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Senate leadership supports call for Duterte to veto ‘pork insertions’

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Wednesday, 6 February 2019 05:52 PM


FILE PHOTO: Senate President Vicente Sotto III

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Lawmakers are racing against time to finally pass the P3.7 trillion proposed 2019 national budget as they have until Friday (February 8) to extend session and to finalize the provisions of the bill.

House Committee on Appropriations Chair Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. said the proposed budget may possibly reach the table of President Rodrigo Duterte for signature by next week.

The senators will hold a caucus on Wednesday night to discuss the outcome of discussions at the ongoing bicameral conference committee especially on matters involving the alleged ‘pork insertions’ in the proposed budget.

Once everything is clear, the bill will likely proceed to ratification.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he is likely to support the position of Senator Panfilo Lacson who is calling on President Duterte to veto the alleged ‘pork insertions’ in the bill, if necessary.

“Kung nararapat at kung talagang maliwanag na pork, bakit hindi? Dapat i-veto,” Sotto said.

Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, said the passage of the proposed national budget remains their top priority at this point.

Angara argued that unless the proposed budget is passed, the government will have no choice but to operate with a reenacted budget until July.

“Walang defined item for 2019. Maybe if there are savings in agencies, then they will use that, or there are funds na, unprogrammed funds, hindi natuloy ang project, doon nila kukunin ang pondo,” Angara explained.

Under a reenacted budget, all pending projects of the government for this year will definitely be affected.

Among them is the preparation for the upcoming 2019 midterm elections, specifically the lack of funds for honoraria for teachers who will serve as election officers in the polls. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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Analyst: ICC case vs China’s Xi Jinping faces challenges

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, 22 March 2019 08:03 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The complaint filed by two former high-ranking Philippine officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) is facing many challenges, a maritime law expert said on Friday (March 22).

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed the complaint on March 13 on behalf of Filipino fishermen, accusing Xi and other Chinese government officials of committing crimes against humanity for implementing “systematic plan to control the South China Sea.”

“Over the several years, Chinese President Xi Jin Ping has ordered engineers to pile sand onto some of the sea’s disputed offshore reefs, mostly in the Spratlys, with the apparent goal of building military bases there,” the group stated in their communication.

“[Chinese Foreign Minister] Wang Yi is the Primary promoter of China’s plan in the South China Sea,” the complainants said.

“As China’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Xiao Jianhua defends, promotes and facilitates the crimes stated in this communication,” they added.

The complainants said the situation is both unique and relevant because “it presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment on humanity’s history.”

“It adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations,” the complainants added.

But Prof. Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the complaint faces many challenges, including questions on whether ICC has jurisdiction of the case.

“’Yung loss of livelihood kasi it doesn’t per se fall under categories of crimes sa ICC. Medyo maraming magiging paliwanag pang kailangan kung talagang papasok iyon (the loss of livelihood does not per se fall under the ICC”s categories of crimes. It needs more explanation on whether it really falls under its jurisdiction),” Batongbacal said.

Despite reports on China’s alleged harassment against Filipino fishermen in the contested waters, massive reclamation of reefs and militarization in the region, the Analyst thinks the complaint is lacking in certain elements.

“Hindi siya nag-involve ng tinatawag na use of force in international law, iyong aktibong pag-atake at paggamit ng dahas. Tapos in terms of injuries, hindi naman natin makita ‘no kung mayroong physical injury talaga, kahit nangyari iyon sa [Vietnamese fishermen], pero sa atin walang report. Threat lang o banta (The issue doesn’t involve what we call use of force in international law. There is no active armed attack. In terms of injuries, we do not see any physical injuries, even if it happened to Vietnamese fishermen, but in Filipinos, there was no report. Just threats),” he explained.

“Ang concern ay loss of fishing resources, iyong pag-regulate sana, paghinto sana ng illegal fishing sa ating EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), iyong mga gano’n pwede iyong pag-usapan sa ibang bodies tulad ‘nung within the UN (United Nations) System (The obvious concern here is the loss of fishing resources, the regulation or stoppage of illegal fishing. Those kind of concerns may be discussed by other foreign bodies within the UN system),” he added.

The Philippines’ formal withdrawal from the Hague-based body could also obstruct the case filed by del Rosario and Carpio-Morales, aside from the fact that China has never been a member of the ICC.

“Mayroong malaking obstacle diyan, iyong fact na hindi naman ever naging miyembro ng ICC ang China. Tapos pangalawa na iyong tayo, nag-withdraw pa tayo kasi supposedly, dapat iyong partido diyan ay involved iyong mga state, (There is a very big obstacle here, the fact that China is not a member of the ICC. Next is the Philippines’ withdrawal from the body. Supposedly, the states who are parties to the case should be involved with the ICC)” Batongbacal said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has lauded the “bold, unprecedented” move of Carpio-Morales and del Rosario to call the attention of the ICC on the plight of local fishermen affected by the maritime dispute.

“It’s in fact a masterstroke na nagpapakita kung bakit kailangan manatili tayo sa ICC. Kasi kung ganyan na foreign aggressor ang involved eh saan tayo pupunta? Kundi sa isang independent international body with universal jurisdiction (that shows why we really need to remain in the ICC. Because if a foreign aggressor is involved in the case then where will we go? To an independent international body with universal jurisdiction),” de Lima said in a statement.

READ: Duterte: ICC case vs Xi won’t strain PH-China ties

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the case won’t affect the stronger diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Mai Bermudez)

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Duterte: ICC case vs Xi won’t strain PH-China ties

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, 22 March 2019 12:11 PM

FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. | PCOO\King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte remains positive that the stronger diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China will not be jeopardized by the case filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Duterte expressed the remark on Thursday (March 21) after two former high-ranking Philippine officials filed a communication against Xi before the ICC for China’s supposedly aggressive militarization and reclamation in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.

“No, I’m sure it won’t,” Duterte said when asked if the case would affect the ties between the two countries at the sidelines of the 122nd Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army in Taguig City.

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed the complaint on behalf of Filipino fishermen allegedly injured and persecuted by China’s “most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment on humanity’s history” in the South China Sea.

Carpio-Morales and Del Rosario also accused Xi and other Chinese officials of committing crimes against humanity for implementing “systematic plan to control the South China Sea.”

The complainants said that China’s “atrociously inhumane actions” that “adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations” remain unpunished.

“They are entitled to file the case. They are Filipino citizens and I think we’ll just also have to defend our position vis-à-vis sa kanila. They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines is a democratic country and anybody can bring a suit against anybody, but whether or not it would prosper, or whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that’s something else,” he added.– Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Senate, House to thresh out rift on 2019 budget

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, 21 March 2019 09:55 PM

The members of the Senate Committee on Finance and its counterpart in the House of Representatives will hold a meeting on Monday (March 25) to iron out their disagreements on the 2019 Proposed National Budget.

This, after the House retrieved the enrolled version of the budget from the Senate.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes this is a good indication to thresh out the issue on the budget.

“I’m glad that they have retrieved it. There is a possibility that we can bring it back to the original state of the budget when we ratified it,” Sotto added.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rolando Andaya Jr, however, clarified that the physical retrieval of the enrolled budget doesn’t necessarily mean that they have wavered from their earlier stand.

“We maintain that the House did nothing unconstitutional, illegal or irregular when we approved and ratified the 2019 GAB in plenary session,” stressed Andaya.

It can be recalled that Senator Panfilo Lacson has alleged that the House leadership has realigned around 95-Billion pesos from the 37-Trillion-peso 2019 budget which was purportedly given to several members of the House.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said that the falling out between the Senate and the House on the proposed budget has left a snag on the implementation of their infrastructure projects.

Anna Mae Lamentillo, the Head of the Build, Build, Build Committee of the DPWH, said that despite this setback, the department is doing its best to make sure that the implementation of the projects that are already funded will not be affected by the budget problem. – Maris Federez

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