The administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos was compelled to reactivate the Philippine government’s claim to Sabah as a result of the confluence of events which are the termination of the lease agreement that was the basis of the territorial conflict and a Congressional directive for Marcos to press the sovereignty question.
Marcos said in a 22 September 1968 meeting with international media that Mohammad Ismael Kiram, then Sultan of Sulu, ordered on 25 November 1957 the termination of the lease agreement between the Mindanao royalty and British entities signed in 1878.
“I have declared and do hereby declare the termination of the said lease in favor of Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, their heirs and assigns, effective the 22nd day of January, 1958, and that from and after that date all the lands covered by the said lease shall be deemed restituted thenceforth to the Sultanate of Sulu,” Marcos quoted Kiram’s directive.
The former Chief Executive also cited a 24 April 1962 resolution of the House of Representatives “urging the President of the Philippines to take the necessary steps for the recovery of a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands which appertain to the Philippines.”
House directs Palace move
The resolution stated “Whereas, it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the claim of the Republic of the Philippines upon a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands is legal and valid: Now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Representatives, to urge, as it hereby does urge, the President of the Philippines to take the necessary steps consistent with international law and procedure for the recovery of a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands which appertain to the Philippines. Adopted unanimously, 24 April 1962.”
To comply with the directive, Marcos said his administration took a position to put the territorial question before the World Court or the International Court of Justice.
The problem, however, was that the Malaysian government had refused to participate in a proceeding before an international body.
“Under the rulings concerning the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, no case can be brought to it for settlement without the agreement of both the conflicting parties,” Marcos explained.
He chided Malaysia for its refusal to submit to the proceeding. “All I can say is that if I were sure of my case, on the basis of history and of law, I would not be afraid to go to the World Court,” Marcos indicated.
US hinted backing
Marcos also claimed at that time that the United States, through then Ambassador G. Menen Williams, has committed to abide by “treaty commitments in the event of an attack on the Philippines” over the Sabah dispute.
The former President said he trusted William’s statement. “I submitted to the Ambassador an aide memoire. I presume that this will be answered in the same way,” according to Marcos.
Right after the Jabidah massacre expose of then Marcos rival Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. in the same year and the signing of the Sabah bill that urged action on the claim, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur was ransacked by supposed protesters.
“The right that we could exercise should be a demand for an apology and a demand for reparations, meaning a demand for the payment of damages arising from the rioting,” Marcos indicated then.
In retaliation, Marcos recalled the country’s missions in Kuala Lumpur.
“The decision still stands. But we are keeping the diplomatic staff there perhaps for some time. I am referring to the original official position of our government to recall the Ambassador and the diplomatic staff. However, as I told you, in view of this incident, they may have to stay there for some time,” Marcos noted.
MNLF explores OIC option
With the lease terminated, it will be up to the Philippine government and the Sultanate to pursue the valid claim.
The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said it may hold the key in resolving the issue, through a so-called “missing link” in the dispute which is the original contract.
An MNLF source told the Daily Tribune that a direct descendant of the Sulu Sultan who helped the Brunei Sultanate to quell a rebellion holds the original lease contract written in Arabic between the British North Borneo Company and the Sultanate.
It turned out that Sulu and Brunei monarchs have the same blood line.
The individual also has in his possession a letter from the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II acknowledging the Sultanate’s proprietary right over Sabah.
“The documents he holds are from the Queen and the Sultan’s ascension statement submitted to the Brunei embassy in October 2010 tracing the blood line of the heirs,” the source added.
The documents will be the basis of the MNLF’s plan to elevate the case to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for arbitration, the source said.
The source indicated the Sultan of Sulu who was a cousin of the Sultan of Brunei during the Borneo conflict sent 1,000 Tausug warriors to victoriously fight the rebels.
The source added the heirs had coordinated with the Brunei Darussalam embassy in Manila in February 2009. The embassy, then required them to submit a statement of ascendancy to prove their claim of blood relationship with the Brunei monarchy.
Lawyer Rexie Bugaring, MNLF senior legal adviser, declined to comment on the supposed missing link but confirmed that MNLF leaders is coordinating with the Sultanate of Sulu to help pursue Sabah’s claim.
“Any move of the MNLF regarding the Sabah claim will be cleared with President Duterte including the submission of the case to the OIC,” he said.
Abraham Idjirani, Sultanate secretary general, however downplayed the so called missing link.
He said the copy of the original contract on orders of the British colonial rulers was stolen a year after the lease agreement was signed.
The Sultanate also reiterated its call to President Rodrigo Duterte to initiate the revival of the claim after the Malaysian government officially announced that it has stopped paying the yearly lease it inherited from the British colonial government.
Lord slams Alan’s ‘theatrics,’ bogus resignation rejection
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Wednesday evening urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to be men and women of honor by respecting the term-sharing agreement forged by President Rodrigo Duterte between him and Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano for the speakership.
Velasco lamented what he described as the theatrics pulled off by Cayetano in offering his resignation and in its being rejected by a few members of the House in what many lawmakers called a sham proceeding.
He also called on House members to focus on passing the 2021 national budget even as he assured fairness in leadership that gives a premium on unity.
“I express my deepest gratitude to President Duterte for calling the 29 September 2020 meeting and bringing together his key allies in Congress despite his busy schedule,” Velasco said.
“As the Father of the Nation and a true Statesman, the President has once again proven his leadership and steadfast resolve to bridge differences and unite parties regardless of their political affiliations for the country to sail in one direction and to prioritize the welfare of our people,” he said.
“Thank you, Mr. President,” he added.
Velasco reminded Cayetano that it was only last night (Tuesday) that he promised to resign on 14 October when the President ordered him to honor the term-sharing agreement as an “usapang lalaki” or agreement between men.
“Moreover, the President entrusted you with the task of announcing the date of the turnover,” Velasco said, referring to Cayetano.
Velasco said the 14th of October was chosen as the date for the turnover because of their commitment to passing the budget before the said date while doing nothing to disrupt or derail the process.
He thanked Cayetano for confirming the timetable in his privilege speech on Wednesday, as well as the details of their meeting with the President – that he will resign on the 14th.
“It is most unfortunate, therefore, that today, deliberations on the budget were suspended. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage,” Velasco said.
“We lost an entire day, and even tomorrow where you have declared that no session will be conducted, which are crucial in meeting our timeline. These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” he stressed.
Velasco then called on members of the House to continue their work and pass the budget on 14 October as a commitment they’ve made to the President and as their responsibility to their constituents to deliver to them a “fair and equitable budget.”
“I assure my peers that we will be a gracious leader who would listen and be responsive to your concerns. But I make an earnest plea: Let us uphold the dignity of the House of Representatives by being men and women who believe in “Palabra de Honor” in keeping our word and upholding the term-sharing agreement Speaker Cayetano and I swore to honor and respect,” Velasco said.
‘Cayetano quit dare a sham’
It was supposedly a smooth transfer of the Speaker’s seat. That was until Cayetano took the microphone as his hostage to lambast Velasco’s supposed dirty tricks in having him removed.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves called Wednesday’s proceedings at the House of Representatives that ended with Speaker Cayetano’s resignation and its rejection by his peers as a sham.
“It’s invalid,” exclaimed Teves, one of the most vocal among the lawmakers.
“What do they think of the people, stupid? No, they’re not,” he added.
Teves was referring to the conduct of the hastily called plenary session where Cayetano lambasted his rival to the speakership, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who had no chance and venue to reply to Cayetano’s statements as of last night.
“Why invalid? In any proceeding, if a point of order is raised, it should be recognized and heard,” Teves said.
“I raised a point of order but they muted my microphone so that I would not be heard. I posted an objection to those proceedings in our Viber group. They can only claim that our technology is not 100 percent (working),” he stated.
Teves was not the only one whose microphone was turned off when he was raising his point before the House members.
Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza’s sound system was muted when he was asked if he is against Cayetano’s resignation to which he supposedly answered “yes, he should resign on 14 October.”
That was the agreed date of the turnover of the House Speakership from Cayetano to Velasco. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte mediated between them to make the transfer happen.
“It was supposedly a smooth transfer of the Speaker’s seat. That was until Cayetano took the microphone as his hostage to lambast Velasco’s supposed dirty tricks in having him removed,” a Daily Tribune source said.
There was no such move, he said.
Atienza also laughed off claims of a coup, calling the claim “coup-pal, or self-coup.”
Talking to his peers, which Teves claimed did not constitute a needed quorum, Cayetano offered to resign from his post after narrating his version of what transpired in their meeting at the Palace.
Members of Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition have agreed not to participate in the proceedings.
President Duterte’s intervention in the speakership squabble ultimately resulted in having Velasco taking over as Speaker on 14 October that was in accordance with the term-sharing deal but seemed opposite of what Cayetano’s camp had hoped for.
“You (addressing Velasco) wanted (to take the position) on 30 September, then okay. If our colleagues want you today, then it is you,” Cayetano said.
“I am offering my resignation here and now to you my dear colleagues. My fate and the fate of the 2021 budget is in your hands,” he continued.
Right after Cayetano left the rostrum, Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor moved to reject Cayetano’s offer. It was seconded by Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy Alvarado.
Defensor then moved for a nominal vote individually.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Barbers, however, said this is not necessary anymore as no “nay” votes were registered even on the virtual meeting.
Session was suspended until Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu declared that a nominal voting will be conducted.
Congressmen were asked to vote whether they accept Cayetano’s resignation.
The lawmakers’ rejection of the Speaker’s resignation was not in accordance with any rule at the Chamber, however.
Tribune sources it was the Cayetano camp’s version of a vote. Instead of having the House split between him and Velasco, however, he received a validation through the rejection of his quit offer.
Malacañang, however, distanced from the latest House event.
President Rodrigo Duterte also made it known that he respects the congressmen’s decision to reject the resignation of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano Wednesday afternoon, saying it is “purely an internal affair” of the Chamber.
Cayetano’s quit offer was rejected by his colleagues, 184-1-9.
But the President still wants Cayetano and Velasco to honor the term-sharing deal he had brokered for the two lawmakers.
“I just received a call from the President and he said, ‘We stay out of that. That’s a purely internal affair of the House of Representatives,’” Roque quoted the President as saying.
Under their agreement last year, Cayetano agreed to lead the House of Representatives for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress or until October, while Velasco would assume leadership for the next 21 months.
In the Philippines, the Executive department is a co-equal branch of the Legislature that should be independent from each other.
But President Duterte brokered the deal between Cayetano and Velasco in a bid to put an end to the speakership race which has bugged the House for months.
with MJ Blancaflor
Senate can work with any Speaker
No matter who leads the House, the Senate, or at least like-minded senators who choose to be the vanguards against the legislative abuse of the power of the purse will not be affected.
Senators on Wednesday said they can work with any speaker of the House of Representatives as long as they share the same perspectives in legislation.
This was stated by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and Panfilo Lacson after it was reported that the 15-21 term-sharing agreement among President Rodrigo Duterte, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco will push through.
This was after President Rodrigo Duterte once again mediated between Cayetano and Velasco Tuesday night in Malacañang.
The issue, however, looked far from settled on Wednesday when Cayetano once again turned his back on the decision arrived at the Palace and offered his resignation which was rejected by his supporters.
“We can work with any Speaker as long as we have the same perspective,” Sotto said in a text message.
To discuss the administration’s legislative agenda, Sotto said they should continue conducting mini Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meetings as the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented them from meeting to discuss the priority measures.
Go, who was present in Duterte’s meeting with Velasco and Cayetano, said he respects the “internal process” of the House of Representatives.
“What is far more important is for the entire Congress to continue deliberating on the legislative agenda and priorities of the Duterte administration, including the 2021 national budget and other priority measures,” he said.
Lacson, on the other hand, said that senators will continue to do their duties and obligations regardless of who leads the Chamber.
The issue, however, looked far from settled on Wednesday when Cayetano once again turned his back on the decision arrived at in Malacañang and offered his resignation which was rejected by his supporters.
“No matter who leads the House, the Senate, or at least like-minded senators who choose to be the vanguards against the legislative abuse of the power of the purse will not be affected,” he said.
“We will continue to exercise what is expected of us in exercising our mandate and our obligation to the Filipino people in this regard,” he added.
On Tuesday night, it was reported that the “gentlemen’s agreement” among Duterte, Velasco and Cayetano will be honored.
In the said agreement, Cayetano will sit for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress while Velasco will lead the House in the remaining 21 months.
Sources said Velasco is scheduled to take the helm of the Chamber starting 14 October.
House integrity, dignity at stake
Where was Cayetano? He would have landed number four if an election was held.
Abiding by the term-sharing agreement would have given the House of Representatives the chance to maintain its integrity and dignity, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza on Wednesday cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s sustenance of his role in the deal, being both its guarantor and witness.
“I don’t know with Alan Peter Cayetano, he went to the extent of getting people to sign a manifesto hoping to sway the President,” Atienza said.
“I was impressed. The President did not allow himself to be fooled,” he stressed.
Atienza said the 205 signatures which Cayetano’s camp had brandished prior to the meeting had no power against the President’s order.
The signatures were gathered after House leaders allegedly received their funds, a Daily Tribune source disclosed.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, however, insisted that despite Duterte’s intervention in the Speakership squabble, the final decision would depend on the congressmen.
“Some 205 (congressmen) signed for Alan Peter Cayetano to continue as speaker. That’s solid. This is because of his very good performance. He treated the members of the Congress fairly. He even gave the Minority a voice,” Villafuerte said.
The transfer of position to Velasco cannot be “automatic” despite Duterte’s disposition, he added.
“The situation is different now,” Villafuerte said. “Cong. Lord Allan Velasco still has to earn the trust of everyone including myself if he wants me to vote for him as speaker.
“He has to earn my trust. He should start with the people around Speaker Cayetano.”
“He can want the position but he has to earn it. That’s my advice to him,” Villafuerte stressed.
He said it is unfair for Speaker Cayetano to be seen as a “lame duck” (outgoing politician) by declaring Velasco assuming the post in two weeks.
Atienza, meanwhile, slammed Villafuerte’s statement, saying: “So now he is greater than the words of President Duterte?”
“Maybe Villafuerte thought he’s already the president. It was President Duterte who said that (Velasco will sit as House Speaker) on 14 October,” he said.
Atienza said the insults hurled at Velasco by Cayetano’s allies were all just part of a script to discredit the chosen successor of Cayetano’s seat.
“All of it is according to a script. It’s like saying: You, LRay, this is your statement. Dan Fernandez, you will tell this,” he explained.
The former Manila mayor added that there are two “Allans” in the Congress right now: One as having no principles and a very complete liar while the other, a man of integrity and wisdom.
He earlier described Velasco as a “man of reason, sobriety and fairness.”
Velasco’s camp has never planned to oust Cayetano, Atienza claimed.
“I deny that a hundred percent. That’s not true. It’s part of their made-up scenario. Periodically, they said there were two coup attempts,” he said.
“Why would he (Velasco) plot a coup when he is already the next in line?
“They said there was a coup to take place this month (September). That’s not plotted by Velasco because “to wait for a month” is the only thing he has to do.”
The alleged coup attempts were “self-inflicted issues” by Cayetano himself, Atienza stressed.
Atienza went on: “It’s like kidnap me! This time it’s coup-pal me.”
“Coup me, coup me!” he joked.
Atienza believed the Congress would follow the words of the President, noting that Cayetano had no numbers back in July 2019.
“The leading candidates that time were really Velasco and Romualdez,” he noted.
“Where was Cayetano? He would have landed number four if an election was held,” Atienza said.
He recalled that when Duterte endorsed Cayetano by the virtue of the term-sharing deal, nobody in the Congress defied it in 2019.
Under the deal, Cayetano will lead the House for 15 months before Velasco assumes the speakership post until 2022.
Without Fear. Without Favor
The Daily Tribune maintains good relations with its sources, including government officials and employees who provide its reporters with information, including “off the record” cuffs.
The Daily Tribune’s management and Editorial Board on Wednesday took exception to outgoing Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s statement accusing the paper of allegedly spreading “fake news.”
He also alleged that Daily Tribune owner, Willie Fernandez, had engaged in a PR campaign detrimental to his management of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Cayetano used the august hall of the House of Representatives to lambast incoming Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, during the course of which he called the Tribune’s banner story “Velasco prevails as Speaker” published on Wednesday, 30 September, as “fake news.”
Cayetano did not dispute the content of the Tribune banner story but the timing of its publication, which he said should have been done after he had announced the result of President Duterte’s meeting with him, Velasco and several other members of the House on Tuesday night.
“In a matter of two minutes, when I was in the car after the meeting with the President, here comes the announcement about a new Speaker,” Cayetano said.
The Daily Tribune maintains good relations with its sources, including government officials and employees who provide its reporters with information, including “off the record” cuffs.
Last night’s meeting between the President and the legislators was a “fair” coverage even if reporters were not allowed to join due to the health protocols being imposed.
The Tribune Editorial Board also reiterated that the paper is privately owned. It does not have leanings as it stands by its motto of “Without Fear. Without Favor.”
The story Cayetano had questioned was also verified by its reporters from various sources, including those present in the meeting.
Mr. Fernandez also denounced Cayetano’s accusation that he besmirched the conduct of the 2019 SEA Games hosting.
Daily Tribune dedicated eight pages — in special paper — for the SEA Games coverage from 30 November to 11 December 2019 — the most among all leading national dailies.
The company even printed two magazines in support of the country’s hosting of the spectacle.
“Daily Tribune is neutral in all its activities. But in keeping up with our slogan of 20 years — ‘Without Fear. Without Favor’ — it will keep tab on stories of success and expose shenanigans, especially among public officials, because that is our vow to the Filipino,” Mr. Fernandez said.
Cayetano’s tirade may have stemmed from the various reports, which also came out in other media outlets, about the mismanagement of the SEA Games.
It was Cayetano, then still the Foreign Affairs Secretary, who convinced President Rodrigo Duterte to host the biennial meet for which he formed the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc).
He even lobbied that the SEA Games fund be lodged under the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which he headed at the time.
His successor, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., however, disclosed that attempt and disagreed to be part of the scheme.
As Phisgoc chairman, Cayetano was also barred from receiving government funds being a government official. His team, however, found a way out of the situation by forming a Phisgoc Foundation with Cayetano not among its signatories.
The Phisgoc Foundation was designated as recipient of the P7-billion SEA Games fund from the government. Cayetano had asked for P9 billion from President Duterte.
Still, it was problematic. The Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) had to work out a system for the government money to be used without questions.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself stressed that he doesn’t want to have a “foundation” dipping its fingers on the country’s SEA Games hosting, which has a budget of more than P6 billion of government money.
That statement of the President was recorded and aired by PTV, the government’s television network.
Then came the construction of the SEA Games tower at the New Clark City. It cost the government P55 million, including its design which was said to have been identical with the submitted design for the Centennial tower in 1998.
Confusion also marred the Phisgoc’s transactions, especially with the uniforms when it was found a set of competition uniform cost P51,511, more than half the P25,000 that Asics declared when it made a bid to supply in the 18th Asian Games last year.
Daily Tribune obtained a copy of the quotation that Phisgoc prepared and it showed that a polo shirt cost P5,150; roundneck shirt P2,480, track jacket P6,310; track pants P7,400; shorts P5,100; socks P2,700; backpack P3,190; running shoes P3,950; and cap P2,400.
Cayetano justified the amount, saying “these are all Olympic-quality.”
But the hosting was not.
Complaints quickly gathered steam even before the cauldron lit up.
The first few days of the SEA Games were marred with chaos as Phisgoc volunteers failed to pick up football players from the airport.
Booters from Timor Leste were made to wait for three hours at the airport while the Myanmar football team were placed in a cramped bus on their way to their hotel.
The Cambodians were made to sleep on the hotel floor after the Phisgoc failed to coordinate with their hotel while the Thai football team waited for hours after the organizers failed to process their ID and accreditation on time.
Even the home team wasn’t spared.
The national women’s football team were fed with kikiam, egg and rice for breakfast, hours before it opened its campaign.
During the tournament, complaints of slow release of results and mismanagement were aplenty, which did not commensurate with the massive budget that the government spent just to make the country’s hosting of the SEA Games a success.
Ten months after the biennial meet closed, Cayetano’s Phisgoc is yet to release its liquidation report to the Philippine Olympic Committee.
In the POC general assembly last Wednesday, POC director Clint Aranas pressed POC president Abraham Tolentino for the financial report, but all he said was that Phisgoc is still in the process of gathering the receipts and other proofs of purchase from various suppliers.
Kim Chiu wears another hat
After several appearances as a guest celebrity, Kim Chiu has formalized her new role on It’s Showtime as its newest co-host.
The actor and singer expressed her enthusiasm over this new journey of her career with an Instagram post made shortly after the program yesterday, 28 September. The post reads, “Look back with gratitude. Look forward with HOPE. Thank you
@itsshowtimena family sa masayang pag welcome kanina, sa mga hosts to the staff and crew. Thank you po! Maraming Salamat din po tita
@direklauren for this opportunity! Maraming salamat.”
Kim, with Vice Ganda, Vhong Navarro, Jhong Hilario, Karylle, Amy Perez, Ryan Bang, Jugs Jugueta and Teddy Corpuz, hosted the program’s newest segment “Name It To Win It.” The hashtag #ShowtimeCHINITAnghali trended on Twitter.
“Madlang people mag kita-kita po tayo araw araw. Patuloy na maghahatid ng saya at good vibes saan man kayo sa mundo! #ShowtimeChiniTanghali,” Kim added.
On 26 May, she launched the choreography and official merchandise of her viral hit “Bawal Lumabas: The Classroom song” with DJ Squammy. Proceeds went to select charities. She last appeared in the drama Love Thy Woman alongside Yam Concepcion and real life partner Xian Lim.
Elections in the Philippines are fascinating. They never run out of nuisance candidates and “flying voters.” Also, there are no losers. Disgruntled candidates always claim they were cheated by the winners.
Elections are also scary because candidates can end up assassinated or murdered and dead voters can cast ballots — not in person but by proxy. During the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in 2002, five voters caught casting ballots on behalf of dead people were arrested at the polling precinct in Barangay Buting, Pasig City.
A voter in the 2016 elections found the name of her deceased husband in the voters’ list at the Araullo High School in Ermita, Manila. Ironically, there were living voters whose names were not on the list so were unable to vote.
If there are “dead” voters who vote, there are also dead candidates. In the last presidential elections, former ambassador to the UAE Roy Señeres ran for president but died three months before the polls. Nevertheless, his name was on the ballot and he received 22,726 votes.
A similar situation transpired in Romania. Candidate for mayor Ion Aliman won by a landslide after 1,057 of 1,600 voters of Deveselu municipality recently chose his name on the ballot. But he could not be proclaimed the winner as he died from the coronavirus disease on 17 September.
Aliman’s triumphant supporters went to his grave. Well, not to resurrect him, but to hold a victory celebration.
“We went to congratulate him,” a Deveselu resident commented under a photo posted on Facebook that showed dozens of people with candles at the local cemetery, according to AFP.
As to who will assume the town mayor’s post, authorities will hold new elections to choose a living candidate.
Velasco prevails as Speaker
There was no tense moment for Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco when he led a small group of 20 congressmen face President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang last night.
The President again brokered talks between Velasco and outgoing Speaker Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, using the meeting to validate his recognition of Velasco as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Duterte last week had told Cayetano and Velasco to honor their agreement.
There should have been no need for that meeting, though, had Cayetano not reneged on his term-sharing pact with Velasco.
That agreement was also brokered by the President last year. Cayetano had agreed to serve 15 months of the first half of their three-year term, after which he should step down to allow Velasco to lead the House for 21 months until the next national elections.
Cayetano since last year had accused Velasco of orchestrating moves to unseat him, allegations which not a few congressmen have denied.
Velasco also remained cool to those events by keeping faithful to their agreement.
“I am a man of my word. I honor our agreement and my gentleman’s vow before the President,” Velasco said then.
While Velasco was criticized by Cayetano’s allies for allegedly not moving an inch to claim the speakership, they were chastised by Velasco’s own supporters by saying there was no need for Velasco to force the issue.
“The agreement was 15 months for you, 21 months for me. That’s what the congressmen have agreed on. Those are the terms we have accepted,” Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, one of the most senior members of the House, said.
Cayetano, however, tried to gather more than 200 congressmen to sign a manifesto of support for his continued stay as Speaker.
He was criticized by the other lawmakers for doing so.
Cayetano’s term is supposed to end today, but Velasco allowed him to finish his business with the plenary on 14 October.
Official statements were expected from the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino, Velasco’s party and the incoming Speaker at press time.
The President’s announcement of the leadership change at the House was witnessed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go. The lawmaker was also present when the President talked to Velasco and Cayetano in private.
Velasco was accompanied by Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson; 1-PACMAN Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero, AAMBIS-OWA Partylist Rep. Sharon Garin, Bacolod City Rep. Caraps Paduano, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon.
Cayetano brought along his wife Lani, also a Taguig City representative, with Majority leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, House Committee on Accounts chair Abraham Tolentino, Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo and House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.
Cayetano’s allies claimed the meeting was requested by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. It was denied by Executive Director Ron Munsayac.
“Boxing’s over,” Munsayac said, alluding the controversial issue to a sporting match.
DU30 to FB: ‘Let’s talk’
President Rodrigo Duterte has slammed and demanded a dialogue with Facebook executives after the social media giant shut down pro-administration and pro-military “advocacy” pages.
In his public address Monday night, the President did not mince words against Facebook, saying he sees no purpose to allow the operations of the media platform if it cannot help the government achieve its objectives.
“Facebook, listen to me. We allowed you to operate here, hoping that you could help us also. Now, if the government cannot espouse or advocate something which is good of the people, then what is your purpose here in my country?” Duterte said.
“If we cannot understand each other, Facebook, I really do not know. But my job is to protect government interest,” he added.
Last Tuesday, Facebook announced that it had taken down more than 100 pages linked to the Philippine military and police due to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” that violated its community standards.
It also shut down over 150 other pro-administration accounts supportive of President Duterte and the possible 2022 presidential bid of his daughter Sara, which are purportedly handled by individuals based overseas.
Facebook said these accounts, whose true owners were not fully disclosed, appear to have been part of a “systematic propaganda” against youth activists, members of opposition, as well as the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The Chief Executive, who heavily-utilized social media during his presidential campaign for 2016 polls, accused Facebook of favoring leftist groups by supposedly blocking the government’s counter-insurgency efforts.
The President also told Facebook executives that they cannot “lay down” a policy for his government.
“I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of government… Is there life after Facebook? I don’t know. But let’s talk,” he said.
“What would be the point of allowing you to continue if you cannot help us? We are not advocating mass destruction. We are not advocating massacre. It’s a fight of ideas,” Duterte added.
Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque clarified Tuesday that the President would not order to ban Facebook in the Philippines, even if the Palace official had called out the social media platform for its “censorship” of pro-government content.
“Maybe not. Discussions are needed. You know it is not good for both Facebook and the Philippines (if the ban pushes through),” Roque said in response to reporters’ queries.
But Roque chided Facebook for taking down pages and accounts which produce content in support of the administration.
Roque also said that the President was particularly “sensitive” on Facebook’s move to shut down the page “Hands Off Our Children,” whose advocacy is to prevent minors from being recruited into left-leaning groups.
“Do not infringe on the freedom of speech of personalities or pages of being in favor of the government. What happens is that pages against the government are not taken down, but if in support of the government, these are being taken down,” he said.
The Palace official also attacked Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program — an initiative to point out misleading or false information in the platform — claiming that anti-government media groups are part of it including Rappler and VERA Files.
These two separate companies have been involved in fact-checking since the 2016 presidential polls, a year that saw an escalation of disinformation in online platforms.
In 2017, these entities qualified as signatories of the International Fact-Checking Network’s code of principles, a set of principles adopted by the social media giant for its initiative.
Due to its role, Rappler and VERA Files have been subjected to constant threats of the administration and its supporters.
Roque also said the government is considering to tap fact-checkers who support the administration. Meanwhile, he encouraged pro-government groups to challenge Facebook’s move of shutting down select accounts before the courts.
In his speech, President Duterte also likened the social media platform to Pandora’s box, an artifact in Greek mythology which later became an idiom that means a source of unexpected troubles.
“Facebook is as wide as the universe. It can create uncouth content. It can create trouble. It has opened the Pandora’s box where all prostitution thinkable to man is exposed,” he said.
In 2018, Facebook also took down hundreds of pages — including pro-Duterte pages — that were found posting spam or irrelevant content.
Last March 2019, Facebook also revealed that over 200 Facebook accounts belong to a network managed by Nic Gabunada, Duterte’s social media strategist in his presidential bid four years ago. Gabunada also worked for then President Benigno Aquino III’s camp and broadcast giant ABS-CBN.