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Report: Facebook data scandal linked to the 2016 Duterte’s election

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A London-based behavioral research and strategic communication company assisted President Rodrigo Duterte’s victory in the May 2016 national elections, according to SCMP report. Strategic Communications Laboratories or SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, helped portray Duterte as a “strong, no-nonsense man of action” on social media, according to a report from South China Morning Post. The London-based company has removed the content but SCMP posted an archived version of the report. “SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters,” it added. The web content, however, did not identify Duterte as its Philippine client but the brief pointed to the former Davao City mayor. Late last year, Facebook faced criticism for sending out teams to train politicians around the world, including Duterte, on how to use the platform as a campaign tool. Malacañang, however, has shrugged off reports linking Facebook to Duterte’s presidential campaign. “All candidates did so, unfortunately for his detractors, President Duterte appeared to have been the best candidate who utilized Facebook the most,” Roque said. 

Government won’t remove CPP-NPA terror tag

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The Duterte administration will withdraw the court petition seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups only when a peace agreement is signed, Malacañang said yesterday. Last November, Duterte scrapped the talks with the communists, accusing them of bad faith by attacking security forces and civilians while negotiations were ongoing and about 600 persons, including communist peace consultants, were declared as terrorists. Now Duterte has authorized the resumption of peace talks subject to certain conditions like the forging of a ceasefire agreement and stopping the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax. Meantime, CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, on the other hand, said they are willing to return to the negotiating table and “to meet as soon as possible” but said both sides should “bring different positions on issues to the table in order to thresh out the differences and arrive at agreements.” Roque said the President is also willing to grant Sison an assurance that he can come home without being arrested so he can join the negotiations, and said former Pangasinan representative Hernani Braganza has been instructed to meet with communist negotiators to relay the information to them. If the talks resume, communist peace consultants would again enjoy immunity from arrest, Roque added. However, security operations against the rebels would continue until a ceasefire deal is forged. The government peace panel is set to reconvene today to discuss preparations for the resumption of peace negotiations with the communist rebels. 

PH assumes chairmanship of ASEAN’s nuclear program

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Being the representative of the country, Philippine Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos has been elected recently in Malaysia as chairman of the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN) under the auspices of the ASEAN Energy Cooperation. Marcos explained that the strategic thrusts of the NEC-SSN shall include “building capabilities in policy, technology and regulatory aspects of nuclear energy as an option for the future in the ASEAN region” and “the Philippines will lead the implementation of NEC-SSN’s work program for 2018-2019.” The Philippines is among the countries in the region keenly advancing its “nuclear renaissance” aspiration, not just with the planned re-powering of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) but even with the deployment of new nuclear technologies, including the floating modular nuclear facilities that are ideal for off-grid areas. The country is currently at its nuclear policy fine-tuning phase, and the next step as previously indicated by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi shall be to present the national roadmap to President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Duterte orders 6-month closure of Boracay

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During a Cabinet meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told to reporters on Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay, a world-famous tourist destination, for 6 months, starting on April 26. The recommendation to close Boracay from tourists for 6 months – or until October – came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Duterte announced his intention to “close” Boracay last February 10, angered by environmental violations by commercial establishments that he thinks turned the popular tourist destination into a “cesspool.” This could mean non-residents would be physically barred from entering the island. But the Department of Trade and Industry had suggested implementing the closure in phases. Boracay stakeholders had said that closing the island for a year would take away the jobs of 36,000 people and would mean foregone revenues of P56 billion. The National Economic and Development Authority, however, said a 6-month closure of the tourist area would have minimal impact on the economy. 

‘Cebu City mayor not on Duterte’s narco list’

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Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is not on President Duterte’s list of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino said yesterday. Aquino said PDEA has not received any report confirming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s statement that Osmeña is in the payroll of drug lords. Aquino said 87 politicians, including mayors and vice mayors, are on the President’s drug watchlist. Aquino said PDEA would tap other agencies in validating Aguirre’s statement. Aguirre’s revelations against Osmeña came after the mayor threatened to file graft and disbarment cases against the justice chief over his supposed interference in the tax evasion charges filed by the Cebu City government against executives of SM Prime Holdings and BDO Unibank Inc. 

9 major infra projects up for NEDA Board approval

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Nine big-ticket infrastructure projects, including San Miguel Corp.’s proposed PHP700-billion airport project in Bulacan, are up for approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board (chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte), the state planning agency said Tuesday. Tungpalan said other projects up for approval include the Subic-Clark Railway, bridges across Pasig River and the proposed Davao agro-industrial complex project of the National Development Company. He noted these nine projects are “moving up to NEDA Board either by ad referendum or a NEDA Board meeting, it will be held soonest.” Meanwhile, diversified conglomerate SMC offered to build a new airport in north of Metro Manila with at least four runways and covering 2,000 hectares in Bulacan. “They will start with the negotiations with the original proponent and if they agree, then there will be a Swiss challenge. Then, they will see how the Swiss challenger will make their bid,” said Tungpalan. Aside from the project’s reasonable rate of return, the NEDA official said there are minimum performance standards and specifications and key performance indicators that will go with the Swiss challenge. 

Philippines, Duterte: ‘Still no peace talks’

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After the calls from 61 lawmakers – through House Resolution 1803 –  for the resumption of talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the communist rebels’ political arm, government peace panel chairman and labor chief Silvestre Bello said that a resumption of peace negotiations with communist rebels will have to wait as there is no “enabling environment” yet to convince President Duterte to reconsider his suspension of the talks.  Bello said the Chief Executive needs more convincing proof of the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)’s sincerity in talking peace with the government. the lawmakers said forging peace with the communists would ultimately benefit the poor, especially those in the countryside, but a major factor that would likely convince Duterte to reopen the peace negotiations is the cessation of attacks by the NPA on military and civilian targets, Bello maintained.  “We support this call from legislators urging Duterte to resume and continue peace talks with the NDF and complete the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),”  Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairman Danilo Ramos said. “The resumption of peace talks and finalization of the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and the National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) will be for the best interest of Filipino farmers and the people,” Ramos said

PNP chief makes surprise visit to QCPD, orders drug test

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Barely a week before the Holy Week break, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa made a surprise inspection and ordered a random drug test Friday on personnel of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) headquarters in Camp Karingal. Dela Rosa said the suprise inspection was to ensure that all QCPD personnel are accounted for. The Chief PNP also called the attention of those policemen who had no firearm, citing the importance of the use of firearms especially when confronted by criminals. “Whether you like it or not, you are a policeman 24/7. You are policemen every minute of the day and every hour of the day. So you should not be lazy in carrying a firearm. You must be ready to respond to any emergency,” he added. A total of 668 underwent the random drug test facilitated by the QCPD Crime Laboratory. The District Personnel and Human Resource Development Division (DPHRDD) said that out of the 5,157 uniformed and non-uniformed personnel, 4, 829 personnel attended the accounting; and 285 are on leave, undergoing schooling, suspended/sick, AWOL, detained and detailed to other PNP units.

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