The U.S. Trump card

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The United States has announced that President Donald Trump will take up human rights issues in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte in their one-on-one meeting sometime during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this November. It’s hardly likely that the meeting with Trump will result in any immediate change in the state of compliance with human rights standards of the Duterte regime. But Trump’s bringing them up now is a reminder that those issues can be used later when it suits US interests.

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Wishful thinking

President Rodrigo Duterte and members of the National Democratic Front Peace Panel
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After saying that he still “has to talk to the NPA (New People’s Army),” by which statement he meant that the Government of the Philippines will have to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), President Rodrigo Duterte announced that he’s not yet ready to do so. His latest statements on the fate of the stalled peace talks came after the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) declaration that, having rid Marawi City of the Maute group and recruited and trained more troops, it will now turn its attention to the NPA and “crush” it by the end of 2018.

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A coup by any other name

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The Marcos terror regime may have been overthrown 31 years ago, the institutions of liberal democracy restored, and a new Constitution drafted. But the threat of dictatorship has never really passed.

The conditions that made the making of a tyrannical regime possible in 1972 are still in evidence. Among them are a lawless and self-aggrandizing political class afflicted with the authoritarian virus; an unreformed police and military establishment that is similarly impaired; and those sectors of the population impatient with the inefficiencies of what passes for democratic governance and who imagine one-man rule to be the cure-all for the country’s ills.

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License to chill

Sonny Trillanes, Mocha Uson chat after Senate hearing
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Whether they’re in the opposition or administration side, the distinguished senators of this endangered Republic, who’re otherwise hopelessly fractious, share one thing: their hatred for “fake news” — and a consequent, irrepressible urge to penalize its disseminators.

That’s what last week’s hearings on the subject led by the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media chaired by Senator Grace Poe suggests, among other equally troublesome implications on press freedom, free expression, and the little that’s left of Philippine democracy.

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Defending freedom

Duterte and reporters
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The authoritarian path the Duterte administration is taking imposes on the Philippine press and media, as public service institutions, the duty to more vigilantly defend that freedom and to sharpen and enhance its monitoring and coverage of the regime. The press has to provide the citizenry the meaningful information it needs for it to arrive at an intelligent understanding of the reality of the present dangers to press freedom and to everyone else’s liberties.

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