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Salvador Panelo

Duterte wants PH to strengthen military on its own, not keen on defense pacts with China, other nations

in News/Tabloid PH News

Contrary to insinuations that President Duterte will also be pivoting toward China for the country’s defense policies, Malacanang stressed that the Chief Executive will not entertain a joint military pact with Beijing after he junked the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, said the President would rather that the country rely on its budget and capabilities in strengthening its military prowess than continue relying on foreign powers.

“Talagang desidido siya (Duterte) na tumayo na tayo sa ating kakayahan. If that will mean you will be spending more, then let’s spend more,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Friday (February 21).

Panelo narrated that he asked if Duterte is looking at having a pact similar to the VFA with China or any other country, and the President answered “no”.

Manila has already informed Washington of its decision to end the 20-year VFA, which legalizes the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and the joint US-Philippines military exercises. 

This was after Washington included in its 2020 budget law a provision that bans the entry of Philippine officials who had  something to do with the incarceration of opposition Senator Leila de Lima. 

Subsequently, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was scrapped.

But there is still a possibility that the Executive Branch’s move to end VFA without prior approval from the Senate could be questioned before the Supreme Court.

Panelo said for the President, the country’s only enemies are the terrorists and Moro rebels, which can be handled by the government troops. “Sabi niya ito lang ang kalaban natin. Kaya natin iyon dahil kung hindi natin kaya ito, wala tayong karapatan maging gobyerno.”

Ban on travels to and from Taiwan lifted

in News/Tabloid PH News

Malacanang announced that the government has decided to lift the travel ban covering travels to and from Taiwan after a determination made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) that Taipei has put in place strict measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19).

The decision immediately drew a positive reaction from the Taiwanese government, which earlier threatened to retaliate if Manila would continue to impose the travel ban.

Salvador Panelo, the President’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said: “Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa. The lifting of travel restrictions for Taiwan has been agreed by the members of the IATF by reason of the strict measures they are undertaking, as well as the protocols they are implementing to address the COVID-19.”

The lifting of the ban on travels to and from was “effective immediately”.

In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) said it welcomes the announcement. “Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Taiwan will continue to work closely with the international community, including the Philippines, to fight against the COVID-19 to safeguard the health and welfare of humanity.”

Aside from the Taiwan, the government is also likely to lift the travel ban covering Macau. 

Panelo said Macau has submitted the protocols it has been observing to contain COVID-19.

These measures, Panelo added, prevents potential carriers of the virus from entering and departing their territory and enable others to determine the recent travel history of any traveler exiting their borders.”

Manila previously banned the entry of any foreigner coming from China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Filipinos or holders of Philippine permanent visa are allowed to enter the Philippines, on the condition they will be on a 14-day quarantine.

Taiwan was included in the ban based on the advice from the World Health Organization.

The IATF met again on Friday (February 14) to firm up plans to address the threats posed by COVID-19.

TECO added in its statement: “The Republic of China (Taiwan) attaches great importance to its long-standing relationship with the Republic of the Philippines. We are determined to strengthen our bilateral ties and promote our people-to-people connectivity. TECO would like to express deep appreciation to all Filipino friends who have voiced their sincere support for removing Taiwan from the temporary travel ban. We especially commend the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for its tireless efforts to help remove Taiwan from the travel ban.”

Competitive salaries for state personnel to allow the government to retain, attract talented workers

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Malacanang is hopeful that the salary increase for state employees under a new law signed by President Duterte on Wednesday (January 8) will allow the government to retain human resources that are either opting to go to private firms or work abroad due to their meager income.

Secretary Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said the 8-percent to 30-percent hike to be granted under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, or Republic Act (RA) 11466, puts the compensation of government personnel on a par with their private sector counterparts.

This, Panelo noted, will help the government retain—and even attract—talented state workers.

He said: “The Palace hopes that this latest round of salary adjustment will motivate everyone in the public sector to work doubly hard and put more dedicated and competent service in their respective jobs.”

RA 11466 hikes the salaries of employees with Salary Grades 10 to 15 by 20 percent to 30 percent. Those with Salary Grades 23 to 33, meanwhile, will get an 8-percent increase.

The adjustments will be given in four tranches beginning this month up to 2023.

President Duterte has a Salary Grade 33, although he is not included in the compensation adjustment under the law.

Also excluded are Vice President Leni Robredo, the present members of Congress, military and uniformed personnel, employees of government-owned or -controlled corporations covered by RA 10149, and individuals whose services are engaged through job orders, contracts of service, consultancy or service contracts with no employer-employee relationship.

“The Office of the President notes that the law is at the initiative – and has the strong support – of President Duterte pursuant to his desire to upgrade the standard of living of government employees,” Panelo said. “The law is aimed at benefitting those hardworking men and women in the government, including our teachers and nurses who unfortunately have been neglected in the past.” 

Duterte deferring action vs ‘ninja cops’ until end of Senate, DILG investigations

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President Duterte is deferring any action against police officers—including the current chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)—who were implicated in the alleged recycling of seized illegal drugs until the Senate has completed its probe on the so-called “ninja cops”.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement that the President is closely monitoring the developments in the Senate hearings even while he is fulfilling his commitments in his second state visit to Russia.

“As our Chief Executive has mentioned in many occasions, there will be hell to pay for those who become worse than criminals. The President, however, will let Congress do and finish its investigation in aid of legislation before taking any formal action on the issue of these ninja cops,” Panelo said.

He added: “The President’s unyielding posture against illegal drugs and those who destroy the country, regardless of whether they belong to the government, by spreading these substances in our communities, will not waver.”

Aside from the Senate probe, Duterte has tasked Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo to conduct a parallel internal probe on the “ninja cops” controversy, which dragged the name of PNP Chief, General Oscar Albayalde. 

“He will wait for the recommendation of the DILG Secretary when he is finished with his internal investigation,” Panel said.

In one of the hearings of the Senate, Albayalde’s name was mentioned by former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong as one of the personalities linked to the recycling of illegal drugs that were seized during police operations. Albayalde denied Magalong’s allegations.

Panelo said at this time, Albayalde still has the backing of Duterte. “Until such time that he (Duterte) says that he doesn’t have, the presumption is the General has his trust and confidence.”

Duterte is currently on a five-day official visit to Russia.

In a forum in Valdai, Russia, Duterte said: ”When I took over, I found out about nine generals were involved in the trafficking of drugs. And right now, even as I fly here and go back, there are about again two generals who are still playing with drugs. And I said, ‘Well, I told you do not destroy my country because it is being flooded with drugs.’” 

Panelo schools Inquirer, Lacson, Drilon on legalese, clarifies Sanchez referral

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President Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo literally lectured inquirer.net and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Franklin Drilon on legal matters when he clarified his decision to refer to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) a letter seeking executive clemency for convicted killer-rapist Antonio L. Sanchez.

Panelo, in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on Friday (September 6), reacted to the public apology of inquirer.net for its social media report that said he “recommended” clemency for Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life imprisonment in 1995.

“I read the apology, they say that they made (an apology), and as worded, is unacceptable to me. They are doing it because I made a clarification of what I meant in the referral of Sanchez. I did not make a clarification, I educated them of what “referral” means as against a “recommendation”; what is “Indorsement” that starts with Letter I as against (Letter) E ‘Endorsement’. I was demanding a public apology precisely because they maliciously imputed to me an act which I never performed, and I never made a clarification.”

“In other words, they are saying they are apologizing because I already made a clarification of what I meant.  Of course, not. They knew what I meant and they twisted it.”

Because of this, Panelo said he will push through with his plan to sue inquirer.net for libel.

“You have to apologize because you committed a mistake. But if you say you apologize because I already made a clarification, then you are making it worse.

I will push through (with the libel case) unless they make the correct apology… apologizing because they maliciously imputed to me an act I never performed,” Panelo stressed.

Panelo then corrected Lacson and Drilon’s comments that he should have inhibited himself and should have not acted on the letter seeking clemency for Sanchez due to conflict of interest. Panelo was a lawyer of Sanchez in the former Calauan, Laguna mayor’s rape-slay case in the mid-1990s.

Panelo said the referral he made automatically meant he inhibited himself from the matter. “I cannot even understand why they (Lacson and Drilon) cannot simply understand that what I did precisely was an inhibition.”

He added: “It means I did not want to do anything with it; why I was throwing it to the direct entity that has the authority.”

inquirer.net, in its apology, said: “inquirer.net apologizes for reporting on its social media platform that Secretary Salvador Panelo wrote a letter to BPP Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang recommending executive clemency for ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.” 

In the Senate hearing on the application of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) provisions of Republic Act 10592 on Tuesday, BPP Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang confirmed that Panelo merely referred the letter written by Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie.

The February 8, 2019 letter of Panelo said: “In line with the President’s commitment for good governance, transparency and immediate action on matters that affect the welfare of the people, we are referring this matter to your good office for your evaluation and whatever appropriate action you may want to undertake under the premises. We request that your good office update us for record purposes and for whatever action this office may want to undertake consistent with law and the policy of the President for good government.”

Sanchez was almost given an early release due to the GCTA application, but Duterte himself stopped it, noting that convicts of heinous crimes are not qualified to avail of the law’s benefits.

However, around 2,000 life termers have been released already since RA 10592 was implemented in 2014. Duterte already told these released convicts to surrender or face arrest.


in Opinion

Manila – Most controversial spokesperson of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte dragged in the Senate Inquiry on misinterpreted GCTA LawPanelo was appointed as Presidential Spokesperson on October 15, 2018, replacing Harry Roque.

Sec. Salvador “Salsalito” San Buenaventura, served as the defense lawyer of prominent politicians such as Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. who was implicated in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre, Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was tried for the 1993 Eillen Sarmienta and Allan Gomez murder and the family of former President Ferdinand Marcos in relation to recovering their ill-gotten wealth.

Panelo also lawyered for former Commission on Election Chairman Benjamin Abalos who was embroiled in the 2007 elections scandal, Philip Medel who was convicted in the murder of actress Nida Blanca and the family of slain racing champion Enzo Pastor. His other clients include celebrities such as Deniece Cornejo in her 2014 rape case against actor Vhong Navarro, and Dennis Roldan who was convicted of kidnapping a Filipino-Chinese boy in 2005.personalities.

His intentions to help his client former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, Antonio Sanchez to enjoy the provisions of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, unfolded. Immediately afterward, he and President Duterte retracted their support for the execution of the GCTA, which has already freed most of their friends. He is also known to not answer any questions given to him by the media, but rather go around the bush (or forest) and answer any non-relevant responses under the sun instead.

Panelo, also known as the master of masquerading scenarios, wherein some media friends, used to speculate to what the Secretary trying to imply.

Updated: Secretary Panelo reacted on the articles published by Rappler and Inquirer.net related on his letter to the Board of Pardon and Parole on the executive clemency application of rapist and murderer (his former client) Antonio Sanchez.

Image Credit: PCOO

“Those articles are reeking not only with irresponsibility but with malice and it is libelous in nature because it imputes an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor,” Panelo said in an interview with reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“In view of this, I am filing a libel case against Net Inquirer and Rappler for publishing these malicious articles,” he added.

The complaints are already being drafted by his office, he said.

Panelo was referring to the Inquirer.net tweet that said he wrote a letter “recommending” executive clemency for rape-slay convict Sanchez.

Rappler published an article entitled, “LOOK: Panelo endorsed Sanchez’s letter for executive clemency.” 

Secretary Panelo took exception to the use of the words “recommending” and “endorsed.” He demanded a correction from the inquirer.net. but he receive no response yet.

He also mentioned a Rappler article which quoted him as saying he met with members of the Sanchez family  in his Malacañang office.

Most recently: Panelo is criticizing Sen.Bong Go…”pumapapel” over the issue tackled in the Senate Inquiry.

(Bro.Fred/FM 🇵🇭)

Duterte had nothing to do with early release of heinous crime convicts — Panelo

in News/Tabloid PH News

As the Senate continues its probe on the early release of convicts for good behavior under Republic Act (RA) 10592, Malacanang on Tuesday (September 3) made it clear that President Duterte did not have any hand in the orders of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to free prisoners serving life imprisonment for heinous crimes.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said it is very clear that the “ambiguous” RA 10592 and its “flawed” implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were crafted and enacted during the previous administration. 

Aside from this, Panelo stressed that the review of prisoners’ good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and release are functions of the BuCor and do not reach the halls of Malacanang under the law.

“The actual computation of GCTA does not pass through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and therefore will not even reach the Office of the President before its benefits can be granted to qualified inmates. We stress that the granting of GCTA is not a form of executive clemency, the awarding of which belongs to the Office of the President. The buck, in this case, stops with the Bureau of Corrections,” he said.

Still, Panelo said the President has directed the DOJ to review the law’s implementation to make sure the early release of heinous crime convicts will no longer continue.

“The President will not tolerate any form of injustice being committed under his watch and it is for this reason that he will ensure that the practice initiated by the past administration on the granting of GCTA will no longer continue,” he said.

Duterte also directed the DOJ to determine if the freed convicts can still be brought back to prison. He also wants the Congress to start the process of amending the law.

The Senate is now on the second day of its probe of the GCTA law. On Monday, BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon admitted that he did sign the release order of convicted killer-rapist Antonio L. Sanchez. He also said Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Caño, three of the seven rapists and killers of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, had been freed due to the GCTA law.

Meanwhile, Cayagan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, one of the authors of RA 10592, said Faeldon should be charged for the early release of heinous crime convicts.

“He did not harmonize the law. He did not see that this exclusion is to the entire act so therefore there should have been no release and absolutely no release of those involved in heinous crimes,” Rodriguez said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart, referring to the provisions of RA 10592 that disqualify heinous crime convicts from the GCTA benefits.

Faeldon, according to Rodriguez, is liable under Section 6 of Republic Act No. 10592, which states that any public officer or employee who violates the provisions of the act could face one year imprisonment, a fine of P100,000 and perpetual disqualification to hold office.

Duterte back in Manila after ‘successful and highly productive’ fifth China visit

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President Duterte is back in the country after a four-day visit to China that was described by Malacanang as “successful and highly productive,” particularly on the issue of maritime dispute.

Duterte arrived around dawn on Sunday (September 1)  at the Villamor Air Base and was met on the tarmac by police and military officials for a quick briefing.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses matters with police and military officers upon his arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on September 1, 2019 following his successful official visit to the People’s Republic of China. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

His spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said Duterte managed to get a commitment from Chinese President Xi Jinping during their “frank exchanges” that self-restraint will be the norm in the disputed areas of the South China Sea, consistent with the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

In a statement, Panelo said: “The close relationship that President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been able to foster through the years has enabled the two leaders to have frank exchanges on the respective positions of our two countries with regard to our territorial dispute, with both of them agreeing to exercise self-restraint and observe the UNCLOS, particularly with respect to maritime navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and with China’s recognition of the immediate need of the crafting of a definitive Code of Conduct for our regional waters, all with the intent of avoiding provocative acts that may impair friendly ties and threaten the peace and stability of the region,” Panelo said in a statement.

The two leaders let off steam in their meeting last Thursday after Duterte mentioned the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines’ claim in some parts of the South China Sea, which Manila calls as the West Philippine Sea. Xi promptly answered that Beijing is maintaining its position not recognizing that decision.

They then agreed to move forward “on the basis of mutual trust and good faith, to manage the South China Sea issue, and to continue to dialogue peacefully in resolving the conflict.”

“Further, the two leaders recognize that despite any dispute that our countries may have, the same can always be resolved through peaceful dialogue and negotiations, specially given the centuries-old familial ties between our nations,” Panelo said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping discuss matters during the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. ROBINSON NINAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

In the meantime, the two vowed “self-restraint and respect for freedom of navigation in — and overflight above — the South China Sea.”

“Our bilateral relations have a much wider horizon, and there are vast frontiers where our nations can cooperate and assist each other for their mutual benefits, such as in the fields of education, health, agriculture, science and technology, security, trade, investments, energy, and people to people and cultural exchanges,” Panelo also reported.

As expected, Duterte and Xi’s talks on the sea dispute served as the highlight of the fifth visit the Philippine leader to Beijing and their eighth bilateral meeting.

Duterte, Xi let off steam on sea dispute in eighth meeting

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As expected, President Duterte’s bid to assert the Philippines’ arbitral victory in the sea dispute was met with a stern response from Chinese President Xi Jinping that Beijing will not recognize the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.

Duterte, according to his spokesman Salvador Panelo, told Xi that “the arbitral award is final, binding and not subject to appeal.”

“In response, President Xi reiterated his government’s position of not recognizing the arbitral ruling as well as not budging from its position,” Panelo said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping discuss matters during the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. ROBINSON NINAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

But while the two countries’ claims over parts of the South China that Manila calls as the West Philippine Sea remained at square one, the eighth meeting between Duterte and Xi on Thursday (August 29) in Beijing did yield solid commitments that they will work together to finally implement joint undertakings that will yield mutual benefits over the long term.

A report of state-owned CCTV quoted Xi as telling Duterte: “I am willing to work with you to continue leading the development of the China-Philippines relationship with a strategic and long-term perspective.”

Xi vowed to work for the conclusion of the negotiations for the Code of Conduct among claimants in the South China Sea by 2021 at the latest.

China’s news agency Xinhua also reported that the two countries have achieved progress in their planned joint explorations in the West Philippine Sea, with Duterte and Xi approving the creation a “joint steering committee” to be spearheaded by diplomats and energy officials, as well as “joint entrepreneurial working committees” composed of firms that will participate in the projects.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping discuss matters during the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019. ROBINSON NINAL/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Agreements signed and exchanged include a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on higher-education cooperation between the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Ministry of Education of China, MOU on science and technology cooperation between the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, and cooperative arrangement between the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and China’s General Administration of Customs regarding the implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters.

Other agreements include the implementation contract on China-Aid container inspection equipment between the BoC and China’s Ministry of Commerce, exchange of notes on cooperation procedure for concessional loan under a Renminbi-denominated loan facility between the DOF and China International Development Cooperation Agency, and preferential buyer’s credit loan agreement for the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) South Long Haul Project between the DOF and the Export-Import Bank of China.

Panelo said the meeting between the two leaders “went very well”. 

“The President’s activities on the second day of his official visit here in China are a reflection of continued good faith and warm friendship between the two presidents, and undoubtedly, a testament to the enhanced and enduring bond between the Philippines and China,” Panelo said.

Duterte’s fifth state visit to China will also see the Philippine leader meeting with Premier Li Keqiang today (August 30) and Vice President Wang Qishan on Saturday. He will then cheer for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 FIBA World Cup game between the Philippines and Italy.

Duterte ready to enforce PHL’s territorial rights in “unfriendly manner”

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President Duterte has had enough of foreign intrusions into Philippine waters, declaring that Philippine authorities will be compelled to enforce its territorial rights in an “unfriendly manner”.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, on Tuesday (August 20) said: “To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage.”

Malacanang’s pronouncement came after persistent reports of foreign vessels—including those from China and Vietnam— being spotted within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone.

“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” Panelo said.                           

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier disclosed that Chinese warships have been spotted in Sibutu Strait in the South since February.

Chinese research vessels were also monitored by a US-based maritime expert within the Philippine EEZ.

Vietnamese and Chinese fishing vessels, as well as a coast guard vessel of China, were spotted by the AFP in Ayungin Shoal.

Because of these recent intrusions, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. already ordered on Monday the filing of another diplomatic protest against Beijing.

This is a prelude to President Duterte’s scheduled visit to China from August 28 to September 2.

Manila and Beijing are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows innocent passage of ships through the territorial sea of a coastal state provided that it will be “continuous and expeditious.”

On Monday, Panelo told reporters that Duterte takes the unannounced entry of foreign vessels into Philippine territory seriously. “It is an issue with the Office of the President given that we need to be informed in advance of any passage in our territory, because that is what the UNCLOS says.” 

Duterte backs proposals to add more teeth to wiretapping law

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Proposals to extend legal wiretapping surveillance on a particular subject to as long as 90 days—as embodied in a bill filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson and pushed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana— has gained the support of President Duterte.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo, however, assured the pubic that any amendment to Republic Act (RA) 9372, or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007, will not violate the rights of the Filipino people.

“We are always protective of the rights of citizens in this country. The Constitution is our guide. We will not violate the Constitution,” Panelo stressed, adding that Malacanang will make sure all the necessary safeguards are in place before government authorities are given more latitude in their wiretapping activities against suspected terrorists and other enemies of the state.

Panelo said: “If we are already allowed 60 days, I don’t think an additional 30 days will matter. What matters most is that the defense department will have the tools to secure this country from any threat from outside, as well as within.”

Lacson earlier said the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security is now consolidating inputs from concerned government agencies and other groups for the crafting of the final version of his Senate Bill 21, which seeks to amend RA 9372.

Lacson also filed Senate Bill 22, or the proposed Expanded Anti-Wiretapping Act, expanding the coverage of the old wiretapping law.

Aside from extending the validity of wiretapping surveillance to a maximum of 90 days from the current 60 days, Lacson also seeks to give regional trial courts the mandate to allow government authorities to eavesdrop on enemies of the state. Currently, only the Court of Appeals has the power to grant such clearance.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano also supported the proposal to extend the wiretapping period to up to 90 days. “Terrorism is not just like ordinary crime. You have to look for cells, infrastructure, communication. With an amended HSA, it will be easier to counter-terrorism.”

Malacanang says incursions of Chinese warships not an act of friendship

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The Manila-Beijing diplomatic relations are getting worse by the day in the run-up to President Duterte’s state visit to China at the end of the month, with Malacanang branding the recent sea incursions of Chinese warships as not a sign of friendship.

“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters on Thursday (August 15).

A US-based maritime expert earlier revealed that two Chinese research vessels were spotted within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Also, Chinese warships were spotted along the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi in four instances from February to July. This was repeated this month, with three warships sailing through Philippine waters in the South, again without proper coordination with Philippine authorities. The automatic identification systems of these Chinese warships had been reportedly switched off, which can be considered a deceptive move.

Panelo said these sea incursions by Chinese warships will be taken up with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua when they meet for a “working dinner”.

He, however, said a note verbale could be sent to China anew if it was deemed proper by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. “If there’s a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we will file a diplomatic protest.” 

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said four Chinese ships sailed through the Sibutu Strait unannounced at least four times since February. Because of this, Locsin announced he would be filing a diplomatic protest, the third since June.

“With respect to what Secretary Lorenzana said that when you drive away fishermen from our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), I agree with him when he says that’s bullying,” Panelo said.

Duterte is set to visit China anew at the end of the month to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  While no exact date and agenda has been announced, Duterte said he plans to discuss the West Philippine Sea issue with his Chinese counterpart.

2 Cabinet men placed under PACC corruption probe

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The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) disclosed on Wednesday (August 14) that it is now investigating two members of President Duterte’s Cabinet based on graft complaints filed against them.

In a news conference, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said the commission is withholding the identities of the Cabinet secretaries for now so as not to hurt their reputation since the matter is still in the stage of investigation.

He only said they are of Cabinet-rank, meaning they are secretaries of the different departments, or heads of the agencies under the Office of the President.

“There was a complaint filed so we have to investigate…It’s unfair to mention them and make them appear corrupt. Hindi dahil sinampahan ka ng kaso, guilty ka na po (It’s not because a case was filed against you, you are already guilty),” Belgica said. He also did not give the details of the complaints.  

One of the complaints was filed by a private citizen, and the other lodged by an official of the department that the accused secretary heads.

Belgica said the result of the probe will be submitted to President Duterte. Should they find strong evidence against the officials, formal complains could be lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman. 

Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, did not directly say if the President has been informed of the probe already. 

“He (Duterte) doesn’t have to be aware. When the investigation is done, that’s the time he will decide on its recommendation. He doesn’t interfere with the work of the PACC,” Panelo said.

Two of Duterte’s Cabinet officials— Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Manny Pinol, who earlier headed the Department of Agriculture (DA), and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade—had already submitted themselves to voluntary lifestyle checks, Belgica also disclosed on Wednesday. 

Pinol was earlier accused of corruption while he headed the National Food Authority Council, although he was already cleared by the PACC.

Villanuevas resurrect anti-endo measure

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Senator Joel Villanueva and Party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva have resurrected the vetoed Security of Tenure Bill—also known as the anti-endo bill—in Congress, although the father-and-son tandem is seen to face an uphill battle as they are still pushing provisions already thumbed down by President Duterte.

Senator Villanueva filed Senate Bill No. 806 while his father, who is now the representative of CIBAC Party-list, filed House Bill 3367, both seeking to end the practice of labor contracting, especially the so-called endo scheme where workers are being hired for only five months and then rehired for another five months to skirt the rules on regularization of employees.

President Duterte vetoed the original Security of Tenure Bill approved in the previous Congress as it “unduly broadens the scope and definition” of endo, in the process banning other forms of contractualization that give employers flexibility and do not necessarily harm employees.

“Indeed, while labor-only contracting must be prohibited, legitimate job-contracting should be allowed, provided that the contractor is well-capitalized,” the President said in his veto message.

With the bill approved in the previous Congress, it now needs to be refiled so changes can be introduced to it.

However, the younger Villanueva said the bill he filed “is exactly the same measure that was certified as a priority and urgent by the President.” The senator believes that Duterte was only misinformed when he vetoed the bill.

Rep. Villanueva, on the other hand, stressed that the bill is not anti-investors. His bill, the elder Villanueva said, seeks the creation of industry tripartite councils that will help determine which business operations will be allowed to hire workers on a contractual basis.

“The battle for decades of the working class to be freed from economic injustice was delayed but we will not stop until social justice is served and the rights of the people are honored. In the name of fairness and order in our business and labor sectors, and most of all, for the sake of our Filipino laborers who have been constantly living in fear of finding not just a new job but new means to support their families once their (supposedly illegal) contract ends, the passage of this bill is earnestly sought,” he said in his bill.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the Department of Labor and Employment will be presenting its version of the bill to both houses of Congress for consideration.

What Duterte wants, he noted, is a balance between the welfare of workers and the interests of employers.  “He’s (Duterte) making a balancing act — weighing the interest of management and the working class… We have to educate ourselves, each one of us. Let us go for what is more beneficial to the country.”

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