Philippines to bar 2 US lawmakers

On the provision on entry in the US 2020 Budget

The United States (US) 2020 Budget contains a provision which authorizes the US Secretary of State to ban government officials in the Philippines from entering their territory about whom he “has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of […] Senator Leila de Lima.”

While some media outlets have been twisting this information in their headlines as an outright ban against Philippine officials involved in the case of Senator de Lima from travelling to the US, the Palace has explained that the subject provision is inefficacious given that the Filipina Senator is not “wrongfully imprisoned” and therefore, the impossibility for the US Secretary of State to receive “credible information” with regard thereto.

Should a ban from entry into US territory be enforced against Philippine officials involved in – or by reason of – Senator de Lima’s lawful imprisonment, this government will require all Americans intending to come to the Philippines to apply and secure a visa before they can enter Philippine territory.

Meanwhile, the President is immediately ordering the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, the imperious, uninformed and gullible American legislators who introduced the subject provision in the US 2020 Budget, entry to the Philippines.

The case of Senator de Lima is not one of persecution but of prosecution. In fact, it is already being heard by our courts. The Philippine Supreme Court, the highest court of our land, has affirmed the incarceration of Senator de Lima as valid and lawful. No other state can dictate upon our officials, judges, and justices the method upon which we enforce or interpret our laws vis-à-vis those who are believed to have committed a violation against the same.

We reiterate that the Philippines is an independent and sovereign state. It stands in parity with all other states, including the US, and any form of pressure that is tantamount to an interference into its established justice system shall be reciprocated in accordance with our municipal law, as well as public international law or the law of the nations.

Salvador S. Panelo
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel
& Presidential Spokesperson

Bong Go visits patient watchers in Balay Pahulayan

Spreading festive cheer to his fellow Filipinos, especially during Christmas day, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go visited Balay Pahulayan, a temporary resting area for patients’ watchers, at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City on Wednesday, December 25.

“Alam niyo po, itong Bahay Pahulayan, itinatag ni Pangulong Duterte para may pahingaan ‘yung mga watchers ng pasyente. Dito na po ako mag-celebrate ng aking Pasko. Mamimigay ng konting pamasko at pagkain sa kanila, lalo na ang daming mga tao rito na hindi taga-Davao, ‘yung iba galing pa Bukidnon at Surigao. At least, may pahingaan sila rito,” the senator said.

“Sabi ko nga lagyan ng mattress para lalo silang maging komportable. Sa initiative niya na ito, makikita mo talaga ang puso ni Pangulo, lalo na sa mga mahihirap,” he added, emphasizing how the Duterte administration prioritizes vulnerable sectors that need government attention the most.

During his visit, the senator offered holiday greetings, gamely posed for photos and delivered gift bags and other kinds of assistance to patients and their watchers. He also thanked everyone for their continuous support for the Duterte administration.

“Maraming salamat po sa inyong patuloy na suporta. Binabati ko po kayo ng Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Go said.

The senator also interacted with some of the watchers, lifting their spirits on Christmas day despite the struggles they are going through. He urged them to avail of various assistance from the Malasakit Center, a one-stop shop that streamlines the provision of medical and financial assistance from concerned government agencies and offices as part of the senator’s advocacy to improve the public health system.

“Nandidiyan na po ang apat na ahensiya ng gobyerno na handang magbigay ng tulong sa lahat ng mga Pilipino, kahit hindi po kayo taga-Davao. Basta Pilipino ka, tutulungan ka nitong Malasakit Center,” he said.

The agencies present in these hospital hubs are the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The process of seeking assistance has also been simplified through the Malasakit Unified Form, which means there is only one form to fill up for Filipinos requesting assistance.

“Noon kailangan pa ninyong pumila sa iba’t ibang opisina. Ubos na ang panahon ninyo, ubos pa ang pamasahe ninyo. Ngayon dahil may Malasakit Center na tayo, magtutulungan (ang mga ahensiya ng gobyerno) para sa inyo,” Go said.

With the aim of reducing to the lowest amount possible the hospital bill balance of those seeking government help, the center provides financial assistance that covers patient services and expenses, such as laboratories, medicines, surgeries or operations, with the exemption of professional fees and private room accommodation. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities will also be prioritized in the centers through an express lane.

The senator added that also all DOH-run hospitals will now get their own Malasakit Centers with the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11463 by President Duterte early this month.

Meanwhile, in an ambush interview, Go expressed his optimism in government’s efforts to pursue peace, especially in Mindanao. But the senator also demanded sincerity on the side of the rebels, especially after several reports have come out about ambush attacks against government troops shortly after the unilateral ceasefire has been declared.

“Sa totoo lang po, I am for peace. Gusto ko po ng kapayapaan lalong lalo na sa Mindanao, with the Moro rebels, and with the Left. Si Pangulo gusto rin niyan ng long lasting peace. Ayaw niya kapwa Pilipino nagpapatayan tayo.”

“Isa rin po ako sa nilapitan ng Left leaders ukol sa peace. Suportado ko po ito. Iisa lang ang layunin natin, magkaroon ng long lasting peace sa bansa.

“But we have a problem right now. Nabalitaan ni Pangulo na nagkaroon ng ambush sa Camarines at Iloilo. May namatay at nasaktan after ng declaration ng unilateral ceasefire,” Go told, further saying that the President is now investigating if violations were committed in the said attacks.

“Ngayon interesado ang Pangulo kung may violation. Kung sakaling meron, hindi niyo masisi na i-terminate ng Pangulo ang unilateral ceasefire sa parte ng gobyerno,” he added.

“Ngayon, bine-verify ng Pangulo ang totoong nangyari.”

Ending his statement, Go urged the rebels to trust the President, recounting his experience in Davao when he and the President—then Davao mayor—would go to the lair of the rebels to negotiate the release of captive soldiers.

“Naaawa kami sa mga sundalo kapag binibisita namin sila, halos hindi na makapagsalita. ‘Yung mga misis at anak nila, nangungulila. Ayaw naming may pamilya pa na mawalan ng ama. Kapwa Pilipino naman tayo.”

“Kami ni Pangulo, nagtiwala sa Left. Umaakyat kami noon ng bundok sa Davao para kumuha ng bihag na sundao, walang bodyguard. Tiwala kami sa inyo. Magtiwala naman kayo sa gobyerno,” said Go.

“With all sincerity po, magtiwala kayo kay Pangulo. Pwede niyo siyang kausapin. Lagi siyang handang makinig sa inyo,” he ended, emphasizing the commitment of this administration to pursue peace and development all over the country.

Inday Sara cautions gov’t on truce with rebels

STATEMENT BY MAYOR INDAY SARA DUTERTE ON CHRISTMAS TRUCE AND REOPENING OF PEACE TALKS WITH NDFP

We respectfully caution the Duterte administration over its move to reopen the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

While the declaration of Christmas truce and the prospects to reopen formal peace negotiations are acts of goodwill on the part of the Duterte government, demonstrating its strong political will to resolve the insurgency problem plaguing some parts of the country for the past years, we must be always reminded by the evil character and duplicitous nature of NDFP and its revolutionary organization, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Why the past peace negotiations sorely failed could only be blamed on the countless criminal acts and treachery of NDFP-CPP-NPA — displayed even during times when ceasefires were supposed to be in place.

As spoilers of peace, we believe that the Christmas truce will be used by the terrorist groups as an opportunity to regain communities previously cleared of their presence, consolidate their forces, and derail the progress of existing government rural development projects.

With this, we ask the Duterte government to exclude Davao City from the scope of the Christmas ceasefire with these terrorists. We also seek the same once the national government pursues the reopening of the formal peace negotiations.

We reiterate that these moves, however commendable, are useless and deleterious to the accomplishments of our local peace initiative, the Peace 911.

Peace 911 is a comprehensive peace-building program of the Davao City government for conflict-affected areas of the city. It is primarily focused in Paquibato District and Barangay Dominga in Calinan District, areas identified as stronghold of the NPA terrorists.

From June to December 2019, the program has successfully sprung Paquibato District and Barangay Dominga from the shackles of the NPA terrorists. Paquibato is dominated by Ata-Manobo natives.

The civilian-led peace group has opened roads and bridges, health centers, and schools. It also capacitated lumads by introducing Peace Economy, which helped farmers receive proper literacy on farming and marketing — linking them directly to buyers.

For the first time in many years, people were given access to government agencies and non-government organizations that could help in the development of their communities — the Cooperative Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Work and Development.

More and more NPA members and their supporters are also turning themselves into the government through the program.

To be covered by the ceasefire or the peace negotiations will only disrupt and threaten the gains of our process of peace and development in these communities formerly controlled by the terrorists.

For these terrorist organizations, sincerity is a strange word. To believe that they desire a peaceful end to the insurgency problem would be playing ignorant of their bloody habit — how they slaughtered countless civilians in the past and made many countryside communities suffer from poverty and underdevelopment, and blaming the government for it.

These groups manipulate and turn communities to rise against the government, propagate fear, inflict abuses, extort, and execute and murder civilians through its deranged brand of revolutionary justice.

These and more are the reason why these groups are called terrorists. And we should never negotiate with terrorists.

21 wounded in series of explosions in Cotabato

A total of 21 people were wounded when series of explosions hit Cotabato City and the town of Libungan in North Cotabato Sunday evening, December 22.

In a Facebook post, Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia J. Guiani-Sayadi said 16 are reported wounded after a grenade explosion transpired at Tantawan and Quezon Avenue area.

“Tonight is a sad and unfortunate night for all Cotabatenios. As of this time, 16 are reported wounded after a grenade explosion transpired at Tantawan and Quezon Avenue area earlier tonight. Among the victims are elements of the 5th Special Forces Battalion who were on stand by at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral tasked to secure the churchgoers while others were civilians who were just passing by the area,” Mayor Guiani-Sayadi said.

The city mayor assured the public that the authorities are in full control of the situation and that a lockdown have been implemented “to ensure that our city will no longer experience more atrocities for tonight.”

“This is not the time to point fingers but we should all be on guard and stay vigilant. I have already instructed all our barangay officials and our force multipliers to be on high alert. We can rise above these acts of terrorism. We are resilient and strong enough to fight against these people whose mission is to disrupt our peace. We must all be united in the face of these adversities,” the mayor said.

In Libungan, North Cotabato Acting Vice Gov Shirlyn Macasarte Villanueva meanwhile said that suspected bombs exploded in front of Remerata Store at Poblacion, Libungan Cotabato.

She identified five injured civilians as:

1. Rolando B. Amistoso (serious wounded, brought to CRMC, Cotabato City)

2. Ma. Vivian Bulahan (slightly wounded)

3. Ronald Eslit (slightly wounded)

4. Reynante Barbon (slightly wounded), and

5. Angelica Cabatingan (slightly wounded)

The victims were immediately brought to Pesante Hospital at Midsayap for treatment.

Villanueva said that few minutes after the first explosion, another bomb exploded more or less 15 meters away from the area of the first explosion was but there was no casualty as the area was already condoned.

According to EOD team the first and secondary explosions were made of 60mm mortar.

Villanueva meanwhile appealed to the public to stop spreading unverified reports.

“Let’s be vigilant and report any unusual observations. Lets all pray for peace to reign and rule in our communities,” she said.

Series of explosions happened in Cotabato City and in the town of Libungan in North Cotabato Sunday evening.

The first two explosions occurred around 5:58 p.m. near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City.

Responding authorities recovered two more improvised explosive devices in the scene that were detonated around 6:21 pm.

Unconfirmed reports showed that the IED explosion caused injury to some people who were readily rushed to the hospital.

In Libungan town, two explosions also happened around 6:15 in the evening.

The first explosion happened near the town hall while another happened at a store selling liquefied petroleum gas near a bridge.

A live report by DXMA Wow Radio on their Facebook page however showed that there were two explosions outside the LPG store with the second explosion being caught on the video.

A uniformed man confirmed on video that the second explosion came from an 81mm mortar that’s usually used as IED by armed militants in Central Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to visit Cotabato City on Monday, December 23, for the distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Award to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries in BARMM Complex.

Series of explosions in Cotabato

Series of explosions happened in Cotabato City and in the town of Libungan in North Cotabato Sunday evening.

The first two explosions occurred around 5:58 p.m. near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City.

Responding authorities recovered two more improvised explosive devices in the scene that were detonated around 6:21 pm.

Unconfirmed reports showed that the IED explosion caused injury to some people, mostly soldiers, who were readily rushed to the hospital.

In Libungan town, two explosions also happened around 6:15 in the evening.

The first explosion happened near the town hall while another happened at a store selling liquefied petroleum gas near a bridge.

A live report by DXMA Wow Radio on their Facebook page however showed that there were two explosions outside the LPG store with the second explosion being caught on the video.

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VIDEO EXCERPT FROM DXMA WOW RADIO

A uniformed man confirmed on video that the second explosion came from an 81mm mortar that’s usually used as IED by armed militants in Central Mindanao.

Five persons were said to have been injured.

North Cotabato Acting Vice Governor Shirlyn Macasarte Villanueva meanwhile said that the twin explosion in Libungan happened in front of Remerata Store at Poblacion, Libungan Cotabato.

She also said that the five identified injured are as follows;

1. Rolando B. Amistoso (serious wounded, brought to CRMC, Cotabato City)

2. Ma. Vivian Bulahan (slightly wounded)

3. Ronald Eslit (slightly wounded)

4. Reynante Barbon (slightly wounded), and

5. Angelica Cabatingan (slightly wounded)

The victims were immediately brought to Pesante Hospital at Midsayap for treatment.

Villanueva said that few minutes after the first explosion, another suspected bomb exploded more or less 15 meters away from the area of the1st explosion but there was no casualty as the area was already condoned.

According to EOD team, the first and secondary explosions are made from 60mm mortars.

President Rodrigo Duterte was scheduled to visit Cotabato City on Monday, December 23, for the distribution of Certificate of Land Ownership Award to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries in BARMM Complex.