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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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By ALFRED G GABOT

 

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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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By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE

 

(Photo from Philippine Star)

 

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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MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's net satisfaction rating among Filipinos rebounds to "Very Good," while his satisfaction score in Mindanao remained "Excellent," the fourth-quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said.

 

In its latest survey, the SWS found that majority or 71 percent of adult Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of this administration, higher by 4 percent than in the previous quarter at 67 percent.

 

The survey showed only 13 percent of Filipinos were unsatisfied, while 15 percent were undecided.

The ratings led to a net satisfaction rating of 58 percent, up from +48 percent (67 percent satisfied, 19 percent dissatisfied) in September 2017 or third quarter.

 

The public opinion polling body also reported in its last quarter survey for 2017 that Duterte got "Very Good" satisfaction scores from all socioeconomic classes, among both men and women, from both urban and rural areas, and from all educational levels.

 

The 10-point jump in the President's satisfaction rating was driven mainly by his 84-percent satisfaction rating in Mindanao, which is classified as "Excellent," followed by "Very Good" satisfaction ratings in Metro Manila, 73 percent; Visayas, 72 percent; and in other parts of Luzon, 64 percent. 

The SWS said Duterte got very good and higher net satisfaction ratings in all areas of the country. In Mindanao, the President's net satisfaction rating remained "Excellent" at 80 percent (84 percent satisfied, 5 percent dissatisfied) in December from a 76-percent net satisfaction in September.

Majority or 76 percent of residents in urban areas were satisfied with the President's job in the last quarter of the year, while his rural net satisfaction reached 68 percent, a seven-point improvement from the previous quarter.

The survey said the President got a "Very Good" grade from among 25-year-olds and above, and "Good" among 18-24-year-olds.


Based on SWS terminology for net satisfaction ratings, 70 percent and above is "Excellent," 50-69 percent is "Very Good," 30-49 percent is "Good," 10-29 percent is "Moderate," +9 to -9 is "Neutral," -10 to -29 percent is "Poor," -30 to -49 "Bad," -50 to -69 "Very Bad," and -70 and below is "Execrable."


The SWS fourth-quarter survey was conducted on December 8-16, 2017

 

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (PhilAmPress) — A new typhoon is expected to hit Mindanao and other areas on the first day of the New Year after Typhoon Vinta (international name: Tembin) dumped rains and unleashed flash floods in many parts of Mindanao that swept away people and houses and set off landslides, leaving 240  people dead and 160 others missing in Mindanao only a couple of days before Christmas.

 

Most of the deaths from "Vinta" were in the hard-hit provinces of Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Iligan City and on the Zamboanga Peninsula. Davao City, hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, was not spared as floods hit the city while the President was having a holiday break in the city.

 

“Vinta” was the latest disaster to hit the Philippines, which is battered by 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon belt one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. Just days ago, typhoon “Urduja” swept the provinces of Biliran, the Leyte and Samar provinces and other parts of the Visayas, Bicol and Southern Tagalog, leaving more than 40 dead and misplaced thousands of people.

 

Meanwhile, agricultural damage from Tropical Depression “Urduja,” which hit some parts of Eastern Visayas and southern Luzon, rose to P1 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

 

Based on latest report, DA Chief for Field Programs Operational Planning Division Christopher Morales said the damage and losses to the agriculture sector caused by Tropical Depression Urduja have already reached P1 billion, affecting a total of 38,973 hectares of agriculture areas in Region 5, 7, 8, and 13 with an estimated losses in volume of production at 23,829 metric tons.

 

On Christmas eve, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of Typhoon Vinta.

 

"I want to offer my prayers to the population of the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines, hit by a storm that has caused numerous victims and destruction," the Pope said in his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

 

"Merciful Lord, take in the souls of the dead and comfort those who are suffering as a result of this calamity. Let's pray for these people," the Pontiff prayed.

 

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By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

 

 

POST-SUMMIT STATEMENT: PRESIDENT TRUMP addresses the media after the 12th East Asia Summit Plenary Session on Nov. 14 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on. (JGLPhotograb from WH.GOV)

 

WASHINGTON (JGL) — President Donald Trump has announced that the United States is providing an additional $14.3-million for the community of Marawi City to address the humanitarian needs of 360,000 displaced persons as a result of the siege in southern Philippines that left more than 1,000 people killed, including 800 militants.

 

In a press statement distributed by the White House to the media on board Air Force One, Mr. Trump said the amount is on top of the $85-M in counterterrorism-related equipment, training and support of the United States to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

 

 

WITH CABINET OFFICIALS: PRESIDENT DUTERTE and members of his cabinet react as U.S. President Donald Trump makes his remarks during the 5th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-US Commemorative Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. Also in photo from right are Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar and Leader of the National League for Democracy, and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (Presidential Photo)

 

Mr. Trump and President Duterte noted that the U.S. has provided approximately $65-M to enhance the Philippines’ maritime security capabilities.

 

Mr. Trump also announced a $2-million support for drug demand reduction programs in the Philippines.

 

During their bilateral talks, President Duterte also thanked President Trump for the delivery of more than $1-billion in United States foreign assistance to the Philippines over the past eight years.

 

President Trump, in turn, thanked President Duterte “for your gracious hospitality, and for all your hard work to make our meetings successful.

 

 

PRESIDENT DUTERTE AT ASEAN SUMMITS: PRESIDENT RODRIGO Roa Duterte is shown at the U.S.-ASEAN, China-ASEAN, ASEAN-Japan Summits, ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with ABAC (APEC Business Advisory Council), and Bilateral Meeting with Japan. (Presidential Photo)

 

“I am honored to represent the United States at this session of the East Asia Summit. Our nation has deep ties, close friendships, and enduring interests across the Indo-Pacific region. Together, we face many challenges and exciting opportunities.

 

“As I stated in my address to the APEC CEO Summit last week and yesterday at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, the United States supports a FREE and OPEN Indo-Pacific, where strong, sovereign, and independent nations control their own destinies.”

 

Mr. Trump urged leaders in the Indo-Pacific region to address four security challenges they are facing, namely, the escalating threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs; unresolved disputes in the South China Sea; terrorism; and several humanitarian crises.

 

He said in his address to the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly last week, North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs threaten the entire world. “I call on all nations to join the United States in ensuring the complete, verifiable, and TOTAL denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

 

“We must continue to implement UN Security Council sanctions, cut off all ties of trade and commerce, end all guest worker flows, and curtail diplomatic ties.”

 

As a rogue regime that threatens the world with nuclear devastation, North Korea has no place in the community of sovereign nations, including in the ASEAN regional forum.

 

On the maritime issue in South China Sea, President Trump said that ensuring regional security will also require all nations to respect freedom of navigation and overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea.

 

“I remain concerned about China’s efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea. The United States supports the peaceful resolution of all territorial disputes.”

 

 

WITH CANADA’S PM TRUDEAU: PRESIDENT RODRIGO Roa Duterte chats with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Canada 40thAnniversary Commemorative Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Nov. 14. (Rey Baniquet/Presidential Photo)

 

He added the United States is closely monitoring the spread of extremism in Southeast Asia, and the growing threat from terrorist groups, including those affiliated with ISIS. “As ISIS loses ground in the battlefield, we must remain vigilant about the threat posed by returning foreign fighters and terrorist operatives – within our borders, and seeking to cross our borders.”

  

He also offered “congratulations to our Filipino friends for liberating Marawi from the grip of ISIS-affiliated terrorists earlier this year – a victory that the United States was glad to help support,” adding, “all nations must deny terrorists financing, territory, and any form of ideological backing.”

 

On the humanitarian issues, Mr. Trump said the U.S. supports efforts to end the violence in Myanmar’s northern Rahkine State, where at least 600,000 people have fled their homes following attacks by vigilantes and security forces.

 

He also wanted to ensure accountability for atrocities committed, and to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of refugees. He welcomes the commitments by the government of Myanmar, and “we are ready to support the implementation of the Rahkine recommendations.”

 

Mr. Trump also expressed concerns against the use of chemical weapons by “state and non-state actors. He noted that this year chemical weapons have been used by Syrian regime and North Korea at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

 

“Alongside Singapore, we have proposed that all members of the East Asia Summit adopt a statement reaffirming our commitment to the elimination and non-proliferation of chemical weapons.

 

“On these and many other issues, the United States is committed to engaging with nations across the Indo-Pacific region in a way that affirms their sovereignty, maintains their independence, promotes self-reliance, and advances their prosperity.” (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

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(Photo from COMELEC)

 

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has named Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Sheriff Abas as the new head of the poll body.

 

Abas’ appointment paper dated November 22, released by Malacañang on Nov. 24, said the new Comelec chief will serve until February 2, 2022.

 

He replaces former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista, who resigned from his post amid allegations of hidden wealth.

 

Abas will need confirmation by the Commission Appointments.

 

Abas, a nephew of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Mohagher Iqbal, was appointed as Comelec commissioner by former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in 2015.

 

Following Bautista’s departure from the poll body, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim was named as acting chairman.

 

In appointing Abas as new poll body chief, Duterte heeded calls for him to appoint an insider to the constitutional body.

 

Before his appointment as Comelec commissioner, Abas was acting Assistant Regional Director of Civil Service Commission in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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