World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
29 December 2019

FREE DE LIMA INSTEAD OF THREATENING VISA RESTRICTIONS, US SENATOR SAYS 

MANILA - The Philippine government should free detained Sen. Leila De Lima 
"or provide her [a] fair, public trial" instead of threatening visa 
restrictions on visiting US citizens, US Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is banned 
from entering the country, said. 
Although there have been procedural delays on her case, De Lima is already 
being tried at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court and the Supreme Court has 
ruled that media should be allowed to cover hearings. 
"Rather than responding by irrationally threatening to deny visas to 
American citizens, the Duterte government should either release Senator De 
Lima immediately or provide her the fair, public trial she is entitled to," 
Leahy said in a statement on Sunday. 
Although the US, among many other countries, require Filipinos to apply for 
visas before visiting, Americans currently have visa-free access to the 
Philippines. 
Leahy's statement comes after a provision he and US Sen. Dick Durbin 
proposed was included in the 2020 State and Foreign Operations 
Appropriations bill that barred officials involved in De Lima's arrest from 
entering the US. 


DE LIMA BELIES BLOGGER'S FAKE NEWS CLAIM ON US ENTRY BAN 

MANILA - Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday refuted a political blogger's claim 
that the authority given to the top diplomat of the United States stopping 
the entry into the US of those behind her detention was fake news. 
In a dispatch from Camp Crame where she's detained, De Lima said the entry 
ban "is in effect." 
"In short, it's not fake news," she said. 
This, after US President Donald Trump earlier signed a US budget bill, which 
includes a provision on "Prohibition on Entry" allowing US Secretary of 
State Mike Pompeo to "apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials 
about whom the Secretary has credible information have been involved in the 
wrongful imprisonment of.Senator Leila de Lima who was arrested in the 
Philippines in 2017." 
In a Manila Bulletin column, Nieto said the "Prohibition on Entry" was 
"NOWHERE to be found in the final version" of the US 2020 State and Foreign 
Operations Appropriations Bill signed by Trump. 
De Lima, however, said the blogger might have read the final bill, but not 
the US Congress' omnibus bill in which the "Prohibition on Entry" is stated. 
An omnibus bill is a type of US legislation that combines many of the 
smaller ordinary bills of appropriations into one larger single bill that 
could be approved by each house. 
The senator also said that in the US Senate's State and Foreign Operations 
Appropriations (SFOP) bill report, the provision banning those behind De 
Lima's detention is stated. 
"Hence, it remains in force," she said. 
Nieto was one of those who De Lima cited as responsible for her arrest and 
detention. 


DUTERTE'S MEN ON THE SPOT IN SENATE PROBES 

MANILA - This year, senator-allies of President Duterte led probes on 
corruption and drug scandals involving some of his trusted officials. Such 
moves partly contributed to the steady rise in the chamber's public approval 
ratings. 
At the opening of the 18th Congress last July 22, the Senate emerged with 20 
members in the majority bloc, including four newbies - Christopher Go, 
Ronald dela Rosa, Imee Marcos and Francis Tolentino - and three returning 
senators, and only four lawmakers in the minority bloc or opposition. 
The May 13 senatorial elections had 12 slots up for grabs, including those 
vacated by former senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Gregorio 
Honasan II, Loren Legarda and Antonio Trillanes IV. 
With the exception of Cayetano, who was appointed foreign affairs chief in 
2017, the senators ended their terms in office last June 30. 
Escudero won as Sorsogon governor while Legarda was elected representative 
of the lone district of Antique and was also picked to be deputy speaker of 
the House of Representatives. Trillanes went on to work in academe while 
Honasan was appointed information and communications chief. 
Reelectionist senators also waged a separate campaign as a group while still 
joining their respective political slates. 


VP: DRUG CZAR STINT NOT A WASTED OPPORTUNITY 


Yearender 
MANILA - For Vice President Leni Robredo, her 18-day stint as the country's 
drug czar was not a wasted opportunity as she was able to "discover" the 
lapses in President Duterte's controversial war on drugs and draw up 
recommendations to make the campaign "more humane and effective." 
"My 18 days with ICAD gave me the platform to push for a better strategy and 
to make the campaign more humane and effective," the 54-year-old Robredo 
told The STAR in an e-mail interview. 
The opposition leader said she did not regret taking Duterte's challenge to 
lead the drug campaign, despite warnings from her allies and even if she 
knew from the beginning she would not get the President's trust and support. 
"Despite the unfriendly environment, I still grabbed the chance because I 
believe it was a big opportunity to us to assess what was being done and to 
influence a change of policy to finally put an end to the brutal killings 
that was happening in our midst," Robredo said. 
In October, Duterte challenged Robredo to lead the anti-illegal drug 
campaign for six months, following the Vice President's interview with 
Reuters in the same month where she said the administration's drug war was 
"obviously not working" and must be "tweaked." 
In early November, Duterte appointed Robredo as co-chairperson of the 
Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), chaired by Philippine 
Drug Enforcement Agency director-general Aaron Aquino. 
"I knew that I would not be given much time, so even with the limitations 
and the unrelenting condescension and mansplaining, I got down to business 
as soon as I got appointed: reaching out to the agencies involved in the 
campaign, to the organizations and sectors that have a stake in this fight 
and to the communities, both deeply affected by and thriving against the 
drug problem," she said. 
"Walang tapon sa 18 days na iyon (There was nothing wasted in those 18 
days)," Robredo, a human rights lawyer and one of the staunch critics of 
Duterte's war on drugs, said. 
"At the very least, I am glad that we were able to start putting things in 
order, to synchronize the many uncoordinated parts that are supposed to be 
under ICAD's supervision," she added. 
Duterte fired Robredo, who chairs the formerly ruling Liberal Party, after 
she sought the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the 
US embassy in efforts to end the drug menace in the country. 
The Vice President said she would rather focus on her job than pay attention 
to the President's insults. 
"I have been at the receiving end of the President's insults often enough. 
While these remarks are totally undeserved, I prefer not to respond to them, 
because I would rather focus on the work before me. I draw the line, 
however, whenever the President makes false claims in public, alleging that 
I did or did not do certain things, which could be easily checked on 
record," Robredo said. 
The Vice President is expected to release her 40-page report on Duterte's 
drug war after the Yuletide season. 


URSULA KILLS 41, LEAVES P1 BILLION INFRA, AGRI DAMAGE 

MANILA -- (UPDATE) At least 41 were killed in the onslaught of Christmas 
storm Ursula, disaster officials said Sunday. 
Twelve remain missing, while 28 were wounded, as Ursula lashed the Visayas 
with fierce winds and heavy rains over the holidays, according to the 
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). 
The number of fatalities was highest in Western Visayas, where 20 died, 
followed by Eastern Visayas with 13, Mimaropa with 7, and 1 in Central 
Visayas. 
Most victims drowned, while others were hit by felled trees, electrocuted, 
figured in a vehicular accident, or suffered from cardiac arrest, according 
to NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal. 
Timbal said there was a need for tighter evacuation protocols such as 
ordinances banning liquor and urging residents to stay indoors during a 
storm. 
"Walang magpapagala-gala muna o mag-hold ng land travel. Kung indoors lang 
po ang lahat ng tao at nakasilong wala po siguro mababagsakan ng puno," he 
told radio DZMM. 
The storm, which left Philippine territory on Saturday morning, damaged some 
P1 billion worth of crops and infrastructure in Mimaropa, Bicol, and the 
Visayas, the NDRRMC said. 
Several areas in Leyte, Aklan, Eastern Samar and Oriental Mindoro were 
placed under a state of calamity for local governments to access emergency 
funds to aid thousands who scrambled to evacuation centers over the 
holidays. 


LORENZANA ORDERS PROBE VS 'UNACCEPTABLE' EDITING IN ARMY PHOTO RELEASE ON 
REBELS 

MANILA (UPDATE) - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Saturday ordered an 
investigation on those involved in the editing of a handout photo from the 
Philippine Army that showed former rebels surrendering to the government. 
Lorenzana said sanctions will be imposed against uniformed personnel who 
took part in editing images of former rebels and old firearms to make it 
appear that these were the individuals who recently surrendered to 
authorities. 
"I have directed the CG (Commanding General) Army to make an inquiry. 
Sanctions will be meted to those who perpetrated it," the defense chief said 
in a statement. 
"This is very serious because it undermines the efforts of the whole 
Organization," he said, noting that the Armed Forces recently received an 
"unprecedented high trust rating" from the public. 
The Army's 9th Infantry Division earlier apologized for the incident, saying 
they only wanted to keep safe the identities of those who surrendered. 
The unit was "not able to double check the pictures attached to the press 
release" because of their "ardent desire to release timely information," 
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said in a separate statement. 
"Their admission to the mistake is proof of their commitment to the high 
standards of public affairs principles," he said, noting that responsible 
officials will still be held accountable. 
Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces, said AFP 
chief Gen. Noel Clement "has ordered the conduct of a thorough investigation 
surrounding the incident." 
"It is a well-settled policy in the AFP that press releases be appropriately 
reviewed and validated," Arevalo said in a statement. 
"And if photos on file are to be used, it must be labelled accordingly as 
such." 
Those found culpable will be punished, the statement added. 
The processed photo drew flak online, with some calling it a fake surrender. 
Government has been working to bring back to its fold communist rebels in 
the countryside while its talks with communist leaders remain stalled. 


EVEN LEGAL FIRECRACKERS CAUSING INJURIES - DOH 

MANILA - The firecrackers that caused injuries to 34 victims in the past 
week include 12 legal fireworks, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 
yesterday. 
Based on the surveillance conducted by the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau, 12 more 
people have sustained injuries from firecracker blasts that brought to 34 
the total number of cases since the start of monitoring last Dec. 21. 
The DOH said of the 34 cases, 12 were due to legal fireworks, like small 
whistle bombs, kwitis, luces and 5-Star. 
Boga and piccolo were among the top illegal fireworks that caused injuries. 
The agency added that the regions of Ilocos, Cordillera Autonomous Region, 
Calabarzon and Bicol accounted for 16 of the 34 cases, with four from each 
of them. 


'DASTARDLY ACTS': DOTR SEEKS PUBLIC VIGILANCE FOLLOWING STONE-THROWING AT 
PNR TRAINS 

MANILA - The country's transportation department on Saturday appealed to the 
public to help prevent stone-throwing incidents at Philippine National 
Railway's (PNR) trains. 
This, as the PNR revealed there were 14 incidents of "stone-throwing" 
recorded from December 2 until December 21. PNR's new trains from Indonesia 
have been spared by far. 
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) in a statement also called on the 
public to report similar incidents and help maintain the quality of the 
trains. 
"The trains are owned by the Filipino people, and we all should do our part 
in helping their maintenance and upkeep, and help ensure that we protect 
these infrastructure investments so that majority of our fellow citizens may 
enjoy their long term use," it said on a statement posted on their Facebook 
page. 
The agency said it was "closely coordinating" with authorities to 
investigate those involved in the stone-throwing incidents. 
PNR management previously told DZMM that around 3 to 4 incidents of 
"sabotage" incidents are recorded every week. 
Among these are incidents where people hurl rocks and use slingshots to hit 
the trains. Some also allegedly place springs inside rail tracks. 
"There is no place in society for doing these dastardly acts, especially at 
a time when when your government is doing everything it can to provide the 
riding public with modern transport infrastructure," DoTR said. 
The agency is currently working on massive transport infrastructure programs 
such as the Metro Rail Transit-7 project, which extends the services of the 
MRT to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan. Also part of the project is the 
revamping of PNR trains. 


3.1 MILLION KIDS IN MINDANAO VACCINATED VS POLIO 

MANILA - Around 3.1 million children in Mindanao have been vaccinated 
against polio, according to the Department of Health (DOH). 
DOH spokesman Eric Domingo said the figure represents vaccination coverage 
of 94.7 percent. 
The DOH is targeting the vaccination of 3,102,974 children. 
"It's 95 percent and we are happy about it. But we need to sustain this to 
make sure that all children in Mindanao are protected against polio," 
Domingo said. 
DOH records show that as of Dec. 18, vaccination coverage in the Zamboanga 
peninsula was at 94.2 percent; Northern Mindanao, 94.9 percent, and Davao, 
95.6 percent. 
In Soccsksargen, vaccination coverage reached 92.1 percent; Caraga, 94.2 
percent, and Bangsamoro Autononous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 96.7 percent. 
Domingo said the anti-polio immunization drive in Mindanao is challenging 
due to peace and order concerns in certain areas. 
"The dedication of our health workers is unwavering. They... work day in and 
they out because they understand the importance of covering 95 percent of 
the population to wipe out polio again," he said. 
Domingo said parents seemed to have overcome the vaccination scare, with "a 
great majority" of them allowing their kids to be immunized. 


MAGNITUDE-4 QUAKE HITS DAVAO OCCIDENTAL; NO DAMAGE EXPECTED 

MANILA-A magnitude-4 earthquake shook Davao Occidental Saturday afternoon, 
according to the Phivolcs. 
The tectonic tremor struck at 4:38 p.m. approximately 175 kilometers 
southeast of Jose Abad Santos town with a depth of 9 km. 
The Phivolcs said damage to structure and aftershocks are not expected. 


FIRE AT RESIDENTIAL AREA IN TONDO REACHES FOURTH ALARM 

MANILA - A fourth alarm fire was confirmed to be razing a residential area 
at Gate 10 in Parola, Tondo, Manila, as confirmed by the Manila Public 
Information Office. 
No injuries or casualties are reported as of this writing. Authorities are 
also reportedly on site to combat the blaze. 
The Bureau of Fire Protection has fire alarm levels to determine how many 
fire trucks should be dispatched. Fires that are raised to the fourth alarm 
level are under the jurisdiction of the local fire district concerned rather 
than the local substation. 


VALERIE CONCEPCION TIES THE KNOT WITH NON-SHOWBIZ BOYFRIEND 

Congratulations are in order for newlyweds Valerie Concepcion and her 
non-showbiz partner Francis Sunga. 
The couple tied the knot on Saturday in an intimate garden wedding held in 
Silang, Cavite, photos online showed. 
Some of her celebrity guests included Lara Quigaman and Rodjun Cruz. 
Concepcion first revealed her engagement to Sunga back in August 2018. 
They met in 2017 through common friends, and the actress loves to joke in 
her interviews that it was Sunga who first fell in love. 
She eventually fell for Sunga as well because of how he cared for her 
daughter, Heather, she explained. Heather is Concepcion's daughter from a 
previous relationship. 


WARM WELCOME FOR PACQUIAO, AS MPBL MAKES HISTORIC CANADA VISIT 

Manny Pacquiao displayed his basketball skill, dishing out a triple-double 
in a game in Calgary as his Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) 
toured Canada. 
The boxer-senator led Team Pacquiao with 31 points, 11 assists, and 10 
rebounds as his squad ran down Casem Calgary 116-99 in the MPBL exhibition 
match held at Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. 
Pacquiao was given a warm welcome by the Filipino community in Calgary, 
getting mobbed by fans at the city's international airport and the local 
hotel where he was staying. 
On the other hand, the Mark Yee-led MPBL All-Stars settled for a draw with 
Calgary Storm 95-95 in the other exhibition match. 
In the MPBL's official game, Zamboanga Family's Brand Sardines downed Imus 
Bandera Luxxe Slim for an 88-72 win in the Lakan Cup. 
Zamboanga, led by Alvin Pasaol's 21 points, extended its winning streak to 4 
games and climbed to 16-4 in the South division of the 31-team league. Imus, 
meanwhile, fell to 6-20. 
The MPBL will be heading to Edmonton, where Imus will take on a select team 
from the host. 
Earlier in the season, the league also held games in Dubai. 


NBA SCORES DEC 27 


FINAL 
    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Cavaliers 9-22    22    25    34    36    117 
team logo Celtics 22-7    33    29    30    37    129 
SCORING LEADERSK. Love CLE 
30 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST 
J. Brown BOS 
34 PTS, 9 REB, 2 AST 


FINAL/OT 
    1    2    3    4    OT    T 
team logo Thunder 16-15    26    27    19    22    10    104 
team logo Hornets 13-21    18    25    22    29    8    102 
SCORING LEADERS 
    S. Gilgeous-Alexander OKC 
27 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST 
    T. Rozier CHA 
26 PTS, 4 REB, 3 AST 


FINAL 
    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo 76ers 23-11    21    26    21    29    97 
team logo Magic 14-17    19    27    25    27    98 
SCORING LEADERST. Harris PHI 
24 PTS, 11 REB, 3 AST 
E. Fournier ORL 
20 PTS, 2 REB, 6 AST 


FINAL 
    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Bucks 28-5    32    31    21    28    112 
team logo Hawks 6-26    19    21    23    23    86 
SCORING LEADERSK. Middleton MIL 
23 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST 
A. Crabbe ATL 
20 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST 


FINAL 
    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Pacers 21-11    27    28    27    30    112 
team logo Heat 23-8    25    33    26    29    113 
SCORING LEADERSA. Holiday IND 
17 PTS, 3 REB, 9 AST 
J. Butler MIA 
20 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST 


FINAL 
    1    2    3    4    T 
team logo Suns 11-20    29    22    27    18    96 
team logo Warriors 9-24    25    18    23    39    105 
SCORING LEADERS 
    D. Booker PHO 
34 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST 
    D. Russell GS 
31 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST 

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