President Duterte off to Middle East, April 10

duterte-malacanangBy Lilian  Mellejor

President Rodrigo Duterte will fly out from Davao City  on April 10, Monday, for a one-week official visit to the Middle East to strengthen partnerships with the Gulf States and promote the welfare of overseas Filipino workers there.

The President is expected to leave Monday afternoon for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Qatar, where over a million Filipinos are working.

President Duterte will be meeting His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he will stay from April 10 to 12, according to an advisory from Malacañang’s Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO).

The Chief Executive will then proceed to Manama, Bahrain on April 12 to 14 to meet His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the advisory said.

President Duterte would also visit Doha, Qatar from April 14 to 16 to meet with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, MARO said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier announced that the State Visit to the Middle East is aimed to strengthen efforts for the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of the more than one million Filipinos in those countries.

It will also be an opportunity to invite investors to the Philippines and usher in progress at home, and to forge stronger partnerships by elevating our political and economic cooperation with these countries to new heights, said Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Hjayceelyn Quintana.

The President is expected to highlight with the leaders matters relevant to the welfare and dignity of Filipinos living in their countries as well as explore avenues for economic and political cooperation; explore partnerships in tourism development, halal food security, Islamic finance and energy security, as well as investments; and seek partnerships in security, countering terrorism and combating illicit drugs.

The DFA reported the Middle East remains the destination of choice of overseas Filipino workers, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Quintana revealed that the Middle East is the second largest source with 28 percent or almost 7.6 billion US dollars remitted from the region in 2016. Out of that 28 percent, more than a third was remitted by OFWs based in Saudi Arabia, the second top source of remittance.

Also, 87 percent of the total crude mix was sourced from the Middle East, of which 36.1 percent came from Saudi Arabia, the top supplier of crude oil into the country.

The DFA said the President will also be witnessing the signing of agreements on labor, agriculture, air services, culture, health and political bilateral consultations. (PNA

A snake in the grass

taerigor-zabalaBeing “immoral” is only one of the many “sins” of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.

pantaleon-alvarezHe is accused of breaking up the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), the party that helped propel former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the Presidency in the 2016 election with his “dictatorial” attitude in muscling members of the House of Representatives into voting for controversial bills, without thinking.
He ran head-on with Duterte over the impeachment of Vice President Leni Robredo.
He had no qualms about bragging in public in this Catholic-dominant nation that he has two other women aside from his wife and siring a total of 8 children.
In his congressional base in Davao del Norte’s First District, people sneer at him as a “snake in the grass” who bit the hand of those behind his dramatic rise from his dead politics to become one of the highest officials of the country.
Alvarez has filed with Ombudsman graft charges against political ally and longtime friend Davao del Norte First District Congressman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo, Jr. in connection with the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed between the Floirendo-owned Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco) and the Bureau (BuCor) involving more than 5,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
Alvarez alleged that Floirendo was a sitting congressman and did not divest of his interest in Tadeco at the time of the signing of the JVA in 2013.
Alvarez also said the JVA was disadvantageous to the government, with Tadeco paying only P5,000 per hectare of the land it used in growing export Cavendish bananas.
Tadeco is a prioneering banana growing and exporting company founded by the late Don Antonio Floirendo, Sr., Tonyboy’s father.
Tadeco made the once economically-dormant Davao del Norte as the country’s banana capital and placed the Philippines in the map of the world’s top banana exporting countries.
Tadeco and the Floirendos were and still are a factor in Davao del Norte which helped politicians. Bringing back Alvarez to life from his political grave is one benevolent act that the Floirendos have done.
It is generally agreed in Davao del Norte that Alvarez was resurrected from his dead politics, which slept in limbo for more than a decade, by Floirendo who backed his congressional bid in the 2016 election.
Alvarez had been considered as “politically dead” after a single term in Congress from 1998 to 2001, and as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the 2016 election, Alvarez joined the  presidential band wagon of Duterte, of which Floirendo was a major  campaign contributor. He would be elected as House Speaker with the support of Floirendo and Duterte and the PDP.
In his complaint against Florendo, Alvarez said Tadeco is cheating the government in the Tadeco-Dapecol JVA deal, which was actually approved by Congress.
Is the Speaker clean?
Alvarez’s  stint with DoTC was marked with a plunder rap with the Ombudsman involving a company partly- owned by his wife which undertook a project at the Manila  International Airport Authority(MIAA).
The MIAA-NAIA Association of Service Contractors (MASO) filed in 2001 a plunder case  against Alvarez and other officials  for alleged anomaly in the award without public bidding of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc (Piatco). At the time, Alvarez was the MIAA senior assistant general manager.   
According to a report by Newsbreak in 2001, Alvarez’s wife Emelita owned 33% of Wintrack Builders Inc, a company that supposedly profited from an excess of P76.49 million ($1.64 million) from excavation work it did with Piatco.
Duterte has asked the leadership of the House of Representatives not to proceed with the impeachment case filed against Robredo. Alvarez said, No, we will proceed. Is power getting into the head of the Speaker that he now wants to collide head-on with the President?
The Death Penalty Bill no matter how controversial would have passed no matter the loud noises from the opposition, because it had presidential backing. There was no need for dictator Alvarez to railroad its passage with threats of expulsion from the party or removal from committee chairmanship if a congressman would not vote for approval of the bill.
Alvarez brags that he could not care less if he loses the Speakership.
The frustration at the House over his leadership is loud and clear and the air points to that direction.
In the meantime, let us wait for the House ethics committee to summon Alvarez over his love affairs. Morality is a treasured principle of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court and we would not be surprised if one of these days, Alvarez would be defrocked as a lawyer by disbarment for immorality.
Whether Alvarez is dislodged as House Speaker or if he loses his license as a lawyer, or in a worst case scenario is thrown out of Duterte’s circle, the people of Davao del Norte who voted him to office would not care.
Rightly so. For who needs a snake in the grass?



President Rodrigo Duterte was given the  “Man of the Year” award by The Manila Times.


The award for the President’s strong political leadership, was handed out during The Manila Times 5th Business Forum on February 10 held at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.


In his speech, The Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang said The Times 2016 Man of the Year Award was given to Duterte for capturing the imagination of the Filipino people and setting off a dawn of new politics.

“Without money, organization, political party and big business behind him, he routed the candidates of the establishment whose campaigns were powered by guns, goons and gold, not to mention cheating poll machines,” he said.

Ang said Duterte was recognized as “Man of the Year” also because he is a simple man with no pretensions.

“He speaks his mind out. He is the ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ type. He is a brilliant political strategist,” Ang said.

“Despite publicly announcing in early 2016 that he was not running for President, people did not abandon him. They kept their faith in him and voted him into office overwhelmingly,” he added.

Ang noted that Duterte, even before declaring his presidential candidacy, “had already caused considerable disruptions to the political arena and made the grounds shake and shift from under the feet of his opponents.”

“He is brash. He is politically incorrect. His private and public discourses are laden with his favorite word that begins with letter “P.” He has demonstrated the audacity to stand up to the superpowers in the name of an independent foreign policy that is pro-Philippines and friendly to all,” Ang said.

“Our Man of the Year is a man of integrity and conviction. Love him, hate him, he will do what he thinks is right and good for the Filipinos. His methods could be brutal at times but make no mistake about it, he has “pusong mamon,” a soft heart for the oppressed and the marginalized. He genuinely cares for the Filipino people and would offer his life in the service of the nation. Our Man of the Year is a true nationalist,” he added. MT






robredoVice President Leni Robredo said members of the House of Representatives can prove their leadership if they spurn Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and vote against the controversial proposed bill re-imposing the death penalty.

pantaleon-alvarezIn what is seen as an attempt to railroad approval of the bill, Alvarez on February 8, gathered members of the House “Super Majority” in a caucus to press for support for House Bill No. 4727 that has drawn widespread opposition, including legislators.

This is a “defining moment” for legislators, said Robredo.

HB 4727 has now reached the plenary after House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali tossed the bill for 2nd reading on February 7.

Alvarez had earlier warned that House Deputy Speakers and chairmen of committees would lose their posts if they would not support the bill that would send to death row people committing heinous crimes.

Alvarez reiterated his warning during the January 8 caucus.

Imposing capital punishment had been removed from the statutes by Congress in 1986.

In a news conference, Robredo urged lawmakers to vote based on principles on the death penalty bill.

“Leaders should be ready to defy the orders (that) are not aligned with their beliefs,” said the Vice President, adding her voice to the opposition. Robredo run and won the vice presidency in the May 2016 polls under the banner of the then administration Liberal Party of then outgoing  President Benigno Aquino whose standard bearer former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was soundly defeated by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino\Laban (PDP/Laban). Robredo is in the forefront of criticizing some programs of the Duterte administration. The death penalty bill is a priority of the President.

Robredo said legislators would have their “defining moment” when the death penalty bill is placed on a vote.
“This could be a defining moment … and (the legislators’) chance to… stand firm on what they believe in,” she said.

Her urging helped spark speculations over a rumored plan by legislators to unseat Alvarez as House Speaker for arm-twisting legislators into supporting the bill.

Bill No. 4727, has sharply divided the House.

congressNumber is a crucial factor that could ensure the passage of the bill.

The so-called “Super Majority,” a coalition led by the PDP-Laban, has 269 members of the 286-member House. With the majority bloc’s “party vote” the bill could easily sail to approval.

At the forefront of the opposition to the bill is the Makabayan bloc, a seven-member group of progressive party-list legislators.
“Unfair,” said Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus, chairperson of the House committee on poverty alleviation, of Alvarez’s attempt to railroad passage of the bill by arm-twisting legislators with threats.

“We are here not for the pleasure of the Speaker or the President.  It’s unfair for us because we are here (for) pro-people issues,” she said.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque warned the arm-twisting could result to Alvarez losing support of allies in the Super Majority.

“Alvarez (is) driving people to the arms of the (opposition). Do not drive away our numbers to the enemy,” Roque, whose party has joined the Super Majority, advised Alvarez.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said Alvarez’s threat to disenfranchise deputy speakers and committee chairmen is shaking down the majority bloc allied with Duterte, who considers HB 4727 a priority bill.

“If Speaker Alvarez is twisting the arms of (the majority legislators), then he’s committing a very serious mistake … because he is now trampling on the principles of each member of the majority,” said Atienza, a vocal oppositor of  capital punishment.

This “could lead to the members of the majority to think twice in following their leader. Maybe we should go find another Speaker,” he added.

Atienza urged legislators to deal the bill with a “conscience vote not a party vote.”

With his arm-twisting, Alvarez, according to Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr, “risks losing the support of the political parties comprising the super coalition.”

“Most of the parties have adopted a policy of conscience vote. But if the Speaker insists, then he wants Congress to become an authoritarian body, not a democratic one,” said Baguilat.

Kabayan’s Roque, said Alvarez’s latest statement could drive several congressmen to rejoin the once-ruling LP, that now leads the minority in the House.

“This is not the right time to discuss the death penalty because it is very divisive. This gives the enemies of this administration the traction they need to get stronger support in the House,” said Roque.

According to sources, about 50 legislators, including administration allies, are expected to interpellate the bill’s sponsors when the bill is deliberated at plenary.


In the Senate, President Franklin Drilon said the death penalty bill would face rough sailing with 10 of the 24-member Senate against re-imposing death penalty.

We only need two more votes to kill the bill, said Drilon, who adds the bill is on the priority list of Senators.

Even if approved by both the Upper House and Lower House, the death penalty bill would run into trouble with the Supreme Court when the legality of the bill is questioned.

Drilon said the Philippines is bound by an international covenant which banned signatory countries from imposing capital punishment.

Drilon said the High Court respects international treaties and was expected to honor the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the Philippines signed in 1966.

ICCPR was ratified by the Senate in 1986, on the year that it killed death penalty.