Tuesday, January 16, 2018

4 NPAs killed

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 17): 4 NPAs killed

FOUR members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were reportedly killed yesterday in an encounter with the soldiers of the 28th Infantry Battalion in Sitio Palo 2, Barangay Marayag, Lupon, Davao Oriental.
Capt. Andrew Linao, the civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 701st Infantry Brigade, told TIMES that around 1:30 p.m., government troopers conducting combat operation in the area encountered at least 20 members of the Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 6 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SRMC).

Linao said the firefight lasted for about 10 minutes.

Four bodies were recovered by the government soldiers. No casualty was reported on the government side.

Troopers also recovered one M16 rifle, four short firearms and one improvised explosive device (IED), subversive documents, nine rice containers, four backpacks and other NPA personal belongings.

Meanwhile, a soldier was wounded in the encounter in Sitio Banban, Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato District on Monday morning.
Wounded was PFC Ryan Millet, a member of the 16th Infantry Battalion. He was hit in his left thigh.

Lt. Ian Calopez, head of combat patrol cleaning operation, said they encountered undetermined communist terrorists, under Ka Jinggoy of PBC 1 at 11:40 a.m.

The encounter lasted for 40 minutes.

Hot pursuit operation is still conducted by government troopers.

Communist attack

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 15): Communist attack

NPA holds 6 workers, torches 3 spray trucks

THREE trucks owned by agricultural companies were torched by alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Saturday morning in Sitio Tigon, Barangay Tamayong, Calinan District.

Before the burning, the rebels held six workers in Barangay Manuel Guianga, Tugbok District, where they took the trucks.

Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum, Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director, said around 30 NPAs forcibly took two boom trucks owned by Sumifru Corp. and one sprayer truck owned by TriStar at around 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Sitio Dominguez and Dipag Dos, both in Barangay Manuel Guianga while the vehicles were travelling toward Tamayong.
The Davao-based Sumifru, with office at Pryce Tower along JP Laurel Avenue, is engaged in exporting various fresh fruits, primarily cavendish bananas, pineapple and papaya. TriStar is said to be the banana exporting arm of the JVA Group owned by the Ayala family of Davao.

Lt. Col. Raymund Dante Lachica, commander of 3rd Infantry Battalion, said the members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 54, Sub Regional Command 3, Southern Mindanao Regional committee (SMRC), led by certain Alias Ka Nasser, staged the attack.

The NPA held the truck drivers and workers for over an hour as they were freed at around 9 a.m.

The workers said their abductors burned the trucks in Sitio Tigon.
The NPA also peppered one of the trucks with different high-powered firearms.

Lachica said the “brazen act of terrorism” by the communist rebels has “once again disrupted the living condition of the locals, leaving them traumatized.”

The army commander likened the attack to the Apr. 29 Lapanday Foods Corporation assault in Buhangin District that caused residents to lose their jobs and livelihood. That attack killed a fish vendor who hit a landmine placed by the rebels along Tigatto Road.

Lachica said they are condemning the evil deeds of the communist group.

He said 3rd IB troopers are currently conducting pursuit operation against the perpetrators.

Personnel of the Calinan Police Precinct also conducted an immediate security deployment and mobile checkpoint operation around the area.


Sison hopes to broker peace with Duterte gov’t

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication the Davao Today (Jan 15): Sison hopes to broker peace with Duterte gov’t

Communist of the Philippines founding chairman Prof. Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte (davaotoday.com)

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Sunday, January 14, welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to a one-on-one talk, in the hope to resume peace negotiations.

In a statement sent to the media, Prof. Jose Maria Sison said Duterte’s offer is “more important than his still angry words” in his recent interview with MindaNews.”

Earlier, the President once again gave a hint that he is willing to resume the talks with the communists, saying that to make it possible, the CPP-NPA need to “go lower” and that they would need to watch their language.
“Gusto ko si Sison pumunta dito. Kaming dalawa mag-usap, kaming dalawa lang dito sa kwarto” (I want Sison to come here. The two of us will talk. Only the two of us here in this room),” Duterte told MindaNews on January 12.
Duterte recalled the incident that triggered him to call off the peace talks last year. He referred to that November 11, 2017 incident, where a police officer and a four-month-old infant died in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon.

The NPA issued a statement saying it would indemnify the families of the victims and expressed remorse over the unfortunate incident.

Following that, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 on November 23, canceling the participation of the government’s peace panel in the negotiations with the NDFP and later declared the CPP-NPA as “terror groups”.

READ: Days before Duterte thrashes talks, GRP, NDFP initialed draft documents on social, economic reforms

He also admitted that declaring them as terrorists would not solve the problem but “it can lessen their number”.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vows to end the communist insurgency before the year ends.

Asked if the doors are totally shut for the resumption of peace talks, Duterte said,”I don’t know but it would need more than just a show of good faith.”

In response, Sison said he is willing to talk with Duterte “for the sake and purpose of resuming the peace negotiations.”

“It would indeed be a waste if we would not interface even once, considering the success of the four rounds of formal talks since 2016,” Sison said.

Sison said they could meet in a neighboring country considering “mutual convenience and sense of prudence” for both parties.

The peace negotiations between the government and the NDF under the Duterte administration have reached “unprecedented advancements” including the agreement on reforms like free land distribution that will benefit millions of farmers.

Alleged NPA leader, wife yield in South Cotabato

From MindaNews (Jan 16): Alleged NPA leader, wife yield in South Cotabato

An alleged ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and his wife surrendered to government troops based in South Cotabato province on Monday after a series of negotiations.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), said Tuesday NPA-Far South Mindanao or Valentin Palamine Command spokesperson Noel Legaspi alias Ka Efren and wife Wendy decided to yield after serving the rebel movement for around 26 years.

He said the surrender was facilitated by the 27IB based in Tupi town in South Cotabato in coordination with provincial officials led by Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.

NPA fighters in formation. MindaNews file photo

“This is the result of continuing collaborative efforts aimed at convincing more NPA rebels in the area to surrender and return to the folds of the law,” he said in a radio interview.

Leander said Legaspi is considered as among the top leaders of the NPA-Far South Mindanao, which operates in parts of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Davao del Sur provinces.

Legaspi was a long-time spokesperson of the group and had granted media interviews in the past regarding NPA activities in the area.

His wife, Ka Wendy, had served in the NPA unit’s medical staff.

Citing talks with Legaspi, the Army official said the latter and his wife decided to surrender as they could no longer endure the difficult situation in the mountains.

“They wanted to lead normal lives and end the long years of hiding from authorities,” Leander said.

South Cotabato board member Agustin Dema-ala said they will continue with their efforts to convince more NPA rebels to surrender.

He said they expect that more rebels will yield and lay down their firearms in the coming days as a result of such development.

In Sultan Kudarat province, over 100 alleged NPA rebels already surrendered since last year through the provincial government led by Gov. Datu Pax Mangudadatu.

Dema-ala assured that surrenderers will get various assistance through the Comprehensive Local Integration Program or CLIP.

The program, which started in 2014, aims to facilitate the mainstreaming of former NPA rebels as productive citizens; enhance capacities of LGUs and national government agencies in the implementation and sustainability of the CLIP; and compensate and remunerate all surrendered firearms, including those coming from the NPA.


Soldier hurt in N. Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Soldier hurt in N. Samar clash

A soldier was wounded in a gun battle between government troops and communist rebels on the outskirts of Lope De Vega, Northern Samar on Sunday afternoon.

The Philippine Army identified the wounded soldier as Corporal Artemio Bendo. He was given first aid in the camp before airlifted to a hospital in Catarman, Northern Samar.

Soldiers of the 43rd Infantry Battalion were patrolling the upland rebel-infested village of Sumuroy when they encountered a group of New People’s Army rebels. The firefight lasted for 10 minutes, according to a report by the police regional office here.

The rebels had undetermined number of injured fighters as they withdrew to the northwest direction upland.

The Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police units were alerted on Monday to prepare for possible attacks.

This is the second clash between soldiers and NPA since the end of holiday truce on Jan. 2. The first encounter was on Jan. 3 where two rebels were killed in in the upland Hilapnitan village in Baybay City.


P5-M for SoCot’s halfway home for ex-rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): P5-M for SoCot’s halfway home for ex-rebels

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) released a total of PhP5 million grant to South Cotabato province to assist the development halfway home for former and returning New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Aurora Andrea de Pedro, DILG provincial director, said Monday the grant was downloaded by its central office to the provincial government last Dec. 29.

She said they are set to meet with provincial officials to finalize the development plan and the site of the planned halfway home.

“After we finalize all necessary arrangements, the construction of the project will immediately proceed,” she said in a radio interview.

De Pedro said the local government earlier identified as proposed site a portion of a property owned by the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office in Barangay Morales in Koronadal City.

She said such proposal has not yet been finalized as they needed to forge formal agreements yet about the matter with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“The provincial government has to comply with some legal requirements first, among a deed of donation from the PNP,” she said.

The local government, through a commissioned technical working group, started the preparatory works last year for the establishment of the halfway home.

Ma. Ana Uy, acting head of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, said they have crafted a development plan for the facility, which would be patterned after the operations of an existing facility in Mati, Davao Oriental.

She said the TWG, which is led by her office, had visited the Mati halfway home to study its management and operation.

The DILG had allotted grants of P5 million to local government units, including the province, that have signified to establish a halfway home for returning rebels.

A halfway home or house refers to the temporary residence that serves as the processing center for former rebels.

The facility could also be used to cater to other individuals in crisis situations such as victims of violence against women and children, juvenile delinquents, former convicts and times of disaster.

As set in the program’s guidelines, the halfway homes will be operated to complement with the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

The CLIP, which started in 2014, aims to facilitate the mainstreaming of former NPA rebels as productive citizens; enhance capacities of LGUs and national government agencies in the implementation and sustainability of the CLIP; and compensate and remunerate all surrendered firearms, including those coming from the NPA.


IED disarmed on Maguindanao highway

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): IED disarmed on Maguindanao highway

Military bomb disposal experts disarmed a homemade bomb found early Monday morning along the national highway in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

A report from the Army’s 601st Brigade in Maguindanao said the roadside improvised explosive device was discovered by locals at around 6:30 a.m. at the vicinity of Barangay Satan, Shariff Aguak, which borders the town of Datu Unsay, both situated in the 2nd district of the province.

Responding members of the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit called for the closure of the highway from motorists for more than an hour as they disarmed the bomb.

Accordingly, the planted bomb, rigged from an 81-mm mortar explosive, cut nails, metal shards, and cellular phone as trigger mechanism, bore the signature style of the IS-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has been the target of military operations in the volatile “SPMS box” in the area since last year.

The “SPMS box” refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Datu Salibo, where presence of BIFF elements is highly monitored.

Security forces in the province were ordered to maintain a high alert status following the incident.


President warns police vs return of NPA hitmen

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): President warns police vs return of NPA hitmen

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday warned members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to watch out for the return of the New People’s Army (NPA) hit squad or the so-called Sparrow unit.

While he has no doubt that the police can fight off the communist hitmen, the President stressed to never let their back be vulnerable to an open attack and be on a buddy system.

“Bantay kayo diyan (You watch out), because the Sparrows are back,” Duterte warned.

He added that former chiefs of Davao police are going around “giving lectures about strategies to meet the challenges of the assassination.”

The President made the call during the inauguration of the PHP50 million PNP Crime Laboratory and the turnover of the 26 Montero police cars in Ecoland here.

Duterte hinted at the possible intensified activity of the Sparrow unit, especially now that he has canceled the talk between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

“So be careful,” he said.

The NPA’s Sparrow squad earned their notoriety in mid-‘70s till the early ‘80s.

Davao City Police Office (DCPO) Director, Sr. Supt. Alexander Tagum, said he has instructed Davao cops to be aware and be cautious of the NPA plan to liquidate members of the police and stage attacks on police outposts.

“We are preparing for that,” Tagum said in an interview on the sidelines of the Crime Lab inauguration.

DCPO lost one of its intelligence officers, PO3 Wilfredo Garol of the Baguio Police Station, last November after two NPA hitmen killed him.

The Army's 10th Infantry Division and the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 have also intensified security operations in Davao Region following the killing of Garol.

Maj. Gen. Noel Clement, the commander of 10th Infantry Division, said the NPA is targeting to abduct members of the security forces and the police.

"I have directed our troops to be vigilant not only during operations but also during administrative movement and when visiting their families," Clement earlier said.

He said soldiers on the ground have intensified their combat operations and responded to civilians’ report on NPA formation in certain areas.

PRO-11 Director, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan, had been alerting all city, municipal police stations and provincial offices to pre-empt NPA-perpetrated activities.


PNP to recruit 15K cops this year

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): PNP to recruit 15K cops this year

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is planning to recruit an additional 15,000 cops for this year.

This was disclosed by Deputy Director Archie Francisco Gamboa, PNP Directorial Staff Chief Staff, in a report by Radyo Pilipinas Monday.

He added that 10,000 will be new recruits for the force while the remaining 5,000 will serve as replacement for those who have retired, dismissed or gone absent without leave.

Gamboa said the recruitment is line with efforts to achieve the police-to-citizen of 1 to 500.

At present, there are about 187,000 police officers or just enough for the 1 to 651 ratio.


AFP needs more soldiers to step up fight vs. terror, lawless elements

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): AFP needs more soldiers to step up fight vs. terror, lawless elements

In line with efforts to beef up its forces in the ongoing campaign against terrorists and other lawless elements, the military announced that it is recruiting 5,500 troops for this year.

This is aside from the 10,000 soldiers recruited in 2017, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

He added that the new recruits are now undergoing training as of this posting.

Of the 5,500 troops to be recruited this year, 3,500 will go to the Army and remaining 2,000 to be split evenly between the Navy and Air Force.

With more military personnel coming in to bolster the AFP ranks, Arevalo expressed confidence that the military will be able to deal more efficiently with security threats coming from the New People's Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf and other threat groups.


Beijing, Manila to discuss possible joint exploration in SCS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Beijing, Manila to discuss possible joint exploration in SCS

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday bared that continuation of talks on possible joint exploration in the disputed area in South China Sea will be among topics the Philippines and China will discuss in their second meeting on the bilateral consultative mechanism (BCM).

According to Cayetano, the second round of talks will be held in the Philippines, with the follow-up third BCM meeting in China by March or April.

At present, the official said the two states have now conceptually agreed to pursue this track.

“Conceptually, we both want it, in the declaration of the Chinese premier and the Philippine president, it was there," he said, adding the challenge now is to come up with an agreement that conforms both to Philippine laws and Chinese laws.

“During talks on partnership, the two countries will distance themselves from the issue of territorial rights for the meantime," he added.

“We are looking for best practices all around the world disputed and undisputed areas, there are examples around the world where there are disputed areas pero nagkaroon ng agreement na puwede yung both countries because they dealt with sovereignty rights, economic rights. Territorial rights 'di puwede," he stressed.

Aside from the joint exploration, Cayetano said all issues, "including on fishermen, how we see the long-term or where will we be five years from now, 15 years from now, and if other countries are using the word militarization, how do you define militarization" will be part of the BCM.

“We expect that both negative, ‘yung claims ilalabas dito, but also ‘yung positive like the joint exploration," he said.

Earlier, China's construction activities on Fiery Cross Reef gained the spotlight after its aerial shot appearing to have been transformed in an airbase was released by state-run China Central Television.

On the definition of militarization in the region, Cayetano said they are currently considering all sides but everytime a report comes in, he assured they "take the necessary diplomatic action."

Cayetano explained that actions are not necessarily published, given they "solve more things" when it's done quietly.

Based on this, he was then asked if this dismisses the necessity for filing diplomatic protests.

He explained that "diplomatic protest is one form of diplomatic action" that can be verbal, written, in a phone call, or in a bilateral consultative mechanism. However, he did not elaborate nor mention when the "diplomatic action" was taken.


Troops seize NPA camp in Quezon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Troops seize NPA camp in Quezon
Troopers from the 85th Infantry Battalion have captured a New People's Army (NPA) encampment following a 15-minute firefight in Lopez town, Quezon Monday.

Capt. Patrick Jay M. Retumban, 2nd Infantry Division spokesperson, said government troops conducted the operations 10 a.m. after receiving tips from civilians regarding the rebels' extortion racket.

He added that military personnel clashed with an estimated 20 NPAs, led by a certain "Ka Mando", who quickly fled after leaving behind their camp containing 15 makeshift nipa huts where a generator set and three high-powered firearms were later recovered.

Blood traces were located while no trooper was hurt nor killed in the encounter.


Filipinos acquitted in Malaysia ready for release: DFA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Filipinos acquitted in Malaysia ready for release: DFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday said the 13 Filipinos charged for waging a war against a Malaysian monarch were now ready for release following the decision of Malaysia's high court on their acquittal.

In a phone interview, Raul Dado, executive director for the DFA-Office of Migrant Workers Affairs said Malaysian authorities were processing the papers of the Filipinos.

"(It's) under process but let's base on the immigration laws of Malaysia," he said. "They're now in the process of having their papers done."

According to state-run Bernama, the Federal Court upheld the Malaysian Court of Appeal's decision to acquit and discharge 14 Filipinos accused with waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and terrorist-related offenses linked to the armed intrusion at Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu between Feb. 12 and Apr. 10, 2013.

Dado, however, clarified that the number was only 13, one had died. "It's actually 13 but one has died so 12 are being processed," he said.

On Monday, the Malaysia high court has also upheld the appellate court's decision to sentence nine others of death for waging war against the Malaysian monarch.

Asked for the names of 13 Filipinos acquitted, Dado said the embassy had not given the list due to "confidentiality."


BCDA remits P5.22-B to gov't in 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): BCDA remits P5.22-B to gov't in 2017

Malacanang on Tuesday announced that the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) has remitted PHP5.22 billion to the Bureau of Treasury in 2017.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the BCDA remittance was the highest amount generated since 2012.

“The Bureau of Treasury noted that the BCDA remittance for 2017 is also higher than PHP3.93 billion in 2016,” Roque said.

Roque said the BCDA, as part of its mandate, would allocate PHP4.839 billion to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program and other beneficiary agencies.

“In addition, the BCDA has also raised a total of PHP36.6 billion for the purchase of the military equipment and maintenance of military facilities,” he said.

BCDA is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) under the Office of the President.

The BCDA Group is a prime mover of national development such as transformation of former military bases and properties into premier centers of economic growth.

Some of the major BCDA projects include: Bonifacio Global City, New Clark City, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Newport City or the Villamor Air Base.

Recently, the BCDA and China Development Bank (CBD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will establish the framework for financing cooperation to speed up implementation of major infrastructure projects worth USD4.5 billion under the “Build, Build, Build” program.

Among the high impact infrastructure projects which stand to benefit from the financing cooperation are the New Clark City, the Subic-Clark Railway Project and the BGC-NAIA-Makati Bus Rapid Transit.


DOJ to review SEC revocation of Rappler's registration

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): DOJ to review SEC revocation of Rappler's registration

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the review of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision revoking the certificate of incorporation of online news website Rappler for violating foreign ownership restrictions on mass media.

"I have directed my legal staff to study the legal issues of this case," Aguirre told reporters when sought for a comment.

Aguirre said the DOJ probe would cover possible criminal liabilities of executives of the online media entity.

Asked if the probe would include criminal aspects, Aguirre answered "yes, it will cover all angles."

In a decision issued Monday, the SEC cancelled the registration of Rappler, Inc., the mass media entity that "sold control" to foreigners, and Rappler Holdings Corporation being its alter ego, “existing for no other purpose than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution.”

It cited foreign equity restriction in the Constitution, Presidential Decree and the Securities Regulation Code that provide that “the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations wholly owned and managed by such citizens.”
The SEC En Banc also declared Omidyar Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR) void for “being a fraudulent transaction within the ambit of Section 26.1 of the Securities Regulation Code.”

In October 2015, Rappler Holdings Corp. issued 7,217,257 PDRs covering shares of Rappler Inc. designated as ON PDRs because they were sold to Omidyar Network Fund LLC, a foreign juridical entity.

Rappler Holdings publicly reported that it received an investment from Omidyar Network LLC.

It also issued PDRs covering shares of Rappler Inc. to NBM Rappler L.P., a foreign juridical entity. NBM Rappler L.P. was founded and co-owned by North Base Media Ltd., a foreign juridical entity.

The body conducted its investigation upon the request of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in December 2016.

The body conducted its investigation upon the request of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) wrote the agency in December 2016.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said he asked the SEC to probe Rappler after reading the newspaper articles of former ambassador to Cyprus and Greece Rigoberto Tiglao, who disclosed in October 2016 that two American companies, Omidyar Network, Inc. and North Base Media, in 2015 “made substantial investments” in Rappler.

He added that MalacaƱang had no involvement in his request SEC to investigate Rappler.

“Definitely not. Siguro kilala niyo naman ako (You know me). I do things on my own. I do not take orders from anyone,” Calida told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the oral arguments on the petitions against the Mindanao martial law extension at the Supreme Court.

Calida said the decision of the SEC to revoke the incorporation papers of the online news site was about following the “rule of law.”

"If you engage in the business of mass media you have to comply with the constitutional and statutory regulations because no one is above the law, even a powerful media. This is about the rule of law,” Calida told reporters when asked to react on journalist groups’ concerns that the decision was an attack on press freedom.

“If you read the SEC decision, it’s not just ownership but control. There must be no control, not even one percent. It should be zero percent,” he added.

Calida lauded the SEC's move, stating that this shows that "even influential media outfits cannot skirt the restrictions set forth in the Constitution".

He said Rappler is free to seek legal remedy, noting that his office is ready to defend the SEC ruling in any forum.

On Monday, Malacanang said it respects the decision of the SEC to revoke the certificate of incorporation of Rappler.

“We respect the SEC decision that Rappler contravenes the strict requirements of the law, that the ownership and the management of mass media entities be wholly-owned by Filipinos,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

Roque said the SEC was empowered to determine the legality of corporations in the country.

“Rappler may wish to exhaust all available legal remedies until the decision becomes final,” he said.


Senators react to SEC order to shut down Rappler

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Senators react to SEC order to shut down Rappler

Senators on Monday had different reactions to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order to revoke the license to operate of online news site Rappler.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, said there was a need to review Rappler’s alleged violation.

However, she said that SEC should not have revoked Rappler’s license if only to curtail press freedom.

“We need to review their violation, their shortcomings. If there is something they did not do that is required for all media outfits, then we should find out what violation they made,” Poe said.

“Basta lang ‘wag lamang ito paraan para mapatahimik ang sinumang grupo or organisasyon na mag hayag (As long as it is not a way to silence any groups or organizations to freedom of the press),” she added.

Poe said she would rather not conclude if the decision to revoke Rappler’s license is right or wrong but again stressed that the reason should not be to control media freedom.

Senator Richard Gordon said SEC should have “a real good reason” to shut down Rappler as it was wrong to control press freedom.

"They should not meddle with freedom of the press even if they have harsh words. It is important that there is freedom of the press,” Gordon told reporters.

Gordon, however, said that the SEC should make it a point to thoroughly investigate their allegations versus Rappler.

However, in a statement e-mailed to reporters, Gordon commended the SEC for enforcing the constitutional clause on media ownership in our country.

“It shows that no one is exempt and has special privilege in our justice system,” Gordon said.

However, Gordon also said that the SEC should be ready to present “convincing and factual evidence to back its ruling on Rappler.”

“If the media outlet is guilty of the alleged foreign ownership percentage claim, it should be done with due process and give Rappler a chance to prove the accusation as incorrect,” Gordon said.

Gordon pointed out that the SEC should also explain why they came up with the decision only now since Rappler’s registration was approved on January 1, 2012.

On the other hand, Gordon said Rappler should also explain and reveal on record the paper trail of its investors along those years.


Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that it was “worrisome” but wanted to read the SEC order first before making a comment on the issue.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV described the shutdown of Rappler as “a win for fake news, and a loss for dissenting voices and free speech.”

Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, described the SEC order as “a clear attack on press freedom.”

“The revocation of Rappler's registration is pure harassment and a clear attack on press freedom. It is also Marcosian. It's a move straight out of dictator's playbook,” Hontiveros said.

She, meanwhile, urged the public and all media practitioners to defend press freedom and the right to speak truth to power.

Senator Francis Pangilinan expressed support for Rappler noting that the shutdown only made it more evident how important it is for people to have a way to come together.

“We stand with Rappler and all other truth-tellers. We stand for freedom -- the very essence of liberalism,” Pangilinan said.

In a 29-page decision dated January 11, the SEC ruled that Rappler, Inc. and its controlling shareholder Rappler Holdings Corp. were “liable for violating the constitutional and statutory Foreign Equity Restrictions in Mass Media enforceable through rules and laws within the mandate of the Commission.”

The SEC accused Rappler of allegedly using “deception” to circumvent a provision in the Philippine Constitution, which mandates 100 percent Filipino ownership of mass media.

It also claimed that Rappler was a “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.”


Duterte to certify BBL as urgent

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Duterte to certify BBL as urgent

President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to certify the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as “urgent”, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday.

Zubiri told reporters in an interview that Duterte called him on Monday (January 15) through his Special Assistant President Christopher “Bong” Go telling him that he was indeed willing to certify the BBL as urgent.

“I spoke to him (over the phone) yesterday, for the first time in two years. Tinawagan niya ako through Bong Go and nung sabi sa akin ni Bong Go kausapin ka ng Pangulo, kinausap ko siya sabi niya ‘I’m in front of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and he was asking assurance from me that we will be tackling the BBL” Zubiri said.

“Yes, sabi niya (he said) it’s his priority. I asked him to certify it and he said ‘Yes, we will and he asked me to speak to (Presidential Peace Adviser) Secretary Jess Dureza for the details,” he added.

Zubiri said that he informed Duterte that he had already led the first hearing on the BBL last December and was scheduled to hold the next hearing on January 23.

He revealed that the MILF previously expressed concern on the proposed BBL as it was not approved by its Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

The senator, however, said that he filed on Tuesday a new measure on the creation of a BBL version which had been approved by the BTC.

”Today, (Tuesday) I withdrew my original bill which is not the BTC version and filed today, Senate Bill No. 1646, a BTC-approved version so that they would come and wholeheartedly participate in the deliberations,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri, meanwhile, expressed hope that the House of Representatives would also prioritize the BBL over the shift to a federal form of government.

“The problem in the House of Representatives, is they have this thought that they should start with federalism. The problem is, if you start with federalism and charter change fails and we don’t pass a BBL, it’s going to be chaotic in Mindanao,” Zubiri said.

“Unahin natin ang (Let’s start with the) BBL and then if federalism comes then we just adopt the Bangsamoro Autonomous Area as part of the federal state of the republic,” he added.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier confirmed that Duterte wanted the Congress to enact the BBL first before pursuing Charter change.

"The President wants to enact BBL first. In his words 'It would be hard, once Charter change begins, to implement the BBL,’" Roque said.


Bong Go denies hand in DND procurement

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 16): Bong Go denies hand in DND procurement

Special Assistant to the President Christopher ‘Bong’ Go on Tuesday denied reports that he interfered in the procurement of combat management system (CMS) of the Department of National Defense (DND).

“I have not intervened in the procurement of DND of its computer system for its ships,” Go said in a press statement.

According to media reports, Go’s office had allegedly expressed preference for supplier Naval Shield Integrated CMS of Hanwha Thales while the Philippine Navy wanted another supplier Tacticos CMS of Thales Nederlands, Inc. for Navy’s PHP15.7-billion frigate program.

“I have not participated nor intervened, directly or indirectly, in the transactions of DND,” Go clarified.

“Further, I even have no information nor knowledge of the said transaction,” he added.

Go said clarification requests on the issues should be addressed to DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.