House closely working with intel units for Duterte’s 4th SONA security

Robie de Guzman   •   July 12, 2019   •   1494

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Joint Session of the 17th Congress at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives Complex in Constitution Hills, Quezon City on July 23, 2018.
(Image courtesy of PCOO/KARL NORMAN ALONZO)

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives on Thursday said it is closely working with government intelligence agencies for the security of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Retired Major General Romeo Prestoza said they are directly coordinating with relevant intelligence units to evaluate any risks to the House or President Duterte during the SONA.

He said the increased security follows the recent bombings that rocked Sulu in Mindanao.

“Well part of it kasi, sa experience ko kasi I’ve been an intelligence officer for 27 years, those things talagang kinoconsider namin. Hindi namin pinapabayaan, tinitingnan namin,” Prestoza said in a press briefing about the SONA 2019 preparations.

“That’s why we initiate ‘yung direct na contact with the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency), ISAFP (Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines) and other intelligence units to see kung meron talagang connection or possibility na umabot dito,” he added.

However, Prestoza assured they have yet to see substantial security threats to the upcoming SONA, which Duterte will deliver at the Batasang Pambansa.

“When it comes to security threats, wala pa namang substantial, meaning talagang wala pang nakarating na actual na threat,” he said.

He also emphasized that the House security is prepared and well-equipped to handle security issues.

“We have extensive training and seminars to include simulation exercises and tabletop exercises para in case na meron nga, we would be prepared. Even ‘yung protocols, when it comes to emergencies ginagawa din namin,” Prestoza said.

When it comes to directing signal jammers on SONA day, Prestoza said the Presidential Security Group (PSG) shall be responsible for it based on their assessment of the proceedings.

“Kung kailangan nila or they feel they need to initiate na the jamming procedure, sila makakapag-dictate noon. I cannot dictate it,” he said.

In the same press briefing, House Acting Secretary General Dante Roberto Maling said that preparation activities for SONA remain on track and are the same as in previous years.

“Basically, the preparation has been the same through the years except siguro for very minor details, mga maliliit na arrangements lang. It doesn’t really deviate from what has been happening from the past years,” Maling said.

Panelo: One-on-one interview with Duterte to push through on Tuesday

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 28, 2020

After its postponement on January 22, the one-on-one interview with President Rodrigo Duterte will push through on Tuesday (January 28), said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday.

The January 22 schedule for the one-on-one interview was postponed due to “pressing family matters”.

“Due to pressing matters, the tête-à-tête Part 2 of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo has been moved to January 28, 2020 at the Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace at 5:00 p.m.,” a previous media advisory read.

This will be the President’s second têtê-a-têtê. The first televised interview was held last September 2018.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PH now working on terminating PH-US VFA, says Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

Philippine Marines rush to shore during an amphibious landing exercise with United States counterparts on a beach on the coast of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales Province, northwest of Manila, Philippines, 09 May 2018. The Philippines-US Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) Military Exercise is on its 34th iteration, which is aimed to enhance interoperability between security forces of the two countries. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed Friday that the Philippines has started the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the deal if it does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president issued the termination order Thursday night despite giving a month for the US to restore the senator’s visa.

Panelo said the order has already been relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“I just talked with Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and he said that he will start with the process and he called up already the vice chair and they talked, and Ambassador Romualdez has already been informed, I was also talking to him earlier,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Locsin confirmed he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have taken the first step in ending the 1998 deal with the US government.

Locsin sits as the chairperson of the Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as vice chairman.

“Del Lorenzana and I- as Vice and Chair of USVFA – are starting the process of terminating it by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side, an executive agreement on the US side. I’m leaving for Washington on a totally unrelated matter,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lorenzana, for his part, refrained from commenting into Duterte’s latest pronouncement.

“Will study it first,” he said in a message to reporters. “No comment muna. Too soon to comment.”

The VFA is a bilateral accord between Washington and Manila that came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz & Lea Ylagan)

Duterte turns down Trump invite to attend US-ASEAN meet

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said he has decided to reject the invitation of United States President Donald Trump to attend the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit to be held in Las Vegas this March.

Duterte announced his decision during an interview with Russian International Television Network RT.

“I just received an invitation to go to the United States together with the ASEAN leaders. I haven’t been to the States. I was invited by [former US President Barack] Obama a while back. But I did not go,” he said in a video posted on Thursday.

When asked if he will attend the upcoming summit between the US and ASEAN, Duterte replied with: “No, no.”

During the interview, the president recalled the time when Obama criticized him and his campaign against illegal drugs.

“One time when I was being criticized by Obama in a press conference, he should have realized that I’m also the head of a sovereign state. He should have criticized me in the proper venue,” he said, referring to a September 2016 press conference where Obama urged Duterte to conduct his campaign “the right way.”

The president said Obama’s move to castigate him in a press briefing got him “so mad” and prompted him to curse the former president.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that the chief executive is “still pondering” on whether he would accept Trump’s invitation as he is mindful of the possibility of getting barred from entering the US since he doesn’t have a visa, and making some American senators “unhappy” seeing him there. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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