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.”

Germany reports spike in far-right crime for 2019

German right-wing extremists, pictured here waving a flag of the "Imperial Eagle," have turned their attention to protesting lockdown measures introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 29 min 53 sec ago

Germany reports spike in far-right crime for 2019

  • Germany was stung by a series of right-wing attacks against Muslims and Jews in 2019

BERLIN: Germany saw a spike in far-right crimes including anti-Semitic attacks last year, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday, describing the trend as a “great concern.”
Authorities registered more than 41,000 politically motivated crimes in 2019, ranging from hate speech to bodily harm, arson and murder — a rise of 14.2 percent on 2018 and the second-sharpest jump since records began in 2001.
Crimes committed by members of the far-right scene grew 9.4 percent, and accounted for more than half of all politically-motivated crimes.
Although such crimes represent a small fraction of overall lawbreaking in Germany, the figures have a “striking significance ... for the stability of our democracy,” Seehofer said, adding that the rise was “of great concern.”
Some 93.4 percent of anti-Semitic and 90.1 percent of Islamophobic crimes had a far-right motivation, Seehofer said.
Germany has been rocked by a string of extreme-right attacks over the past 12 months.
A gunman with apparent far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau in February, while two people were killed in an attack targeting a synagogue in Halle in October.
In June, pro-immigration politician Walter Luebcke was found shot dead at his home in the state of Hesse, and a far-right sympathizer arrested soon afterwards was last month charged with his murder.
Seehofer proclaimed in March that right-wing extremism and right-wing terrorism were “the biggest danger for democracy in Germany,” promising a beefed up security response.