AQUINO FAILED IN CURBING HUMAN RIGHT ABUSES - WATCHDOG

In its World Report 2014, HRW said the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd lacks political will to end human rights abuses. It added that the government did not take significant measures to prosecute a single case of extra-judicial killing or enforced disappearance. According to Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, 12 journalists were killed last year, bringing the number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed since President Aquino assumed office in 2010 to 26. In only six of the 26 have police arrested suspects. In May, the Committee to Protect Journalists named the Philippines as the third “most dangerous country” in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Somalia. “The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground,” Kine said. The government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the killing of journalists highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines, HRW said. In the only two cases where authorities have secured convictions for serious rights abuses—the killings of radio commentator and environmentalist Gerry Ortega on January 24, 2011 and journalist Rowell Endrinal on February 11, 2004—the masterminds of those crimes remained at large.

ALSO: ‘PNoy not disturbed by criticisms’  -Palace

This was how Malacañang described the power of President Benigno S. Aquino III in endorsing a presidential bet in the 2016 elections, saying the Palace is unperturbed by recent criticisms hurled against the administration. There were speculations recent attacks against the administration were intended to discredit President Aquino so that there would be lower chances for the one he will be anointing as the administration’s bet for the 2016 elections. President Aquino and close ally Interior Secretary Mar Roxas were accused by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of meddling in the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in 2012, with some quarters saying Aquino’s meeting with some senator-judges, including Revilla, during the impeachment trial may be grounds for impeachment. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, said with the people believing in the thrust of accountability, transparency and good governance of the Aquino administration, there will be no doubt the people will support whoever would be endorsed by the President in 2016. “We have been on the path of tuwid na daan (straight path); we have been on the path of good governance,” Lacierda said, noting President Aquino’s trust and approval ratings remain high as compared to past presidents during the second half of their term.

INQUIRER: ‘Boy Pick-up’ loves driving for other VIPs

Many people may not know it but “Boy Pick-up”—a character introduced by Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in a Senate speech—is actually a Cabinet member who loves driving for other VIPs. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has been seen driving public officials around, including local chief executives, in his out-of-town engagements. In a privilege speech on Monday, Revilla called Roxas “Boy Pick-up” for driving him to a meeting with President Aquino in Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams) near Malacañang Palace. In that meeting, Revilla claimed the President tried to persuade him into voting to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona. Revilla, implicated by whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel racket along with several other lawmakers, was one of the 20 senator-judges who voted to unseat Corona in May 2012. Driving relieves stress. Unknown to many, Roxas actually enjoys being behind the wheel. “Driving relieves my stress. I feel relaxed when I drive, especially when it’s a long drive,” Roxas told the Inquirer in an interview. “Every time I attend official engagements in the provinces, I usually drive if I have a chance,” he said.


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Aquino failed in curbing right abuses – watchdog
 

MANILA, JANUARY 27, 2013 (INQUIRER) by Neil A. Alcober Reporter - THE New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said the Aquino government failed to deliver last year when it comes to curbing extra-judicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances.

In its World Report 2014, HRW said the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd lacks political will to end human rights abuses. It added that the government did not take significant measures to prosecute a single case of extra-judicial killing or enforced disappearance.

According to Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, 12 journalists were killed last year, bringing the number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed since President Aquino assumed office in 2010 to 26. In only six of the 26 have police arrested suspects.

In May, the Committee to Protect Journalists named the Philippines as the third “most dangerous country” in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Somalia.

“The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground,” Kine said.

The government’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the killing of journalists highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines, HRW said. In the only two cases where authorities have secured convictions for serious rights abuses—the killings of radio commentator and environmentalist Gerry Ortega on January 24, 2011 and journalist Rowell Endrinal on February 11, 2004—the masterminds of those crimes remained at large.

The group, however, noted the government’s progress in one of the country’s most emblematic cases of impunity. In October, Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr., a prime suspect in the enforced disappearance of farmer rights activist Jonas Burgos, surrendered to a Manila court for his alleged role in Burgos’ abduction in April 2007.

The fighting in September 2013 between Muslim rebels and government forces in Zamboanga City resulted in violations of international law by both sides, including the use of human shields by the rebels.

Some detainees in government custody, including several children, described to HRW how they were tortured and maltreated.

A much-vaunted initiative by the government to address impunity—the creation in 2012 of a “superbody” to expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases of extra-judicial killings—remained inactive during much of 2013 even as new cases were reported by domestic human rights groups.

“The Aquino administration has said all the right things about ending abuses in the Philippines, but what’s missing is the political will to translate those promises into action,” Kine said.

FROM MANILA BULLETIN

‘PNoy not disturbed by criticisms’ January 23, 2014 Share this: Manila, Philippines – Lethal, effective and at an advantage.

MANILA -This was how Malacañang described the power of President Benigno S. Aquino III in endorsing a presidential bet in the 2016 elections, saying the Palace is unperturbed by recent criticisms hurled against the administration.

There were speculations recent attacks against the administration were intended to discredit President Aquino so that there would be lower chances for the one he will be anointing as the administration’s bet for the 2016 elections.

President Aquino and close ally Interior Secretary Mar Roxas were accused by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of meddling in the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona in 2012, with some quarters saying Aquino’s meeting with some senator-judges, including Revilla, during the impeachment trial may be grounds for impeachment.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, said with the people believing in the thrust of accountability, transparency and good governance of the Aquino administration, there will be no doubt the people will support whoever would be endorsed by the President in 2016.

“We have been on the path of tuwid na daan (straight path); we have been on the path of good governance,” Lacierda said, noting President Aquino’s trust and approval ratings remain high as compared to past presidents during the second half of their term.

“It shows that the President has the trust of the people, has the faith of the people and has the people behind him,” he said.

“And so therefore, whoever the President would endorse, the power of the President’s endorsement is lethal, it is effective and that’s the reason why whoever the President would anoint would certainly have an advantage,” Lacierda said.

Unethical

In related developments, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines described as unethical President Aquino’s meeting with Senator Revilla and three other senators at the height of the impeachment trial of Corona.

“That’s unethical. I thought there is a separation (of the three branches of government) and then they’ll influence?” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Public Affairs Committee of the CBCP, said in an interview.

The President’s denial that his meeting with Revilla and three other senators was meant to influence their vote on the impeachment trial of Corona also failed to convince the prelate.

“The problem here is it’s his (Aquino) word against his (Revilla) word. We don’t know who is saying the truth. That’s up to them,” said Pabillo.

The CBCP official cited what happened during the time when lawmakers were voting on the controversial Reproductive Health bill in 2012.

“They also tried to influence… (Budget Secretary Florencio) Abad and Roxas were there even if they (Aquino administration) said they won’t meddle. That is not right,” Pabillo said.

Roxas and Abad were in Congress when House members were casting their votes on the RH bill. (Madel S. Namit and Leslie Ann G. Aquino)

“By the fact that they were trying to meddle in Senate by influencing that is not right regardless (of) whether they use money or not,” said Pabillo.

Asked if he thinks Aquino should be impeached if proven that he tried to influence the Senator-Judges during the impeachment trial, the prelate said he will leave the matter to experts.

“I don’t know if that is an impeachable offense because I’m not a lawyer but as I said it’s not good to see that the other branches of government are no longer independent,” Pabillo said. (With a report from Leslie Ann G. Aquino)

‘I’m Sorry’

At the same time, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday President Aquino should start preparing his “I am sorry” public speech for meeting with Revilla during the impeachment trial of Corona.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate urged the Chief Executive to make a public apology and follow the example of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who apologized over her controversial phone conversation with then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

He told reporters: “He (President Aquino) should kasi mayroong impropriety sa ganoong usapin. Hindi mo puwedeng i-dismiss na wala namang impluwensiya, walang bribery, etc. Sa legal ethics iniiwasan ng mga abogado iyung impression lang na ini-influence mo.

“The mere fact of going to the chamber of the judge without calling the attention or without the presence of the opposing counsels bawal na nga iyun eh, puwede ka nang

masampahan ng disbarment kung abogado ka.”

In Malacañang, Lacierda said those who are not on the same boat as the administration will continue to look for ways to denigrate President Aquino’s trust and approval rating among the people but the administration will just carry on with its mandate.

“If you look at 2016, there may be a number of reasons why people are trying to degrade the approval rating of the President. That’s understandable for those who are not on this camp but as far as we’re concerned, we are going to continue this because this is an obligation of the President to the Filipino public to improve their life and to allow inclusive growth,” Lacierda said.

The Palace official however kept mum on who will be President Aquino’s bet for the 2016 presidential polls.

“Si Pangulo nalang ang magsasalita niyan kung sakaling the appointed place and time the President would make such anointment [It will be up to the President to reveal when the appointed place and time is ripe to reveal such an anointment],” Lacierda said. (With reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino and Charissa M. Luci)

FROM THE INQUIRER

‘Boy Pick-up’ loves driving for other VIPs (INQUIRER) By Marlon Ramos Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:46 am | Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
 


http://goo.gl/o5V8Eo

Many people may not know it but “Boy Pick-up”—a character introduced by Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in a Senate speech—is actually a Cabinet member who loves driving for other VIPs.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas has been seen driving public officials around, including local chief executives, in his out-of-town engagements.

In a privilege speech on Monday, Revilla called Roxas “Boy Pick-up” for driving him to a meeting with President Aquino in Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams) near Malacañang Palace.

In that meeting, Revilla claimed the President tried to persuade him into voting to impeach then Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Revilla, implicated by whistle-blowers in the P10-billion pork barrel racket along with several other lawmakers, was one of the 20 senator-judges who voted to unseat Corona in May 2012.

Driving relieves stress

Unknown to many, Roxas actually enjoys being behind the wheel.

“Driving relieves my stress. I feel relaxed when I drive, especially when it’s a long drive,” Roxas told the Inquirer in an interview.

“Every time I attend official engagements in the provinces, I usually drive if I have a chance,” he said.

With Guia Gomez

A scion of one of the wealthiest clans in the country, the interior secretary said he did not find it degrading to be driving for local officials.

“I really enjoy driving,” Roxas said.

On Aug. 5, 2013, Roxas drove the Lexus sedan of San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez when they supervised the relocation of families of informal settlers from San Juan River to San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan province.

“‘Let me drive you there. This would not have happened if not for your leadership,’” Roxas said he told Gomez before he drove her to a nearby basketball court from City Hall.

7-hour drive

Later that day, Roxas drove a Toyota sports utility vehicle when he left the relocation area in Bulacan with former Mayor Hernani Braganza of Alaminos City, Pangasinan province.

One of Roxas’ staff members said the interior secretary also drove for 250 kilometers when he checked the situation in Tagbilaran City and eight other towns of Bohol province that were hit by a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake in October last year.

“We went around Bohol and traveled almost half of the entire province. Secretary Roxas drove for about seven hours,” said Roxas’ aide, who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity.

“He also wanted to drive in Zamboanga City during the siege (of the city by Moro separatists). But the area was not safe because of the presence of the rebels,” the staff member added.

In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda, Roxas was also seen driving around Tacloban City at night to ensure that policemen were patrolling the city and manning checkpoints to prevent looting.

Illegal shortcuts

Meanwhile, at the House of Representatives, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said Malacañang showed its hypocrisy when it met secretly with Revilla to persuade him to vote for the impeachment of Corona in 2012.

Tiangco, secretary general of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, accused the administration of taking illegal shortcuts to pin down Corona.

“There’s no need to ask whether what they did was right, because it was wrong … You can’t use illegal means,” Tiangco said on the phone.

He said that while he believed that what President Aquino did was wrong, it was useless to talk of impeaching Aquino because the President’s allies dominated the chamber.

Tiangco said the fact that the Aquino-Revilla meeting took place in a clandestine manner showed that even the Palace knew that what it was doing was not right.

Not impeachable

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said the President did not commit any impeachable offense as there was no betrayal of public trust.

He also said Revilla could have refused to meet the President.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said anybody who believed the President committed an impeachable offense should file a case in the chamber.

But he said that since the Palace had denied Revilla’s allegation that he was induced to vote against Corona, the matter boiled down to one person’s word against another.

“What is important is what (Revilla) said later … that he decided on the impeachment based on what in his estimation was the correct thing to do,” he said.—With a report from Leila B. Salaverria


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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