Philippines’ Duterte, infamous for deadly drug war, ends term

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) holding a Galil sniper rifle with outgoing Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa (L) during a change of command ceremony at Camp Crame in Manila. (AFP file photo)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) holding a Galil sniper rifle with outgoing Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa (L) during a change of command ceremony at Camp Crame in Manila. (AFP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 28 June 2022

Philippines’ Duterte, infamous for deadly drug war, ends term

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) holding a Galil sniper rifle in Manila. (AFP file photo)
  • Duterte’s woes deepened during his final year in office as International Criminal Court (ICC) judges authorized a full-blown investigation into a possible crime against humanity during his drugs crackdown

MANILA: Rodrigo Duterte, who steps down as Philippine president Thursday, has earned international infamy for his deadly drug war and foul-mouthed tirades but remains hugely popular among Filipinos fed up with the country’s dysfunction and political elite.
A tough-talking populist and self-professed killer, Duterte launched an anti-crime campaign that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of alleged dealers and addicts while drawing global condemnation.
Yet millions of Filipinos backed the 77-year-old’s swift brand of justice, even as he joked about rape in his rambling speeches, locked up his critics and failed to root out the nation’s entrenched corruption.
His daughter Sara’s victory in the vice presidential race on May 9 showed his popularity remains sky-high, six years after being swept to power on a promise to rid the country of drugs.
That trust was dented by the coronavirus pandemic, which plunged the country into its worst economic crisis in decades, leaving thousands dead and millions jobless amid a slow-paced vaccine rollout.
Duterte’s woes deepened during his final year in office as International Criminal Court (ICC) judges authorized a full-blown investigation into a possible crime against humanity during his drugs crackdown.
Critics of his signature campaign ended up behind bars or facing lengthy jail terms, including opposition Senator Leila de Lima and journalist Maria Ressa, who was named a Time magazine person of the year in 2018 for her work.

Duterte repeatedly said there was no official campaign to illegally kill addicts and dealers, but his speeches included incitements to violence and he told police to kill drug suspects if their lives were in danger.
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” Duterte said hours after being sworn in as president in June 2016.
His unfiltered comments were part of his self-styled image as a maverick, which found traction with a public desperate for solutions to pervasive corruption, dysfunction and bureaucratic red tape.
He freely used vulgarities and even called God “stupid,” a widely disparaged opinion in the majority-Catholic Philippines.
A night owl who turned up his nose at diplomatic niceties, he would show up several hours late to public events — often with his shirt partly unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up — where he gave hours-long stream-of-consciousness speeches.
Duterte was rarely seen in public during the pandemic, apart from weekly appearances on television in pre-recorded meetings with his key advisers.
On occasion, he disappeared altogether, fueling rumors about his health until loyal aides posted “proof of life” photos on social media, showing him playing golf, riding a motorbike or taking a walk.
The former lawyer and prosecutor was born in 1945 into a political family. His father served for three years as a cabinet secretary in Ferdinand Marcos’s government before the nation plunged into dictatorship in 1972.
An ally of the Marcos family, Duterte even allowed Ferdinand, whose brutal regime silenced the legislature and killed opponents, to be buried in the capital’s Heroes’ Cemetery.
During his long tenure as mayor of the southern city of Davao, Duterte was accused of links to vigilante death squads that rights groups say killed more than 1,000 people there — accusations he has both accepted and denied.

His rule was also marked by a swing away from the nation’s former colonial master, the United States, in favor of China.
“I simply love (Chinese President) Xi Jinping... he understands my problem and is willing to help, so I would say thank you China,” he said in April 2018.
As part of that rapprochement, he set aside the rivalry with Beijing over the resource-rich South China Sea, opting to court Chinese business instead.
But billions of dollars of promised trade and investment from the country’s superpower neighbor have been slow to materialize.
In July, he walked back a decision to end a key military deal with the United States.
Duterte failed to tackle some of the country’s worst problems, including corruption, wrongdoing and impunity among local officials and police.
Three Philippine policemen were sentenced in 2018 to decades in prison for murdering a teenager during an anti-narcotics sweep, the first and only conviction so far against officers carrying out Duterte’s war on drugs.
Duterte’s critics hailed the conviction as a rare example of justice and accountability during the president’s reign.
He had said he was ready to go to jail over the crackdown, but vowed never to allow himself to come under ICC jurisdiction.
Characteristically defiant and menacing, Duterte said in May he would continue waging his drug war even after leaving office.
“I will go riding on a motorcycle and roam around... I’ll search for drug peddlers, shoot them and kill them.”


US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank

US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank
Updated 57 min 47 sec ago

US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank

US funnels another $4.5 bn to Ukraine through World Bank
  • Funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion

WASHINGTON: The World Bank on Monday announced it was mobilizing another $4.5 billion in US-provided financial support for war-torn Ukraine.
The funds will help Kyiv pay for services and pensions, key to easing economic impacts of the Russian invasion, the bank said in a statement.
“This economic assistance is critical in supporting the Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy against Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The latest tranche of aid, most of which will be disbursed this month, is part of $8.5 billion in total US support “which is helping Ukraine’s government keep hospitals, schools, and other critical government services for the people of Ukraine.”
The World Bank said the funding goes to the Public Expenditures for Administrative Capacity Endurance in Ukraine (PEACE) project, part of the multi-billion-dollar package to help the country.
“Ukraine needs continued government services, including health, education, and social protection to prevent further deterioration in living conditions and poverty,” World Bank President David Malpass said.
The country is currently running a budget deficit that is growing by $5 billion every month, exacerbated by its inability to raise funds or to access financing on external markets.
Allies have rushed to pump Ukraine with aid, with the G7 and the European Union also announcing commitments of $29.6 billion in further money for Kyiv.


Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries

Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries
Updated 08 August 2022

Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries

Blinken says US is “equal partner” with African countries
  • US top diplomat is in South Africa as part of a three-nation tour of Africa including Congo and Rwanda.

JOHANNESBURG: The United States sees Africa’s 54 nations as “equal partners” in tackling global problems, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in South Africa Monday.
“Our strategy is rooted in the recognition that sub-Saharan Africa is a major geopolitical force — one that has shaped our past, is shaping our present, and will shape our future,” Blinken said at the University of Pretoria in a speech detailing the Biden administration’s policies for Africa.
“It’s a strategy that reflects the region’s complexity, its diversity, its agency; and one that focuses on what we will do with African nations and peoples, not for African nations and peoples,” he said.
Blinken said that the United States and African nations “can’t achieve any of our shared priorities — whether that’s recovering from the pandemic; creating broad-based economic opportunities; addressing the climate crisis; expanding energy access; revitalizing democracies; or strengthening the free and open international order — if we don’t work together, as equal partners.”
South African academics and students responded warmly to Blinken’s speech, which was a broad declaration of US intentions toward sub-Saharan Africa. The United States is often faulted for overlooking the continent in recent decades, opening space for Russian and Chinese interests to make significant inroads.
The United States’ top diplomat is in South Africa as part of a three-nation tour of Africa including Congo and Rwanda in what is seen as a contest between Western nations and Russia to win support from African countries over the war in Ukraine.
Blinken’s tour follows recent trips to African countries by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron.
South Africa is among many African countries that have taken a neutral stance on the Ukraine war.
Before his speech, Blinken met in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, with Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor. Pandor appears to have maintained her country’s refusal to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Instead, in a press briefing following the meeting, Pandor criticized the US and other Western powers for focusing on the Ukraine conflict to the detriment of other international issues.
“We should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine, as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine,” she said.
Before the closed-door meeting with Pandor, Blinken had said that the United States’ good relations with South Africa would allow them to be frank in discussing their differences.
Many African countries have declined to follow the US lead in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some were among more than a dozen African governments that have signed security deals with the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian mercenary group that the US and other countries say is backed by the Kremlin.
Sub-Saharan nations also have been major recipients of Chinese investment through its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which supports infrastructure developments.


Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal

Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal
Updated 08 August 2022

Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal

Flush with cash, Pfizer buys Global Blood Therapeutics in $5.4 bln deal
  • Pfizer’s 2021 revenue of $81.3 billion was nearly double the mark from the previous year, due to COVID-19 vaccine sales.

LONDON: Pfizer Inc. on Monday agreed to pay $5.4 billion in cash for sickle cell disease drugmaker Global Blood Therapeutics, as it looks to capitalize on a surge in revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine and treatment.
Pfizer will pay $68.50 per GBT share, which represents a 7.3 percent premium to its Friday closing price. The deal is at a more than 40 percent premium where GBT was trading before the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer was in advanced talks to buy it on Thursday.
Pfizer’s 2021 revenue of $81.3 billion was nearly double the mark from the previous year, due to COVID-19 vaccine sales. With the addition of its COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid, Pfizer is expected to generate around $100 billion in revenue this year, but sales from both products are expected to decline going forward.
Pfizer has been on the lookout for acquisitions that could bring in billions in annual sales by the end of the decade.
“We have very deliberately taken a strategy of diversification in our M&A deals,” Aamir Malik, Pfizer’s top dealmaker, said in an interview. He said the company was focused on improving growth for the second half of the decade, rather than large deals that generate value through cost cuts.
“We think that there are opportunities across all therapeutic areas that we’re active in,” Malik said, noting that the company was also agnostic about size for future deals.
In May, Pfizer struck an $11.6 billion deal for migraine drug maker Biohaven Pharmaceutical Holding and recently also completed a $6.7 billion deal to buy Arena Pharmaceuticals.
With the acquisition of Global Blood Therapeutics, Pfizer adds sickle cell disease treatment Oxbryta, which was approved in 2019 and is expected to top $260 million in sales this year. It will also pick up two pipeline assets — GBT601 and inclacumab — targeting the same disease.
Pfizer said if they are all approved, it believes GBT’s drugs could generate more than $3 billion in sales annually at their peak.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people in the United States.
GBT Chief Executive Officer Ted Love said that Pfizer’s resources and multinational infrastructure will allow the company to launch Oxbryta in additional markets and boost its uptake.
“We really have no infrastructure outside of that (US and western Europe) and it takes time and money to build out those infrastructures and Pfizer already has all of it,” Love said.
Shares of Global Blood rose 4.5 percent following the deal announcement.


Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north

Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north
Updated 08 August 2022

Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north

Suspected militants kill 4 Mali soldiers, 2 civilians in north
  • Army blames the attack on ‘terrorists’, using the term it typically uses for militants

BAMAKO: At least four soldiers, two civilians and five assailants were killed on Sunday in an attack in a strategic border zone between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, Mali’s army said.
The army blamed the attack on “terrorists” in an announcement late Sunday, using the term it typically uses for militants.
Earlier, it had said its troops had been repelling an attack by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, affiliated with the Daesh organization.
The army’s death toll could be “much higher,” an elected official said, asking not to be named for security reasons.
The two civilians killed were local elected officials, their relatives said.
Tessit is located on the Malian side of the so-called three-border area in a vast gold-rich region beyond state control.
Armed groups under the umbrella of Al-Qaeda aligned militants Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM, are fighting ISGS there.
The Malian army, which has a military camp next to the town of Tessit, has frequently been attacked in the area.
UN peacekeepers and, until a few months ago, French soldiers from Operation Barkhane, have also been deployed there.
Thousands of residents have fled the area, many heading to the town of Gao, some 150 kilometers away.
The Tessit area, like the whole of the so-called three-border zone, is even more isolated during the rainy season when heavy rainfall prevents passage.
In a separate attack Sunday morning, five police officers were killed in Sona, in the Koutiala area of southern Mali near the border with Burkina Faso.
On Friday, suspected militants killed about 12 civilians in central Mali with explosives planted in the bodies of slain civilians that relatives had come to collect.
Mali is struggling with a long militant insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Violence that began in the north has spread to the center and south of the country, as well as to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.


Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze
Updated 08 August 2022

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze

Thai pub owner charged in connection with deadly blaze
  • 27-year-old arraigned for causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without permission

BANGKOK: The owner of a music pub in eastern Thailand where a fire last week killed 15 people and injured more than three dozen others was released on bail when he was brought to court Monday to hear criminal charges against him.
Pongsiri Panprasong, owner of the Mountain B pub in Sattahip district of Chonburi province, about 160 kilometers southeast of Bangkok, turned himself in late Saturday. Police charged the 27-year-old with causing death by negligence and operating an entertainment venue without permission. He could face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to 200,000 baht ($5,580).
At his Monday court appearance, he was granted release on bail of 300,000 baht ($8,390) on condition he wear a tracking device.
Live bands regularly played on a stage at the pub, including as the fire started early Friday morning on the ceiling above them. Police have said the venue was licensed only for operation as a restaurant.
The site of the fire, which took place early Friday morning, remained sealed off Monday as forensic police and building inspectors worked to determine the cause of the blaze and whether the pub had met building standards.
“I am sorry. I want to say sorry to the victims’ families,” said Pongsiri to reporters through a window at the back of a police prison van at the court in Pattaya. Pongsiri, whose face was concealed by a mask, a hat and a towel, said he will compensate the victims.
Many of the injured from the fire suffered severe burns that left them in critical condition. Thirteen died at the scene, one more in a hospital on Friday and the 15th victim, Thanakrit Neenoi, died on Saturday. His sister told local media that Thanakrit went to the pub with his wife and friends to celebrate his birthday. His wife remains in the hospital for treatment.
The governor of Bangkok, Thailand’s biggest city, said Saturday that the city had inspected more than 400 entertainment venues in the city before the fire and found 83 places failing to comply with safety standards. Chadchart Sittipunt told reporters the venues would be ordered closed if they did not act to fix their problems.
Sixty-six people were killed and more than 200 injured in a fire during a Jan. 1, 2009, New Year’s Eve celebration at the Santika nightclub in Bangkok. That blaze was apparently sparked by an indoor fireworks display. Toxic smoke flooded the venue and contributed to the death toll as the entire club caught fire.