Palace welcomes SC ruling junking plea to compel Duterte to defend PH territory

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021   •   321

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition to compel President Rodrigo Duterte to defend the Philippine territory against China’s claims and incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the petition for mandamus filed against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.

Nograles was referring to an SC ruling dated June 29 but only uploaded on its website on November 22.

In a unanimous decision, the SC en banc dismissed the petition for mandamus filed by lawyer Romeo Esmero for “utter lack of merit.”

In his petition, Esmero claimed that it is the president’s ministerial duty to defend the national territory, which includes the West Philippine Sea as established by the UN Arbitral Tribunal.

He also asserted that “there is unlawful neglect or inaction by the president in the performance of his constitutional duty resulting to the detriment of ‘paramount public interest involve (sic) the livelihood of all of our poor Filipino fishermen and their families who are living in the coastal areas of the many islands facing the West Philippine Sea.’”

Esmero also suggested suing China before the International Criminal Court “to demand payment and damages for taking the Kalayaan Islands.”

“Our ruling in De Lima v. Duterte is clear: the president is immune from suit during his incumbency, regardless of the nature of the suit filed against him. Petitioner named President Duterte as the sole respondent in this case. For this reason, this suit should be dismissed outright,” the SC said.

The high court also noted that the petition for the issuance of a writ of mandamus “would still not lie in petitioner’s favor.”

A mandamus petition seeks to compel action and performance of a pre-existing duty, a ministerial function on the part of a board, officer or person, provided that the petitioner has a well-defined and clear right warrant the grant thereof.

“Indeed, the president is the guardian of the Philippine archipelago, including all the islands and waters embraced therein and all other territories over which it has sovereignty or jurisdiction. By constitutional fiat and the intrinsic nature of his office, the president is also the sole organ and the authority in the external affairs of the country,” the ruling read.

The SC said that for all the petitioner’s posturing, he failed to point any law that specifically requires the president to go to the UN or the ICJ to sue China for its incursions into the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“Neither has he shown a clear and unmistakable constitutional or statutory provision which prescribes how the president is to respond to any threat (actual or imminent) from another State to our sovereignty or exercise of our sovereign rights,” the court said.

The SC said that former President Benigno S. Aquino was under no obligation to file a case against China through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013.

“Taking China to binding arbitration was risky, as it could potentially damage relations with a major trading partner. On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued an award overwhelmingly in favor of claims by the Philippines and ultimately bringing some clarity to the overlapping claims in the area,” the court noted.

The SC said that if President Duterte now sees fit to take a different approach with China despite said ruling, “this does not by itself mean that he has, as petitioner suggests, unlawfully abdicated his duty to protect and defend our national territory, correctible with the issuance by this Court of the extraordinary writ of mandamus.”

“Being the Head of State, he is free to use his own discretion in this matter, accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience,” the SC added.

The 9-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda. All 13 other justices concurred with the decision.

With this ruling, Malacañang said that the “executive power, indeed, rests on the President, including the peaceful and stable conduct of foreign affairs. Matters within the President’s discretion cannot be compelled by mandamus.”

The Palace also maintained that the president is the chief architect of foreign policy and this is affirmed by the latest decision of the High Court.

“Having said this, the president has firmly kept his position to continue the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Malacañang said.

 

COMELEC releases ballot face for 2022 elections

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Tuesday released the final ballot face for the May 2022 national and local elections.

The ballot contains the names of 10 presidential aspirants and nine vice presidential bets. It also includes the names of 64 senatorial candidates.

The presidential aspirants included in the final ballot face are listed in the following order:

  • Abella, Ernie
  • De Guzman, Leody
  • Domagoso, Isko Moreno
  • Gonzales, Norberto
  • Lacson, Ping
  • Mangondato, Faisal
  • Marcos, Bongbong
  • Montemayor, Jose Jr.
  • Pacquiao, Manny Pacman
  • Robredo, Leni

The names of vice presidential bets included in the ballot are the following:

  • Atienza, Lito
  • Bello, Walden
  • David, Rizalito
  • Duterte, Sara
  • Lopez, Manny SD
  • Ong, Doc Willie
  • Pangilinan, Kiko
  • Serapio, Carlos
  • Sotto, Vicente Tito

The final ballot face also includes 178 party-list groups.

Ballot faces for other areas have also been uploaded by the COMELEC on its website.

Duterte threatens to name ‘corrupt’ presidential bet

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to spill some information about the presidential aspirants and who among them is allegedly ‘most corrupt’.

In a taped speech aired on Tuesday, Duterte said he will bare some details and “what’s wrong” with the presidential bets in the 2022 elections “in due time.”

“I will personally name the candidates and maybe what’s wrong with them na kailangan malaman ng tao because you are electing a president, sino ‘yung pinaka-corrupt na candidato,” he said.

Duterte said the information came “from everybody” and from “personal experience.”

While he did not specify names, Duterte said there is a ‘very corrupt’ aspirant who cannot become president.

“Mayroon diyan, talagang hindi pwede maging president,” he said.

“Mayroon naman diyan na presidente, pero masyadong corrupt. Kala lang kasi tao malinis, pero yung mga transaction, business sa kaniya, official business, pati yung mga chinese nagreklamo na masyadong corrupt,” he added.

Another contender, he said, is a bit lacking in experience, and doesn’t even seem to know the “fundamentals” of what a person who wants to be president should know.

“Medyo kulang talaga. Kulang na kulang. Everyday may sasabihin siya na mali o maski the fundamentals of what a person na gustong mag-president dapat,” he said.

Duterte stressed that he is not politicking and that he only wants to reveal this to let the people know about these issues.

“I’m talking to you as your president. Kailangan ilalabas ko kasi we are talking of elections, we are talking of our country and the next rulers, so to say, so to speak,” he said.

“Walang personalan ito… Nothing at stake for me, wala talaga akong rason bakit maghanap ako ng kalaban,” he added.

Duterte has yet to endorse a candidate for the presidential race.

His daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is running for vice president in tandem with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Supreme Court revises rules on use of laptops during Bar exams

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court will allow examinees to keep reviewers in their laptops that they will be using for the Bar exams, according to an advisory released on Monday.

“Examinees are now allowed to keep reviewers in their laptops, which should always be saved in their local folders and not downloadable from their clouds,” Bar Exams chairperson Justice Marvic Leonen said in Bar Bulletin no. 35.

In previous bulletins, Bar examinees were advised to organize and offload their law-related files into external devices before taking the Bar examinations. They were also prohibited from using their laptops other than to use Examplify during the test proper.

The new bulletin allows examinees to access their files on the laptop for any last-minute studying once done with the security and health check.

Examinees may also review their own files during lunch breaks.

“In any event, examinees must close all reviewers and other law-related files 30 minutes before the first bell (7:30 a.m.; 1:30 p.m.) rings,” Leonen said.

The SC reminded examinees that they are responsible for the safekeeping of their laptops and it will not be liable should they spill anything on their laptops or do any damage that might render their laptops unusable for the succeeding exam.

“Examinees shall also not be allowed to avail of the back-up computers should such a situation arise,” it added.

The SC also said that talking to other examinees is prohibited, as well as sharing their computer screens or files.

“Silence and physical distancing will be strictly enforced,” it said.

“Those who will violate this rule may face disciplinary action,” it added.

The high court likewise advised examinees not to attempt any form of cheating even with the relaxed policy.

“As those who have completed the sample exams already know, Examplify is a secure delivery program, designed to prohibit examinees from exiting the application once the test proper has begun,” it said.

“Trying to access files during the test proper is a futile effort and a violation of the Honor Code,” it added.

Examinees are still prohibited from connecting to the internet at all times, unless authorized.

“Attempting to connect to the internet while inside the premises of the local testing center, other than to download the examination file and to submit the answer file shall be considered cheating,” the SC said.

The high court also reminded examinees that they are “absolutely prohibited from using their laptops for social media once they enter the premises.”

It also reiterated previous Bar bulletins that the bringing of iPads, tablets, or other gadgets is prohibited and will be confiscated by security.

Leonen warned that no second chances will be given to anyone who will be caught violating the rules.

“Any form of cheating will not be tolerated. Anyone who will be caught violating these rules will be automatically disqualified from the 2020/21 Bar Examination and future bar examinations. No second chances will be given for any breach of the Honor Code,” he said.

Leonen earlier urged Bar takers to strictly observe health protocols and go on quarantine before the exams.

Fully vaccinated examinees are required to undergo only one antigen test within 48 hours before the first examination.

“Those who will test positive under the antigen test shall be required to comply with the guidelines of their local testing center’s local government unit,” Leonen said.

Unvaccinated examinees, on the other hand, will be required to present negative nasal or saliva RT-PCR Test results taken within 72 hours before the first examination. Information about testing will be received through email by each examinees.

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 shall still be required to undergo an antigen test or RT-PCR test before the first examination.

Examinees who present a positive test result but have since recovered from COVID-19 up to a month before the first Bar examination day shall be required to present an affidavit stating under oath that they are considered by the local government units as a “recovered” case and they have completed the required isolation period.

“Any false statement shall be cause for outright disqualification,” Leonen said.

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