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Jeremy Scahill on Trump’s Embrace of Duterte’s Deadly War on Drugs in the Philippines

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In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has suggested he might impose martial law across the country, after declaring it this week in his native island of Mindanao. This comes as a transcript of the call of Trump praising Duterte for his controversial drug war was leaked and published by The Intercept. According to the leaked transcript, Trump said, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing, and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” Duterte’s bloody war on drugs has led to the deaths of nearly 9,000 people, most of whom are poor. Human rights groups have blasted Duterte for the way he’s waged his anti-drug campaign, defined by extrajudicial killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers and users. For more on Trump and Duterte, we speak to Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept and host of the new weekly podcast, “Intercepted.” Scahill recently co-wrote a three-part series on the leaked call for The Intercept.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the Philippines, where Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has been overseeing a bloody war on drugs. Since last June, more than 7,000 people have been extrajudicially killed by police or vigilantes. Duterte has also suggested he might impose martial law across the country, after first declaring it this week in his native island of Mindanao. While human rights groups have condemned Duterte, he has received backing from President Trump, who recently invited him to visit the White House. Human Rights Watch slammed the invitation, saying, quote, “By effectively endorsing Duterte’s murderous ‘war on drugs,’ Trump has made himself morally complicit in future killings.”

Well, earlier this week, a transcript of the call of Trump inviting Duterte to the White House was leaked and published by The Intercept. According to the leaked transcript, Trump said, quote, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Duterte responded, quote, “Thank you, Mr. President. This is the scourge of my nation now, and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump then responded, quote, “I understand that and fully understand that, and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that, but I understand that, and we have spoken about this before.”

On May 1, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about Trump’s decision to invite Duterte to the White House.

JOHN ROBERTS: Chris Coons said that the president is giving his stamp of approval to human rights abuses. Governor John Sununu, on the other hand, said this is part of the unpleasant things that presidents have to do. What’s the White House’s perspective on Duterte and him coming here?

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: I think it is an opportunity for us to work with countries in that region that can help play a role in diplomatically and economically isolating North Korea. And frankly, the national interests of the United States, the safety of our people and the safety of people in the region are the number one priorities of the president.

AMY GOODMAN: The leaked transcript of the Trump-Duterte call does confirm North Korea came up, but only after Trump praised the Filipino president on waging his war on drugs. During the call, Trump said, quote, “We have a lot of firepower over there. We have two submarines—the best in the world—we have two nuclear submarines—not that we want to use them at all.” Trump went on to say, “I’ve never seen anything like they are, but we don’t have to use this, but he could be crazy, so we will see what happens,” unquote.

Well, to talk more about Presidents Trump and Duterte, we’re joined by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, host of the new weekly podcast, Intercepted. Jeremy recently co-wrote a three-part article on the leaked call for The Intercept.

Jeremy, it’s great to have you with us here at the SkyDome, where the Blue Jays play, in Toronto, Canada, where we all participated in a forum on journalism last night. But talk about this really explosive exposé that you did for The Intercept around Trump’s phone call with Duterte.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, first of all, just to, you know, establish what this is that we published, this was a transcript from a phone call that took place on April 29th between Trump and Duterte. And Trump initiated the call. What we published was a Philippine government document, a classified Philippine government document. So this was the transcript that Duterte’s people made of his call with Trump.

The reason I emphasize that is because after we published this, Matt Drudge put it at the top of Drudge Report, and so we had an enormous surge in traffic from many people who are supporters of Donald Trump. And we got bombarded, and Drudge got bombarded with a boycott campaign from Trump supporters, who were saying, “Whoever leaked this should be prosecuted for treason. And the journalists who published this should be put in prison,” which echoes what we know Trump has sort of suggested in meetings, most recently to James Comey right before he fired him, the idea that journalists should be arrested. This was not a U.S. government document. Also, people were saying, “Oh, this is proof that Obama left the White House bugged.” You know, it’s like they don’t understand the basic fact of when two foreign leaders are speaking, you know, there’s two sides of this conversation. So there we have it. We have the phone conversation between these two. So—

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get it?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, we’re not going to talk about sources or methods, as the U.S. government likes to talk about. All we’ll say is that we obtained it, and both the White House and the Philippines government—well, the Philippines government validated that it is a legitimate document. The White House said that the transcript was accurate.

Now, what does that leave us with? Well, it leaves us with the fact that Donald Trump begins a phone call with Rodrigo Duterte, who is one of the most unrepentant, murderous heads of state in the world today, openly brags about how he’ll give a pardon or immunity to people who extrajudicially kill anyone involved with the drug war. And the dominant perception and the way that this is portrayed by Duterte’s people is that they’re just going after narcotraffickers. In reality, many drug users have been assassinated as part of this campaign. Duterte actually enjoys a pretty wide base of support in the Philippines, and he kind of mixes in anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist rhetoric with these very harsh policies. He also is one of the few heads of state in the world who will—you know, he regularly swears. I mean, he called Barack Obama things that I can’t even say on this program, “the son of a”—and then referenced his—as though Obama’s mother had been a sex worker. I mean, he’s, you know, calling the president of the United States and saying, “I’m going to divorce the United States and orient myself toward China and Russia.” And he said that under Obama because Obama’s administration criticized the tactics that Duterte was using, the kind of paramilitary gangster tactics that they were using.

And, you know, I think the most—not astonishing, but the most relevant part of this is that Trump knows all of that and, in fact, views that as a positive thing. So he calls Duterte and says to him, you know, “Rodrigo, I just want to congratulate you for the amazing job that you’re doing.” And the reason that we know it’s not just kind of generic platitudes is because Trump himself references in this call the fact that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had said the obvious, which is, you know, this is not right, the way that this is being handled. And, you know, the Obama administration had a very hypocritical record on human rights, but, as Allan Nairn has pointed out before, hypocrisy has some virtue, in the sense that at least they—you’re able to call them out on it, because they say one thing but mean another. So the bottom line is, Trump calls Duterte and says, “Great job. Amazing job. Obama didn’t—you know, he didn’t get it. I get it. You have our full support. You’re a good man.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jeremy, I wanted to ask you—almost as shocking as the call and the congratulations from Trump was the other part of the discussion about North Korea and Trump revealing to Duterte and, obviously, to lots of folks in the Philippine government about nuclear submarines of the U.S. that are off the coast of North Korea.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, well, first of all, we know that, you know, Trump still continues to use an insecure cellphone, that he tweets from, and has brought that cellphone to the table on classified discussions about North Korea. He did it when Shinzo Abe was at Mar-a-Lago with him, the Japanese leader. There were photos of Trump’s cellphone. His specific phone that he uses has been—already, that phone, for years, it’s been known to have been compromised by Chinese hackers. So Trump is bringing this insecure phone to meetings about North Korea. Then he’s on the phone with Duterte last month, and he says, “You know, we’ve got these two nuclear subs near North Korea.” And he’s saying this to Duterte, who was most certainly under surveillance by both the North Koreans and the Chinese. So anyone who says, “Oh, well, you guys revealed this information,” the most damaging revelation of classified information happened when Donald Trump told Duterte this. And Duterte also is a clever operator when it comes to China. And he has called Vladimir Putin his hero.

But the most newsworthy aspect of that is that—and I felt bad for you, Amy, having to read those quotes from Trump, because when you actually read his words and you’re not Trump, it sounds like the garbled mess that it actually is, because you don’t have the inflection, and you’re not, you know, sniffling and all these things. But Trump tells Duterte about these submarines off the coast, and he says, you know, “We’ve got so much more firepower than North Korea. At least 20 times more.” Twenty times? The United States is known to have more than 6,000 nuclear warheads. North Korea is believed to have around 10. So Trump’s math was way off in that equation.

And some people were saying, “Oh, well, Trump keeps saying, ‘We don’t want to use it. We don’t want to use it.’” That’s not what’s significant. What’s significant is that Trump says, “This is a madman. We don’t know what he’s going to do. We’d prefer not to go to war. But who knows?” That’s really frightening to hear from someone who is in command of the most lethal and powerful military in the world. He also—and this is sort of sad, on one level, but also frightening—he says, “Rodrigo, let’s talk about Kim Jong-un. Is he stable or unstable?” Huh? I mean, why is the president of the United States asking Duterte about if Kim Jong-un is unstable?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A man whose own stability is in question, Duterte.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, right, of course. I mean, this is three madmen that are in this equation: Trump, Duterte and Kim Jong-un. And I really don’t know which of these three people is the sort of greater threat to civilization. I mean, it’s probably Trump, but it’s—you know, tough call.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to some of the clips of Duterte in his own words. Last September, the Philippines president likened himself to Hitler.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there is 3 million—what is it? Three million drug addicts, there are. I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: Last fall, Duterte called then-President Obama “son of a whore” and warned him not to ask about his so-called drug war.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: I am a president of a sovereign state, and we have long ceased to be a colony. I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw away questions and statements. [translated] Son of a whore, I will swear at you in that forum.

AMY GOODMAN: Before he was elected, Duterte admitted he was linked to a death squad in Davao. He spoke on a local TV show in a mix of English and Visayan.

MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] Me. They are saying I’m part of a death squad.

HOST: So, how do you react to that?

MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: [translated] True. That’s true. You know, when I become president, I warn you—I don’t covet the position, but if I become president, the 1,000 will become 50,000. [in English] I will kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable. [translated] I will really kill you. I won because of the breakdown in law and order.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, in December, Duterte boasted about having personally killed criminal suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. The Manila Times reported he told a group of business leaders in the Philippines capital, quote, “In Davao, I used to do it personally—just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you? And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill.” Jeremy—

JEREMY SCAHILL: I mean—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: These comments from a president of the Philippines.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, I mean, you know, those, of course, are of a more serious nature than the kinds of things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, but they do have that in common, where, you know, they’ll just sort of say what they’re thinking. And in a way, it’s refreshing, I guess, because most world leaders try to cover up the uncouth actions that they’re taking in their countries.

What I think is really significant for people to understand is that in the Hitler quote, where Duterte is saying Germany had Hitler, and, you know, he underestimates the number of people that Hitler killed—you know, he says 3 million—but he doesn’t say, “We have 3 million narcotraffickers that I want to kill.” He says, “We have 3 million addicts.” And that is—that’s the point here, is that they are not going after the kind of, you know, “Chapo” of the Philippines. Many of the people that have been killed are rank-and-file victims of a drug culture. And that’s who’s paying the heaviest price for all of this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about something else in those transcripts: the short discussion between Trump and Duterte toward the end about China and Xi Jinping, the president of China, that Trump said, “Oh, I met with him at Mar-a-Lago. He’s a really good guy.”

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You know, this is after months and months of Trump’s China bashing here during the political campaign. All of a sudden he seems to indicate that he needs to rely on China, China is the critical country in being able to keep North Korea at bay.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, and, you know, that has sort of—you know, under Obama, they called the policy on North Korea “strategic patience.” And I think that all serious observers of Korea politics and the history of Korea know that the North Korean regime is largely dependent on China for basically its survival, in many ways, in addition to the smuggling and organized crime that the North Korean regime is involved with. But on a tactical level, Trump spends, you know, a couple of days with Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, and then he’s saying to Duterte, “Oh, we’ve got to get the Chinese to solve the problem.” And Duterte’s like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll give him a call.” It really shows how out of his depth Trump is, as though he just heard, oh, maybe China could do something about this. I mean, it’s frightening when you’re talking about the presence of nuclear weapons. China plays the United States like a fiddle all the time in international relations.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds before we go to break, and then we’ll also be joined by Glenn Greenwald, but—so, Duterte is coming to the White House? Is that clear?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Donald Trump says to him, you know, “Anytime you’re in Washington, come by. I would love to have you in the White House.” After we published this, Senator Lindsey Graham said that he may join with Democrats who are calling for Trump to postpone that trip, so that they can discuss these issues.

And, I mean, I do think that what’s interesting, he just declared martial law in the south of the country, Duterte did, and he’s doing it in the name of fighting terrorism. That part of what Duterte is doing has long been aided by the United States, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA, military intelligence. The U.S. has poured resources into the Philippines in the name of fighting Islamist rebels. Duterte is now adopting that rhetoric, just like Bush and Trump—you know, Obama had different terms for it—are talking about this fight. In a way, it seems as though Duterte is outsmarting Trump in terms of how this is all playing.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill is going to stay with us, co-founder of The Intercept, host of the new weekly podcast, Intercepted. His most recent piece, we’ll link to, “Trump Called Rodrigo Duterte to Congratulate Him on His Murderous Drug War: ‘You Are Doing an Amazing Job.’” Jeremy’s books include Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, more recently, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program. This is Democracy Now! Back with Jeremy and Glenn Greenwald in a moment.

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Philippine President Wants North Korea to Become ASEAN Dialogue Partner

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Sputnik 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed on Tuesday his desire to invite North Korea to become a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“You know, I always wanted to invite you here,” Duterte, who is a also chairperson of ASEAN in 2017, told North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, as quoted by the SunStar media outlet.

The Philippine president added that North Korea “would be a good dialogue partner.”

Ri reportedly thanked Duterte for the initiative.

The statement was made less than a week after Duterte criticized North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

ASEAN has 10 dialogue partners, which are India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and China.

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Philippines DENIES reports that US may intervene in Marawi against ISIS

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By Adam Garrie

Defence officials in Philippines deny reports from the United States that American military contingents are examining the possibility of a military intervention in the country due to the war with ISIS aligned terrorists and other insurgents on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao and specifically the besieged city of Marawi.

US based NBC news earlier reported that Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis stated that the US will shortly make an announcement on whether US bombers will commence military strikes in Philippines.

This recent development would imply that the US is considering and indeed may be planning a strike on targets in Philippines that may be illegal according to international law.

Sputnik reports,

“According to Philippine Star media outlet, the country’s Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo Ano said that US Air Force engagement in military operations in the Philippines was impossible, and that Washington’s direct involvement in the Marawi siege was beyond discussion.

The military officials stressed that the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty entails direct military support only in the case of a military invasion by a third party country. However, they also expressed their gratitude toward the United States for backing the Philippines in their fight against terrorism.

In late July, the United States supplied the Philippines with two new Cessna 208B Grand Caravan intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, 1,040 rocket motors and 992 rockets to fight against terror. In addition, Manila is expected to receive 250 rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Washington.

The so-called Marawi siege started on May 23, when the Philippine security forces stormed the city seeking to prevent two IS-affiliated groups from meeting, which sparked up a full-scale armed conflict. On May 25, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, which is often subjected to attacks by IS-linked terror groups. So far, over 500 militants and 122 government forces servicemen have been killed in the Marawi battle”.

Existing treaties between  Manila and Washington explicitly prohibit unauthorised US military action under the present circumstances. If the US does conduct illegal strikes in Philippines, this will be the second time in recent months that the US has acted unilaterally in its former colony.

In June of 2017, it was reported that Philippines had requested assistance from the United States in its battle against terrorists, but this claim was later totally refuted by President Rodgiro Duterte.

Duterte’s relationship with America has been a tenuous one ever since his election in July of 2016. Duterte has embarked an independent foreign policy that seeks to build historically good relations with both China and Russia. Duterte also has engaged cooperatively with China over the disputes in the South China Sea, a policy that is at odds with the provocative US policy of molesting Chinese water rights, a policy that Washington misleadingly calls ‘freedom of navigation’.

Meanwhile, Duterte has refused to travel to the United States in response to members of the US Congress questioning his war on drugs which remains popular among the vast majority of Filipinos.

Many in the US are eager to retain a foothold in Philippines at a time when Philippine public opinion is strongly with the independence minded President Duterte.

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Philippines urges US to return church bells

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Press TV

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the United States return church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, in another blast at his country’s traditional ally.

American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte said at his annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.”

Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in South Korea.

Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial.

US embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina gave a non-committal reply on Tuesday to Duterte’s demands.

“We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she said in an email to AFP.

Duterte on Monday repeated a Filipino account of the campaign that the commanding general, Jacob Smith, ordered Samar be turned into a “howling wilderness” and that all Filipino males aged 10 or above be killed.

A 1902 US court-martial convicted Smith of a minor offence in relation to the Samar campaign, while 39 other Americans were separately found guilty of torturing and shooting Filipino prisoners there, the US Army War College research paper said.

However none of them were jailed, according to the paper.

The then Philippine president Fidel Ramos first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 Washington trip.

Duterte, a self-described socialist, has since his election last year worked to distance Manila from Washington while building closer ties with China and Russia.

The Philippine islands, a Spanish colony for centuries, were ceded to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained independence from the Americans in 1946.

Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the US as ties have frayed, and last Friday vowed he would never visit the “lousy” country despite an earlier invitation extended by US President Donald Trump.

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ISIS Touches Down in the Philippines

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Map of Philippines

By Tony Cartalucci | New Eastern Outlook 

Mayhem broke out across the southern Philippine city of Marawi where militants besieged it and hoisted flags of the so-called “Islamic State.” Located on the southern island of Mindanao, the city is only slightly removed from Al Qaeda affiliate Abu Sayaff’s primary area of operation on nearby Jolo and Basilan islands.

The UK Independent in an article titled, Isis-linked militants take priest and churchgoers hostage in Philippines,” would report:

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the south because of the militants’ siege on the city on Tuesday and abandoned a trip to Russia to deal with the crisis.

Mr Duterte vowed to place southern Mindanao island, where Marawi is situated, and its 22 million residents under military rule for up to a year if necessary.

The article would also report:

Troops are battling to contain dozens of militants from the Maute group, which pledged allegiance to Isis in 2015, after they escaped a botched security raid on a hideout and overran streets, bridges and buildings.

Two soldiers and a police officer are among those killed and at least 12 people have been wounded in the violence, seeing Maute fighters set fire to a school, a church and a prison.

The security crisis represents a seemingly inexplicable expansion of the Islamic State in Asia – even as the US and its allies claim the organization is being rolled back across the Middle East and its revenue streams are contracting in the wake of defeat.

US-Saudi Sponsored Terrorism Seeks to Coerce Asia 

Both the Maute group and Abu Sayaff are extensions of Al Qaeda’s global terror network, propped up by state sponsorship from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and fed recruits via a global network of likewise Saudi and Qatari funded “madrasas.” In turn, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s state sponsorship of global terrorism for decades has been actively enabled by material and political support provided by the United States.

This arrangement provides for Washington both a global mercenary force with which to wage proxy war when conventional and direct military force cannot be used, and a pretext for direct US military intervention when proxy warfare fails to achieve Washington’s objectives.

This formula has been used in Afghanistan in the 1980s to successfully expel the Soviet Union, in 2011 to overthrow the Libyan government, and is currently being used in Syria where both proxy war and direct US military intervention is being applied.

Maute and Abu Sayaff activity fits into this global pattern perfectly.

The Philippines is one of many Southeast Asian states that has incrementally shifted from traditional alliances and dependency on the United States to regional neighbors including China, as well as Eurasian states including Russia.

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, cancelling his meeting with Russia is a microcosm of the very sort of results Maute and Abu Sayaff are tasked with achieving in the Philippines. Attempts by the US to justify the presence of its troops in the Philippines as part of a wider strategy of encircling China with US military installations across Asia would also greatly benefit from the Islamic State “suddenly spreading” across the island nation.

Likewise, violence in Malaysia and Thailand are directly linked to this wider US-Saudi alliance, with violence erupting at each and every crucial juncture as the US is incrementally pushed out of the region. Indonesia has likewise suffered violence at the hands of the Islamic State, and even Myanmar is being threatened by Saudi-funded terrorism seeking to leverage and expand the ongoing Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

That US-Saudi sponsorship drives this terrorism, not the meager revenue streams of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, goes far in explaining why the terrorist organization is capable of such bold attacks in Southeast Asia even as Russia and Iranian backed Syrian troops extinguish it in the Middle East.

US-Saudi Links to Abu Sayaff and other Terrorists in the Philippines 

A US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks dated 2005 would state:

Philippine officials noted their continuing concern about Saudi-origin terrorist financing coming into the Philippines under the cover of donations to mosques, orphanages, and madrassahs. Although three Saudi nationals suspected of being couriers had been detained on separate occasions, Saudi Ambassador Wali had intervened in each case to secure their release.

Yousaf Butt of the Washington-based US National Defense University would reveal in a Huffington Post article titled, How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism,” that:

It would be troublesome but perhaps acceptable for the House of Saud to promote the intolerant and extremist Wahhabi creed just domestically. But, unfortunately, for decades the Saudis have also lavishly financed its propagation abroad. Exact numbers are not known, but it is thought that more than $100 billion have been spent on exporting fanatical Wahhabism to various much poorer Muslim nations worldwide over the past three decades. It might well be twice that number. By comparison, the Soviets spent about $7 billion spreading communism worldwide in the 70 years from 1921 and 1991.

The leaked cable and reports by Western analysts when taken together, reveal that Saudi-funded madrasas in the Philippines are directly fueling terrorism there.

The answer to why is simple.

For the same purposes the US used Saudi-funded terrorism in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in Libya and Syria beginning in 2011 – the US is using Saudi-funded terrorism to coerce the government of the Philippines amid Washington’s faltering “pivot to Asia” which began under US President Barrack Obama and now continues under President Trump.

Countering US-Saudi Sponsored Terrorism 

With US President Trump announcing a US-Saudi alliance against terrorism – the US has managed to strategically misdirect public attention away from global terrorism’s very epicenter and protect America’s premier intermediaries in fueling that terrorism around the world.

The Philippines would be unwise to turn to this “alliance” for help in fighting terrorism both the US and Saudi Arabia are directly and intentionally fueling.

Instead – for Southeast Asia – joint counter-terrorism efforts together and with China and Russia would ensure a coordinated and effective means of confronting this threat on multiple levels.

By exposing the US-Saudi role in regional terrorism – each and every act of terrorism and militancy would be linked directly to and subsequently taint the US and Saudi Arabia in the hearts and minds of Southeast Asia’s population.

This paves the way for a process of exposing and dismantling US-Saudi funded fronts – including Saudi-sponsored madrasas and US-funded NGOs – both  of which feed into regional extremism and political subversion. As this unfolds, each respective nation would be required to invest in genuine local institutions to fill sociopolitical and economic space previously occupied by these foreign funded fronts.

Until then, Asia should expect the US and its Saudi partners to continue leveraging terrorism against the region. If unchecked, Asia should likewise expect the same progress-arresting instability that has mired the Middle East and North Africa for decades.

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Philippine Environment Minister Continues Mining Crackdown

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  • Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez during a press briefing in Manila, Philippines February 9, 2017.
    Philippine Environment Secretary Regina Lopez during a press briefing in Manila, Philippines February 9, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
Environment minister Lopez said it was within her discretion “to decide on the resources of the country.”

The Philippines’ environment minister stepped up a crackdown on mining on Tuesday, cancelling almost a third of the country’s contracts for undeveloped mines and rejecting any challenges to earlier orders to shut more than half of all operating pits.

The move turns up the heat in her battle with the mining sector after she ordered the closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines earlier this month on environmental grounds, causing an outcry from the industry and threats of legal action.

The latest 75 contracts, which cover projects in the exploration stage or otherwise not yet in production, are all in watershed zones and would threaten water supply if they went ahead, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez said.

“You kill the watershed, you kill life,” Lopez told a media briefing.

A long-time environmentalist, Lopez ordered the closure of the 23 mines on Feb. 2 for damaging watersheds and for siltation of coastal waters and farmlands. Five more mines were suspended. The industry says the orders will affect 1.2 million people.

The contracts canceled on Tuesday, known as mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs), include the $1.2 billion copper-gold project of Philex Mining Corp, one of the country’s biggest miners, in southern Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he would not stand in the way of Lopez’s decision to shut several mines in southern Philippines, the second time he has thrown his support behind the minister he appointed last June.

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Philippines’ Duterte Ends Peace Talks with Maoist Rebels

NOVANEWS
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 29, 2017.
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a late night news conference at the presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 29, 2017. | Photo: Reuters
The move ends 27 years of peace negotiations that sought to end an armed conflict that has killed about 30,000 people.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shut down peace talks with communist insurgents from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines after both the government and the rebels called off unilateral ceasefires aimed at ending a decades-long conflict.

RELATED: The Incomplete ‘People Power’ Revolution Boosted Duterte’s Rise

The move ends 27 years of peace negotiations that sought to end an armed conflict that has killed about 30,000 people since a popular insurgency in the Philippines began in the 1960s.

Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, previously freed top communist leaders to continue with the peace process. However, he has now angrily condemned the insurgents for resuming hostilities, saying he is ready to fight them.

“I told the soldiers to prepare for a long war. I said (peace) will not come during our generation,” he said late Saturday.

The two sides signed an indefinite cease-fire in August, and the informal arrangement largely held as they continued discussions in Rome brokered by Norway, but he rebels announced an end to the ceasefire last week, accusing Duterte’s government of treachery and human rights abuses.

The president said he was now ordering government negotiators to “fold their tents and return home from overseas talks with the rebel leaders.

“I am not interested in talking to them. I will refuse to talk about it anymore … We have been fighting for 50 years. If you want to extend it for another 50 years, so be it, we will be happy to accommodate you,” he said.

RELATED: On Human Rights Day, Filipinos March Against President Duterte

In his characteristically aggressive tone, Duterte called the rebels “terrorists,” despite the fact that negotiations with the Maoist rebels was a cornerstone of his campaign.

During his first address to the nation he said he wanted a “permanent and lasting peace” with the guerrillas before the end of his six-year term, but his tone rapidly turned hostile after New People’s Army rebels killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others in fresh violence that enraged the president.

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Philippines’ Duterte Hints He May Impose Martial Law over Drugs

NOVANEWS
  • President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, Philippines, Dec. 22, 2016.
    President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, Philippines, Dec. 22, 2016. | Photo: Reuters.
Last month, Duterte appeared to rule out any possibility he might declare martial law.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would impose martial law if the drug problem became “very virulent,” just a month after dismissing as “nonsense” any suggestion he might do so.

Duterte has made a brutal war on drugs a central pillar of his administration since he took office in the middle of last year.

Since July, more than 6,000 people have been killed in the anti-drug campaign, in both police operations and unexplained killings by suspected “vigilantes.” More than 1 million drug peddlers and users have been arrested or have surrendered to authorities.

Duterte, speaking in the southern city of Davao late Saturday, said he has sworn to protect the country against all threats, including drugs, which he said has affected about 4 million people.

“If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law,” he said.

“No one can stop me,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court and Congress.

“My country transcends everything else, even the limitations.”

The Philippines endured a decade of martial law from the early 1970s under dictator Ferdinand Marcos — who Duterte offered a hero’s burial — and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people.

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The Incomplete ‘People Power’ Revolution Boosted Duterte’s Rise

NOVANEWS

President Rodrigo Duterte, then a candidate, speaks in front of a communist rebel group New People

By: Cleve Kevin Robert Arguelles, University of the Philippines

  • President Rodrigo Duterte, then a candidate, speaks in front of a communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA) flag during the release of five policemen held by the rebels for a week, in Davao city, southern Philippines, April 25, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The election of Duterte may be seen as the nadir, but possibly also a turning point, in the long-standing democratic deficit in Asia’s oldest democracy.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that he killed three men during his time as mayor of Davao city, despite officials trying to downplay an earlier admission. Duterte’s comments might yet hurt his popularity but that seems unlikely.

Duterte’s national crusade has resulted in an alarming daily average of 34 drug war-related murders. Despite this death toll and international condemnation, public satisfaction with his anti-drug war is at a significantly high rate of 78%.

How can this be explained in a country that a mere 30 years ago brought down a dictator without resorting to violence? How could a nation that inspired the world with its peaceful “People Power” revolution now welcome a return to the state-sanctioned murders of the martial-law era of 1972-1981?

Duterte’s rise is an evolving lesson in the vulnerability of democracies in the face of a neglected public. The democratic institutions of the Philippines have little power when faced with a populist president determined to channel frustrations into immediate actions.

Unfulfilled promise

In 1986, millions of Filipinos ended Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship through sustained civil resistance against government violence and electoral fraud. This culminated in a massive peaceful protest in the capital along Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). The event is now popularly known as the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Marcos was ousted after 21 years in power. He had been democratically elected as president in 1965, but essentially ruled as a dictator from 1972 to 1986.

To the disappointment of many, an elite-dominated democracy replaced Marcos’ authoritarian rule. From 1987, a small number of families started to restore their control of the government and rotate the seats of power among themselves. They included the Marcos family, who returned from exile in 1991 and were welcomed by their allies.

In the public imagination, the promises of the People Power Revolution went beyond restoring democratic institutions. The narrative went like this: a return to democracy would secure prosperity and security for everyone. The overall framework and various social justice provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution clearly reflect this.

But three decades later, the post-EDSA pact is far from being fulfilled.

The 30th anniversary celebrations of the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled late president Ferdinand Marcos. Photo: Reuters

A neglected public

The post-EDSA leadership has failed to solve many of the problems that concern Filipinos. Despite promising national growth rates, the gains appear to have largely benefited the rich. More than 26 million Filipinos remain impoverished. And unemployment rates are said to be the worst in Asia.

This widening gap between rich and poor, recurrent domestic economic crises, epidemic levels of corruption and failed attempts to significantly reduce criminality, have left the public deeply frustrated. Surveys in recent decades have consistently shown that these are the most urgent national concerns for many Filipinos.

The 1986 revolution, once a symbol of the promise of democracy and prosperity, is now synonymous in the Filipino popular imagination with the dysfunctional transport system in Metro Manila.

National commemorations of the EDSA consensus have become officially important, but in the public imagination they tell the tale of how promises are meant to be broken.

Democracy’s discontent

Amid political and economic exclusion and malaise came Duterte. He offered empathy to the economic strugglers and protection from the violence of criminals and politicians. His was a twin campaign narrative of care and power. His supporters often highlighted how they felt that Duterte truly cared for them.

And he was not just all talk. Duterte is seen as a man of action: decisive and quick. His “authenticity” is manifest in his everyday language coupled with humour that comes from the streets.

Duterte articulated the public’s deep-seated feelings of precariousness and powerlessness using rhetoric they could relate to. His campaign rallies, which many proclaimed as a marvel to behold, showed the rapport between the candidate and his supporters.

Many felt that Duterte rose from the ranks of ordinary citizens despite coming from a traditional political family and holding various political offices for 30 years. This is especially evident in his overwhelming support in the southern Philippines, as the first president from a region long neglected by the capital.

Duterte’s supporters often highlighted how they feel that Duterte truly cares for them. Photo: Reuters

How did it come to this?

When democracy doesn’t deliver, its legitimacy becomes difficult to defend. And when successive elite-dominated governments have used democracy for their own ends, the balance tilts towards authoritarianism.

Under post-EDSA democracy the richest families amassed more wealth than ever while poverty, hunger, homelessness, and crime continued to afflict ordinary Filipinos. It’s not difficult to imagine why some are nostalgic for the authoritarian past. Although national statistics show otherwise, people felt those were the country’s golden years.

Extrajudicial killings are a regular feature of post-EDSA governments as they were of the martial law years. Examples include the 1987 Mendiola massacre, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre and 2009 Maguindanao massacre, to name a few.

Perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Even before Duterte, the Philippines was known as the country with the worst state of impunity. Government critics were the usual victims until Duterte took aim at alleged drug dealers and users.

In my fieldwork in a massive poor urban community in Quezon City, residents have welcomed Duterte’s war on drugs. They now feel more secure in what they call their “drug-infested community” even though drug use has substantially declined compared to previous decades, according to one village official.

Residents argue that their perceptions of community security are just as important as the numbers in government records. For people to feel safe in a city where 92% of villages face drug-related crimes and in a nation where crimes against persons and property are rising is no easy thing.

It’s not difficult to imagine why some are nostalgic for their country’s authoritarian past. Photo: Reuters

When Duterte’s campaign translates to perceived everyday safety, it is no wonder that drug-war murders have not met considerable resistance.

Anyone with experience of the country’s institutions of justice knows how elusive criminal justice is. Around 80 percent of drug cases end up being dismissed and it may take a decade to achieve a conviction.

There are many reasons for this, but Duterte’s narrative that drug lords are so powerful that they can influence even the judiciary is not far-fetched. Most people do not trust the judiciary and many are convinced that power and money are needed to claim justice.

Previous administrations also made a mockery out of the national justice system; even convicted corrupt politicians enjoy their freedom while innocents languish in jail. A corruption whistleblower, Jun Lozada, was recently convicted, while ex-president Gloria Arroyo was acquitted and set free.

The legislature has been used to turn issues of justice into a public circus, such as in the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Corona and the hearings on allegations of graft and corruption against former vice president Jejomar Binay.

Is it surprising then that Dutarte’s supporters find calls to follow the rule of law and due process hypocritical? When institutions do not work, it becomes unreasonable to rely on them.

Duterte’s narrative plays on the temptations for a disgruntled public to claim swift justice. In the context of his rise to power, it’s no surprise that calls to respect human rights or the rule of law fall on deaf ears.

The election of Duterte may be seen as the nadir, but possibly also a turning point, in the long-standing democratic deficit in Asia’s oldest democracy. His rejection of the rule of law and liberal democracy represents a rupture in the post-EDSA consensus.

It’s not a stretch to say that the Philippines’ elite democracy had it coming. The failure to deliver on the promises of the People Power revolution made the rise of Duterte politically possible.

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Philippines peace talks

NOVANEWS

phillipines

 

 

 

 

 

Peace talks between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) resumed in Oslo on 22 August 2016. The opening ceremony began with a brief introductory speech by the Special Ambassador to the Philippine Peace Process, Elisabeth Slattum welcoming the two delegations and expressing the hope that the resumption of the talks will prove to be a firm foundation for the negotiations ahead. She was followed by Norwegian Foreign Minister, Boerge Brende, who welcomed the delegations on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) that had acted as a facilitator in the peace negotiations. Noting that the armed conflict between the GPH and the NDF had been one of the longest conflicts in the world, he said that the negotiations will be difficult and time-consuming. Expressing the support of the RNG for the negotiations, he expressed the hope that the parties would succeed in coming to grips with the substantive issues and reach important agreements.

Following the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Secretary Jesus Dureza, Special Advisor on the Peace Process, representing President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Professor Jose María Sisón, NDFP chief political consultant, made their opening statements.

Dureza said that the conflict had been going on for more than 30 years and it was time to end it.

The Presidency of Mr Duterte is a new element which brings some hope for the success of the present talks. Sisón said that the NDFP was optimistic that objective conditions and subjective factors in the Philippines were more favourable than ever before to carrying out the peace negotiations and reaching the goal of a just and lasting peace through basic social and economic reforms.

Continuing, Sisón said: “For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a President has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarch and the folly and servility to foreign powers and by using street language and the methods of the mass movement. He is proud to describe himself as the first left president and as a socialist, willing to seek common ground and cooperation with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

He went on to express the willingness of “the CPP, NPA and NDFP in pursuing the just cause of national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination.”

The reforms, he said, would involve, inter alia, the abrogation of unequal treaties and agreements, democratic empowerment of the working people, social justice, economic development through national industrialisation and land reform; free public education, a patriotic and progressive culture; international solidarity of all peoples and trade and diplomatic relations with all countries.

Just ending the hostilities, he said, was not enough. There must be a “just peace”based on reforms that “lift the people from the morass of underdevelopment, social injustice and poverty”. In the pursuit of such reforms, he ended, ” we can have truce and cooperation and form a government of national unity, peace and development.

On this occasion, LALKAR sends its best wishes to the CPP, NPA and NDFP for the successful outcome of these talks

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