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De Lima's court battle begins

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Athletes from the Zamboanga Polytechnic University have expressed dismay over the cancellation of their flight to Manila on Sturday, which prevented them from reaching their destination on time. The cancellation was caused by a stalled heavy equipment along the airport runway.

Armil Alnoche, ZPU teacher, said that school athletes from the baseball and women’s softball team were scheduled to depart for Manila that day to attend a sporting event in Lipa City, Batangas.

Alnoche said that the school paid a P23,000 fee for a bus to take the teams to Lipa. And when they failed to arrive on time, fifty percent of the amount was said to have been forfeited.

Now, Alnoche said they are out funds to shoulder the forfeited amount, as their allowance for the trip is limited.

Alnoche said, he hopes the amount can be refunded to the school.

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Criminal court proceedings on drug charges against Sen. Leila “Dilemma,” ooops… de Lima begin today, Monday even as a New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the move as “an act of political vindictiveness.”

“It’s more important now, more than ever that concerned lawmakers and foreign governments step up to denounce the Duterte administration’s disregard for basic human rights,” Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, said in a statement on Sunday.

Sought for comment, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the criminal cases brought against De Lima were based on documentary evidence and testimonies of witnesses.

“There is absolutely no basis for the claim that the cases were politically motivated. This government will prosecute any person regardless of their influence or relationship with the officials running the government,” Panelo told the Inquirer over the phone.

The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) is set to raffle off today the case to any of its branches. Depending on the appreciation of the assigned branch of the merits of the case, an arrest warrant could be issued immediately or within a period of 10 days.

The case against de Lima, Kine said, “shows how Mr. Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ threatens not only the thousands of people targeted, but also the criminal justice and political systems.”

De Lima has been critical of Mr. Duterte when she was chair of the Commission on Human Rights, saying he was behind a Davao City death squad of criminals when he was still the city mayor.

As a senator, she also incurred the ire of Mr. Duterte when she raised the possibility of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects by the police. More than 7,000 people have been killed 1 July 2016.

Meanwhile, the Justice department will ask the Muntinlupa City regional trial court to issue a hold departure order against Senator Leila de Lima to prevent her from leaving the country while she is being tried for her alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the state prosecutors handling the De Lima cases will file the motion today.

VACC or the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, for its part however, lauded the DOJ for De Lima’s indictment, which it branded a “triumph of the rule of law and the criminal justice system.”

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Accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, critics say, is now under the protection of Malacañang after the Solicitor General (OSG) recommended her acquittal on the crime of serious illegal detention of her second cousin, Benhur Luy, rip-off whistle-blower.

But palace officials yesterday simply laughed off the perceptions.

Administration officials, however, had openly said Napoles could be used as a state witness against “bigger personalities” in the anomaly. No elaboration was offered.

The OSG move raised suspicions that the government has struck a deal with Napoles, who has tagged certain officials of the Aquino administration and several politicians in the alleged diversion of congressional funds to fictitious projects and nongovernment organizations.

In 2015, the Makati regional trial court sentenced Napoles to life in prison for serious illegal detention.

The OSG expressed belief the court erred in convicting Napoles.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said there were “glaring instances” that would support Napoles’ acquittal. He said Luy was not restrained at a retreat house and even met with his family three times.

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Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, expressed appreciation over the public pronouncement of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to negotiate and craft a bilateral ceasefire agreement, raising possibilities of a more stable ceasefire.

The CPP, in a statement, said the originally scheduled meeting to discuss the details of a bilateral ceasefire agreement in The Netherlands on Feb. 22 to 27 could proceed if President Duterte decides to send the government negotiating panel.

As a positive gesture, the CPP directed the New People’s Army to immediately release all captured soldiers and police officers.

As that is their position, they should not have scuttled the unilateral ceasefire that government, too implemented, which has thus far caused series of encounters, with both sides suffering casualties.

It appears, though, the joint ceasefire may not be that bright, for the CPP-NPA anchors its stand on a dreamt of Duterte statement – or is it reality as Duterte is wont to? - that all political prisoners will be released within 48 hours once the bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed.

But Duterte for himself, now says otherwise. He will release, as he had done so, only the ailing and aging captured rebels.

The CPP probably realizes that, as it indeed admitted, negotiating the details of the ceasefire agreement would be challenging.

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The House of Representatives majority is set to hold a caucus today, 20 Feb. to discuss whether or not to continue with the period of interpellation, a week after Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas slammed opponents of the bill for using the quorum issue as a delaying tactic.

The revival of the death penalty is a priority legislative measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who believes that capital punishment would curb what he claims a worsening nationwide drug problem.

At first, House leaders said that they would want the bill passed by mid-March.

House Deputy Majority Leader Fredenil Castro told the Inquirer he felt the interpellation would still continue because majority would like to give everyone sufficient opportunity to clarify all issues.

He warned, however, that this could change if the opportunity is clearly abused, or waived expressly or impliedly by acts or omissions… where the intention to procrastinate the proceeding is manifest.

On the other hand, House Minority Floor Leader Lito Atienza vowed that he and other lawmakers opposed to reimposing the death penalty would keep on asserting themselves, as he claimed, the majority bloc wants it all cost, to the point of railroading its passage.

Ironically, Atienza pointed out, the Senate was cool to the death penalty bill.

Even if the House should pass the bill, it would be archived if the Senate would not act on it, Atienza said.

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Last week, Duterte said he has ordered the AMLC to give information about his networth to dispel notions that he has amassed ill-gotten wealth.

Calling it a bluff, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV now says he will call it by asking that of the AMLC, particularly to reveal the money trail of the Duterte account in the past years.

In the meantime, veteran Lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan called on Trillanes to stop talking to the media about his supposed evidence on Pres. Duterte’s alleged hidden wealth, and instead file an impeachment complaint if he has proof to back his allegations.

Alentajan added, Trillanes clearly has no proof to back his claims against the President, calling them “pure hearsay” as the senator couldn’t even say where he got his information. (By Jimmy Cabato)




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