DOJ chief wants 2 BI officials axed over extortion allegations

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By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan & Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Tuesday said that he will recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte the dismissal of two high-ranking officials of Bureau of Immigration (BI) in connection with their involvement in extorting money from online gaming operator Chinese gaming tycoon Yon Lok Lam alias ‘Jack Lam’.

Aguirre said he can only recommend the relief of associate commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles to President Duterte since they were presidential appointees.

“I am going to recommend today to the President na for your immediate relief from your position. Because of the anti-corruption program of the government, it’s better that they be relieved,” Aguirre told reporters adding he will also recommend to the President the relief of other BI officials and employees who might have been involved in similar activities, which he refused to identify.

“On my part, I can only make a recommendation because I don’t have the power to dismiss,” he added.

Argosino and Robles were allegedly caught on video accepting money from former police chief superintendent Wally Sombero who is linked to Lam inside a casino mall in Paranaque.

Aguirre said he had seen the CCTV footage though he said he would not make an immediate judgment.

He said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente has already ordered Argosino, Robles and Acting Immigration Intelligence Chief Police Director Charles Calima Jr. to answer the allegations within 24 hours.

In response, Argosino and Robles denied the allegations as they presented to media on Tuesday PHP30 million cash, which they said is an evidence that will prove that corruption is present at the bureau.

“Right in front of you is the highest evidence of corruption of public officials,” Argosino said in a press conference in Manila, pertaining to the bundles of cash.

“This is the living evidence as to why President (Rodrigo) Duterte must come out in the open, pursue corruption angle, and never allow a business entity that would thrive on paying government officials,” he added.

He noted that when they received the money involved, PHP50 million is part of their continuing investigation on Jack Lam, a businessman allegedly involved in illegal gambling operations.

“So this is the evidence that there is corruption in the BI. Kung mahina hina loob namin, I can just easily say, sorry hindi ako yung nasa picture, sorry pupunta na ako sa abroad. Dala dala ko na ito. At ‘yan ang pinaglalaban namin ni Dep Comm Robles when we conducted a continuing investigation on Jack Lam, at that time that we have received in custody of PHP50 million, alisin mo lang yung binawas ni Sombrero, we could have easily made arrest. But why did we not pursue it and consider this as future evidence?” Argosino explained.

A newspaper columnist alleged that two Immigration associate commissioners demanded PHP50 million in exchange for the release of 600 out of 1,316 undocumented Chinese workers.

But, Robles and Argosino only received PHP48 million with Sombero taking PHP2 million when they meet at the City of Dreams in Parañaque City.

With this, the BI officials filed complaints for corruption of public officials and violation of anti-wiretapping law against Lam and Sombero, acting Immigration intelligence chief Charles Calima Jr. and two Chinese interpreters of the Chinese businessman before the Parañaque City Prosecutor’s Office.

Based on the complaint affidavit, they alleged that Calima took PHP18 million from the PHP48 million supposedly to be shared to Sombero, and several others.

The BI officials filed a one-month leave effective Monday.

Aguirre also said he “felt betrayed” by Argosino and Robles,who are his fraternity brothers at Lex Talionis.

”Siyempre you felt betrayed they were not following the order of the President to go after corruption,” Aguirre said adding that Argosino and Robles were among the legal team of President Duterte during the presidential campaign.

Aguirre said the DOJ accepted the money for safekeeping and “without prejudice to the ongoing investigation that is being currently made by the NBI and the BI.” (PNA)

DILG: Deaths on war against drugs, an extra-legal killing, not EJK

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By Aira May Dizon

MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA)– The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday clarified that extra-legal killing would be the proper term to be used on the deaths in the country’s war against drugs and not extra-judicial killing.

In an interview with PNA, DILG Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III said the appropriate term on the deaths in the war against drugs should be extra-legal killing which involves killing as a means of self-defense.

“Extra-legal killing is the more generic and less emotional term than extra-judicial killing. But aside from that, in both international and local definition, EJK would not define the killings happening in the Philippines,” he said.

He explained that extra-judicial killing was only used by countries that have death penalty.

“There are two sanctions on extra judicial killing, when you say judicial killing, it means a country has death penalty. Extra judicial is you commit crime outside of the court’s jurisdiction so therefore, judicial and extrajudicial killings are terms to be used in a country that has death penalty,” he explained.

“Extra judicial killing happens when the killing was committed by state agents from the President down to the barangay tanod.” he added.

Densing also clarified that there is a misconception of the term extra-judicial killing on the local definition introduced by former Department of Justice secretary Leila de Lima.

“In local definition, there is a 2012 administrative order no. 35 signed by Sec. De Lima, wherein the definition of extrajudicial killing is if the victim is part or an advocate of a cause-oriented group or either you have killed because of a mistaken identity, which is actually wrong,” he said.

He said that extra-judicial killing must be perpetrated by a state agent or a member of the government.

“The critical here is the perpetrator, if it is a private individual, then there’s no extra-judicial killing,” he added.

He further said killings committed by policemen in anti-drug operations with the virtue of defense should be properly termed as ‘legal or extra-legal killings.’

“But there’s a legal killing, when we say legal killing, you kill somebody in self defense. Extra-legal killing is you kill a defenseless suspect and it may be considered a human rights violation,” he stressed.

He added that consistently, the DILG advises the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other government agencies to only use the extra-legal killing, not extra-judicial killing.

Densing was the assigned human rights expert to head the DILG’s independent probe on human rights violations in the drug war. He is also a member of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) in the late 1989-1990s. (PNA)

Pres. Duterte won’t support Charter change if land will be sold to foreigners

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MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — President Rodrigo Duterte has said he is open to the proposal to touch the economic provisions of the Constitution except for the selling of lands to foreigners.

During a two-hour talk with a business group late Monday in Malacanang, President Duterte said he will support Charter change even if Congress will reverse the 60/40 percent foreign ownership provision.

“Maybe, I said, the equity can be increased to reverse, 60-40 or 70 if it’s a foreign corporation. But to sell the land, I will not. For the life of me, I will not agree to that. I will lose my country to foreigners,” the President said.

President Duterte explained that the Filipinos, most of them are poor, might be tempted to sell their lands to the world’s superpowers like China and United States.

“With the growing economy of the super giants, China and the rest, you know, they can always come here and buy the land and they can buy the whole of Tondo and relocate there and we’ll have with nothing and everything sold,” the President said.

“At this time of our financial life and civilization, you can easily sell the land even for a pittance. It would come to other people almost as free and then what happens? Where will I go if everything is already owned?,” he added.

Last week, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 10 creating a 25-member consultative committee that will review the 1987 Constitution.

The committee shall study, consult and review the Charter provisions “including, but not limited to, the provisions on the structure and powers of the government, local governance and economic policies.”

The panel has six months to complete its recommendations and proposals which will be submitted to President Duterte before it will be transmitted to Congress.

Expected to be included in the recommendations and proposals is the shift of the form government from presidential to federal with a prime minister and a president.

President Duterte said federal form of government is the solution to the long decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

“If we do not adopt federalism, there is no way that peace can be attained in Mindanao, now or in the future,” he told the business leaders.

The President said he is ready to step down if Congress can craft a Constitution creating a federal form of government even midway of his six-year term.

“If they can craft a Constitution creating a federal setup, a country, and providing for a strong president just like the type which France has, then I am willing to step down without waiting for the six years,” he said.

President Duterte said he already instructed Senate President Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to hasten the shift of government to federalism.

“That’s why I said for those who are asking for my ouster, do not dream about it. If you do not like me, go for the federal type and you are freed of my presence in government,” he said. (PNA)

De Lima files dissenting report on Senate probe on EJKs

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MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — A day after Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon sponsored the committee report from the Senate probe into extrajudicial killings, Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday filed a dissenting report to provide what she described as an “alternative analysis” of facts.

“This Dissenting Report aims to provide an alternative analysis of the facts presented and the conclusions deduced therefrom based on applicable laws and rules,” De Lima said in her 151-page report.

De Lima, former Justice Secretary, filed her report on the Senate Committees on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Gordon and Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, chaired by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson.

To recall, Gordon previously said that the findings in the 100-page committee report ruled out any proof of state-sponsored killings under the all-out-war on drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte.

De Lima, however, explained in her report that the probe failed to hear the testimonies of witnesses of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and weigh in the testimonies of witness and self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, among others.

“Due to the premature and abrupt termination of the Senate investigation, no comprehensive, in-depth gathering, and assessment of the evidence was done by the Committee,” De Lima said.

The neophyte senator further described the probe as having “wasted its golden opportunity”.

She also said the probe was “a virtual whitewash” designed to absolve President Duterte, who Matobato claimed ordered the killings of various criminals in Davao City when he was then mayor.

Moreover, she hit the report for tackling what Gordon described as her and colleague Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV’s alleged “bad behavior”.

“The Gordon Report was not about finding the source behind all this public bloodbath drowning the poor and shirtless in this country, but about libeling, attacking, and pillorying the two Senators who dared come out with guns blazing against the President as the inducer of these killings,” she said.

De Lima meanwhile submitted recommendations to the Senate including a call to look into the alleged irregularities in the preparation of the study, and to strengthen the investigative and forensic capacities of law enforcement agencies.

Other recommendations include a call to ensure the conduct of the visit, and effective and unhampered discharge of the duties of the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Summary Executions; to enact into law of Senate Bill 1197, also known as the Anti-Extrajudicial Killings, among others. (PNA)

Chinese envoy to Manila: Expect ‘big bang’ of China-PHL economic cooperation in 2017

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By Sammy F. Martin

MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — China- Philippine relations will be considered “explosive” starting mid 2017 as both nations work on strengthening their friendship and cooperation, Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua on Monday night said.

Jianhua, during a Christmas party he hosted for Philippine media at the Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City, said as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China, the Philippines will export more fruits to China and more Chinese tourists will visit the Philippines in 2017.

He also said China will sponsor a high level forum in May and a summit in September of 2017, and President Duterte is expected to attend.

“Five major emerging power get together in September next year in Xiamen . I think your President [Rodrigo R. Duterte] will be invited to attend the meeting because the Philippines will assume the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” the ambassador told the attendees.

He said they have foreseen that “the Philippines will be becoming a more important country in the future.”

Jianhua assured that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the ASEAN meeting in November and there is a great possibility that they will sign a bilateral agreement.

In between, he said, there will be an exchange of elected and appointed officials in government like members of Congress, cabinet secretaries and their counterparts.

“China and the Philippines is not just close neighbors but relatives. We should be close partners. We should always focus on our common interests,” he pointed out.

“And, these are the things that unite us. Of course, our differences cannot go away for tomorrow,” the chief Chinese envoy to Manila explained.

According to Jianhua, differences of two nations should be handled properly so both nations can continue to focus and enhance their common interests.

He also emphasized the role of media in advancing bilateral relations by disseminating information to both countries.

“In our bilalateral relations, media has always played an important role.I think, with advancement of bilateral relations, Philippine media can play a bigger and greater role in the process of development of bilateral relations. I can say that I am confident the media here will play that role,” he said.

He even reminded all stakeholders to work hand in hand “to turn the train of cooperation into a high speed rail.”

He informed that the average train speed in China is 260 kilometers per hour and that experiments are underway to increase train speed to 480 kilometers per hour, the fastest in the world.

“But as far as the Philippines is concerned, it is too fast. We must be careful if we have this train because it might run into the ocean,” Jianhua added. (PNA)

DND open to bilateral ceasefire agreement with NPAs

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By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday said he strongly supports a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the New People’s Army (NPA) as it would prevent rogue elements of the rebels from creating trouble in the countryside.

“Of course, we would like a bilateral ceasefire agreement as it prevent the (rogue) NPAs from creating trouble in the countryside. We are still getting reports that some of their elements are still extorting. Hopefully, once the bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed, and the NDF (National Democratic Front) can control their people, these criminals will not commit anymore criminal acts in the countryside,” he said in Filipino.

Lorenzana also clarified that there will be no pullout of troops in countryside and that the military will continue responding to reports of lawless elements creating havoc.

“The difficulty in this situation is that the NDF is that they cannot prevent their people from conducting extortion rackets, and burning trucks and equipment (of businesses not giving it to their demand). That’s why President (Rodrigo Duterte) told them to stop these atrocities or peace negotiations will stop,” he added.

The DND chief also the NPAs cannot prevent law enforcement operations as these missions are not targeting their armed members as long as these individuals are not publicly showing their weapons.

Lorenzana also stressed that the NPAs cannot claim of owning any territory in the country as pointed out by the President who added that the military can go anywhere when enforcing laws. (PNA)

House members file criminal raps vs De Lima at DOJ

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By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan

MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice (DoJ) against Senator Leila De Lima for ignoring the summons issued by Congress and for instructing her former driver and lover Ronnie Dayan to snub the probe on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Committee on Justice Chairman Reynaldo Umali personally filed the complaint against De Lima in DOJ for violation of Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code for disobedience to summons issued by the national assembly, its committee or subcommittees.

”(What we filed) is violation of Article 150 of the revised penal code and DoJ has the jurisdiction since this is a crime under a revised penal code. In essence of the case is about disobedience to summons issued y the national assembly which is Congress and so Senator De Lima advise Dayan to hide and not face the house inquiry that constitutes a violation of Article 150 because she induced Dayan to hide and not to obey the summon of congress particularly of the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives,” Umali told reporters.

Joining Alvarez and Umali as complainant is House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas.

”Correct the impression that were not ganging up on Leila, who used to be my “kumare” and sis (fraternity) but there was nothing I could do but she’s then one who courted these actions. The feeling of Speaker Alvarez that there was disrespect on the House as an Institution, for Congressman Farinas there was disrespect and disregard of the rules of Congress,” Umali explained.

In their complaint, De Lima was invited to attend the Congressional inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP on Sept. 20 and 21 and Oct. 5 and 6.

“Respondent opted to ignore all invitations and failed to attend any of the hearings conducted by the Committee. Worse, respondent even insulted the House of Representative by calling its Committee a kangaroo court/committee and its proceedings a sham,” the complaint stated.

Also in the complaint, a subpoena was also issued to Dayan but it was also ignored. Then, on Oct. 6, after failing to attend the hearing, a show cause order was issued ordering him to explain why he should not be cited for contempt.

Then, on Oct. 10, for issuing the order, he was ordered arrested by Congress.

After Dayan’s arrest, the Congressional inquiry was reopened last month. During the hearing, it was revealed that De Lima instructed Dayan not to appear in Congress. The Senator gave the instruction through a text message to Dayan’s daughter.

“As an incumbent Senator, former Secretary of Justice and a lawyer, advising and inducing Mr. Dayan to hide and not to attend in the House inquiry for which he was duly summoned is tantamount to inducing disobedience to summons issued by Congress of which she is a sitting member,” the complaint stated.

Violation of Article 150 has a penalty of arresto mayor or one month and 1 day up to six months of imprisonment or a fine ranging from P200 to P1,000 or both (fine and imprisonment).

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II personally received the complaint.

”Unang-una there’s no basis magkaroon ng bias kami, were just here to receive evidence, to receive the complaint. So there’s no reason why we should be biased. In other words just like… we’re going to treat this like just any other case where we will be decide this without fear or favor of anyone,” Aguirre explained.

He added that a single prosecutor will handle the complaint against De Lima.

On Monday, an ethics complaint was also filed by Alvarez before the Senate against De Lima.

De Lima is also facing four complaints filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala, high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, and the NBI were stemmed from senator’s alleged violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Aguirre said the DOJ consolidated the four complaints filed against De Lima and 17 others, including former government officials and inmates for their alleged involvement in the proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP.

The five-man panel, headed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong, started the preliminary investigation on the case last Dec. 2 to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of case against De Lima and several other respondents.

Ong told the respective lawyers of the respondents to submit their response to the complaints on the hearing of the case set on Dec. 21 at 2:00 p.m.

He said that on Dec. 21, all respondents, including De Lima are required to appear personally before the DoJ to submit their counter-affidavits except for the Bilibid inmates.

It was President Rodrigo R. Duterte who first exposed De Lima as having a hand in the proliferation of illegal drugs in the NBP when she was then Justice Secretary.

The senator, however, has repeatedly denied the allegations claiming that it was part of a demolition job against her. (PNA)

Ethics complaint against me an attempt to ‘save face’ — De Lima

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MANILA, Dec. 13 (PNA) — Senator Leila de Lima on Tuesday slammed the move of House leaders to file an ethics complaint against her noting that it was an effort to save face.

“The House leaders’ move to file complaints against me at the Senate Ethics Committee and at the Department of Justice is nothing but an attempt to save face after the House inquiry on the Bilibid drug trade was exposed to be all of a farce,” De Lima said in a statement sent to media.

De Lima, former Justice Secretary and Commission on Human Rights Chair, stood by her advice to former security aide and alleged drug money bagman Ronnie Dayan to avoid attending the congressional probe into the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) maintaining her innocence.

She also said that her honor as a public official remained intact despite efforts to attack her.

“As I have repeatedly said, the first casualty of the administration’s “war on drugs” is the truth. And it seems those in power are determined to do everything they could to accomplish their personal and political agendas,” she said.

House leaders on Monday filed another ethics complaint against De Lima for barring Dayan from appearing before the congressional probe into illegal drugs at the NBP.

The complaint, which is considered to be the third, was personally brought by Rep. Reynaldo Umali to the office of Senate Majority Leader and Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

It was drafted by Umali, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“Premises considered, for violating (Article 150 of the Revised Penal Code); the Rules of the Congress, of which she is a sitting member, her Oath of Office as a Senator of the Republic; and her disrespect for a co-equal chamber which she called a kangaroo court, the corresponding disciplinary measures must be imposed to penalize Senator De Lima for her unethical acts, conduct and behavior,” the complaints read.

Umali further described De Lima’s advising and inducing Dayan to hide as “tantamount to inducing disobedience to a summon issued by the Congress.” (PNA)

ASG releases 2 remaining Indon crew members in Sulu

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MANILA, Dec. 12 (PNA) — Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits on Monday released the last two Indonesian seafarers who were among the seven crewmen of the Tugboat Charles 00 kidnapped off the waters of Simisa, Sulu last June 22.

Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said the victims, identified as Mohammad Nazer and Robin Peter, were released by the ASG bandits to Moro National Liberation Front Commander Tahir Sali at Indanan, Sulu.

He attributes the released of the victims the military pressure exerted by non-stop operations of Joint Task Force Sulu and pressure from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“At about 11:30 today (Monday) the kidnap victims were initially turned-over by to Sulu Vice Governor and acting Governor Nurunnisa Tan. Thereafter, the latter in turn handed over the kidnap victims to Commander JTF Sulu, Col. Jesus Mananquil in Camp Bautista, Bus-Bus Jolo, Sulu. The KV’s are now undergoing medical checkup at Kutang Heneral Teodoro Bautista Trauma Hospital,” Tan stressed.

Transport of the newly-released victims from Sulu to Zamboanga City and their subsequent turn over to Indonesian authorities are now being arranged and facilitated of Joint Task Force Sulu. (PNA)

Pres. Duterte denies insinuation that he received drug money

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MANILA, Dec. 12 (PNA) — President Rodrigo Duterte denied on Monday insinuation of Sen. De Lima that he received drug money, saying he would not hesitate to shoot anybody who would attempt to offer him money from illegal activities.

“I do not receive drug money, susmaryosep. You’ll give me (drug) money? I will shoot you in front of me,” President Duterte said in his speech during the awarding ceremonies of the 10 outstanding Young Men and Women (TOYM) of 2016 at Malacanang Palace.

De Lima, who has been linked to illegal drug trades, has reportedly urged to consider the possibility that President Duterte, and not her, “is actually the number one drug lord protector and coddler in the country.”

The lady senator based her statement on the President’s decision to reinstate Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 chief Supt. Marvin Marcos and his men who served search warrant that led to the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.

“I guarantee there was nothing wrong with it, but I was just trying to figure something there. I don’t know if it is a network or a work of just two policemen. So I just have to study more. There was nothing to it,” President Duterte explained.

“I just like to inform you that nothing is evil in this,” he added.

President Duterte reiterated his promise to free the country from drug menace which contaminated four million Filipinos who, if not stopped, would pollute 10 million more Filipinos in the future.

“But anyway, kunti na lang naman ang mamamatay. Medyo ubos na. May successor should be freed of this malignancy,” he said.

As of last month, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that the government’s intensified war on drugs has resulted in the killing of almost 4,000 drug pushers and addicts, including nearly 2,000 in legitimate police operations.

The PNP’s Oplan Tokhang has also resulted in the arrest of over 37,000 drug suspects and prompted more than 800,000 drug dependents and pushers to surrender to the authorities nationwide.

President Duterte described his choice to pursue his bloody war against drugs as “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

“I do not offer any excuses nor apologies. I will answer God when I face him,” the President said. (PNA)