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QUEZON CITY – “The war against illegal drugs is far from over.”



President Rodrigo R. Duterte stressed this in his third and shortest State of the Nation Address (SONA) as he vowed that his administration's drug war will be “as relentless and chilling” as it was the day it began.


“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: the war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos, today, they run [into] billions in peso value,” Duterte said in his opening statements before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Batasan Pambansa Complex.


Duterte said he could only “shudder” at the harm that illegal drugs have caused Filipinos throughout the country, noting that this was the very reason why the drug war will not be set aside. “Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he stressed.


He said drug dealers know the consequences of their criminal acts but still resisted arrest. At the same time, he also hit human rights advocates and church leaders for criticizing his drug war.


Despite protests against the drug war, Duterte said it could not dissuade him from continuing his fight against shabu, cocaine, cannabis, heroine, and other illegal drugs.


“If you think that I can be dissuaded from continuing this fight because of [your] demonstrations, your protests, which I find, by the way, misdirected, then you got it all wrong.


“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives. You worry about the present; I am concerned [about] both the present and the future. I worry about the future because I know what crimes can do to the youth of this country. If not stopped, crimes can make human cesspools of succeeding generations. I will not allow it to happen. Not during my term,” Duterte said.


The President's call came as a Pulse Asia survey showed almost seven out of 10 Filipinos believe that the eradication of illegal drugs is the most important accomplishment of the Duterte administration in the first two years of his term.


The survey, which was conducted from 15 to 21 June, revealed at least 69 percent of the 1,800 respondents considering the President’s anti-drug campaign as the most important achievement of the administration, while fighting criminality came in as second with 50 percent.


Duterte also assured Filipinos the government would intensify its campaign against irresponsible mining nationwide to further protect the environment, so future generations can benefit from the country's natural wealth.


The President warned about implementing stricter environmental protection policies, including prohibiting open-pit mining.


Duterte, at the same time, called on local government units (LGUs) nationwide to prevent environmental degradation in their areas like what happened to top tourist destination Boracay Island in Aklan province.


"I urge LGUs to pro-actively enforce our laws and not wait for us to swoop down on your areas just to do your duty and work," the President said. 


He raised the challenge among the LGUs, citing that the environmental degradation in Boracay reflects the government's negligence in law enforcement in the locality.


The environment provides water, food, and other necessities people need to survive, so enforcing laws protecting this is essential, he stressed.


"Environmental protection and ensuring needs of the people can't be over-emphasized," he said.


The government has closed down Boracay Island for six months beginning April 26 this year to hasten the cleanup and rehabilitation work in the world-famous Philippine beach resort.


Miners, he stressed, must radically improve the way they manage their operations and rehabilitate the areas where they mine.


"To the mining industry, I say this again and maybe for the last time: Do not destroy the environment or compromise our resources," he warned.


The President said the revenue that mining brings the government doesn't justify the environmental destruction from irresponsible mineral extraction.

"Don't just give me taxes. I can get these from other sources," he said, referring to the miners. "But give me what needs to be given to my countrymen."


All Filipinos must benefit from the country's minerals, he noted.


Duterte said irresponsible mining is destroying even the country's aquatic resources, compromising the availability of water and food.


"You can no longer fish in rivers, as these are contaminated," he noted, citing one impact of mine waste's flow into the water bodies.


Also in his SONA, Duterte renewed his vow to end corruption within government describing it as “a leech that it bleeds the government of funds programmed for its infrastructure and other social development projects.”


The President acknowledged that he dismissed several government officials including friends and political supporters, adding that although he valued friendships, “it has its limits.”


Meanwhile, he urged officials to cut red-tape within their agencies and make government services “truly customer friendly.”


“Our people deserve efficient, effective, and responsive government services. They deserve nothing less,” he added.

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MANILA – All investments, except casinos, are still welcome in Boracay, Malacañang said, insisting that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will not allow the construction of a gambling establishment in the top tourist destination.


“I think what the President said is that he will not allow casinos. All other investments are otherwise welcome into Boracay,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.


Macau-based Galaxy Entertainment Group and its Filipino partner, AB Leisure Exponent Inc., earlier revealed a plan to build a USD500-million integrated resort-casino complex on a 23-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc on Boracay Island. Roque explained that Duterte “does not like” casinos because they encouraged certain types of gambling activities.


“The President does not like casinos as a matter of public policy. It is contrary to good morals. It encourages a vice, which is gambling,” Roque said.


Earlier, Roque warned private corporations from proceeding with construction of establishments despite the President’s firm belief that Boracay Island is a forestal and agriculture area.


“I don’t think any private entity should test the political will of the President on the issue of casinos in Boracay. The President has said no, and I would hope they would respect that as part of Executive power,” Roque said.


Despite a private entity being given a provisional license to proceed with construction, Roque described the license as “conditional” and “provisional.”


“It is subject to the happening of conditions which will never be fulfilled because the President has said he will not allow it,” Roque said.


On July 4, Duterte said that he is eyeing the creation of a committee that will identify the land owners of Boracay Island, which is currently undergoing rehabilitation.


Yang (That) Boracay, sinasabi ko (I’m telling you), allow government to clean it. And after that, I will return Boracay to its rightful owners,” Duterte said in an earlier speech.


“Now the problem is how to determine who owns what. There has to be a committee to be fair to everybody. From the local government then from the origins of any title there,” he added.


Upon Duterte’s orders, the government closed Boracay to tourists on April 26. It is set to re-open on October 26. 


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MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is in favor of same-sex civil union, even as the Supreme Court tackles the constitutionality of same-sex marriage in the predominantly Catholic Philippines.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte favors same-sex civil union since it will allow same-sex couples to get the same benefits accorded to heterosexual couples.


“Kung same-sex marriage, pati si presidente tutol. Pero ang (same-sex) union, pabor dyan si presidente para maayos ang ibat ibang aspeto ng pagsamama ng magka-parehong kasarinlan,” Roque said in a press briefing in Maasin, Southern Leyte.

“Even the President is part of the majority in opposing the same sex marriage,” Roque said reporters in a press briefing. 


The Catholic Church has long opposed same-sex marriage in the Philippines, the bastion of Catholicism in Asia, where roughly 80 percent of its 100 million people subscribe to the faith.


“Now, I don’t think the current challenge in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of Article 1 of the Family Code, defining a marriage as between a man and a woman will actually succeed on the basis of the oral arguments conducted,” Roque, inciting the proposed House Bill 6595 or Civil Partnership Act.


“I have a strong feeling that this bill will not pass the Supreme Court. But I could be wrong,” Roque said.


Roque gave this statement in reaction to a Social Weather Stations survey stating that at least 61 percent of Filipinos said they would oppose a bill that would legalize same-sex “civil union” in the country.


 House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez sponsored a bill allowing same-sex civil union in the country.


Proponents of same-sex civil union, including Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, said they opted not to call the process a “marriage” because it has religious connotations which will certainly earn the ire of religious institutions and conservatives.


During the oral arguments at the high court on same-sex marriage, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said same-sex civil union is constitutional, as it is based on the constitutional right to freedom of association.


Carpio noted the Constitution allows two people of the same sex to enter into an agreement regarding property.


Lawyer Jesus Nicardo Falcis III, who described himself in the pleading as “an open and self-identified homosexual,” is urging the high court to declare as unconstitutional Articles 1 and 2 of Executive Order (EO) No. 209, the Family Code of the Philippines, which “define and limit marriage as between man and woman.”


Falcis argued that the assailed provisions in EO No. 209 violate homosexuals’ right “to found a family” as protected under Section 3 (1) of the 1987 Constitution.


He also said these provisions “deprive [him] and other homosexuals the right to liberty without substantive due process of law” and “deny them the equal protection of the laws.”


He further argued that the subject provisions cause lesbian and gay Filipinos to be “relegated to 2nd class citizens.”


Roque said based on the developments in the oral arguments at the high court, the petition will be dismissed.

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(Photo from ABS-CBN News)


TANAUAN CITY, Batangas — Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili who was known for ordering suspected criminals to take "walks of shame" in the city streets and was also originally linked to illegal drugs, was shot dead Monday morning (July 2) while attending the city hall's flag raising ceremony.


Police said an unidentified gunman shot Halili in the chest. The mayor was declared dead on arrival at the CP Reyes Medical Center where he was rushed, according to Calabarzon police director Chief Supt. Edward Carranza.


The gunman may have been positioned in some bushes 150 meters away from the city hall but others theorized the killer may have fired from the City Hall, said Carranza.


Carranza, Calabarzon police director, said no other person was hurt in the shooting.


Authorities estimate that the killer was believed to have used a sniper rifle.


Malacañang immediately denounced Halili's killing and promised to bring the gunman to justice.


Halili was wearing a black suit and a pair of blue jeans during the flag raising ceremony when he was shot.


"Kinokendena po natin itong pagpatay kay Mayor Halili... Sa pamilya at sa mga constituents ni Mayor Halili, bibigyan natin sila ng katarungan. Iimbestigahan, lilitisin ang mga tao na nasa likod ng pagpatay kay mayor (We condemn the killing of Mayor Halili. We will give justice to the family and constituents of Mayor Halili. We will investigate and try the people behind the mayor's killing.)," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.


Roque, however, would not comment on Halili's alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, saying the government's priority is to give justice to the slain mayor's family and his constituents.


"Sa ngayon po siguro makikiramay muna kami sa pamilya ng napaslang na Mayor Halili. Saka na po natin pag-usapan 'yan. May mga panahon po dapat pag-usapan 'yan. Ngayon po'y panahon ng pagdadalamhati at pagbibigay ng pakikiramay," the Palace spokesman said.


“Apparently, tinarget po s’ya [Apparently, he was targeted],” said Gerry Laresma, Tanauan information officer.


Halili made headlines in 2016 when he paraded suspected drug criminals in public.


He, however, was included on the list of high-value drug targets of the police and subjected to "Oplan Tokhang." Halili had denied the allegation that he was involved in narcotics.


In 2017, he lost supervision over the police, along with other officials accused of dabbling with the narcotics trade.


A Facebook Live video by Gerry Yson Laresma, Tanauan City Information Officer, showed Halili standing with other city officials while the national anthem was being played when a gunshot was heard.


The National Police Commission (Napolcom), in an October 30, 2017 resolution, included Halili in the list of five Southern Tagalog mayors whose operational supervision and control over the police were revoked because of their supposed link to narcotics.


The mayor, who paraded in public suspected thieves and drug pushers in his town and was known as the “Duterte of Batangas,” denied the allegation, saying politics was behind Napolcom’s move.


“I am ready to pay one million pesos to this police intelligence officer behind this report linking me to illegal drugs and I will resign as mayor if this report can be supported by evidence,” Halili said during a media forum in November 2017.


In an interview in July 2015, Halili said he admired then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.


Natutuwa kami sa nakita namin sa Davao; may natutunan kami although ‘yong ginagawa nila do’n ginagawa na rin (naman) namin sa Tanauan [We are happy with what we saw in Davao; we learned a few things, but there are policies that we saw there that we have already been implementing in our city],” he said.


Halili won the 2010 and 2013 mayoral polls under the banner of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. He won his third term during the 2016 elections under the Liberal Party.

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Sandiganbayan junks bail plea of Enrile's former chief of staff


(Photo from ABS-CBN News)


QUEZON CITY — The Sandiganbayan has denied the bail petition of plunder accused lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, chief of staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, citing the existence of strong evidence against her.


The decision stressed there is no reason to release Reyes on bail in light of solid evidence against her based on the documents and the testimonies of prosecution witnesses that were presented during the bail hearing which reportedly angered Enrile.


In a television interview, Enrile,  94, reportedly cursed after hearing the anti-graft court's decision.


"What kind of justice do we have in this country. Sayang lang 'yung ginawa namin nang magrebolusyon kami para tumino 'yung bansa na ito. P*tang *na," the former lawmaker said referring to the 1986 People Power Revolution.


Enrile insisted that his former aide is innocent, and added some of those accusing them have already changed their stories, according to an ABS-CBN report. 


"I think that is an unfortunate decision because Atty. Gigi Reyes is innocent of the charges against her. The charges that were filed against us are all based on fabricated evidence," he said


“Since plunder is a capital offense, the grant of bail is therefore discretionary and not a matter of right. In view of the foregoing, this Court finds the evidence against accused-movant Reyes to be strong,” stated the Sandiganbayan third division ruling penned by Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez with Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez concurring.


Reyes is accused of conspiring and facilitating with Enrile, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and long-time Napoles employees Ronald John Lim and Raymund de Asis in allegedly defrauding the government of P172,834,500 representing kickbacks siphoned off from the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).


Enrile was released temporarily from detention by the Supreme Court on humanitarian grounds.


The anti-graft court rejected the argument of Reyes that the testimonies of whistleblowers Marina Sula, Merline Suñas, Benhur Luy, and Ruby Tuason as well as that of Commission on Audit (CoA) Director Susan Garcia were weak to determine her alleged participation in the plunder case.


The ruling stated the testimonies of the whistleblowers should be considered even if Luy, Sula, and Suñas acknowledged that they did not personally meet Reyes in relation to PDAF transactions.


“With the detailed testimonies of the whistleblowers on how the entire scheme took place and despite the extensive cross-examination conducted on them, their testimonies remain trustworthy,” said the ruling.


The magistrates said that the testimony of Tuason that she allegedly personally delivered kickbacks to Reyes damaged her defense.


“This Court …took exceptional note of her (Tuason’s) confirmations that she made deliveries of kickbacks to accused-movant Reyes in the years 2006 to 2009 and that she made these deliveries in coffee shops and restaurants and sometimes in the house of accused-movant Reyes,” stated the Sandigabayan.


“Since plunder is a capital offense, the grant of bail is therefore discretionary and not a matter of right. In view of the foregoing, this Court finds the evidence against accused-movant Reyes to be strong,” the anti-graft division stated.

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is likely to be toppled by the communist rebels by October if you believe statements attributed to Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison.


 Duterte himself said Sison, his former professor, is “dreaming" or hallucinating.”


Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the Armed Forces of the Philippines laughed Sison’s statements, adding that the real reason peace talks with the communists were canceled was that the communist rebels were plotting since 2017 to oust President Duterte by October this year.


The CPP also cast doubt that President  will finish his term.


"In less than two years, he has become isolated domestically and internationally. Thus, there is high probability that Duterte will not be able to complete his six-year term of office and will be forced out of Malacañang by way of a surge in anti-fascist protest actions or some other means," the CPP said in a statement sent to reporters on the day Duterte marks his second year in office.


"Far weaker than the Marcos dictatorship, the US-Duterte regime will likely be ousted in a shorter period of time,” the CPP warned.


The party said the clamor for the President's ouster has been growing daily throughout the country due to his administration's "hostile moves."


“Everyday, the clamor for his ouster grows loud and reverberates across the country. In his drive to accelerate his bureaucrat capitalist plunder and establish his autocratic rule, his regime has exercised hostile moves that subjected the Filipino people to deepening crisis and oppression,” the CPP stressed.


It cited the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, war on drugs, anti-tambay operations, and counterinsurgency operation as among the ways Duterte has antagonized society.


“His regime has attacked the people in almost every level possible. He has alienated himself from the Filipino people, not only with his killing campaign, but also with his corruption in government contracts for infrastructure projects; his refusal to heed the demand of workers for wage increases and to end contractualization; his use of police force to suppress workers strikes; his contempt for millions of homeless people and threats of violence against them; his indifference to the plight of hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers; his narcissism and misogyny; his bigotry against the religious; his war of destruction in Marawi and the continuing military offensives against the Moro people to seize control and establish dominance over the Bangsamoro; and so on,” the CPP said.


In a statement, Lorenzana said during the unilateral ceasefire from 2016 to January 2017, the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front called a People’s Congress during which they created a three-year plan that included the ouster of Duterte if he rejected a coalition government.


Duterte rejected the NDF demand for a coalition government in November 2017, calling it “pure nonsense.”


An ongoing review of all peace documents and agreements showed that they lay the foundation for power-sharing under a coalition government, Lorenzana added.


The Defense chief said the communists used the lull created by the ceasefire and peace talks to regain lost ground and rebuild their base, as well as to obtain the release of top party members who were detained.


“Based on the foregoing deliberate actions of the CPP-NPA-NDF, it is obvious that they are not sincere to talk peace and end the armed conflict. They are employing the revolutionary dual tactics to show semblance of peace but continually conducting violence and terror acts on the ground,” he added.


The communist rebels also failed to agree to the conditions set by Duterte for peace talks to resume, including a stop to its collection of “revolutionary taxes,” which the government brands as extortion. This, he said, showed that the communists were not sincere.


“They [CPP-NPA] have been tagged as a terrorist organization locally and internationally. They had their chance to work for peace when President Duterte appointed four of their members to the Cabinet. But they betrayed the government when they used their positions to advance the CPP’s revolutionary movement,” the DND chief added. 


The Justice Department, meanwhile, has restarted proceedings to declare more than 600 people linked to the CPP and NPA as terrorists.


“We will continue with our petition in the court, unless and until the President and the government peace panel direct us otherwise,” acting Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said following the termination of the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels set last week in The Netherlands.


The DOJ earlier filed before the Manila City Regional Trial Court last March a petition seeking to declare communist leaders and their armed members as terrorists.


The Justice Department submitted to the court a list of over 600 names, including those of CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, and UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, it tagged as terrorists.


Corpuz, a former chairman of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, was named UN special rapporteur in 2014. She decried her inclusion in the list as “baseless, malicious and irresponsible.”


She founded the indigenous peoples' advocacy and research group, Tebtebba Inc., and helped draft the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted by the United Nations in 2007.


Ocampo is facing murder charges in the Manila RTC for his alleged involvement in the murder of suspected military spies in the communist movement in the 1980s.


Also in the listare alleged CPP leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis, former peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni, human rights lawyer and former Baguio City councilor Jose Molintas and Cordillerans Joanna Carino, Windel Farag-ey Bolinget, Sherwin De Vera, Beverly Sakongan Longid and Jeannette Ribaya Cawiding.


The petition was filed following the termination of the peace talks between the government and the CPP in November last year.


“The CPP and NPA are merely buying time by deceiving the Philippine government in entering into peace talks, while their main purpose is to mobilize all their forces in preparation for the people’s war aimed at overthrowing the duly constituted authority, seizing control of the Philippine government and imposing a totalitarian regime,” the DOJ petition stated.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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(Photo from Manila Bulletin)


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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