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Duterte denies back-channel talks with Mautes, contradicts Muslim leader’s claim

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President Rodrigo Duterte denied sending an aide to start back-channel talks with the Maute group in order to resolve the Marawi crisis.

“No. I did not,” Duterte told reporters when asked about whether reports are true that he was ready to come up with a deal with the Mautes to end the crisis.

This came after a Reuters report on July 5 claimed that a prominent Muslim leader, Agakhan Sharief, said that he was approached by a senior presidential aide to ask for his help in connecting with the Mautes, led by the brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah, for back-channel talks.

Duterte, however, reiterated his earlier stand about not talking to terrorists.

“I never talked to terrorists…I would never talk to criminals and terrorists but I will talk to revolutionaries who are imbued with principles,” he told the media in Bukidnon.

“Marami na akong patay na sundalo pati pulis. Huwag nila ako biruin na storya storya lang tayo. If there has to be peace, it would really be peace…let us finish this once and for all,” he added.

As to whether there were efforts to start negotiations with the Mautes, President Duterte said: “Well, MI (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and MN (Moro National Liberation Front) probably have started initiatives there but if it would come from me, that I will ask something from criminals and terrorists, that’s impossible.”

In his speech in Bukidnon on July 6, Duterte called Sharief a “pretender.”

No verified reports

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said there were no verified reports of any effort to initiate negotiations.

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“The position of the Palace and the President is not to negotiate with terrorists, including these local terrorist groups, which had intended to establish a state within the Philippine state and to remove allegiance to the government of the Philippines and the Chief Executive of the City of Marawi and its residents,” Abella told reports in a press briefing in Malacañang.

“Because this constitutes rebellion, because they submit to a foreign leader, and hold to a dangerous ideology that is inimical to the well- being of all Filipinos, including Muslim Filipinos,” he added.

Abella told reporters after a news briefing that it was the Maute who offered back-channel talks, but Duterte refused.

“Sila [Maute] ang nago-offer na makipag-back-channel. Hindi siya (Duterte),” he said.

“Tinanggihan niya iyon. Kung tinatanong n’yo kung nag-initiate siya, as far as I know, wala akong alam na verifiable,” he added.

Abella added that the offer came from Farhana, the Maute brothers’ mother.

Sharief’s claims

Sharief is a cleric who had participated in several peace agreements in Mindanao.

In the Reuters report, Sharief said that he was given the confidential assignment of contacting the Maute group to start possible negotiations and that the aide even prepared a helicopter for him and for the Maute matriarch, Farhana, to take her to a meeting with Duterte in Cagayan de Oro or Davao City. Sharief added that he called the Maute brothers and Farhana to convince them.

The report also said that two other Marawi sources confirmed that Duterte tried to hold talks with the Mautes, but the process stopped when the President said during his May 31 speech that he “will not talk to terrorists.”

This speech came after Duterte told the militants on May 27 that “we can still solve this through dialogue,” but if convincing them does not work, “so be it. Let’s just fight.”

Sharief noted how the “problem” with Duterte is that he is constantly changing his mind. In the Maute’s case, it led to the halting of the negotiations.

Peace envoy Jesus Dureza said that he is not aware of any back-channel talks with the Mautes, while national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, said that Duterte was not likely to have reached out to the Maute clan.

Marawi Mayor Majul Usman Gandamra confirmed to Reuters that back-channel talks started but he was not privy to details. He said that the negotiation failed because the militants failed to show good faith or reduce the intensity of their attacks on cops and militaries.

“There was a window of opportunity. But there was no show of sincerity,” Gandamra said.

According to Sharief, President Duterte was prepared to offer the Maute group the permission to implement Sharia Law in Butig, their hometown, once he establishes a federal system. However, Reuters noted that they could not verify if the President really made that proposal.

The back-channel talks halted and Farhana was arrested on June 9, three days after the Maute patriarch, Cayamora Maute, was nabbed in Davao City.

Sharief said that the militants would have agreed to Duterte’s deal to end the Marawi conflict.

Sharief said that he was against the radical ideology of ISIS but could not speak out against the Mautes because he was hoping he could still convince them to end the Marawi crisis.

Sources: ( news.abs-cbn.com , gmanetwork.com , philstar.com )

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Netizens slam Duterte for saying women ‘could not stand threats and intimidation’

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President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for another controversial comment involving women after he remarked on May 24 that women “could not stand threats and intimidation.”

Duterte said that while he believed in women’s competence, it does not necessarily ring true in all aspects of life.

“I believe in the woman, the competence and capability, pero hindi lahat sa buhay dapat.Hindi ka, hindi, hindi. Dapat lang. It’s not appropriate when you cannot stand threats and intimidation,” he said in his May 24 speech.

He also said that women should be “prim and proper” and talked about his reservation in sending women police and soldiers to the field because unlike men, they did not grow up with a mindset that involves violence.

“Ang mga babae, sundalo pati pulis, ayaw ko ‘yan sa bukid. Unlike men kami, maliit pa lang, suntukan, bakbakan, barilan. And we grew up with a sort of a mindset na sometimes prone to violence. Itong mga babae, prim and proper man ‘yan, isang tingin lang sa nanay niyan, wala na tunaw na ‘yan. Tapos gawin mong pulis, ipaaway mo doon. Naku,” Duterte remarked.

Netizens then took to social media to react to Duterte’s most recent statements, making #BabaeAko trend again on Twitter.

“Mr. President, you just horrifyingly disrespected your own mother who bravely fought against the Marcos dictatorship. She withstood threats and intimidation. Siya ay babae! #BabaeAko,” a Twitter user remarked.

Forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun spoke out, too, saying “I am threatened and intimidated a lot. All my life. Don’t me. #BabaeAko.”

So did film and theater actress Chai Fonacier, who said, “Encouraging women — and I mean including those who identify as women — and our friends from the entire spectrum to share your #BabaeAko statements to fight the misogyny that the President and his ilk normalize through their behavior. Make them remember the feminine strength.”

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago also reacted, saying she refused to be stereotyped.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay urged other Filipinos to protest against Duterte’s misogynistic statements.

Other Twitter users weighed in on the issue.

Duterte’s previous misogynistic remarks

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His remarks in his speech on May 24 seemed to have sought to explain another controversial remark he made on May 16 when he said that he did not want a politician, especially a woman, to become the next Ombudsman.

“Mag-nominate sila, pero I choose, but gusto ko ‘yung bilib ang tao sa integrity niya. Of course it could not be a politician, lalo na hindi babae,” he said during a chance interview.

This gave birth to the launching of the #BabaeAko movement on social media on May 21 by women activists and other people who also want to protest Duterte’s misogynistic and sexist statements.

One of  the women who joined the #BabaeAko campaign was former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who said, “Akala ko taumbayan ang boss ni Duterte. Yun pala sina Marcos, Gloria, Trump at China. Para sa bayang makatarungan at malaya, lalaban ako.”

In February, he was also slammed for telling his audience of former NPA rebels that he told his soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

Sources: ( rappler.comphilstar.com )

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New DOT chief to ask Montano why he rushed official New York engagement to watch Broadway show

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Newly installed Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she plans on talking with Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) COO Cesar Montano to ask for his side on certain accusations that were hurled against him.

Among these accusations came from an Abante report where Montano was said to have rushed a speaking engagement staged by the DOT in New York to watch the Broadway musical show “Hamilton.”

DOT reportedly launched the Philippine Tourism Presentation and Dinner Reception on May 9 to showcase Philippine tourism and fashion at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Montano was introduced as the event’s keynote speaker, but he was said to have only spoken for a bit before hurriedly leaving the venue, disappointing the guests, which also included US officials.

Montano was said to have been invited to the event in behalf of the now-resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. He was also named as one of the two hosts, the other being Teo, of the said event.

In reaction to this report about Montano, Puyat said she would talk to Montano as well as the Tourism attache and other DOT officials who attended the event to verify the accusation in the report mentioned above.

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Puyat said that she would investigate into the “Buhay Carinderia” program that the TPB is set to implement. This was after Philippine Star Boo Chanco accused Montano of issuing P80-million worth of three checks to the event proponent and organizer.

“I still don’t have the papers. I will be asking [and] will be arranging a meeting with Mr. Cesar Montano to ask about ‘yung mga nabasa ko sa ‘Buhay Carinderia’ – kung totoo ba na walang bidding ‘yung P80 million na advance,” Puyat said on May 15.

“I’m planning to talk to him and ask his side. I want to ask all those who were there if it actually happened,” Puyat added.

In March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the agency. These include hiring friends and relatives, using TPB’s funds for personal trips, and showing incompetence in fulfilling his obligations as the agency’s COO.

Sources: ( tnt.abante.com.phphilstar.comrappler.com )

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Eldest Tulfo vows to help Wanda clear her name, berates ‘black sheep’ Ben over controversial P60-M DOT ad deal

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Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo spoke up about the controversy involving his siblings, now resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and hosts Ben and Erwin Tulfo, over the P60 million tourism ad deal.

The eldest Tulfo wrote in his Inquirer column on May 10 that while President Rodrigo Duterte himself advised the Tulfo family to avoid talking to the media, he took it upon himself as the family’s acting patriarch to tell the story behind the controversy.

First up, Ramon blamed Teo for not hiring smart staff members who could have advised her against inking a deal with PTV 4, where one of the Tulfo brothers, Ben, was a blocktimer.

As a blocktimer, Ben pays for his TV show’s airtime on the state-run channel.

According to Ramon, Wanda was only complying with President Duterte’s injunction for his Cabinet secretaries to support PTV 4, adding that she did not know Ben’s company would get most of the multimillion advertising contract with DOT.

He also hit Ben, whom he called a “black sheep” with a “middle child” syndrome as the fifth child out of 10 siblings, for signing the P60-million advertising contract with PTV 4 despite knowing that there would be a conflict of interest on Wanda’s part.

Ramon also said that Wanda still tried to save Ben, who insisted on his innocence amid the controversy, leading her to resign from her post. He also explained that Wanda seemed to have forgotten the fact that her husband was on the board of director of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), a part of DOT, when Duterte appointed her as tourism chief. He added that it should have been up to her husband to step down from his post upon his wife’s appointment.

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In the same column, he also slammed Wanda’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, whom he said did not even consult the Tulfo brothers on returning the P60-million funds from the ad deal. He also described the lawyer as “all talk,” a counsel who’s only focused on gaining publicity for himself.

Unlike what has been previously reported about Wanda resigning out of delicadeza amid the controversy, Ramon let it slip that he commended President Duterte for “sacking Wanda,” prompting some people to ask whether Wanda was fired instead of resigned.

Before he ended his column, he vowed to support “Wanda’s fight to clear her name, but not Ben’s.”
Wanda resigned on May 8 to show delicadeza and to spare everyone, especially Duterte, from the pain caused by the controversy, according to her lawyer.

The issue started with the Commission on Audit’s report showing the DOT paying P60 million worth of commercials to PTV 4, which in turn, tapped Ben’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. to air the tourism ads during Ben and Erwin’s show “Kilos Pronto.”

Malacañang said that Teo’s resignation does not mean that she is off the hook since the Ombudsman is still looking into her and other government officials involved in the controversial ad deal.

Sources: ( inquirer.netnews.abs-cbn.com , nnphilippines.com )

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