Move to ban website slammed
MANILA, Feb 21, (Agencies): Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is not an autocrat and is taking seriously a report by the US intelligence community that names the firebrand leader among the threats to democracy in Southeast Asia, his spokesman said on Wednesday. The report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, places Duterte alongside Cambodia’s Hun Sen, the Rohingya crisis and Thailand’s military-backed constitution as impediments to democracy. “We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told DZMM radio.
Democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian nations will remain fragile in 2018 because of autocratic tendencies, rampant corruption and cronyism, the US intelligence community said in its Worldwide Threat Assessment report of Feb 13. “Duterte has suggested he could suspend the constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government’, and impose nationwide martial law,” it said.
Roque dismissed that assessment. “For one, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is no autocrat or has autocratic tendencies. He adheres to the rule of law and remains loyal to the constitution,” Roque said in a statement. There is no revolutionary government or nationwide martial law, which US intelligence officials say Duterte might impose, he added. Duterte has publicly made such threats on several occasions, however. Philippine lawmakers in December approved a year-long extension of martial rule in the volatile southern region of Mindanao to suppress threats such as communist insurgents and Islamist militants.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to ban a critical news website from covering the presidential palace is a threat to press freedom, rights and media groups said on Wednesday. Rappler, set up in 2012, is among a clutch of Philippine news organisations that have sparred with Duterte over their critical coverage of his drug war which the government says has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 suspects. Human rights groups charge that thousands more have been killed by shadowy vigilantes. Duterte’s spokesman said the president had decided to bar Rappler journalists from covering his events due to a “lack of trust”. US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the move “threatens media freedoms”. “It could portend a broader assault on journalists and news organizations, whose critical watchdog role has magnified the government’s poor human rights record,” it said in a statement.
Justice officials asked a court Wednesday to formally designate the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist groups in a move that could further damage chances of a resumption of stalled peace talks. In a petition before a Manila regional court, the Department of Justice cited deadly attacks and violence committed by the insurgents, including bloody internal purges of suspected military spies, in seeking the proscription of the groups behind one of Asia’s longest-raging communist insurgency.
A Philippine court has sentenced an Australian man to life imprisonment after finding him guilty on human trafficking and child pornography charges. Drew Frederick Shobbrook, 51, listened quietly as the verdict was read in a court in Cebu city on Tuesday. Footage shot by local broadcaster ABS-CBN of the proceedings showed Leslie Ann Fernandez, a Philippine national co-accused in the case, crying next to Shobbrook.