Philippines’ president bans Cabinet from traveling to US

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (AP)
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Updated 31 January 2020

Philippines’ president bans Cabinet from traveling to US

  • Escalating row over Senate sanctions bid threatens security, officials warn

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has barred members of his Cabinet from traveling to the US, a move that will further distance the Philippines from its long-standing ally.

This follows the Filipino leader’s earlier decision to unilaterally end the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement after Washington canceled the visa of one of his close political associates, former police chief Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa.

“I will not allow any Cabinet member to go there (US) at this time,” Duterte said on Wednesday night.

“No Cabinet member should be allowed to go to the US ... indefinitely,” he added. He also reiterated his decision to scrap the military deal between the two countries. “I am terminating. I was not joking. The day I said it was the day that I decided it should be terminated,” he said.

Duterte said that the move was motivated by the US Senate’s decision to push for sanctions against Philippine officials linked to human rights abuses under the Duterte administration and those involved in the detention of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima.

“They say it is subject to my whim, caprice. No. It started when they mentioned the US resolution. Since then, my mind has been working. I’m like that. I don’t wait,” he said.

Asked if he wanted to weaken the Philippines’ relationship with the US, the president said he was “slowly toning it down.”

Regarding his decision to skip the ASEAN-US summit in Las Vegas in March, Duterte said it is “for strategic and geopolitical considerations,” but declined to elaborate further.

Some Philippine officials voiced concerns over the impact the president’s latest move will have on the economy and defense.

“An indefinite travel ban to the US imposed on all members of the Cabinet could have adverse consequences on our country’s economy and security, not to mention the many employed Filipino immigrants there, especially if the US retaliates to the recent tirades of President Duterte,” warned Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

Philippines exports to the US are worth at least $10 billion, Lacson said, adding that it also receives 52 percent of the total US military support and assistance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the end of the military deal posed risks to national security.

The government must now come up with a contingency “defense and security plan under a scenario that does not include the US,” Biazon said.

“A huge component of the country’s defense and security, from training our troops to acquisition of defense items, involves the close relationship between the US and the Philippines.”


Thousands in Paris protest death of black man in police custody

Updated 02 June 2020

Thousands in Paris protest death of black man in police custody

  • Paris police chief Didier Lallement had refused permission for the rally to go ahead outside a Paris court for protesters calling for justice for Adama Traore
  • Many of the protesters on Tuesday drew inspiration from the protest movement in the United States over the police killing last week of George Floyd

PARIS: Thousands of people on Tuesday defied a ban to protest in Paris over the death of a young black man in French police custody in 2016, using slogans that echoed the protest movement raging in the US.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement had refused permission for the rally to go ahead outside a Paris court for protesters calling for justice for Adama Traore, whose death has long been a subject of controversy in France.
Many of the protesters on Tuesday drew inspiration from the protest movement in the United States over the police killing last week of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, brandishing viral slogans in English such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.”
“Today we are not just talking about the fight of the Traore family. It is the fight for everyone. When we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traore,” elder sister Assa Traore told the protest.
“What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France,” she added.
The Traore case has long been a rallying cause against police brutality in France, which young, black men say is often targeted at them.
Following a dispute over an identity check, Traore, 24, was apprehended in a house where he hid after leading police on a 15-minute chase in 2016.
He lost consciousness in their vehicle and died at a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived.
One of the three arresting officers told investigators that Traore had been pinned down with their combined bodyweight after his arrest.
Last Friday, French medical experts exonerated the three police officers, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man’s family that said he had died of asphyxiation.
It was the third official report to clear the officers.
Adding to the controversy, a new probe commissioned by the Traore family said Tuesday that his death was caused by the arrest technique used by the officers, a source said.
Lallement, meanwhile, wrote a letter to police officers defending their conduct, sympathizing with the “pain” officers must feel “faced with accusations of violence and racism, repeated endlessly by social networks and certain activist groups.”
The Paris police force “is not violent, nor racist: it acts within the framework of the right to liberty for all,” he insisted in an email to the city’s 27,500 law enforcers.
Star French actress Camelia Jordana, who is of Algerian origin, was rebuked last month by the French interior minister for saying people “get massacred” by the police in the Paris suburbs due to the color of their skin.
Several French officers have also been investigated for brutality against members of the public at long-running “yellow vest” anti-government rallies, and more recent anti-pension reform strikes.
Scores of protesters were maimed by rubber bullets or stun grenades, some losing an eye or a hand.
On January 3 this year, a 42-year-old man suffocated to death after being pinned face down to the ground during an arrest in Paris.
Last week, a 14-year-old was badly injured in one eye during a police operation in Bondy, one of Paris’s northern suburbs, sparking protests.
Lallement insisted Tuesday that any officer found to have acted wrongly would be appropriately punished.
“But I will not accept that individual actions throw into question the republican bulwark that we are against delinquency and those who dream of chaos and anarchy,” he wrote.