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Posts tagged ‘United Islands of the Philippines’

Philippine city mayor gunned down during flag-raising event

July 02, 2018

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine provincial city mayor known for parading drug suspects in public but also alleged to have drug ties himself was shot and killed Monday during a flag-raising ceremony in front of horrified employees.

Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan city in Batangas province south of Manila was shot by a still-unidentified attacker and died while being brought to a hospital, Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde said. The gunman escaped.

“They did not see anybody approach him. They just heard a gunshot so the assumption or allegation was it could have been a sniper shot,” Albayalde said in a news conference, adding that an investigation was underway.

Dozens of employees and officials scrambled to safety when the gunfire rang out as they were singing the national anthem outside city hall. The bullet hit a cellphone in Halili’s coat pocket then pierced his chest, police said.

Police were scouring a nearby elevated grassy area, where the gunman may have fired the shot. Halili became controversial two years ago when he ordered drug suspects to be paraded in public in Tanauan, a small city about 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Manila, in a campaign that was dubbed “walks of shame.” The suspects were forced to wear cardboard signs that read “I’m a pusher, don’t emulate me” in a campaign that alarmed human rights officials.

Police officials, however, also linked Halili to illegal drugs, an allegation he strongly denied. He said at the time that he would resign and would be willing to be publicly paraded as a drug suspect if police could come up with evidence to support the allegation.

Albayalde said investigators would try to determine if the killing was connected to Halili’s anti-drug campaign. Halili’s unusual campaign drew attention at a time of growing alarm over the rising number of killings of drug suspects under President Rodrigo Duterte. Since Duterte took office in 2016, more than 4,200 drug suspects had been killed in clashes with police, alarming human rights groups, Western governments and U.N. rights watchdogs.

Human rights groups have reported much higher death tolls, although Duterte and his officials have questioned the accuracy of those reports. They said the suspects died because they opened fire and sparked gunbattles with authorities although human rights groups have accused police of extrajudicial killings.

Halili’s killing came a few weeks after a Catholic priest was shot and killed while preparing to celebrate Mass in a village chapel in northern Nueva Ecija province. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, urged the police to impose stricter firearms control in light of the killings.

“The killing of priests, prosecutors, and former and incumbent local officials in broad daylight and in full view of the public may be suggestive of the impunity and brazenness of those responsible for such acts,” Lacson said.

“The Philippine National Police should feel challenged, if not taunted,” he said. “And they must immediately consider stricter firearms control strategies before similar killings could reach ubiquitous levels.”

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Philippine leader calls for abandoning Int’l Criminal Court

March 18, 2018

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked governments on Sunday to abandon the International Criminal Court, saying the world tribunal — where he is facing a possible complaint for the thousands of killings of drug suspects under his crackdown — is “rude.”

Although the Philippine Senate has ratified the Rome Statute that established the ICC, Duterte said in a speech that the treaty was never enforced in the country because it was not published in the government journal, the official gazette, as required by law.

Due to what he said was that flaw, Duterte said the international court can never have jurisdiction over him, “not in a million years.” Last month, an ICC prosecutor announced she was opening a preliminary examination into a complaint by a Filipino lawyer of suspected extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which could amount to crimes against humanity.

The move angered Duterte, who announced Wednesday that he was withdrawing the Philippine ratification of the Rome Statute “effective immediately,” citing “a concerted effort” by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and U.N. human rights officials “to paint me as a ruthless and heartless violator of human rights.”

“You know, if it’s not published, there is no law,” Duterte said Sunday in a speech before the annual graduation of cadets at the Philippine Military Academy in northern Baguio city. There was no reason to withdraw from “something which is not existing,” Duterte said, adding that he announced the withdrawal from the ICC treaty to draw the world’s attention to the issue he had with the international court.

“I will convince everybody now who are under the treaty at ICC: ‘Get out, get out, it’s rude,'” the brash-talking president said. Duterte’s action came under fire from human rights groups, which said that the president was trying to evade accountability by backing out of the ICC. Critics say Duterte can’t withdraw from the court by himself and may need the approval of the Senate, which ratified the Rome Statute in 2011.

Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon said that the Philippines has historically been at the forefront of the fight for international justice, but that Duterte’s decision “constitutes a reversal that will be viewed as encouraging impunity to continue.”

More than 120 countries have ratified the treaty that established the court in 2002 in The Hague. The court can intervene only when a state is unable or unwilling to carry out an investigation and prosecute perpetrators of heinous crimes like crimes against humanity, genocide, aggression and war atrocities.

More than 4,000 mostly poor drug suspects have been killed under Duterte’s drug crackdown, according to the national police, although human rights groups have reported larger death tolls. Duterte argued Wednesday that the killings do not amount to crimes against humanity, genocide or similar atrocities.

1 body recovered, 36 feared dead in Philippine mall fire

December 24, 2017

DAVAO, Philippines (AP) — Philippine firefighters recovered one body from a burning shopping mall Sunday and there was “zero” chances of survival for 36 other trapped people inside the four-story building in southern Davao city, an official said.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said firefighters told distraught relatives of the 36 trapped employees of a business outsourcing company at the top floor of the NCCC Mall that nobody could survive the extreme heat and thick black smoke.

“They were told that the chances of survival are zero,” she said, adding that one of those trapped may be a Chinese or a South Korean, based on the name. It is unclear when firefighters can break into most areas of the mall, where the blaze was put under control Sunday morning although smoke continued to billow from the building. The firefighters won’t stop until all those reported missing are found, Duterte-Carpio said.

Investigators will determine the cause of the fire and the prospects of criminal lawsuits against the mall owners and officials would depend on the outcome of the investigation, said the mayor, who is the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, the mayor and Roman Catholic Church officials went to the site and met with relatives of the trapped office employees late Saturday and asked them to pray. The president was photographed wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, his head bowed, at an emotional moment with the relatives.

The mall’s marketing manager, Janna Abdullah Mutalib, said the fire started Saturday morning at the third floor where clothes, appliances and furniture are sold, after a storm hit Davao and flooded parts of the city. Except for a grocery at the ground floor and the business outsourcing company at the top floor, the shopping areas were still closed to the public when the fire started mid-morning, preventing a bigger tragedy amid the peak Christmas shopping season.

Duterte served as Davao mayor for many years before being elected to the presidency last year. It’s been a difficult year for the tough-talking, 72-year-old leader, who faced his most serious crisis when hundreds of pro-Islamic State group extremists laid siege on Marawi city, also in the southern third of the Philippines. He declared martial law in the south to deal with the insurrection, which troops crushed in October.

The storm that blew out of the southern Philippines Sunday reportedly left more than 120 people dead with 160 others still missing.

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines contributed to this report.

Philippine Congress votes to extend martial law in south

December 13, 2017

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine Congress voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law in the south by a year after the military warned that terrorist threats continue to lurk despite the defeat of a disastrous pro-Islamic State group siege.

A majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives — with 240 approving and 27 opposing — voted to extend martial law across the Mindanao region through the end of 2018. The vote followed warnings by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and other officials that pro-IS militants were trying to recover from their defeat in southern Marawi city and were plotting new attacks.

“The rebellion has not stopped, it has just moved to another place,” Lorenzana told the senators and House members in a joint session. Opponents argued that extending martial law in the south is unconstitutional and expressed fears that such a move can be a prelude for Duterte to declare martial law throughout the Philippines.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who heads the main opposition Liberal Party, rejected the martial law extension without a clear constitutional basis. “We will be in danger of becoming the monsters that we seek to defeat, those who have no regard for law, order or respect for the constitution,” he said.

The Marawi violence left more than 1,100 combatants and noncombatants dead, displaced about half a million people and turned mosque-studded Marawi’s central business and residential districts into a smoldering war zone.

The uprising, which began on May 23, prompted Duterte to declare martial law and reinforced fears that the Islamic State group was taking steps to gain a foothold in Asia and elsewhere as it faced battle setbacks in Syria and Iraq.

Some gunmen and commanders managed to escape during the fighting and are now recruiting new militants, while extremist groups in other southern provinces, including the brutal Abu Sayyaf group, continue to pose threats, according to the military.

Filipinos remain hypersensitive to threats to democracy and civil liberties more than three decades after they ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in a 1986 “people power” revolt that became a harbinger of change in authoritarian regimes worldwide.

Philippine President Vows to Correct Historical Injustice Against Muslims

Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to correct “historical injustice” against minorities in his country as the government seeks to reestablish a peace process in the southern areas.

Muslims have been waging a rebellion seeking autonomy or independence in the mainly Catholic southern areas of Philippines, since the 1970’s. They regard the areas as their ancestral homeland, however the conflict resulted in the death of more than 120,000 persons in several areas of the southern region of Mindanao.

Duterte made the remarks at a gathering hosted by the country’s main Muslim guerrilla group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and attended by several Christians and Muslim factions and tribal groups.

Duterte takes pride in having Muslim ancestry and warned that the region could see worse violence if the issue is not resolved.

“What is at stake here is the preservation of the Filipino republic and to correct historical injustice,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Duterte as saying.

In 2014, MILF, which includes 10,000 members, signed a peace deal that gave Muslim minority self-rule over parts of Mindanao, but the Filipino Congress didn’t approve the proposed law to implement the pact.

Duterte added that during the decades when the Philippines was under Spanish and then US colonial rule, Christian majority had taken control of vast parts of Mindanao, thus marginalizing native Muslims and other tribes.

He warned that the situation could aggravate if ISIS militants fled to the Philippines after losing their strongholds in the Middle East.

The President also indicated that he called the Congress to a special session where Muslim leaders could explain their plans to the legislators, adding that such a deal should include everyone and must be accepted by all groups in Mindanao.

MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Yusop Jikiri also attended the assembly, as well as archbishop of Cotabato and Mindanao’s highest Catholic Church official, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo.

In his speech, Murad said the government and the Moro groups must unite together to fight a common enemy, the violent extremists.

“We feel the obligation to assert for the enactment of the basic law not because it will win us votes but because it presents us a rare opportunity to be part of peacemaking,” Murad said.

Director of the government’s coordinating committee overseeing the peace accord Carlos Sol also said: “The importance here is that there is coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Lumads [tribal people]”.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the gathering at the MILF headquarters.

MILF previously announced that half a million had registered to attend the assembly which was secured by unarmed MILF fighters accompanied by armed government soldiers and policemen.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1097231/philippine-president-vows-correct-historical-injustice-against-muslims.

Philippine military pushes to defeat last Marawi fighters

October 17, 2017

MARAWI, Philippines (AP) — Gunfire rang out sporadically and explosions thudded as Philippine soldiers fought Tuesday to gain control of the last pocket of Marawi controlled by Islamic militants as President Rodrigo Duterte declared the southern city liberated from “terrorist influence.”

The military, boosted by the deaths of two key militant leaders in a gunbattle the day before, hopes the current fighting is the final phase of defeating a dwindling band of fighters who are now trapped in an area the army says is about 2 hectares (5 acres).

Duterte visited the battle-scarred city on Tuesday where to cheers from rain-drenched troops he announced its liberation in a short speech from a stage at a ruined school campus about a kilometer from the fighting.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi city liberated from the terrorist influence,” he said. To the side of stage of the stage, a large banner displayed photos of the slain militant leaders. Military chief Gen. Eduardo Ano told The Associated Press that Duterte’s statement means the threat from the militants, who’ve occupied parts of the lakeside city for five months, is substantially over.

“They’re leaderless and they have no more organization,” he said. “There are still skirmishes.” According to military spokesman Restituto Padilla, there are 20 to 30 militants left in Marawi, including six to eight foreign fighters. They have about 20 hostages, including women and children, he said. As many as 80 buildings will need to be swept for explosives.

Marawi, a mosque-studded center of Islamic faith in the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, has been devastated by the siege laid by the Islamic State group-allied militants who overran the city on May 23. More than 1,000 people have been killed, including about 800 militants.

The surprise occupation of the city and the involvement of foreign fighters set off alarms in Southeast Asia and the West. Analysts said parts of the southern Philippines were at risk of becoming a new base for IS as it lost territory to international forces in Iraq and Syria.

Philippine flags hung on Tuesday from pockmarked buildings and houses in Marawi, their roofs either blasted away or riddled with gunshot holes. Soldiers stood guard in front of some buildings and at intersections where battle debris has been shoveled to the side.

The Philippine government on Monday confirmed an Associated Press report that two key figures behind the siege, Isnilon Hapilon, who is listed among the FBI’s most-wanted terror suspects, and Omarkhayam Maute, were killed in a gunbattle.

A top Malaysian militant, Mahmud bin Ahmad, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Handzalah and is a close associate of Hapilon, has not been found and was among the remaining militants being hunted by troops.

At a public hall converted into an evacuation center just outside Marawi, there was joy among evacuees at news of the two men’s deaths and hopes of a return to some form of normality. Evacuees chatted about the news and looked at Facebook posts showing pictures of the dead Hapilon and Maute.

“We’re very happy because they have lost their leaders. I hope that all of them will be wiped out,” said Seima Munting, a 40-year-old mother of four who is among 750 people living at the hall in Balo-i township.

“My brother told me that finally we can return home, but when? When can we finally return home? What will we return to? Do we still have a house? Do we have jobs?” she said.

Duterte losing favor amid drug killings, wealth allegations

October 09, 2017

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipinos’ satisfaction with President Rodrigo Duterte has made its steepest drop since he took office last year amid an outcry over unabated drug killings and unresolved allegations that he has unexplained wealth, an independent poll showed.

The Social Weather Stations said its Sept. 23-27 nationwide survey showed Duterte’s satisfaction rating dropping by 18 points to 48, a level classified as “good,” compared from its last survey in June, when he got a “very good” 66-point rating.

The president’s trust rating dropped by 15 points to 60, which is classified as “very good,” from his “excellent” grade of 75 points in June, according to the SWS poll released Sunday. Although Duterte generally remains popular, the survey outcome immediately reignited calls by several groups for an end to the killings of mostly poor suspects under his brutal crackdown against illegal drugs and for him to sign a bank secrecy waiver to allow an investigation into allegations of undeclared wealth.

An alliance of civil society groups called Tindig Pilipinas said the steep drop in Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings means the “honeymoon is over.” “The huge drop in the president’s rating must serve notice to him: the people expect nothing but the truth on the allegations of corruption, ill-gotten wealth, and drug smuggling facilitation leveled against him and members of his family,” the alliance said. “Mr. President, we reiterate our call: sign the bank waiver!”

“The people are now seeing through the hype and fake news, and are realizing that change is not coming under President Duterte’s watch,” left-wing Rep. Emmi de Jesus said, citing “nonstop” drug killings, the rise in prices of commodities and the entry of a large shipment of illegal drugs through the Bureau of Customs in Manila.

There was no immediate comment from Duterte, but he has repeatedly denied that he condones extrajudicial killings of drug suspects even though he has publicly threatened drug dealers with death. He won the presidency with a wide margin last year on a pledge to eradicate widespread crimes, especially drug trafficking and use, and corruption.

Police officials said the arrests of more than 100,000 suspected drug offenders in 71,393 anti-drug raids since July last year help prove that suspects only get killed when they fight back and threaten law enforcers.

The drug killings recently came under renewed criticisms after police shot to death a teenage student they said was a drug dealer who drew a gun while being arrested. Witnesses, however, said the student was shot to death in a dark alley while pleading for his life.

Duterte has also denied stashing undeclared funds in joint bank accounts with family members, saying he would resign if the allegations were proven. He has refused, however, to heed a demand by opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV for him to sign a waiver to allow investigators to examine the bank accounts.

SWS polled 1,500 adults nationwide in face-to-face interviews for the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

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