December 2015

Court ruling on Pemberton case will strengthen US-Phl relations, says President Aquino
(ROME, Italy) President Aquino said he believes the court ruling on the case of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton will further strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and the US because the two countries both respect rule of law.

In an interview with the Philippine media here on Friday, the President was asked about his thoughts on the Olongapo court ruling and how it will affect the defense ties between the US and the Philippines.

Pemberton has a right to appeal the court ruling, but his conviction also shows that the country’s courts can issue fair judgment, the President said.

“The rule of law happens in our country. It is respected by the other state. Therefore, it redounds to both parties’ benefits na hindi unequal,” the President said in the interview.

“Mayroon tayong equality among two equally sovereign states na ‘pag may ginawa kang kasalanan, mayroon kang pagagalitan na dapat niyang pagbayaran.”

“Ang diretso ‘non, lalong na-enhance ‘yung ating relationship between us and America.”

The President also allayed fears that Pemberton will be given special treatment while in detention especially because he is being held at a military camp and not in the national penitentiary.

Pemberton is actually in a facility controlled by the Philippines, inside the facility of the the AFP, which is already being manned by Bureau of Corrections personnel.

In effect, this is an extension of the Bilibid and consistent with the agreements under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), he explained.

Under the VFA there is an “agreed upon detention facility” by both sides for military personnel who will be accused or convicted of crimes.

But putting a convicted military personnel like Pemberton in separate facility rather the usual prison cell doesn’t mean he is being given special treatment, he said.

“‘Yung mga ganoong klaseng tanong wala namang kasagutang maayos e. Bottom line, bilang sovereign state, may agreement tayo with another sovereign state,” he said.
“Nandiyan na ‘yan, nag-rule ‘yung ating mga korte; una muna, iniharap si Pemberton sa korte, nasentensyahan ng ating korte at babantayan ng ating mga personnel para i-serve ‘yung kanyang sentence.”

An Olongapo court on Tuesday ruled that Pemberton is guilty of homicide and not murder over the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton will face imprisonment from six to 12 years and was also ordered by the court to pay P50,000 as civil indemnity and P4.32 million to Laude’s family as damages for loss of earning capacity.

The accused was also ordered to pay P155,255 as reimbursement for the wake and burial of the victim, P50,000 for moral damages and P30,000 for exemplary damages.

Under the VFA, the confinement or detention of a US personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by US and Filipino authorities, the court noted in its ruling. PND (as)

President Aquino hopes COP 21 yields binding climate agreement
(ROME, Italy) President Aquino said he hopes that the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) that he attended in Paris will yield enforceable commitments from countries to address climate change.

The President, who attended the Paris climate conference on November 30, said the good thing about the debate on climate issue is that countries now start to recognize that climate change is real.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, which hit the Philippines in 2013, painted a very grim picture of exactly what climate change is all about, he said.

“Not too long ago, if everybody recalls, there was even a debate as to whether or not there was climate change. Here, I think there was nobody that I heard who was denying that climate change is a problem,” the President said in an interview with the Philippine media here on Friday.

“It was really just a question of whether the two-degree goal or the 1.5-degree goal is the central topic. So the negotiations are still ongoing.”

“We hope that there will be very, very substantial results differentiated from the 2009 Copenhagen efforts,” he added.

It is widely viewed, based on recent science, that a 2 degree rise in global temperatures will have disastrous impacts on the global weather system, the environment and societies.

There are also assumptions that even a 1 degree rise is now expected to be as great as those previously assumed for a 2 degree Celsius warming.

Another good thing is that Germany and France, which are both industrialized countries, have added their voice to the 1.5 degree Celsius above industrial levels, calling for higher emission cuts especially for major polluters.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of vulnerable countries, has become a major force in calling for the world to take action.

The President said that before they left from Manila, the conference came up with a statement, espousing 1.5 degrees, and this was later ratified in Paris.

“It started out as a group of small, Pacific island nations, numbering about 10 or 11. When we joined in, it reached 20. Before we left for Paris, it had become a group of 43,” he said.

There is a clamor from vulnerable countries for the industrialized nations to shoulder the burden of building the resiliency of those affected as well as facilitating the transfer of technology to address climate issues and cut emissions, the President said.

“So one is hopeful that in the negotiations we really will have something more of substance,” he said.

COP 21, which is considered make or break conference, runs from November 30 to December 11. Countries attending the conference in Paris are expected to come with a binding climate agreement to prevent irreversible damage to the planet’s weather system. PND (as)

President Aquino on Poe’s DQ case: “It’s not up to me”
(ROME, Italy) How do you solve a problem like Grace Poe?

In a situation where clarity breeds confusion, President Benigno S. Aquino III said the decision is not his to make, but expressed hope that the senator would still find ways to appeal her case.

President Aquino was reacting to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) second division’s ruling to disqualify Senator Poe as presidential nominee because of her contentious citizenship issues.

Speaking to Manila-based reporters here on Friday, President Aquino said he himself finds the COMELEC’s decision confusing even as he read the 34-page resolution for three times now and consulted several lawyers.

Citing page four, item 12, of the said document, President Aquino understood that Senator Poe was granted her petition to reacquire her Filipino citizenship in 2006.

The order came from then Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez, Jr., which would have gotten the lawmaker off the hook, until her being a foundling was made an issue.

“Since Senator Poe is a foundling at hindi pa na-establish kung sino ‘yung parents niya how do you establish na Filipino ‘yung parents niya? Parang hindi pa proven ‘yon,” President Aquino said.

“So, tatanungin ninyo, tama ba ‘yung appreciation ng BID (Bureau of Immigration and Deportation) noon? Mali ba ‘yung appreciation? ‘Yung mga ganitong tanong ang napapaalala,” he added.

President Aquino said he was also surprised to learn that Senator Poe was still using an American passport at a time when she was supposed to have renounced it after taking an oath as a public official.

“Hindi ako SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal), hindi ako COMELEC, pareho silang independent bodies. Hindi rin ako Supreme Court. Pero parang nakikita ko ‘yung logic ‘nung sinasabi rito,” he told reporters.

President Aquino emphasized, however, that Senator Poe could still exploit other avenues to help rectify her situation all the way to the Supreme Court.

“There’s clarity and at the same time it leads to so many more questions. And siguro, in a sense, this particular problem is not up to my decision—up to me to decide on,” he said.

President Aquino likewise defended his anointed successor, Mar Roxas, amid accusations that he and the Liberal Party (LP) had a hand in the COMELEC’s decision.

According to his party mates, it was United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) spokesperson Toby Tiangco who first questioned Senator Poe’s qualifications. UNA is supporting Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Senator Poe currently holds the number one spot among the top presidential candidates in next year’s elections with a considerable lead over her competitors based on recent surveys.

“Ipaalala ko lang, ang tagal naming nililigawan si Grace and, for that matter, Senator (Francis) Escudero to be part of an administration ticket,” President Aquino said.

The Chief Executive appointed Senator Poe as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2010. Three years later, she was elected as member of the Senate under the administration party.

President Aquino also initially thought of the good senator as the running mate of Roxas but it did not occur to him that she would be placed in this difficult situation.

When LP was negotiating for her to become part of the team, President Aquino said they never discussed the issue in detail, but Senator Poe assured him that she had a battery of lawyers who can handle the matter.

“She kept telling me that she had a panel of lawyers who had studied the matter and they were ready to answer any and all questions and I took it at face value,” President Aquino said.

The LP eventually settled for Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo as the vice presidential bet, a decision that allowed President Aquino to have more confidence in the current administration lineup.

“I really like Leni Robredo as a candidate. I like the things that she’s been saying. She is of the same fold without an iota of divergence, in a sense,” President Aquino said.

“So parang we can support her. It’s more total—I’m talking about si Leni and si Mar—as opposed to we support you 85 percent or 90 percent. I have more confidence to say that the present lineup I can fully support them without an iota of doubt or uncertainty,” he added. PND (hdc)

President Aquino arrives from successful European trip
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Saturday arrived from a successful European trip that brought him to France, Italy and the Vatican City.

Among those who met the President at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 in Pasay City were Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto; Cabinet members led by Secretary Paquito Ochoa; Congresswoman Emi Calixto Rubiano, Mayor Tony Calixto; Police Director General Ricardo Marquez; Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-staff Hernando Irriberi; and NAIA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.

“Tunay na napakasarap umuwi sa bayan natin, lalo na kung ganitong bitbit natin ang magaganda na namang balita,” said President Aquino, who attended the United Nations Climate Change Forum in Paris before proceeding to Rome for a meeting with Italian President Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

From Rome, the President headed to the Vatican City where he had a private audience with Pope Francis. President Aquino also attended the unveiling and blessing of the mosaic image of Our Lady of Penafrancia at the Vatican Gardens.

“Una po tayong tumungo sa Paris, France upang daluhan ang ika-21 Conference of Parties ukol sa climate change. Doon, inihain natin ang paninindigan ng Pilipinas: Kailangan nang maabot ang isang malawakan at makatarungang solusyon sa isyu ng nagbabagong klima. Sa Climate Vulnerable Forum naman, pinamunuan natin ang isang kalipunan ng mga bansang pinaka-apektado ng climate change. Parami nga po nang parami ang nagiging kasapi ng CVF: Ang dating 20 bansa, nadagdagan pa ng 23. Sa pagbubuklod na ito, nagiging mas malakas ang tinig natin, at mas naisusulong natin ang karapatan ng mga bansang pinaka-napipinsala ng sakuna, kahit pa ba napakaliit ng ambag natin sa carbon emissions ng mundo,” said the Chief Executive.

President Aquino noted the good outcome of the climate change forum attended by 147 world leaders.

“Ang maganda pa nga pong resulta: Suportado na rin ng France at Germany ang paninindigang huwag palagpasin sa 1.5 degrees ang pag-angat ng global temperature. Kakabit po nito ang panawagan natin na tulungan ang mga bansa tulad natin sa aspeto ng climate financing at technology, para mas magawa nating makaambag sa hakbang kaugnay ng climate change. Habang dumarami nga po ang malalaki at industriyalisadong mga bansang pumapanig sa ating pusisyon, lalo ring nagiging epektibo at makabuluhan ang mga pagtitipon tulad ng COP 21,” the President said.

While in Paris, President Aquino met with business leaders.

“Nagkaroon din po tayo ng serye ng pagpupulong kasama ang mga lider ng malalaking negosyo sa Pransya. Ang Sanofi Pasteur po, isang kilalang kumpanya ng gamot, hangad na mailabas sa Pilipinas ang isang vaccine para sa apat na strain ng dengue sa pinaka-angkop na halaga. Kinalap din po natin ang interes ng Airbus, na makakatulong sa lalong pag-unlad ng ating aerospace industry.

“Ang CRH France naman na atin ding nakaharap, nagpasok ng humigit-kumulang 60 billion pesos sa Lafarge-Holcim sa Pilipinas. Ayon pa sa pinuno nila, balak pa nilang magpasok ng 2.3 billion pesos sa atin, kasabay ng pagtatalaga sa Pilipinas bilang kanilang investment hub para sa ASEAN.

Nakausap din po natin ang Jacobi Carbons, na nitong Setyembre lang ay nagbukas ng kanilang manufacturing facility sa Cagayan De Oro, na nagkakahalaga ng humigit-kumulang 517 million pesos. Ang sabi sa atin: Ito raw ang pinakamalaking planta nila sa buong mundo. Balak nga po ng Jacobi na palawigin ang operasyon nila sa pagproseso ng coconut shells bilang sangkap ng activated carbon filters. Ang hatid nito: nasa 2,850 na direkta at indirektang trabahong malilikha para sa ating mga kababayan. Ang pangunahing makikinabang dito ay ang ating local coconut farmers, na tutulong sa pagsuplay ng coconut shells sa naturing kumpanya,” the President said.

President Aquino also toured the 1,500-square-meter facility of Usine IO, a membership-based workshop in Paris dedicated to hardware technologies and startup assistance. The facility serves as an innovation and hardware prototyping platform or launchpad for hardware products like furniture, healthcare, and robotics.

“Matapos ang mga pagpupulong, binisita din natin ang pasilidad ng Usine IO, na isa sa mga kumpanyang nasa larangan ng inobasyon sa manufacturing at tumutulong sa mga imbentor na maisakongkreto ang kanilang mga ideya. Habang naroon tayo, nagpakita sila ng tinatawag na smart toothbrush, na nagpapadala ng impormasyon sa isang app sa smart phone kung tama ba ang naging pagsepilyo mo. Ang hi-tech na sepilyong ito, dinisenyo nga po sa Pransya, pero gawa dito sa Pilipinas ng mga Pilipino,” the President explained.

During his meeting with Italian President Mattarella and Prime Minister Renzi, President Aquino said the two officials support to the Mindanao peace process as well as the Philippine government’s position to solve the West Philippine Sea dispute.

“Galing naman po ng France, tumungo tayo sa Italy: doon, nakipagkita tayo sa kanilang Pangulo at Punong Ministro, na kapwa nagpahiwatig ng suporta para sa ating peace process sa Mindanao, at maging sa ating pusisyon ukol sa pagresolba sa usapin sa West Philippine Sea. Sang-ayon nga po sila sa ating hakbang na makahanap ng mapayapa at makatwirang solusyon sa isyung ito,” said President Aquino.

The President said the Italian leaders expressed admiration to the Filipinos working in various sectors in Italy.

“Sa pag-uusap din natin, damang-dama ang paghanga nila sa mga naiambag ng ating mga kababayan sa iba’t ibang sektor sa Italya. Ito po ang nagtulak sa kanilang bigyan ng preferential status ang mga kababayan nating pipiliing magtrabaho sa kanilang bansa. Pinirmahan na nga po ng Pilipinas at Italya ang isang labor agreement upang maisakatuparan ito. Siyempre po, habang naroon, siniguro rin nating makadaupang-palad ang ating mga kababayan. Ibinalita natin sa kanila ang transpormasyong tinatamasa natin ngayon, at idiniin ang pangangailangang pangalagaan ito upang hindi na tayo magbalik pa sa madilim nating pinanggalingan,” said the President.

President Aquino said that during his audience with Pope Francis, he assured the pope that the Filipino people love him so much.

“Sa huling araw ng biyaheng ito, nakapanayam natin ang Santo Papa sa Vatican City. Naglapit tayo ng pambansang dalangin para sa kapayapaan, katarungan, at malawakang kaunlaran. Ibabahagi ko na rin po: may kakaibang gaan sa pakiramdam na dala ang pagharap kay Pope Francis. Siya nga ho ang lider ng simbahang Katolika, pero talagang napaka-mapagkumbaba niya. Ang sabi niya sa atin at sa mga miyembro ng ating delegasyon: please pray for me. Ang sagot ko ho sa kanya: mahal na mahal siya ng mga Pilipino, at miski nga di Katoliko nating mga kababayan ay ipinagdadasal siya,” said the President.

“Pinag-usapan din po namin ng Cardinal Secretary of State ang peace process, at ang mga kongkretong paraan para maibsan ang kahirapan sa ating bansa. Bagaman kabibisita lang ng Santo Papa noong Enero, ipinarating po natin ang imbitasyon sa kanyang bumalik at muling masaksihan ang lalim ng pananampalataya ng Pilipino. Bilang huling aktibidad sa Vatican, pinasinayaan po natin ang isang imahen ng Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Piling-pili po ang mga bansang nagkakaroon ng kanilang pambansang imahen ng Birheng Maria sa Vatican Gardens, kaya nga po napakalaking karangalan na tayo’y nabigyan ng pagkakataong ibahagi sa bawat Katoliko sa buong mundo ang imaheng nagbibigay ng tibay, pag-asa, at inspirasyon sa ating sambayanan,” the President added.

After delivering his arrival speech, President Aquino was scheduled to witness the turnover and blessing of two fighter jets, which arrived last week.

“Mga boss, ang layo na talaga ng ating narating sa Daang Matuwid. Naalala pa po siguro ninyo: Parang kailan lang, ni wala sa pangarap nating makabili ng mga moderno at dekalibreng eroplano na magagamit ng ating Air Force. Pagkatapos na pagkatapos po ng talumpating ito, personal kong dadaluhan ang turnover at blessing ceremony para sa ating unang dalawang FA-50 fighter jets na lumapag nitong nakaraang linggo lang. ‘Yun pong natitirang sampu para mabuo ang kanilang squadron, makukumpleto naman pagdating ng 2017,” said the President.

“Ibang-iba na nga po ang Pilipinas, at ibang-iba na ang tingin sa atin ng mundo. Tunay nga po: Kayo ang gumawa ng pagbabago, at kayo ang magpapatuloy nito. Ang masasabi ko po: Napakasarap maging Pangulo ng isang lahing patuloy na nagpapakitang-gilas, patuloy na nananalig, at patuloy na tumatanggap ng paghanga sa buong mundo,” the President said. PND (jm)

BBL passage is inevitable, says President Aquino
(ROME, Italy) President Aquino expressed high hopes that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be passed into law within or even after his administration which will pave the way for attaining a lasting peace in Mindanao.

In an interview Friday with the Philippine press here, the President was asked about his views on the delays being encountered by the BBL in Congress especially now that the country gears towards election next year. The lack of quorum is still a problem in Congress.

The President said he doesn’t think that there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the chances of the BBL being passed in the legislature although he said there are some who are trying to derail it.

“At the end of the day, next year we face elections,” he said in the interview.

“Even at the point that we were negotiating, I did say that the earlier we craft this proposed measure, and farther away from both the budget and next year’s elections, the better the chances of passing it in a timely manner and enabling the transition authority to demonstrate the difference of their governance.”

Despite the snag in Congress, he expressed confidence that there is still a very strong push that can be made but passing the BBL should happen sooner rather than later.

“I think the movement towards having the BBL in its present form or with a little modification is really just a question of time. It will happen,” he said.

“Pero ulitin ko nga, hindi naman personal kong monumento ito… at sigurado akong mangyayari ito. Kailan mangyayari? Sana sa panahon ko, pero kung hindi, palagay ko inevitable na magkakaroon tayo ng ganyang batas.”

The Mindanao peace process was also a major topic during his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last Wednesday.

He briefed the Italian leaders on his administration’s thrust towards economic inclusivity to discourage rebellion and extremism in the south.

The Philippines doesn’t have the problem of radicalization that exists in other parts of the world although it has concerns on the bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.

According to the President, he also emphasized the ongoing confidence-building partnership between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aimed at seeking a real solution to the Muslim separatism.

Both the Italian President and the Prime Minister expressed their support for the Philippines’ pursuit of peace, the President said.

The EU has been supporting the International Monitoring Team and is also a participant in the Mindanao Trust Fund.

The Italian government in particular is assisting the Philippines through the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program.

There are about 53,000 beneficiary families in the provinces of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat in Region 12 and Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in ARMM under the program, the President said.

To date, the initiative has irrigated 1,500 hectares of lands, installed 80 potable water systems, and built 10 units of warehouse and 54,000 square meters multipurpose drying pavements.

Also, 35,000 hectares of farms were cultivated through crop diversification, and capacitated 25 local government units (LGUs) in planning and implementation.

The Italian development program also trained 87 farmer organizations on agri-enterprise development, he noted. PND (as)

President Aquino leads turnover, blessing of new air assets
Fresh from a three-state European trip, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Saturday led the formal turnover and blessing of newly acquired air assets at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

President Aquino witnessed the turnover of aircraft documents by the respective manufacturers to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and to Philippine Air Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado.

During the turnover and blessing ceremony, President Aquino poured champagne on the nose of the new air assets, which include two FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets, one C-295 medium lift aircraft, and six AgustaWestland AW-109E attack helicopters.

In his message, PAF chief Lt. General Delgado said the new acquisitions are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

The two FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets are the first of the 12 fighter jets bought from the Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. The two aircrafts arrived from South Korea last week. The 10 fighter jets are expected to be delivered by 2017.

The FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets, Delgado said, shall be employed to secure our land, airspace, and maritime territory, including the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

“It can also be used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as air interdiction and close air support missions,” the PAF chief said.

The latest C-295 medium lift aircraft is the second delivery from Airbus Defence and Space. The first aircraft arrived last March while the third delivery is expected to arrive before the year ends.

“With the acquisition of three MLA, the airlift requirement of the AFP could be addressed by having an additional aircraft dedicated to operate in any combat support, territorial defense and disaster response missions of the AFP as well as providing support to national development,” he said.

Meanwhile, the six AW-109E attack helicopters complete the eight-helicopter deal with AgustaWestland of Italy. The first two AW-109E attack choppers were delivered and accepted last August.

Lt. Gen. Delgado said these AW-109E attack choppers are projected to augment the dwindling number of MD-520MG, the primary attack helicopter of the Philippine Air Force.

“All these are good indications that we are steady on our course towards realizing our vision of a professional and competent Air Force responsive to national security and development as embodied in our Flight Plan 2028,” he said.

President Aquino, together with the Philippine delegation, arrived in Manila on Saturday afternoon following his successful visit to France, Italy and the Vatican City. PND (co)