Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Robredo: Duterte had good reason for skipping Independence Day rites

TAYSAN, Batangas — Vice President Leni Robredo made light of her appearance as President Duterte’s last-minute stand-in during Monday’s Independence Day rites, saying she was sure the latter had a good reason for not showing up.
“I was told the President would not be able to make it when I was around five to 10 minutes away from Luneta. So I was told the President could not make it and they asked if I could take his place,” she told reporters during a visit with a rural community here.
“To me it was not a problem. I’m sure he had an important reason to be absent,” Robredo said of the President.
Robredo ended up taking the commanding role, leading the flag raising and wreath laying ceremonies before performing a salute in front of the statue of Jose Rizal. By her side was Foreign Affairs Secretary
Alan Peter Cayetano.
Staff members from Robredo’s office told the Philippine Daily Inquirer they were taken by surprise when they were suddenly told to “take over from there” by MalacaƱang personnel, who, until the announcement of the President’s absence, had been calling the shots.
“Suddenly, the Vice President had the lead role,” one staff member said.

Philippines' Duterte says didn't seek U.S. support in city siege

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday he did not seek support from Washington to end the siege of a southern Philippines town by Islamist militants, a day after the United States said it was providing assistance at the request of the government.
Duterte told a news conference in Cagayan de Oro City, about 100 km (62 miles) from the besieged town of Marawi, that he had "never approached America" for help.
When asked about U.S. support to fight the pro-Islamic State militants in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, Duterte said he was "not aware of that until they arrived."
The cooperation between the longtime allies in the battle is significant because Duterte, who came to power a year ago, has taken a hostile stance towards Washington and has vowed to eject U.S. military trainers and advisers from his country.
It is unclear whether the pro-American military went over Duterte's head in seeking U.S. help.
The Philippines military said on Saturday U.S. forces were providing technical assistance but had no "boots on the ground", confirming a statement from the U.S. embassy in Manila which said the support had been requested by the government. [nL3N1J7054]
The seizure of Marawi on May 23 by hundreds of local and foreign fighters has alarmed Southeast Asian nations, which fear the ultra-radical group Islamic State is trying to establish a stronghold on Mindanao that could threaten their region.
The Pentagon, which has no permanent presence in the Philippines but for years has kept 50 to 100 special forces troops in the south of the country on rotational exercises, confirmed it was helping the Philippine military in Marawi.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Philippine Leader, Focused on War on Drug Users, Ignored Rise of ISIS

MANILA — It was classic bravado from the Philippines’ tough-guy president, Rodrigo Duterte.
The Maute Group, a militant Islamist band fighting government troops near the southern Philippines city of Marawi last year, had asked for a cease-fire.
The president rejected the overture.
“They said that they will go down upon Marawi to burn the place,” Mr. Duterte recounted in December. “And I said, ‘Go ahead, do it.’”
He got his wish.
Hundreds of militants belonging to the Maute Group and its allies fighting under the black flag of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, seized Marawi three weeks ago, leading to a battle with the Philippine armed forces and the biggest test yet of Mr. Duterte’s leadership during his tumultuous first year in office.
A president who has focused on a deadly antidrug campaign that has claimed the lives of thousands of Filipinos seems to have been caught unprepared for a militant threat that has been festering in the south for years.

“The government has largely been in denial about the growth of ISIS and affiliated groups,” said Zachary M. Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington who specializes in Southeast Asian security issues. “Duterte has been preoccupied with his campaign of gutting the rule of law by using police and other security forces for the extrajudicial killing of drug pushers.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Enrile wants Sandigan chief justice out

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has sought the inhibition of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang from his pork barrel cases, hinting that her appointment by former President Benigno Aquino III might influence her decisions.
In a motion dated May 26, Enrile, through top defense lawyer Estelito Mendoza, described how Aquino bypassed Tang’s seniors when he selected the junior justice to head the antigraft court on Oct. 7, 2013.
Although the motion stated there can “hardly be any doubt” as to her qualifications, it cited the “‘subconscious forces,’ which affects the verdicts in the momentous cases she decides.”

It quoted a portion of United States Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo’s classic 1921 book, “The Nature of the Judicial Process,” which described the “subconscious forces” that shape a judge’s thought processes.

Part of the quote read: “Deep below consciousness are other forces, the likes and the dislikes, the predilections and the prejudices, the complex of instincts and emotions and habits and convictions, which make the man, whether he be litigant or judge.”
The motion also hinted at Aquino’s intent to prosecute him and fellow minority senators for the pork barrel scam, as shown by his last State of the Nation Address on July 27, 2015, where he cited the arrest of the three senators implicated in the pork barrel scam as proof that “justice is blind.”
Enrile also cited the “extraordinary speed” it took the Tang-chaired Third Division to deny his motion for bill of particulars seeking clarification of the purportedly vague charges.
His motion noted that the court denied the request during a July 11, 2014 hearing after deliberating the matter in a 10-minute recess. Mendoza sought reconsideration, but the appeal was also denied after a five-minute recess.
Enrile said he had already considered seeking Tang’s recusal at the time, although he opted instead to pursue his successful bail petition at the Supreme Court.
During a Thursday hearing, Tang gave prosecutors a nonextendible period of 10 days to comment on Enrile’s motion. He will in turn be given another seven days to reply to the comment.
Enrile is accused of pocketing P172.8-million in kickbacks in exchange for diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds to dubious foundations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

This was not the first time Tang’s inhibition was sought in a high-profile corruption case. Former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay in November sought her recusal after she questioned the intention behind her bid to reraffle off her Ospital ng Makati cases to separate divisions.

Protracted battle in Marawi feared

MARAWI CITY—With bombproof tunnels, antitank weapons hidden in mosques, human shields and a “mastery” of the terrain, Islamist gunmen holed up here are proving a far tougher opponent than military chiefs expected.
Two weeks after gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group rampaged through Marawi, a Muslim-majority city, initial assertions from authorities that the conflict would be over in days have given way to warnings of a protracted battle.
“The advantage of the [enemy] is their mastery of the terrain. They know where even the smallest alleys lead to and they are free to go around,” Maj. Rowan Rimas, an operations officer for the Philippine Marines, told reporters in Marawi this week.

“They know where the government forces are coming from and where they are taking cover. They have snipers and their positions are well defended,” Rimas said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted at the start of the conflict that security forces were taken by surprise when dozens of gunmen appeared on the streets of Marawi following a failed raid to capture one of their leaders.
They emerged from homes in Marawi, the biggest Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines with 200,000 residents, and went on a rampage that included taking a Catholic priest hostage, opening up two jails and destroying many buildings.
Lorenzana and military officials have since said they unexpectedly interrupted plans by the militants to take over Marawi in a spectacular event to show that IS had arrived in the Philippines and was intent on carving out a local territory.
They initially estimated there were about 100 gunmen but later said there were as many as 500, supplemented by foreign fighters, including from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The fighters have also had a surprisingly large arsenal of military hardware, including rocket-propelled grenades and a so-far inexhaustible amount of ammunition for high-powered assault rifles.

Woman finds P12.4B in BPI check account

Jocelyn Reyes was shocked and surprised early on Wednesday when her Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) checking account in Makati City showed she had become a multibillionaire.
Her money ballooned to over P12.4 billion overnight. Reyes (not her real name) said she and her husband, despite losing P20,000 from his personal account, just laughed at their instant “fortune.”
But as a bank employee herself, she and her husband won’t touch the money, she said.

Many others were not so “fortunate,” like 49-year-old chef Vic Sanchez, who lost P17,000.
Sanchez had planned to withdraw money for his mother’s hospitalization, when one of his BPI accounts—a payroll account—showed two unauthorized withdrawals.
By the time Sanchez checked another BPI account, the online banking service had been suspended.
Reyes and Sanchez were among a “small portion” of BPI’s more than 8 million clients whose account balances showed sudden increases or reductions due to unauthorized transactions, said BPI senior vice president Cathy Santamaria.
Santamaria blamed a “technical glitch,” or “internal data processing error.”
“For those who have received extra money, please don’t touch the account. It will be removed,” Santamaria said. “It’s not bonus money.”
Santamaria rebutted speculations that the 166-year-old bank was a victim of “hacking” or a “scam.”
“Let me emphasize that it has nothing to do with that. We at BPI have the highest security standards and we make sure that all our processes are of the highest level,” she said.

The Ayala-led bank apologized for the inconvenience caused by the error, vowed full resolution within the day and assured that no client would lose money as a result of the glitch.
All of BPI’s electronic banking channels—including automated teller machines, mobile and web-based platforms—were taken offline while the bank tried to fix the problem.
Santamaria said most of those affected were clients who had peso or foreign currency deposit unit (FCDU) account transactions between April 27 to May 2 this year. There were cases of transactions being double-posted as of June 6, resulting in erroneous balances.

Indonesia arrests man linked to attack in Marawi City

This photograph taken on June 6, 2017 shows Indonesian police conducting a house raid in Cileunyi, Bandung, West Java province, where they arrested two suspects and seized evidence.
Indonesian police on June 7 arrested two suspected militants accused of giving instructions to two suicide bombers who attacked a Jakarta bus terminal last month, killing three police officers, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / TIMUR MATAHARI
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police said Thursday they have arrested a man on suspicion of helping Indonesians to join Islamic militants who overran a city in the southern Philippines and two others who allegedly helped inspire a double suicide bombing in Jakarta.
National police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said a man arrested Tuesday in the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java is suspected of facilitating Indonesians to travel to Mindanao where they joined Islamic State group-affiliated militants who still occupy parts of Marawi more than two weeks after their initial attack.
Police only gave the man’s initials and said four of those he helped are currently sought by Philippine authorities.

West Java police spokesman Yusri Yunus said two other men were captured Wednesday in the city of Bandung on suspicion of involvement in suicide bombings on May 24 that killed three policemen and the two suicide bombers.
The audacious attack on Marawi, and the participation of foreign fighters, have been a wakeup call for Southeast Asian governments about the potential of the southern Philippine region to become a magnet for Islamic State group sympathizers as it loses territory it controlled in Syria and Iraq.
The militants in Marawi are believed by Philippine authorities to still be holding a Catholic priest and many other hostages.
The Philippine military says those killed since the fighting broke out on May 23 include 20 civilians, 134 militants and 39 government troops. More than 1,500 civilians have been rescued./rga