail to rebuild Marawi, I will remain a villain forever.)


“To our brothers and sisters who have been affected by the violence and conflict in Mindanao, I assure you that the government is committed to securing just and lasting peace in the island,” President Duterte said in his speech before an audience of Muslim Filipinos.


The Chief Executive said the military and police remain hard at work to ending the crisis with dispatch, especially in Marawi City.

At the same time, Duterte said the government will continue to support Muslim Filipino scholars like Omar O. Sacar and Abdul Aziz A. Banisil to help improve the capabilities of the country's youth.


Sacar and Banisil are now studying at the Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University in Indonesia. 

Duterte hoped that the two will become part of the next generation of leaders who will help develop and advance their localities towards greater prosperity and progress.

Amid the continuing conflict in Marawi, Duterte said the entire nation stands beside the Muslim Filipino community.


“We will be with you as you rebuild your homes and localities, and as you realize your dreams of a better life,” he said.


Also in his address, the President expressed his sentiments over the misguided goals of the Maute group, which he said are against Filipino values and are only geared towards destroying lives and communities.

 

Duterte said it pains him to see Marawi crumble in the hands of extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which he said was trying to bring an unacceptable ideology into the country.


“Ang masakit sa akin, na pumasok a fractured ideology na hindi naman malaman sila mismo kung ano ang ginagawa. All that they want is to kill and destroy. Paano tayo mabubuhay niyan?” he said.

The President called for national unity as he extended his greetings of peace for the Eid’l Fitr celebration.


“So let us unite to achieve our common goals. With our solidarity and faith in each other, let us make Mindanao and the Philippines a land of order, stability, harmony and prosperity,” he said.

 

The siege in Marawi City began a month ago, when the Maute group, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah, captured parts of the city in an alleged bid to establish an ISIS province in Mindanao. More than 450, mostly suspected terrorists have perished in the siege.

 

The clashes erupted after government troops attempted to arrest Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon in the city on May 23. Hapilon, known as ISIS' anointed leader in Southeast Asia, evaded arrest and has reportedly escaped after weeks of fierce clashes.

 

The conflict prompted Duterte to put the entire Mindanao under martial law, a declaration facing opposition at the Supreme Court.

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Task force created, eyes ex-President Aquino, allies part in PDAF, DAP mess

 

 

MANILA — Promising no selective justice as in the past administration, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has set into motion a new investigation into the multi-billion-peso anomalies involving lawmakers’ pork barrel dubbed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Development Acceleration Program (DAP).

 

Aguirre said present and former legislators and Aquino administration officials who were never investigated on their pork barrel and who may have escaped public scrutiny and the Commission on Audit (CoA) special audit will also be the subject of investigation.

 

Earlier reports indicated that former President Benigno Aquino III, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Senate President Franklin Drilon could be the officials to be investigated.


Last month, Aguirre said during a press briefing that allies of former President Aquino like Senators Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes IV, and  Drilon and former Budget Secretary Abad were implicated in the PDAF scam.

 

Another report indicated former Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II may also be investigated.


Aguirre said lawyer Stephen David, Napoles’ counsel, informed him that Napoles revealed that de Lima, Trillanes, Drilon and Abad were allegedly involved in the anomalous budget program


Aguirre has created a special task force to look into the anomalous multi-billion-peso pork barrel funds. “I have already ordered the reorganization of the Task Force on PDAF cases for the purpose of reinvestigation. I designated Undersecretary Antonio “Richie” Kho as head of the task force,” Aguirre said.

 

Kho’s team is composed of prosecutors and agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), according to the Justice chief.

 

The Justice chief said that the new task force replaced the NBI task force created by former Justice chief and current Senator de Lima, who is now detained on drug trafficking charges.


De Lima’s task force that launched the fact-finding probe on the PDAF scam during the Aquino administration only led to the plunder indictment of opposition personalities.

 

Aguirre said several former Cabinet officials close to former President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III would be among those to be investigated.

 

These officials are not yet off the hook, Aguirre stressed as he vowed that the new task force will rectify the “miscarriage of justice” in the earlier probe conducted by the previous administration.


“Just as it was in the previous investigation, the statements and evidence will be validated through records from relevant implementing agencies and the Commission on Audit,” Aguirre said.


“But this time, we can assure the public that there will be no selective justice - unlike what happened in the previous administration,” the Justice chief vowed.


Aguirre said a new probe into the pork barrel scam was necessary as a result of the “selective justice” applied during the earlier probe, where the investigation centered on only three opposition lawmakers, namely former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the last two still held at the PNP Detention Center in Camp Crame pending their trial.

 

No other senator had been charged with plunder but officials had hinted some senators could face plunder after the investigation.


While a handful of congressional allies of the previous administration were charged, they were charged merely for graft, which is a bailable offense.

 

Aguirre said the new task force will handle the fact-finding probe into the alleged anomalies in the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the unlawfully implemented and controversial budget program of the Aquino administration.


In the case of the DAP filed against Aquino and former budget chief Florencio “Butch” Abad, the Ombudsman, known to protect the former president and his officials, quickly absolved Aquino while merely giving Abad a slap in the wrist. 


The Ombudsman was even quoted by media as saying that Aquino is “corrupt free”even before cases of plunder and corruption against him were investigated.


Aguirre said the panel would also meet with Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David and anti-pork advocate Greco Belgica for gathering of evidence.


The new task force will kick off the probe with the affidavit and documentary evidence to be submitted by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam queen, Aguirre said.

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