MANILA Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada was recently recognized by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) for his initiative and full support given to the Manila Police District (MPD) in his bid to rid criminality in the city.

NCRPO director Police Chief Supt. Joel D. Pagdilao handed the plaque to Estrada “for immensely contributing in the attainment of various police community relations programs and projects within his locality.”

According to Pagdilao, Erap and the MPD headed by Chief Supt. Rolando Nana, were able to implement PCR programs in the city that benefited residents and transients alike.

Fulfilling his campaign promise among Manila police, he restored back the allowance for each police officer assigned to the city after it was withheld for almost two years by his predecessor.

As a result, the MPD significantly decreased to a total of 8,841 crimes committed in Manila in 2014, compared to 11,468 in 2013. The crime solution efficiency also increased from 24.55 percent to 38.05 percent.

He also released P89-million financial assistance for the policemen, while Filipino-Chinese business groups and Pagcor helped provide the MPD with 27 new patrol cars and 110 personal transporters.

He also emphasized the importance of teamwork that has motivated everybody and with the help of Ignacio Gimenez Foundation, had given recognition to some ordinary employees of the city hall.

 

HUMAN Rights Watch has asked Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri to use his power so that his men should take all necessary and appropriate action to prevent abuses and to ensure accountability for human rights violators.

In a letter, the rights watchdog tagged General Iriberri as the point man for making sure the Philippine armed forces would stop committing abuses and respect human rights.

Phelim Kine, the group’s deputy Asia director said it is Iriberri’s  responsibility to ensure that the military meets its international legal obligations throughout the Philippine archipelago.

“Iriberri should ensure prompt, transparent, and impartial investigations of abuses in which military personnel are implicated, and take appropriate action against personnel responsible” he added.

Philippine military personnel continue to be implicated in violations of international humanitarian law in armed conflict situations involving the communist New People’s Army and Moro insurgents.

Abuses include arbitrary arrests, torture and unlawful killings of civilians and rebel fighters in custody. The group demands that armed forces should uphold international humanitarian law in conflict areas and Iriberri should ensure accountability for AFP abuses.

They also urged him to investigate and appropriately punish military elements implicated in the harassment of activists, which includes red-baiting – the practice of publicly smearing government critics as state enemies – that in many instances has resulted in attacks against the subjects of the harassment.

The chief of staff should likewise ensure effective command and control of paramilitary groups, which have long been responsible for serious human rights abuses.

Until such abusive units are disarmed and disbanded, the AFP will be responsible for ensuring that they act in accordance with the law, Human Rights Watch said.

To start with, the AFP’s Human Rights Office should be reformed because it has not lived up to its mandate and responsibilities.

The military should also join the new international Safe Schools Declaration, which has been signed by 47 countries. The declaration is a political commitment to do more to protect students, teachers, and schools from the negative consequences of armed conflict.

“General Iriberri has the time and the opportunity to make greater respect for human rights a priority of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Kine said. “It is long overdue for the Philippine military to deliver on its human rights rhetoric.”

 

 

Moments after Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III finished his final State of the Nation Address before Congress, a group of left-wing legislators in the audience unfurled a protest banner that read: “human rights violator.”

However one feels about Aquino’s personal responsibility for ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines, it’s hard to deny their existence. That’s why Aquino’s miserable failure to even discuss the Philippines’ many pressing human rights problems in his speech is so troubling.

Instead, Aquino spoke for more than two hours on such issues as his administration’s accomplishments on the economy, education, and the peace process in Mindanao. Aquino drew applause for promising a bill outlawing political dynasties. He also recounted in detail the many shortcomings of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and thanked everyone from his political allies to his housemaid and hairdresser.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Aquino barely touched on any of the serious human rights problems his administration has largely ignored since he took office in 2010.

 

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY

That omission adds insult to injury to the many victims of the government’s failure to adequately grapple with those issues. The closest he came to acknowledging human rights was his mention of the arrest of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is on trial for the enforced disappearance of two activists.

More Filipinos will likely pay a heavy price for the failure to press for greater accountability for alleged abuses by the state security forces. The cost of that failure will be a rising body count from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and torture.  

Aquino won the 2010 election on a political platform that included explicit human rights commitments and a promise to tackle the lack of accountability for the military and police. But unless Aquino finds his voice on human rights as he begins his last year in office ahead of the next presidential election in May 2016, those promises may remain empty rhetoric. (Carlos H. Conde/Human Rights Watch)

 

 

IN ONE of its strongest positions yet, the Office of the Solicitor General has urged the Supreme Court to order the removal of the Torre de Manila from its present location because its construction violated laws and Constitutional provisions on cultural heritage conservation.

The government counsel argued that the government is tasked by the Constitution to conserve, promote, and popularize the nation's historical and cultural heritage, which includes ''in the case of the Rizal Monument, the preservation of its sightlines.''

The hugely unpopular Torre de Manila condominium gained prominence after heritage conservationists criticized it for allegedly ruining the sight of Rizal Monument, earning for itself the unsavory tag of being the national photo bomber.  

DMCI Homes, the developer of the 49-storey condominium, claimed that it acquired all the necessary permits for the construction of the building, including an exemption from the zoning ordinance granted by the city council.

The Supreme Court last July 21 held oral arguments for the petition filed by the Order of the Knights of Rizal that sought to determine whether the preservation of the sight line of the Rizal Monument is included among the cultural heritage and resources.

OSG however maintained that with specific reference to the present controversy, the only way to 'conserve' the Rizal Monument is by removing the impairment to its sightline: the presence of Torre de Manila.

The Solicitor General said the monument's ''status as a national cultural treasure lies in its visual presence. This includes not only the obelisk and its accompanying bronze sculpture – the Motto Stella (guiding star) – but the ground and the space where it is located."

Aside from the Constitution and the National Cultural Heritage, the Solicitor General said another basis for declaring the construction of Torre de Manila as illegal is the violation committed by the City of Manila when it granted the developer an exemption in the city's zoning ordinance despite the developer's non-compliance with the floor-area ratio limit.

''DMCI appears to have secured all the formal government permits. Whether those permits are defective is a separate matter,'' the Solicitor General said.

During the oral arguments, SC justices questioned the Knights of Rizal's lawyer for supposedly bypassing lower courts in filing the petition.

The Solicitor General backed the decision of the Knights of Rizal to go directly to the high court, saying ''it is justifiable as an exceptional circumstance that warrants immediate action.''

The Solicitor General said ''while the doctrines of hierarchy of courts and exhaustion of administrative remedies prevent a party from directly invoking the Honorable Court's original jurisdiction, these rules admit exceptions, such as when the issues involved are of transcendental public importance."

The Solicitor General said should the high court declare that the presence of Torre de Manila impairs the physical integrity of Rizal Monument, it should carry the assumption that the condominium's construction is in violation of either the heritage laws or the Constitution, or both.

If this is the case, ''the national government is therefore not required to compensate private parties for the exercise of acts that are illegal or unconstitutional.''

INTERIOR Secretary Mar Roxas has recognized the crucial role that local government units (LGUs) especially the mayors are playing in all the groundbreaking achievements of the Aquino administration over the past five years, even as he dared them to accept the challenge of change and reforms.

"We can say quite convincingly that indeed, much improvement, much progress has come into our country," Roxas declared during the 62nd Annual General Assembly of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) recently.

"And it is mainly because you have kept faith in the president, kept faith with our principle of Daang Matuwid," he added.

Roxas also noted that it might be his last chance to address the LCP in assembly as DILG chief given that next year, most, if not all of the local chief executives, will be "facing the people with a fresh mandate."

"All of us will once again be weighed, looked upon, and examined by our people," he said, pertaining to the 2016 general elections.

But Roxas insisted that the people will do so by looking at what public officials have done and what more they can offer the public.

"I believe that you, as city mayors, can look your people in the eye and say that life has improved greatly over the last five years and this is the result of our being together and cooperating together," he stressed.

"If you succeed, then we (in the national government) succeed, and if you fail, it is our failure," he stressed.

He then enumerated a number of the Aquino administration's key achievements, such as the almost threefold increase in capital outlay spending from P180 billion in 2009 up to P580 billion for the year 2015.

The number of families covered by the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also increased significantly, from 500,000 in 2010 to four and a half million today.

This roughly translates to P65 billion now going directly into the economies of local areas where these beneficiaries live.

Health insurance has also become more accessible for constituents, allowing them to avail of PhilHealth's services automatically upon entering local health facilities.

This accounts for around P50 billion spent annually for universal healthcare for all Filipinos, including reimbursements for local health expenses.

"Kayo, bilang mga punong lungsod sa iba't ibang bahagi ng bansa, mismo ang makakapagbigay-testigo kung ano ang pagbabago, kung ano ang kabutihan na naisakatuparan natin nitong nakaraang limang taon," Roxas reminded the over 100 city mayors who attended the event.

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