Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Despite continued vilification and persecution, I will never be cowed into silence. They cannot break my spirit." - Sen. Leila De Lima

De Lima: "Misogynistic Politics and the Erosion of Democracy"
Press Release
November 8, 2017
On the 1st Southeast Asian Women's Summit
"Misogynistic Politics and the Erosion of Democracy"

Miriam College, Quezon City
8 November 2017

Excellencies, distinguished participants from the civil society organizations, fellow human rights defenders, the organizers of the first Southeast Asian Women's Summit, my sincere congratulations and gratitude for making this event possible. Of course, to Miriam College, particularly the Women and Gender Institute, the teachers and students present, and to my dear favorite La Salle professor, Dr. Soc Reyes, thank you very much for allowing me to convey my support and solidarity with you in this emblematic event.

Greetings from the Detention Facility of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame.

During these dark and challenging times, the opportunity to share my views with kindhearted people and kindred spirit further inspires me and bolsters my courage. I thank you all for being here to show your support and solidarity towards the achievement of our shared goals: to put an end to the madness of the vindictive Duterte regime--to uphold democracy, justice, and women's welfare and human rights.

As you might have heard last month, the majority of the Supreme Court justices dismissed my petition to nullify my arrest and unjust detention based on trumped-up charges. I am deeply saddened and pained by this decision which legitimizes oppression and political persecution by the State, brought about by Duterte's deeply-rooted vengeance against me.

Today marks my 258th day in detention - all because I dared to earn the ire of a psychopath and misogynistic President who bragged in public that he will make me rot in jail and that I should hang myself because, quote, "the innermost of [my] core as a female is being serialized everyday", unquote. My personal freedom was the price I had to pay for standing up against the killings and injustices of his failed "War on Drugs."

Just think: At least 13 cases have been filed against me since I became Senator--from drug trading, disobedience to summons, disbarment, ethics violations, election cheating, and even terrorism. All were filed within a year since Duterte became President. These charges were unmeritorious and merely fuelled by the President's vow to destroy me.

Still, I remain unbowed because the truth is on my side. I am innocent. That is why my persecutors had to resort to lies, manufactured evidence, and misogynistic remarks to curse and lambast me in public. A massive demolition job had to be set up to spread fake news about me online, with trolls attacking me to destroy my character and credibility, while portraying Duterte as the "Best President in the Solar System."

This is the same President who encourages the bloody War on Drugs which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, targeted, not big-time drug lords, but the poor, the vulnerable and the defenseless. Case in point: As of October this year, 60 children have died because of the anti-narcotics campaign, according to non-government organization Children's Legal Rights and Development Center. As of December 2016, according to news reports, there are 18,000 children who have lost their parents as a result of these brazen killings.

There is, for example, the case of 85-year-old "Lola Trining" who serves as the single parent of seven grandchildren orphaned by extrajudicial killings.

What kind of future awaits them? Do they lose their ability to care about human life? Will they also be vindictive in seeking justice for their parent's death?

Will they even have a future in the first place?

If the people currently in power had a say, they'd likely say, "No. They don't matter anyway. They can go hungry and die. We don't care. Their parents died because they're the scum of the earth, who aren't even qualified to be called part of 'humanity'." As it is was bluntly put by some keen observer of the double-standards of what is being passed off as justice these days, "Sa War on Drugs, mga anak ng mahihirap utas, basta ang mga anak at kaibigan ng Presidente ligtas."

But if people like us here today had a say, the answer would be loud and clear: "Yes. They should have a future - a bright one - along with all the opportunities that other children and other human beings are entitled to. They are, after all, our collective children, for they are part of our humanity. If we could not feel empathy for those who are downtrodden, who are we to call ourselves human beings?"

To me, that's what sets us apart from the beasts who recognize nothing but their own self-interests.

This is the very reason why I have been standing up for what is just and right, even though I know that political power is not on my side. Despite continued vilification and persecution, I will never be cowed into silence. They cannot break my spirit.  xxxx."

UN Security Council condemns violence in Myanmar

See - UN Security Council condemns violence in Myanmar

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UN Security Council condemns violence in Myanmar
Tuesday 7 November 2017 at 10:43 AM ETby Ram Eachambadi

© WikiMedia (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

[JURIST] UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] President Sebastiano Cardi on Monday condemned [statement] violence in Myanmar's state of Rakhine and urged the Myanmar government to stop using excessive military force and "work with Bangladesh and the United Nations to allow the voluntary return of refugees in conditions of safety and dignity to their homes, on the basis of a 24 October Memorandum of Understanding [JURIST report] between the two countries."

According to the UN, Myanmar has engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleaning [JURIST report] against Rohingya Muslims that has caused the displacement of more than 600,000 people. Among other things, Cardi cited systematic killings, sexual violence, violence against children and destruction of homes as being among the many abuses and violence committed by the security forces.

In September Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi [BBC profile], after weeks of silence, addressed [JURIST report] the human rights violations concerns, pledging that "[a]ction will be taken against all people, regardless of their religion, race and political position, who go against the law of the land and violate human rights." But Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] was skeptical of Suu Kyi's statement, saying: "at times she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming." AI particularly pointed to the Myanmar government's refusal to allow UN investigators into the country.

Acknowledging the initial steps taken by the government to to provide humanitarian assistance to individuals in Rakhine, Cardi called on Myanmar to:
cooperate with all relevant United Nations bodies, mechanisms and instruments, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to continue further consultations on opening a country office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website]. The Security Council calls upon the Government of Myanmar to urgently grant domestic and international media organizations full and unhindered access to Rakhine State and throughout the country and to ensure the safety and security of media personnel.Cardi further stressed that the Myanmar government has the primary duty to "protect its population including through respect for the rule of law and the respect, promotion and protection of human rights." Stating that the UNSC will closely follow further developments in Myanmar, Cardi requested the UN Secretary General [official website] to brief UNSC on the situation in Rakhine within 30 days of the adoption of his statement.
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SC rules with finality allowing plea bargain deals for drug cases

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SC rules with finality allowing plea bargain deals for drug cases
Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2017 11:09 PM

MANILA - It is final. Plea bargain deals for all drug cases are allowed.

The Supreme Court (SC) junked on Tuesday a motion for reconsideration (MR) of its earlier ruling junking the prohibition on plea bargain deals for all drug cases, and striking down as unconstitutional the prohibition found in Section 23 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Act).

“The court, acting on the motion for reconsideration of its decision dated 15 August 2017, denied with finality the motion for reconsideration for lack of merit,” said SC Public Information Office chief, Atty. Theodore Te, in a news conference.

The ruling is in favor of Salvador Estipona, Jr., currently detained in Legazpi, Albay for possession of .084 gram of shabu in March 2016. Estipona filed the petition through the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) in September 2016.

In its August 15 decision, the high court said the assailed provision is “unconstitutional for being contrary to the rule making authority of the [SC] in Article VIII, Section 5 (5) of the 1987 Constitution.”

In his petition, Estipona argued that “[t]hose accused of other heinous crimes such as murder, some acts of rape, and other crimes where the maximum imposable penalty is either life imprisonment, reclusion perpetua, or death, are allowed into plea bargaining under Section 1, Rule 118 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure."

He lamented how those accused of violations of RA No. 9165 have not been allowed to strike plea bargain deals. Estipona’s motion for plea bargain was junked twice by the Legazpi City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3.

"This, despite the fact that the various pertinent violations under RA 9165 do not bare out any reason to consider a person accused under the said law as a separate and distinct specie that would exempt from plea bargaining.

"Section 23 of RA 9165 deprives not only the accused and the prosecution, but more importantly, the courts, of the benefits of a validly entered plea bargaining agreement. It is antithetical to the early resolution of cases and declogging of court dockets, especially in instances such as this case, where the prosecution does not object and both the prosecution and defense are open to the possibility of plea bargaining,” Estipona explained.

At the time the petition was filed, some 82,000 persons were detained on drug charges.

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Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident

See - Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident

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Ombudsman files raps vs Aquino over Mamasapano incident
November 08, 2017 10:23am
Jhoanna Ballaran

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft and usurpation of authority charges against former President Benigno Aquino III before the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident.

The Ombudsman charged Aquino with violation of Section 3(a) of Republic Act 3109 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), the provision on the usurpation of official functions.

The anti-graft body set the bail to P40,000: P30,000 for the graft charge and P10,000 for the usurpation of authority charge.

According to the information sheet of the usurpation of authority charge, Ombudsman Assistant Special Prosecutor Reza M. Casila-Derayunan accused Aquino of conspiring with former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima, who was then under preventive suspension, and PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) chief Getulio Napeñas in implementing Oplan Exodus, the January 2015 operation that led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, dubbed as the SAF 44.

Derayunan said Aquino "did there and then willfully, unlawfully cause Purisima to perform and/or exercise the function of the chief of the PNP over Oplan Exodus prior to and during its implementation [...] despite having knowledge that Purisima was under preventive suspension" by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman suspended Purisima and 11 other police officials for six months in December 2014 over the alleged misuse of gun license couriers' fees.

The prosecutor said Aquino allowed Purisima to take part in Oplan Exodus by letting him go to the Jan. 9, 2015 meeting in Bahay Pangarap, where the top secret operation was planned and discussed.

Aquino also instructed Purisima to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and communicated exclusively with the former police chief at the height of the operations on Jan. 25, 2015, the prosecutor said.

In the separate information sheet for the graft charge, Derayunan said Aquino "allowed himself to be persuaded, induced, or influence" to violate the PNP chain of command, the Ombudsman's preventive suspension order against Purisima, and officer-in-charge PNP chief Leonardo Espina's order against Purisima and other suspended police officials to cease and desist from performing duties and functions of their offices.

The prosecutor said Aquino knew "fully well [of] the Ombudsman's preventive suspension order, Espina's special order, and that it was Espina who had the authority to oversee the preparation and conduct of Oplan Exodus, to the damage and prejudice of the State."

The case was filed after the Ombudsman denied Aquino's motion for reconsideration and upheld its June 2017 resolution finding probable cause for the indictment of the former president. /cbb

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ANALYSIS: Peso fall is something to worry about

See - ANALYSIS: Peso fall is something to worry about

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ANALYSIS: Peso fall is something to worry about
Jose Galang – Your Business
Posted at Nov 07 2017 05:00 PM

It has become customary for the Duterte economic managers to tell the people that the recent depreciation in the peso exchange rate is “nothing to worry about” and that a weak peso benefits exporters and families of Filipinos working abroad.

READ: Peso hovers at 11-year low, BSP says no cause for worry

“Whenever you have a peso depreciation, that is favorable to our exports sector, which will then create more jobs,” Budget Secretary Ben Diokno told a press briefing in Malacañang recently. “The families of OFWs like this [depreciation] because that will increase their purchasing power,” he added.

READ: Budget chief 'not worried' over peso slide
READ: Finance chief prefers ‘slightly weak’ peso to help OFWs

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a separate encounter with journalists that a peso depreciation increases government tax collections more than it pushes up expenditures. A decline in the peso exchange rate is a “net gain” for the government, he said.

Such is the confidence of the economic managers that a further drop in the exchange rate even up to P52 to the US dollar will “not worry” them. The peso value at end-October stood P51.7990 to the dollar, a loss of nearly P2 since the start of this year.
READ: Peso to sustain slide, may hit P52 vs $1 next year: analyst

Impact on prices

There are other effects of a peso depreciation that the economic managers have been silent about. One of them is the faster rate of increase in prices of goods. Recent increases have been caused by higher production and handling costs incurred by import-dependent manufacturers that are ultimately passed on to consumers.

This was highlighted once more by the release of new inflation data by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). At the end of October, the PSA reported, consumer prices were up by 3.5 percent overall from last year. Mirroring the fall in the peso rate, the October inflation rate was significantly higher compared to 2.3 percent in the same month last year. The speed of price increases last October was also the fastest since November 2014.
READ: Inflation quickens to 3-year peak in October

The faster inflation rate was driven by food prices, which in October were higher by 3.8 percent from the year before. Corn, meat and vegetables were among the food items that increased the most. Also reflecting the peso depreciation, imports-related prices in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels rose by an overall 4.6 percent, according to PSA’s calculations.

Higher rates of price increases could be expected until end-2017, given that the last two months of the year usually see brisk consumer spending driving up prices. Also, manufacturers could be marking up their prices more aggressively to reflect the costlier petroleum products, equipment and raw materials they use in their operations.

With this recent behavior in prices, obviously even the families getting dollar remittances from relatives abroad can be negatively affected. For instance, combined effects of peso depreciation and inflation could raise expenses for food, the largest item on the Filipino household budget, by over 15 percent to around P10,750 a month for a family receiving the peso equivalent of a $500 monthly remittance. That would leave around P15,150 a month, or nearly P505 a day, for other family expenses like education, transportation, medical and leisure.

In the case of Filipino families with no dollar remittances to depend on, the effects of inflation pushed higher by a weak peso can be harsh, particularly in an environment of stagnant or shrinking household incomes exacerbated by a growing unemployment rate. As of July this year, there were around 2.37 million individuals without jobs, some 1.8 percent more than last year. Another 6.54 million were underemployed.
READ: Jobless rate steady in July: gov't data

It is no surprise therefore that public satisfaction with the government’s record on 15 performance subjects has been lowest in “fighting inflation”, according to the latest “Governance Report Card” released by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
SWS: Fewer Filipinos believe Duterte can deliver on most/all promises

A net satisfaction rating of +24 on the government’s ability to manage inflation was reported late in August by the SWS reflecting results of its survey conducted during the period June 23-27, 2017. The +24 rating on “fighting inflation” was just below the +25 net satisfaction rating on “resolving the traffic problem”, another major issue for residents of Metro Manila and a few other cities in the country.

National debt

Estimates from the Department of Finance ostensibly point to “net gains” for the government from a declining value of the peso in terms of projected increased pesos from Bureau of Customs collections, remittances from Filipinos abroad, and earnings from business processing outsourcing companies.

Still, the pesos needed to pay for foreign currency-denominated obligations are also going up. Largely as a result of the peso depreciation, the national government’s external debt (owed to other countries and foreign institutions) as of last September has ballooned by P99.4 billion in peso terms since the beginning of this year even though most of new borrowings incurred by the government are from local sources.

The total peso amount of external debt, at P2.26 trillion as of end-September, was bigger by nearly 3.4 percent from the year-ago P2.18 trillion, according to Bureau of the Treasury data. Including obligations from local lenders, total outstanding national debt came to over P6.44 trillion.

The increase in external debt’s peso value was equivalent to nearly 3 percent of the government’s total budget for this year. That increase will also eat up almost 4 percent of all tax collections this year, based on revenue expectations of the Department of Budget and Management.

Trade deficit

On trade, a peso depreciation has mixed results. Pesos generated from foreign currencies earned by exporters go up. On the other hand, exporters also need to import raw materials as well as machineries and parts regularly, and a weak currency results in more pesos having to be coughed up even for the same volume of these imports.

Exports in the January-August period (latest available) totaled $42.11 billion, higher by 13.5 percent from the same 8-month period last year. On the other hand, total imports reached $59.15 billion, up by 8.2 percent.
READ: Philippine trade gap widens in August as imports rebound

Despite the higher growth rate in exports as of August, imports still exceeded exports by $17.05 billion. The trade deficit, together with a retreat in foreign direct investment in local company equities, has pushed the overall balance of payments (BOP, a measure of the economy’s financial relations with the rest of the world) into a deficit this year from surpluses in previous years that were in part a result of strong dollar remittances from Filipinos abroad.

As of the end of September, the BOP deficit stood at nearly $1.37 billion, compared to a surplus of $1.65 billion in the same month last year. A continued weakness in the BOP position usually results in a further erosion in the currency’s exchange rate.

‘Increasing risks’

The World Bank Manila Office, in its latest Philippine Economic Update report released early in October, sees macroeconomic fundamentals remaining intact, but cites “increasing” risks to the country’s outlook.

It says that increases in the US interest rates, seen to be triggered by coming Federal Reserve Bank’s rate adjustments, “could lead to a further depreciation of the peso and continued capital outflows from the Philippines”.

“Both the fiscal and monetary space to address risks can quickly diminish and limit the government’s ability to mitigate those risks,” the report says.

Other analysts, including those at the research unit of Australian banking giant ANZ, see the Philippine peso to remain to be the Southeast Asian region’s “worst performing” currency this year. The recent period of strong growth, the researchers point out, has led to “imbalances” in the economy that are “intensifying”.

The Duterte economic managers appear to have miscalculated on their optimistic projections of a surge in investment that could add to production capacity and create more jobs. With these expectations, the economic managers went on a spending spree on long-gestating infrastructure projects and incurred big fiscal deficits as a result.

Investors have remained adamant, with some even pulling out and relocating their operations elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, manufacturing, which was viewed as a key driver to growth, has reached its operating capacity and leaves little room for growth. The entry of more new investors can improve the situation.
ANALYSIS: The ‘growth’ in foreign direct investments in the Philippines

In the coming days, the Duterte economic managers will be extremely busy as they search for schemes to rebalance the economy. They cannot continue to tell the people that the peso depreciation is nothing to worry about.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Stream - What really happened in Marawi?

The Constitution at its Margins | Dean Marvic MVF Leonen

Concerns and Emerging Trends in Family Law | Justice Flerida Ruth Romero

A General Theory of Church and State | Prof. Florin T. Hilbay

Atty. Florin Hilbay talks about the cases of detained Sen. Leila de Lima and blogger Jover Laurio amid the Duterte government's efforts to silence critics

Head to Head - Is Zionism compatible with democracy?

Head to Head - Is democracy wrong for China?

De Lima case explained

Fault Lines - Hate in Trump's America

Free Speech and Dissent During Wartime | John V. Denson

How to Reduce Debt and Grow the Economy: Milton Friedman on Budget Recon...

What Is Free Market Based Health Care? Milton Friedman - Benefits, Econo...

Socialized Medicine - Walter Block

The Economics and Ethics of Discrimination | Walter Block

Perspectives on Islamic Law Reform