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DUTERTE APPEALS FOR PEACE, UNITY OF THE COUNTRY AS HE LED THE LIGHTING OF PALACE XMAS TREE
(“I plead for the unity of the country, that we shall be freed of the communal wars. I plead for the next generation that there will be Filipinos able, competent, healthy, and good,” said the President.)
[ON WORLD's HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Sans Duterte mouth, HR a priority — Palace]


DECEMBER 7 -Duterte turns on Christmas lights in Malacañang Uploaded on Dec 06, 2016 11:32 am President Rodrigo Duterte joins the Mandaluyong Children's Choir as they sing Christmas carols after the President led the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Palace grounds on Monday, December 5, 2016. King Rodriguez/PPD
Amid so many issues facing the nation, President Duterte appealed for unity and peace this Yuletide season. He issued his call as he led the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Malacañang grounds Monday. In his speech, Duterte said the government would work hard to fulfill his campaign promise of bringing lasting peace in the country, stamping out corruption, and ending the illicit drugs trade. “I plead for the unity of the country, that we shall be freed of the communal wars. I plead for the next generation that there will be Filipinos able, competent, healthy, and good,” said the President. READ MORE..RELATED, WORLD's UMAN RIGHTS DAY: Sans Duterte mouth, HR a priority — Palace...

ALSO: Now friends, Trump invites Rody to coffee
[RELATED: Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year]
[RELATED(2): US senator's bill targets China aggression in South China Sea]


DECEMBER 8 -Time magazine has picked US president-elect Donald Trump as its Person of the Year. Trump described it as a ‘great honor’ but took exception to its description of him as the ‘president of the divided states of America.’ 
After his animosity toward UP President Barack Obama, President Duterte considers the incoming American leader a “friend.” Duterte said yesterday that US president-elect Donald Trump invited him to have coffee when they spoke by phone last week. “When you come to Washington and New York, look me up. Let’s have coffee,” Duterte quoted Trump as saying. Duterte said Trump wants to improve the strained ties between the Philippines and the US under his watch. READ MORE..RELATED, Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year..RELATED(2),
US senator's bill targets China aggression in South China Sea...

ALSO: Duterte does not condone EJKs - Palace
[ALSO US mouthpiece: Frayed ties under DU30 ‘improving’]


DECEMBER 11 -A masked protester displays a placard as they gather for a rally on Mendiola Bridge in Manila to mark International Human Rights Day yesterday. The protesters called on the government to end extrajudicial killings in the country. AP
Despite growing concerns over rampant rights abuses in President Duterte’s violent war on criminality, the government is one with the international community in observing International Human Rights Day, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said the administration is not tolerating extrajudicial killings, contrary to reports in international media regarding the rising number of deaths in the conduct of Duterte’s war on drugs. “Yes, we are one with all the Filipino people and all those celebrating worldwide Human Rights Day – we (do not) condone human rights violations and we are against any extrajudicial killings,” Banaag said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan. READ...RELATED, US mouthpiece: Frayed ties under DU30 ‘improving’...

ALSO: Abu Sayyaf kidnapping leader killed in Sabah
[RELATED: Top leader of Daesh-linked terrorists killed in eastern Malaysia]


DECEMBER 10 -Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in an encounter with Malaysian security forces in Lahat Datu, Sabah on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Philstar.com/Bing Maps
ZAMBOANGA — A leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, believed to have orchestrated the kidnapping of four Samal Island tourists, and two of his cohorts were killed in an encounter in a district of Sabah on Thursday, the military said. Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said two other suspects went missing and two were captured during the shootout between the Malaysian authorities and the Abu Sayyaf group in Lahad Datu. The military official said security forces in Sabah were preventing the Abu Sayyaf members from staging another abduction. "The speedboat utilized by the Abu Sayyaf members was sunk during the fight," Tan said. READ MORE...RELATED,
Top leader of Daesh-linked terrorists killed in eastern Malaysia...

ALSO: UK pushes for intelligence-based probes in PH drug war
RELATED: Human Rights chief decries quick fixes over justice in drug killings]


DECEMBER 10 -British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmed and Minister for Asia-Pacific Alok Sharma discuss UK-Philippines trade relations, prosperity and security. Sharma was in Manila from December 3 to 7. British Embassy/Released
MANILA, Philippines — A senior British diplomat raised concern over the rising number of deaths under investigation and urged the Philippines to conduct proper investigations in the so-called war on drugs. Alok Sharma, the United Kingdom's minister for Asia Pacific, said he expressed the UK's position on how to address the narcotics problem in a recent discussion with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, admitting that the two countries have different views on the issue. "Our view, which I expressed, is that the best way of dealing with this is through investigations which are intelligence-based with the view of cutting of supply of both funds and narcotics," Sharma said in a video released by the British Embassy in Manila. He said the rule of law is "absolutely sacrosanct" in crime prevention efforts as it is essential to prosperity. READ MORE...RELATED, Rights chief decries quick fixes over justice in drug killings...

ALSO: UN warns Phl Congress - Restoring death penalty against pact [RELATED: Bishop calls for prayer rally vs death penalty]


DECEMBER 8 -SCREEN SNIPPET
The United Nations' top official for human rights has written an open letter to the leaders of Congress in the Philippines expressing concern over measures pending in the legislature to restore the death penalty. In a letter dated December 6 addressed to both Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the Philippines "would violate its obligations under international human rights law if it reintroduced the death penalty." Al Hussein noted that the Philippines, in 2007, ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees that no one can be executed within the jurisdiction of the country. "International law does not permit a State that has ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to denounce it or withdraw from it," he said, adding that a clause allowing countries to withdraw was "deliberately omitted" so that they would not be able to reintroduce capital punishment after ratifying the agreement. READ MORE...RELATED,
Bishop calls for prayer rally vs death penalty

ALSO: PHILSTAR EDITORIAL - A commitment vs corruption


DECEMBER 9 -In 2003, the United Nations recognized the adverse effects of corruption on sustainable development, the rule of law and democracy. The recognition of the problem led to the approval by the UN on Dec. 9, 2003 of the Convention Against Corruption, the first such instrument that is legally binding around the world.
Since the convention went into force on Dec. 14, 2005, 140 of the 180 parties have become signatories. These include the Philippines, which ratified the pact on Nov. 8, 2006, becoming the second country in Southeast Asia and the fifth in Asia to do so. The convention commits signatories to undertake preventive measures against graft, criminalize a broad range of acts of corruption as well as cooperate with the international community in fighting the problem and in recovering ill-gotten assets of crooked individuals. Public officials must be reminded of these commitments as the nation joins the world in marking the anniversary of the signing of the convention today. READ MORE...


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Duterte turns on Christmas lights in Malacañang Uploaded on Dec 06, 2016 11:32 am President Rodrigo Duterte joins the Mandaluyong Children's Choir as they sing Christmas carols after the President led the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Palace grounds on Monday, December 5, 2016. King Rodriguez/PPD

MANILA, DECEMBER 12, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN) December 7, 2016 by Elena L. Aben - Amid so many issues facing the nation, President Duterte appealed for unity and peace this Yuletide season. He issued his call as he led the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Malacañang grounds Monday.

In his speech, Duterte said the government would work hard to fulfill his campaign promise of bringing lasting peace in the country, stamping out corruption, and ending the illicit drugs trade.

“I plead for the unity of the country, that we shall be freed of the communal wars. I plead for the next generation that there will be Filipinos able, competent, healthy, and good,” said the President.

READ MORE...


THE ‘REBOOT’ — President Duterte shakes the hand of United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim, marking what many political observers view as a ‘reboot’ or beginning of a renewal in warm ties between the two countries yesterday at Malacañang. (Richard V. Viñas | Manila Bulletin)

“I plead for peace so that our citizens can move around anytime of the day or night. And I ask everybody in government that together we will stop corruption,” he added.

He stressed that law-abiding citizens in the country will be protected and he will not stop until he puts an end to the problem of illegal drugs.“My orders are: Destroy the apparatus that has really damaged the Republic of the Philippines,” he said. The drug menace has produced four million Filipino addicts, he said.

OPTIMISTIC ON PEACE PROCESS

On the decades-old communist insurgency in the country, the President expressed optimism about the peace process with the left, saying that the government negotiating team “will not really abandon the things that we all crave for our country.”

Duterte said the government is also pursuing peace negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The MILF has shown its sincerity to talk to us about peace. NurMisuari chooses to be different. But he has said that he will work with us in government to find peace,” he added. Misuari is the founding chairman of the MNLF.

“So maligaya ako except for the extremists actually. That would really be a danger to our country in the days to come,” he said. The Maute group, he said, occupied government buildings in Butig, Lanao del Sur, and raised the flag of the Islamic State.

MO WAGING WAR: 'I DO NOT WANT TO KILL'

The President said the last thing he would want to do is to wage war against the local terror group, speciallysince they are also Filipinos.

“Ako, sabi ko, I really do not want to fight. More than that, I do not want to kill. It is not a good thing to be killing people. We cannot build a country over the bones of our fellow countrymen,” he said.

“What is really very disheartening is you would see Filipinos killing each other… It’s not something that I would want in my country, especially that I am the president of this Republic,” the President added.

The administration, he said, will try to prospect for things that would end hostilities and restore peace and stability in the region.

“Sana lang naman, makinig sila… Naghahanap kami ng paraan para ma-accommodate kayo. And if they just hang on to that promise that we are looking below and above ground for a compromise and all of these things,” the President said.

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RELATED FROM THE TRIBUNE

AS WORLD MARKS HUMAN RIGHTS DAY:  Sans Duterte mouth, HR a priority — Palace Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 11 December 2016 00:00 By Ted Tuvera and Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

On Human Rights Day, the Palace said despite international concerns on President Duterte’s war on drugs, the so-called practice of “extrajudicial killings” is not part of state policy and civil rights remain a priority of the Duterte administration.

Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said that the government remains to value human rights contrary to the international misperception created by Mr. Duterte’s no nonsense “Punisher” image that was reinforced by the more than 4,000 deaths thus far in the six months of the war on drugs.

“We (do not) condone any human rights violations and we are against any extrajudicial killings,” Banaag said as the world commemorates the annual International Human Rights Day marked by the 68th anniversary of the United Nations’ (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III, one of the heads of the Departments’ Independent human rights probe committee, also presented data last Friday that of the 25 cases of police operations against illegal drugs being investigated, two to five percent were classified as unsolved.“Indicatively, there’s no massive human rights violations committed in the 25 cases being probed.” He said.

He said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) probe on allegations of extra-judicial killings in the war on drugs concluded that no massive human rights violation existed but he said the probe remains to be concluded.

“All police actions on criminal acts fall under our civil or local laws.” Densing said.

He also said the 23 cases matched police reports while two vague cases will be subjected for re-investigation.
Densing said the DILG will put up a human rights project management committee that will pursue the monitoring of impending cases with possible human rights violations.

Police to use body cameras

The DILG also recommended the creation of PNP manual and use of body camera to lessen possibilities of human rights violations in police operations.

“What we are also trying to do is to improve the image of our policemen and to make them trustworthy, honest and transparent,” he said.

“This is to also help the President to uphold his pronouncements on human rights and that human rights must work in this country to uplift human dignity,” he added.

DE LIMA

Duterte’s main critic Sen. Leila de Lima launched a stinging criticism on the DILG findings saying it was an insult to the Filipinos and “a big denial to the glaring increase of killings amid the anti-drugs campaign.”

De Lima said the results of the DILG’s independent probe is an “insult” not only to human rights workers but also to the Filipino people at a time when the Philippines joins the international community in the observance of Human Rights Day.

Latest reports showed at least 3,841 official drug-related deaths classified as summary executions have been recorded since Mr. Duterte waged his war on drugs.

Official data also showed more than 5,000 people have been killed since the start of the campaign against illegal drugs.

Philippine National Police (PNP) figures indicated 3,000 of these killings were listed as deaths under investigations.

De Lima said that “no one can deny these daily killings, and the criminals are getting bolder and bolder each day.”
“To say there are no massive human rights violations is like telling us we do not have a traffic problem in the country,” she added.

She stressed that “like the traffic problem, our people are outraged at these continued killings done in the name of government’s all-out war against drugs.”

De Lima said the DILG seems unaware of the Revised PNP Operational Procedures promulgated in 2013.

She noted it as a “shocking” fact since “our policemen should know this manual of operations by heart so that they will learn to respect the human rights and dignity of all suspected offenders during police operations at all times.”
Official data: 5,869 drugs war deaths

Under President Duterte – who is often irked by the UN and human rights activists for reminding him to avoid his penchant for killing – the Philippine National Police (PNP) has reported a total of 5,869 deaths attributed to the narcotics crackdown since July 1; 2,028 in legitimate state-sanctioned operations as of December 3 and 3,841 extrajudicial or vigilante-style of killings as of November 30.

PALACE

Banaag however refused to talk in behalf of the PNP about the death toll but assured the public that state forces are investigating all reported crimes.

“It would be best for the PNP to comment on matters about the killing incidents since they’re the ones investigating them. Of course, the President would like that,” she said.

“Anything that is related to any crimes committed in our country is being investigated by our PNP,” Banaag added.

DUTERTE DEFIANT

Irreverent and defiant to demands from human rights groups, Mr. Duterte, in a speech at the Palace last November 28, warned that he might as well get rights advocates killed if the drug trade worsens because of their opposition to his methods.

“The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them: ‘OK. Let’s stop.’ But if we’ll let them (drug traffickers) multiply so that when it’s harvest time, more people will die,” Duterte said.

“I might include you then because you are the reason why their numbers swell,” he added jokingly.

Just recently, the UN High Commission for Human Rights called on the Philippine government to refraining to subscribe to the Chief Executive’s initiative to revive death penalty.

In an open letter addressed to Legislative branch leaders Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Speaker Alvarez, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein appealed for their commitment “to uphold the international human rights obligations of the Philippines and maintain the abolition of the death penalty.”

Zeid warned that should the Philippines reintroduce the death penalty, it “would violate its obligations under international human rights law.”

He reiterated that the Philippine government has already passed Republic Act (RA) 9346 that abolishes the use of capital punishment.

The death penalty was abolished in the 1987 Constitution, but was reinstated through RA 7659. In June 2006, the Arroyo administration, with RA 9346, abolished the death penalty in the Philippines by repealing RA 7659.

Meanwhile, since most victims of recent extrajudicial killings belong to the urban poor sector, the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP) launched a rights and welfare desk yesterday on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

“We cannot proceed with development without addressing the political and economic rights of the urban poor,” PCUP chairman Terry Ridon said in a statement.


PHILSTAR

Now friends, Trump invites Rody to coffee By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 8, 2016 - 12:00am 0 6 googleplus0 0


SCREENCAPTURE: Time magazine has picked US president-elect Donald Trump as its Person of the Year. Trump described it as a ‘great honor’ but took exception to its description of him as the ‘president of the divided states of America.’

MANILA, Philippines – After his animosity toward UP President Barack Obama, President Duterte considers the incoming American leader a “friend.”

Duterte said yesterday that US president-elect Donald Trump invited him to have coffee when they spoke by phone last week.

“When you come to Washington and New York, look me up. Let’s have coffee,” Duterte quoted Trump as saying.

Duterte said Trump wants to improve the strained ties between the Philippines and the US under his watch.

READ MORE...

“Here comes Trump, we had a talk. He said: ‘Mister President, good evening, oh President Duterte. We should fix our bad relations. We should set something good here. You’re doing great,’” Duterte said during an event of the United Nations Convention against Corruption at Malacanang.

“Trump, at least, he’s now my friend,” the President said.

Duterte said Trump had expressed support for his intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

“I know you’re worried about Americans criticizing you. Go ahead,” the President quoted Trump as saying.

Duterte said Trump had also narrated to him how he won the US presidential race even if the mainstream media was against him.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year 0 SHARES Share it! Published December 8, 2016, 11:55 AM By Associated Press


U.S. President-elect Donald Trump poses on the cover of Time Magazine after being named its person of the year, in a picture provided by the publication in New York December 7, 2016. Time Magazine/Handout via REUTERS | mb.com.ph

Time magazine on Wednesday, December 7 named Donald Trump its Person of the Year, bestowing what the president-elect called an “honor” even as he derided the idea that he’ll lead “the Divided States of America.”

That was a reference to Time’s cover line—“Donald Trump: President of the Divided States of America”—that was positioned next to the cover photograph of the president-elect sitting in his private residence at Trump Tower.

“I didn’t divide ‘em,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show. “We’re going to put it back together and we’re going to have a country that’s very well-healed.”

Time editor Nancy Gibbs said the publication’s choice was a “straightforward” choice of the person who has had the greatest influence on events “for better or worse.”

Trump climbed from fiery underdog in the race for the GOP presidential nomination to winning the White House and defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election. Trump won 306 electoral votes, easily enough to make him president when the electors meet on Dec. 19. Clinton won the popular vote.

He won in part by articulating in blunt, populist terms the racial, economic and other factors that divide Americans, many of whom have not felt the nation’s recovery from recession. Trump stomped campaign traditions and social norms, including by insulting women, Muslims, Republican leaders, a reporter with disabilities and more. He also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and last week irritated China and broke diplomatic norms by speaking by phone with the leader of Taiwan.

“When have we ever seen a single individual who has so defied expectations, broken the rules, violated norms, beaten not one but two political parties on the way to winning an election that he entered with 100-to-1 odds against him?” Gibbs said.

Clinton was the No. 2 finalist, Gibbs said. She said Clinton “came closer than any woman ever has to winning the White House, and in the process revealed, I think, both the opportunities and the obstacles that women face in the public square.”

“The Hackers,” ranked after Clinton. Gibbs said that referred to “a new cyber security threat we saw this year of state-sponsored hackers looking to delegitimize an American election.” She said this was “something new this year and something very disturbing.”

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RELATED(2) FROM PHILSTAR

US senator's bill targets China aggression in South China Sea By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated December 10, 2016 - 3:45pm 3 96 googleplus2 0


Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a bill seeking sanctions for individuals and states that will aid aggression in the disputed South China Sea. AP/file

MANILA, Philippines — Florida lawmaker Marco Rubio introduced at the United States Senate a proposed bill seeking to sanction Chinese individuals and entities that participate in "illegitimate operations" in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

In a statement earlier this month, Rubio said the security of US allies in the western Pacific "cannot be endangered by Beijing's ongoing flagrant violations of international norms in its pursuit of dominance in the South China Sea and East China Sea."

"China's aggressive actions in the South China Sea are illegitimate and threaten the region's security and American commerce, with reverberations that can be felt here at home, including Florida's ports and throughout our state's shipping and cargo economy," Rubio, a Republican senator, said.

He said the US should take concrete steps through his proposed South China Sea and East China Sea Sanctions Act to hold violations of international norms accountable as the world depends on freedom of navigation and overlight in the disputed waterway.

"Consistent with international law, China should not be allowed to interfere in any way with the free use of the waters and airspace in the South China Sea and East China Sea by civilian and military ships and aircraft of all countries," Rubio said.

The Philippines, a close US ally, has long been embroiled in a row with China and some of its neighbors over overlapping territorial and maritime claims. In June, an arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea favored the Philippines in its decision and dismissed China's nine-dash line claim.

Rubio's bill, once a law, will require the US president to impose sanctions and prohibit visas for Chinese who contribute to construction or development projects or threaten peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The act also imposes sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct transactions with sanctioned individuals if China "takes certains" actions such as declaring an air defense identification zone on Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines calls Panatag Shoal.

The legislation also seeks to prohibit the publication of documents portraying the South China and East China Seas as part of China.

Even foreign countries that openly support China's claims will receive only restricted assistance from the US once the bill is passed.


PHILSTAR

Palace: We don’t condone EJKs By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 11, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


A masked protester displays a placard as they gather for a rally on Mendiola Bridge in Manila to mark International Human Rights Day yesterday. The protesters called on the government to end extrajudicial killings in the country. AP

MANILA, Philippines - Despite growing concerns over rampant rights abuses in President Duterte’s violent war on criminality, the government is one with the international community in observing International Human Rights Day, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said the administration is not tolerating extrajudicial killings, contrary to reports in international media regarding the rising number of deaths in the conduct of Duterte’s war on drugs.

“Yes, we are one with all the Filipino people and all those celebrating worldwide Human Rights Day – we (do not) condone human rights violations and we are against any extrajudicial killings,” Banaag said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

READ MORE...

She also said President Duterte and his Cabinet are continuously working to make lives better for the Filipino people as proven by the all-time high consumer confidence index, improving peace and order and the honest-to-goodness campaign against corruption.

“That is so true that this government, this administration, the President is working so hard and it is not all about the drug war, it is all about a lot of things that the President is concerned about and especially so, alleviating the plight of the Filipino people,” she pointed out.

Banaag also underscored the need for the people to look at the more positive developments happening under the barely six-month-old administration rather than focus on the issues brought about by the President’s vicious campaign against drugs.

“This is what we can see if we focus on the good side, specially now that it is Christmas season, right? That there are many developments in the country, which are subject of the President’s priorities,” she said.

“All sectors in the government are working and doing their best to improve the country, and these are shown in impressions of our fellow countrymen and the positive outlook of the business sector in our country,” Banaag added.

NEW RECORD CONFIDENCE INDEX

On Friday, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said results of the latest quarter Consumer Expectation Survey (CES) showed a new record confidence index of 9.2 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous 2.5 percent in the third quarter.

“This is the second consecutive quarter that consumer confidence registered a positive reading, indicating that the number of households with optimistic views increased and outnumbered those with pessimistic views,” Guinigundo said.

He said the confidence index had been in the negative territory since the CES was launched in the first quarter of 2007. It only turned positive in the third quarter of this year.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and set its observance every Dec.10 in 1950 through resolution 423.

For this year, Human Rights Day is a reaffirmation of “our common humanity” and for everyone to stand up for the rights of others – in the streets, in schools, public transport, and on social media.

“It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence,” the UN said on its website.

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ALSO FROM THE TRIBUNE

US mouthpiece: Frayed ties under DU30 ‘improving’ Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 11 December 2016 00:00



Relations between the United States and one of its oldest allies, the Philippines, show signs of returning to normal after a crisis in September when the president in Manila demanded Washington withdraw military support and talked of a deeper break in ties with the superpower, the Voice of America (VoA), which is a media outfit owned by the US government said yesterday.

The US government mouthpiece noted that US President-elect Donald Trump congratulated President Duterte in a call this month on his deadly campaign to squelch the drug trade.

“The government of US President Barack Obama had angered Duterte, who took office in June, by criticizing the effort because of suspected extrajudicial killings,” it added.

Trump also invited Duterte to visit the White House, part of a chain of overtures to traditional US allies in Asia, including Japan.

The VoA confirmation of the invitation settled speculations about Trump not extending any such offer to Mr. Duterte as some reports indicated that the phone conversation between both were misread.

“What Trump is doing is trying to (take back) the ground that the US has lost in the last phase of the Obama presidency and strengthen partnerships and alliances that the US already has in the region,” thereport said quoting Fabrizio Bozzato, an associate researcher specialized in international affairs at Tamkang University in Taiwan.

New U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim addresses the media shortly upon arrival, Dec. 1, 2016, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines.



The Palace also recently cited a “fruitful” one-hour discussion between Duterte and new U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim this week.

The VoA report said that in a Facebook video posted by the U.S. embassy in Manila, Kim called the encounter terrific and said it covered a range of issues.

“My hope and my plan and my commitment is to make sure to strengthen and deepen all aspects of our relationship, so I think you can expect the relationship will continue to grow,” he said.

Last September, Mr. Duterte called Obama a son a bitch while suggesting in China that he intends to “severe” economic and military ties with the US. He also demanded that US military personnel leave the country.
Manila has been one of Washington’s chief Asian allies since the two sides signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951.
Since 2002, 50 to 100 American advisers have worked in Mindanao to help keep Muslim rebels in check, the report said.

“Since the two sides signed an agreement in 2014, American naval personnel have visited to help the country watch for Chinese ships in contested waters,” it added.

VoA raises work visas

The report added that “the United States, a former colonizer of the Philippines, also gives many work visas to Filipinos and was the country’s No. 2 source of foreign direct investment after Japan in 2013.”

Analysts expect the upswing in ties to continue. Duterte has not scrapped any agreements with the United States, and the two sides weathered an even deeper falling out in the early 1990s with the closure of two U.S. military bases, the report quoted Christian de Guzman, vice president and senior credit officer with Moody’s in Singapore.
“They’ve gone through rough patches before, and by no means do we think that the rough patch between Duterte and latter months of the Obama administration was the roughest,” de Guzman said.

“Duterte’s objective was never to completely shift to China and abandon the kind of relationship the Philippines have had with the U.S. for decades,” Bozzato said. “Rather Duterte is trying to balance between China and the U.S. in order to maximize the kind of aid or political support he can get from both of the big guys in the region.”
Strong Philippine-U.S. ties should bring factory investment from American companies, said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist with Banco de Oro UniBank in Metro Manila.

“The warming relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines could create that new spark similarly to that of President Ramos during his term,” Ravelas said. “His relationship with the U.S. was strong, and it was during those times you had seen the likes of FedEx being here in the Philippines,” he added.

But experts warn that the Philippines should brace for more protectionist trade and investment policies under Trump, the report said.

Those policies might make it harder for people in the still largely impoverished country to get U.S. work visas and discourage American firms from using offshore bases such as call centers, a driver for the fast-growing Philippine economy.

About 1.8 million Filipinos work in the United States, sending back a major chunk of the $20 billion-plus in remittances from other countries each year.

The Philippine call center industry began in 2004 with an American investor and has expanded to employ about 1 million people, with expected revenues of $25 billion in 2016.

“I think that the source of concern in financial markets at the moment is Trump economic policy,” de Guzman said. “He says he may have incentives or disincentives for American companies looking to offshore jobs or place overseas investment,” he added.


PHILSTAR

Abu Sayyaf kidnapping leader killed in Sabah By Roel Pareño (philstar.com) | Updated December 10, 2016 - 6:15pm 18 945 googleplus1 0


Abu Sayyaf gunmen were killed in an encounter with Malaysian security forces in Lahat Datu, Sabah on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Philstar.com/Bing Maps

ZAMBOANGA — A leader of the Abu Sayyaf group, believed to have orchestrated the kidnapping of four Samal Island tourists, and two of his cohorts were killed in an encounter in a district of Sabah on Thursday, the military said.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said two other suspects went missing and two were captured during the shootout between the Malaysian authorities and the Abu Sayyaf group in Lahad Datu.

The military official said security forces in Sabah were preventing the Abu Sayyaf members from staging another abduction.

"The speedboat utilized by the Abu Sayyaf members was sunk during the fight," Tan said.

READ MORE...

He said that based on the validation of Westmincom with its Malaysian counterpart, the shootout resulted in the killing of Abraham Hamid, suspected to be the leader of the Samal kidnapping incident.

The military said Hamid could have been involved in the kidnapping of Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall's Filipino girlfriend Maritess Flor on Sept. 21, 2015 at the Ocean View Resort in Camudmud, Samal City, Davao del Sur before they were brought to Sulu as captives.

The two Canadians were beheaded after their families and government failed to pay the P100-million ransom each, while Flor and Sekkingstad were freed allegedly on payment of huge ransom. This is despite the Philippine government's no-ransom policy for captives of militant groups.

Tan said Hamid was also tagged in the kidnapping of for Indonesian crew members of Tugboat Henry earlier this year.

During the shootout in Lahad Datu, Malaysian authorities also captured Abu Sayyaf members Samsung Aljan and Awal Hajal.

Tan said Westmincom described the death of Hamid as a big blow to the Abu Sayyaf group.

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RELATED FROM PRESS TV ASIA PACIFIC

Top leader of Daesh-linked terrorists killed in eastern Malaysia Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:42PM HomeAsia-PacificMore


The file photo shows Malaysian security forces.

Security forces in Malaysia have killed a senior leader of the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Takfiri terrorist group in a shootout off the coast of the eastern province of Sabah on the island of Borneo, the Philippine military says.

The death of Abraham Hamid is "a big blow" to Abu Sayyaf, said Philippine regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan on Saturday.

"…it neutralized one of the notorious bandits and will degrade their capability for spotting and kidnapping victims in the future," the spokesman added.

He went on to say that two other terrorists had also been killed alongside Hamid in the gun battle with Malaysian police off the town of Lahad Datu in Tawau Division in the eastern parts of the province on Thursday night. Two more militants were also arrested in the incident.

The militants had kidnapped skippers of two fishing boats when they were confronted by Malaysian security forces. The confrontation lasted some 20 minutes. Search continues for two remaining kidnappers, who apparently fled the scene.

PHILIPPINE KIDNAPPING

The slain leader was involved in a deadly kidnapping, among other crimes, last year, when several foreigners were abducted in a tourist resort in the volatile southern Philippines. Two of the abductees were later beheaded after the required ransom was not paid.

Sabah police commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun said the anti-terror operation was considered to be Malaysian authorities’ first direct confrontation with Abu Sayyaf kidnappers off the coasts of eastern Sabah.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak praised the security forces, saying Kuala Lumpur and Manila would cooperate to curb recurring abductions.

"Do not give any room whatsoever to the criminals to encroach into the country's territory and cause chaos. Continue to safeguard the country's waters, borders and sovereignty," the premier said in a blog post on Friday, addressing the security forces.

Based primarily in and around the islands of Jolo and Basilan in the southwestern regions of the Philippines, the Takfiri terrorist group has been conducting bombings, abductions, assassinations and extortion since its foundation in 1991 with seed money from al-Qaeda.

The ultra-violent terrorists, who pledged alliance to the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the summer of 2014, have also been involved in other criminal activities, including rape and drug trafficking, in what they describe as their battle for an independent province in the Philippines.

The loose criminal network of Abu Sayyaf, literally meaning “Father of Swordsmith” in Arabic, has reportedly diminished greatly in number after it lost over 800 militants in 12 years since 2000, shrinking to a group of between 200 and 400 members, but continues to survive on ransom and extortion.

The militants have been in constant clashes with Philippine forces across the troubled region in the past 25 years.


PHILSTAR

UK pushes for intelligence-based probes in Philippines' drug war By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated December 10, 2016 - 1:15pm 18 126 googleplus1 0


British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmed and Minister for Asia-Pacific Alok Sharma discuss UK-Philippines trade relations, prosperity and security. Sharma was in Manila from December 3 to 7. British Embassy/Released

MANILA, Philippines — A senior British diplomat raised concern over the rising number of deaths under investigation and urged the Philippines to conduct proper investigations in the so-called war on drugs.

Alok Sharma, the United Kingdom's minister for Asia Pacific, said he expressed the UK's position on how to address the narcotics problem in a recent discussion with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, admitting that the two countries have different views on the issue.

"Our view, which I expressed, is that the best way of dealing with this is through investigations which are intelligence-based with the view of cutting of supply of both funds and narcotics," Sharma said in a video released by the British Embassy in Manila.

He said the rule of law is "absolutely sacrosanct" in crime prevention efforts as it is essential to prosperity.

READ MORE...

Sharma said that while the UK differs with the Philippine government in carrying out an anti-narcotics campaign, it offers assistance in drug rehabilitation programs.

"As the war on drugs move into the next phase, the UK stands ready to work with our friends in the Philippines in providing support for drug rehabilitation," Sharma said.

A scientific, multi-pronged policy in pushing illegal drugs off the markets has long been recommended as a more effective alternative to President Rodrigo Duterte's strategy to aggressively go after drug dealers, even shooting them dead in many circumstances.

Police have killed more than 2,000 individuals in five months in violent police operations, saying the drug suspects fought back, resisted arrest and ended up dead. About nearly 3,000 suspected drug personalities have also been killed by unknown assailants. A huge majority of those who died were low-income, street-level drug users and dealers.

Brookings Institution crime and drug policy expert Vanda Felbab-Brown said is it important for state personnel to make drug markets as non-violent as possible.

"The right objective should be to minimize violence in criminal markets and maximize public health. For both of those objectives, the war on drugs in the Philippines unleashed by Duterte is not only ineffective but outright counterproductive," Felbab-Brown said in an interview with Philstar.com. — with Philstar.com NewsLab

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Rights chief decries quick fixes over justice in drug killings (philstar.com) | Updated December 10, 2016 - 4:48pm 6 26 googleplus1 0


In this Oct. 13, 2016 photo, Commission on Human Rights Chair Jose Luis Gascon speaks to journalists at the Philippine Senate on the sidelines of the inquiry into extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs. PRIB/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's vision of law and order creates an environment of shortcuts that skirt the law, rather than one that upholds rule of law, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon said.

Gascon said on Friday, the eve of International Human Rights Day, that security forces' lack of respect for standards of justice has not happened since martial law days until today.

"For the most part, the great majority of our security forces, the police and our soldiers, have over the last 30 years since the restoration of democracy been respectful of established norms and when there are perpetrators, they don't cover up for them," Gascon said in an interview on CNN Philippines' "The Source."

Gascon said Duterte's presidency and iron-fisted approach appears to have given a carte blance to authorities to do whatever they want.

He said there seems to be violations of the police operations manual, which sets a "use of force continuum" guiding officers' use of deadly weapons, that heighten the risk of deaths in security efforts.

"The facts show that since Mr. Duterte became president, the deaths arising from police operations have risen dramatically," Gascon said.

Lack of cases against 'nanlaban' excuse

He said the police's usual excuse for having killed a drug suspect is that they fought back, or "nanlaban" in Filipino, is something courts should determine. But investigations and cases filed against erring police officers behind the more than 2,000 deaths in anti-narcotics operations remain scant.

"Now I'm not saying that they are not entitled to defend themselves and defend the communities. Certainly, 'nanlaban,' if proven, is a justifiable circumstance. But in every single case, 'nanlaban' and then we're receiving comments that there are actually alternative stories to some of these cases," he said.

Gascon is referring to various reports and informal testimonies of eye witnesses that some suspects gunned down in police operations did not even wield weapons. He said these cases already present a probable cause and should be filed by the Department of Justice.

RELATED: CHR finds more anecdotal evidence suggesting cops moonlight as vigilantes

"Probable cause is a determination that the crime was committed and the one who is suspected of having committed the crime is the person being investigated," Gascon explained.

"There is this self-defense argument but that is not a matter for administrative proceedings to determine. You don't wash your hands and say, 'Okay he's clear.' The charges must be filed, evidence must be presented in the courts, and the courts will have to determine, 'is nanlaban in this specific case a justifiable circumstance?" he added.

Gascon was the youngest member of the commission that framed the 1987 Constitution following abuses under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. — Camille Diola


GMA NEWS NETWORK

UN warns PHL Congress: Restoring death penalty a violation of pact Published December 8, 2016 9:05pm


SCREEN SNIPPET

The United Nations' top official for human rights has written an open letter to the leaders of Congress in the Philippines expressing concern over measures pending in the legislature to restore the death penalty.

In a letter dated December 6 addressed to both Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the Philippines "would violate its obligations under international human rights law if it reintroduced the death penalty."

Al Hussein noted that the Philippines, in 2007, ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees that no one can be executed within the jurisdiction of the country.

"International law does not permit a State that has ratified or acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to denounce it or withdraw from it," he said, adding that a clause allowing countries to withdraw was "deliberately omitted" so that they would not be able to reintroduce capital punishment after ratifying the agreement.

READ MORE...

On Wednesday, the House justice committee on Wednesday approved its report on a substitute bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty as punishment for heinous crimes.

Duterte has pushed for the reinstatement of capital punishment as part of his administration's war on drugs.

Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said most of the lawmakers in the Duterte administration's "supermajority" in the House are in favor of the reimposition of death penalty.

Pimentel, however, was non-committal whether legislative proposals restoring the death penalty will pass at the Senate.

“Mahirap magsalita parati akong mali. When I make projections as to when a bill is to be approved, mali,” Pimentel said.

In his letter, Al Hussein acknowledged the Philippines' campaign against drugs, which has been the centerpiece of the Duterte administration. The return of capital punishment, however, is not the answer, he said.

"The most effective manner of addressing drug-related offences is through strengthening the rule of law, ensuring an effective justice system and reducing drug use by adopting a strong public health approach to prevention, harm reduction and other forms of health care and treatment in accordance with international standards," he said. —JST, GMA News

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RELATED FROM RAPPLER.COM

Bishop calls for prayer rally vs death penalty Paterno Esmaquel II @paterno_ii Published 7:34 PM, December 06, 2016 Updated 7:34 PM, December 06, 2016

'What a tragedy if this would be passed in this holy season of Christ's birth,' Archbishop Socrates Villegas says, referring to the death penalty bill


PRAYER RALLY. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who earlier joined a prayer rally against a hero's burial for Ferdinand Marcos, is set to lead another prayer rally, this time against the death penalty. File photo courtesy of Sabins Studio

MANILA, Philippines – Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas called for a prayer rally against the death penalty in his archdiocese on December 12, as lawmakers aim to pass a death penalty bill on 3rd and final reading before Christmas.

The Prayer Rally for Life is scheduled on December 12 at the Parish of Saint Dominic in San Carlos City, Pangasinan.

Villegas said there will be a Mass at 3 pm on that day, to be followed by an anti-death penalty march. Afterwards, they will also "hold a candle-lighting memorial prayer for all the victims of violence."

Villegas said in a circular: "In resisting the threat of the restoration of the death penalty, we cannot be disunited or indifferent. On this pro-life issue, let us truly unite. Come out and make a stand!"

Referring to the death penalty bill, Villegas said, "What a tragedy if this would be passed in this holy season of Christ's birth."

"The death penalty is contrary to our Catholic moral life," he explained.

In urging his flock to oppose this bill, the archbishop added that "Pope Francis blesses us" in mounting a prayer rally.

This is because the Pope himself "has called for a worldwide abolition of the death penalty, declaring that the commandment 'Thou shall not kill' is valid for the guilty as for the innocent."

'This is a conscience call'

Villegas, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), made this appeal as the House of Representatives aims to pass House Bill (HB) Number 1 on 3rd and final reading before Christmas.

Aside from calling for a prayer rally, Villegas ordered the ringing of parish church bells for 15 minutes at 6 pm for 3 evenings – December 10, 11, and 12.

"This is a conscience call to stand up for life," said Villegas, who earlier spoke at another prayer rally against a hero's burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

He also required Catholics to recite the Prayer Against the Death Penalty, instead of the regular Prayers of the Faithful, in all anticipated Masses on December 10 and all the Masses on December 11.

As early as 2014, the CBCP rejected moves to restore the death penalty, denouncing it as self-contradictory.

Villegas said as CBCP president: "There is something terribly self-contradictory about the death penalty, for it is inflicted precisely in social retaliation to the violence unlawfully wielded by offenders."

"But in carrying out the death penalty," he continued, "the state assumes the very posture of violence that it condemns!"

(READ: A lethal mix? Death penalty and a 'flawed, corrupt' justice system)Rappler.com


PHILSTAR EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL - A commitment vs corruption (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 9, 2016 - 12:00am 1 29 googleplus0 0

In 2003, the United Nations recognized the adverse effects of corruption on sustainable development, the rule of law and democracy. The recognition of the problem led to the approval by the UN on Dec. 9, 2003 of the Convention Against Corruption, the first such instrument that is legally binding around the world.

Since the convention went into force on Dec. 14, 2005, 140 of the 180 parties have become signatories. These include the Philippines, which ratified the pact on Nov. 8, 2006, becoming the second country in Southeast Asia and the fifth in Asia to do so.

The convention commits signatories to undertake preventive measures against graft, criminalize a broad range of acts of corruption as well as cooperate with the international community in fighting the problem and in recovering ill-gotten assets of crooked individuals.

Public officials must be reminded of these commitments as the nation joins the world in marking the anniversary of the signing of the convention today.

READ MORE...

Since the Philippines ratified the convention, corruption scandals continued to rock the country. The pork barrel scandal and the anomalous deals involving the Metro Rail Transit are just some of the examples of the adverse impact of corruption on the delivery of basic services and development efforts.

Apart from large-scale corruption, Filipinos are also plagued by petty graft at all levels of the bureaucracy. The need to oil the wheels of government with grease money has turned off investors, dampened entrepreneurship and made life difficult for millions of Filipinos.

President Duterte has promised a clean government and is reportedly preparing to go after corrupt public servants. For this campaign to succeed, it must include not only ferreting out and punishing crooked government workers but also structural reforms that will plug opportunities for graft. It must also include a serious effort to identify and recover the fruits of corruption.

Along this line, the government must revitalize the effort to hold someone accountable for the enormous wealth illegally accumulated during the Marcos dictatorship. Billions in assets have been recovered and traced to the Marcos regime, but so far no one has gone to prison for illegally amassing the wealth. The failure to punish corruption of such magnitude is one of the reasons why the problem persists.


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