COVID-19: Philippines’ Duterte Says No School Until There Is A Vaccine

(FILES) Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech/ AFP.

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not allow students to go back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available, even as some countries resume in-person classes.

Children were due to return to school at the end of August after classes for more than 25 million primary and secondary students were shut down in March as the contagion took off in the Philippines.

But in a speech aired late Monday, Duterte said the risk was too great, even if it held students back academically.

“Unless I am sure that they are really safe it’s useless to be talking about opening of classes,” the president said.

“For me, vaccine first. If the vaccine is already there, then it’s okay,” he added. “If no one graduates, then so be it.”

Though researchers have launched an unprecedented global effort to quickly develop a vaccine, it is not clear when a viable candidate will be proven and distributed on a large scale.

Public school normally runs from June to April in the Philippines, but authorities pushed back the start as cases rose and a strict lockdown brought most of the nation to a halt.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Heightens Heatwave Health Risks, UN Warns

In order to ease classroom crowding, the education ministry had already announced a mix of distance-learning measures, including online classes, would be used for the coming school year.

Millions live in deep poverty in the Philippines and do not have access to computers at home, which would be key for the viability of online classes.

The pandemic has kept children around the globe home for months, but in-person classes have begun to resume in countries including South Korea and France.

The Philippines’ coronavirus case count reached more than 14,300 on Monday, including 873 deaths.

AFP

Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

Vehicles pile up at the boundary of Manila and the North Luzon Expressway Mindanao Avenue exit during rush hour in Manila on March 16, 2020, with temperature and identification checkpoints as part of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. – The virus has upended society around the planet, with governments imposing restrictions rarely seen outside war-time, including the closing of borders, home quarantine orders and the scrapping of public events. Maria TAN / AFP.

 

The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended starting Tuesday “until further notice” to move in step with Duterte’s order.

Monzon said the suspension was also “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease”.

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have jumped to 142, with 12 deaths and the government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso($526.6 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

READ ALSO: Euro 2020 Fate To Be Decided As Coronavirus Threat Looms

The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 percent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus’ economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks’ fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

Shares in Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index dropped by as much as 3.66 percent at Tuesday’s open before recovering about 70 minutes after the opening bell.

Overnight, Wall Street indices fell in their worst day since 1987, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropping about 12 percent and the Dow sinking nearly 13 percent.

AFP

Philippine’s President Duterte Admits To Declining Health

This file photo taken on October 18, 2019 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking during a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. Ted ALJIBE / AFP
This file photo taken on October 18, 2019 shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking during a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. Ted ALJIBE / AFP

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted that life is taking its “toll on my health”, as speculation swirls over the 74-year-old’s prolonged absences from the public eye.

Duterte cut short a trip to Japan last month because he was suffering from “unbearable pain” in his spine after a recent motorcycle accident, and has not spoken publicly for two weeks.

The accident came just 10 days after he revealed in early October that he has myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes muscle weakness and can result in drooping eyelids and blurred vision.

“If you ask me… ‘Are you in the best of health?’ Of course not,” Duterte told GMA News television in an interview on Friday.

“All of the ailments, I have them because I am already old… Life has begun to take its toll on my health,” said Duterte.

The recent incidents have intensified speculation about his capacity to lead, although his spokesman Salvador Panelo has repeatedly said there is no need to issue medical bulletins on the president’s health.

Duterte has opted to work from his hometown Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao, over the past week to get some rest, his spokesman has said.

The oldest Philippine leader elected, Duterte last week passed on the running of his signature anti-narcotics crackdown that has claimed thousands of lives to Vice-President Leni Robredo, an arch-critic.

Duterte has not given public remarks since he attended a regional summit in Thailand that ended on November 4, shortly after he cut short his trip to Japan, having attended the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito with the aid of a cane.

Duterte had also previously said he suffers from migraines and Buerger’s disease, which is characterised by inflammation of blood vessels, usually due to smoking.

The Philippine constitution requires the handover of power to the vice president if the leader cannot perform his duties due to disability, resignation, or death.

 

AFP

Philippine Drug War Critic Vows End To ‘Senseless’ Killing

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech. / AFP

 

The vocal critic that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has named to a lead role in his deadly drug war called on Friday for revamping the crackdown and ending its “senseless” killing.

Opposition leader Leni Robredo has regularly attacked Duterte’s internationally condemned initiative, prompting the president to appoint her this week to a post supervising it.

Critics have warned that the job to co-lead the committee overseeing the crackdown may be a trap to tarnish Robredo, but she has voiced hope that it is an opening for change.

“It’s time to think about a new campaign which is more effective, but no one is dying senselessly,” she said ahead of her first meeting with the body, that includes top law enforcement officials.

“I believe that in all police operations, anything can happen, but we oppose deliberate and planned killings of innocent people” added Robredo, who is vice president but was elected separately from Duterte.

Duterte rose to power in 2016 on a pledge to eliminate the nation’s drug problem by killing thousands of drug dealers and users.

Since then narcotics agents claim to have gunned down just over 5,500 suspects who fought back, though watchdogs claim the true number is at least four times higher.

The campaign has drawn fierce international criticism, especially from rights groups that allege the crackdown could amount to crimes against humanity.

‘Global pressure having effect’

International Criminal Court prosecutors have launched a preliminary probe and the UN’s top rights body has voted to conduct an in-depth review.

Robredo told a press conference after the meeting that she plans to dig into the details of the crackdown, and believes any misconduct should be confronted by the Philippines.

“I would rather that we take care of whatever we have to take care of,” she said. “There are a lot of things that happened that should not have happened.”

Duterte bristles at any criticism of his drug war, with public opinion polls saying he as the overwhelming backing of the Philippine people.

Robredo said she saw her appointment “as a signal that the president is open to listen to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign”.

“Drugs are the enemy here. We are not at war with our countrymen,” she added.

Amnesty International also took a supportive view of Robredo’s new post, calling it proof “global pressure is having an effect, and that the public mood in the Philippines is turning against the flawed approach of the so-called ‘war on drugs'”.

Duterte has previously vowed to continue the drug war until the end of his term in mid-2022, often deriding Robredo’s capability to potentially lead the country, which she would have to do if the president dies or cannot function.

But in a turnaround labelled by critics as a trap, Duterte said in a speech last week that the drug situation has “worsened” with the police on the “brink of surrendering”.

“It’s beyond my competence, but maybe she will do better,” Duterte told reporters last week.

Philippines’ Duterte Under Fire For Saying He ‘Touched’ Maid

Rodrigo Duterte

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte drew outrage Sunday after saying he “touched” his maid when he was a teenager, with women’s rights groups accusing him of attempted rape and encouraging sexual abuse.

Duterte frequently sparks uproar with his comments on women, including rape jokes and boasting about adultery.

In his latest remarks, Duterte recounted a confession he had with a priest in high school, detailing how he had entered the room of his maid while she was sleeping.

“I lifted the blanket… I tried to touch what was inside the panty,” Duterte said in a speech late Saturday.

“I was touching. She woke up. So I left the room.”

Duterte recounted telling the priest that he had then returned to the maid’s room and again tried to molest her.

Women’s rights political party Gabriela denounced Duterte’s “repulsive” comments and called for him to resign, saying he had confessed to attempted rape.

“Rape does not happen only through penile insertion. If it is a finger or an object it is considered rape,” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela.

Responding to the criticism, Duterte’s spokesman said Sunday that the president had “made up” and “added and spliced” the story.

“He has made up a laughable anecdote to dramatize the fact of sexual abuse that was inflicted on him and his fellow students when they were in high school,” said Salvador Panelo.

Duterte, 73, made the remarks as he blasted the Catholic Church over allegations of sexually abusing children.

The president, who brands the church the “most hypocritical institution” in the mainly Catholic nation, said Saturday that he and his classmates at school were molested during confession.

It was his latest tirade against bishops and priests who have been critical of his drug war which has left more than 5,000 people dead, according to official figures.

Duterte and his aides often dismiss his controversial statements about women as a “joke” or insist they are taken out of context.

Duterte provoked fury in 2016 when during an election campaign speech he said he had wanted to rape a “beautiful” Australian missionary who had been murdered in a Philippine prison riot.

Women’s advocates said Duterte’s latest comments endangered domestic workers.

More than a million Filipinos work abroad as domestic workers, according to the labour ministry.

“Flaunting abusive practices encourages the rape culture and in this case, sexual abuse of domestic workers,” said Jean Enriquez, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific.

AFP

Duterte Seeks Martial Law Extension In Southern Philippines

Rodrigo Duterte

 

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday asked legislators to extend martial law across the southern Philippines until the end of 2019 in order to quell continuing violence in the restive region, officials said.

Duterte’s request, which could be approved as early as next week, comes despite critics voicing concerns the move threatens human rights and places too much power in the leader’s hands.

However, the president’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said a third extension was needed in the southern region of Mindanao to “protect the nation and its people”.

“A halt may only frustrate the progress we are witnessing in Mindanao and may even strengthen the rebellion and propel it to other parts of the country,” Panelo said in a statement.

Duterte initially put the Mindanao region under military rule after gunmen flying the black Islamic State flag attacked the mainly Muslim city of Marawi in May 2017, sparking a five-month battle that killed 1,200 people.

Martial law allows the military to establish control with measures like curfews, checkpoints and gun controls in a nation where civilians are allowed to own firearms.

It is a particularly sensitive matter in the Philippines because martial rule was used by dictator Ferdinand Marcos to remain in power during his two-decade reign, which ended in 1986 with a bloodless uprising.

Military and police chiefs have both recommended to Duterte that martial rule remain in force in the area after December 31 to quell continuing violence by other Islamist groups and communist rebels, officials said.

But critics warned that another extension is incomprehensible after the abuses that occurred in the preceding year and a half.

“The victims of martial law are the people’s rights — civil, political and human rights,” opposition lawmaker Edcel Lagman told AFP.

Rights group Karapatan, pointing to its own tally, said about 1,450 people have been arrested illegally and nearly 150 hit with politically-motivated charges since May 2017.

However, there is a base of support for extending martial law, including among local leaders in the southern region of 20 million who face the ongoing threat of a decades-old Islamist insurgency.

Many Filipinos back Duterte’s tough tactics, including his deadly crackdown on narcotics, believing they are needed to solve the nation’s deep-rooted problems like the roughly half-century battle against communist rebels.

The Philippine constitution allows the president to impose martial rule for up to 60 days to suppress “invasion or rebellion”, during which the authorities may also detain suspects for up to three days without charges.

However, Duterte allies have a stranglehold on Congress, which had granted Duterte’s initial request for martial rule to last until the end of 2017 to give him time to crush the Marawi rebellion.

Congress later approved another one-year extension to end-2018 in a decision that the opposition challenged in the Supreme Court, which narrowly upheld Duterte’s move.

AFP

Philippine Arrests Senator Critical Of Duterte

Philippines Senator Antonio Trillanes (L) leaves a police station after being arrested in Manila on September 25, 2018. 
NOEL CELIS / AFP

 

A Philippine lawmaker fiercely critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war was arrested Tuesday on previously dismissed charges, a move condemned by watchdogs as persecution of the government’s opponents.

Senator Antonio Trillanes was taken into custody and then posted bail shortly after a court-issued warrant forced him from the Senate building, where he has holed up for weeks to avoid arrest.

Trillanes is the second senator critical of Duterte’s drug war to be detained. Leila de Lima has been behind bars since February 2017 on charges she says were concocted to silence her.

The order for Trillanes’ arrest stems from Duterte voiding earlier this month an amnesty granted eight years ago to the senator, an ex-navy officer, for his role in two coup attempts in the mid-2000s.

“They twisted the law so our democracy and institutions failed,” Trillanes told reporters. “This (case) has nothing to do with anything except for the vengeance of Duterte and his underlings.”

Duterte issued a decree earlier this month ordering Trillanes’ arrest on allegations he did not complete the requirements of filing an official application for amnesty and admitting guilt.

The case has prompted concern in the Philippines where critics have questioned whether presidents have the power to undo amnesties, a repeatedly used tool in a nation plagued by insurgencies and military rebellion.

Sociopath and hitman mindset

“The arrest… is part of the persecution of critics of the Duterte administration, the latest in the relentless campaign to silence those who dared to challenge the president’s murderous ‘drug war’,” said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch Philippines.

Bigger legal trouble could still await Trillanes because he could be arrested on another charge, stemming from a separate coup attempt, that does not have the possibility of bail.

The Philippines’ creaking legal system is notoriously slow and defendants can remain behind bars for years before they get their day in court.

Along with De Lima, Trillanes is Duterte’s loudest critic telling AFP last year: “This man is a sociopath and he has the mindset of a hitman.”

Trillanes last year appealed to the International Criminal Court to investigate killings in Duterte’s war on drugs and had repeatedly accused the president of being a mass murderer and holding secret bank accounts.

Last year Trillanes also had the president’s eldest son Paolo brought before a Senate inquiry to face allegations he was involved in drug trafficking, which the younger Duterte denied.

Trillanes had faced rebellion and coup d’etat charges for being among military officers who rose up against then president Gloria Arroyo over alleged corruption and mismanagement.

He led scores of junior officers in taking over part of a main district of Manila in 2003 and seized a posh Manila hotel in 2007 along with several armed followers as they demanded Arroyo’s resignation.

AFP

Philippines’ Duterte Apologises For Cursing Obama

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte                                                                Barack Obama

 

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has apologised to former US president Barack Obama for calling him a “son of a whore” in 2016, which sparked a new low in their nations’ long alliance.

Duterte lobbed the insult in response to steady criticism from the United States over his violent drug crackdown, which has been a target for international condemnation.

However, the Philippine president said his nation’s relationship with America has since improved under President Donald Trump, who he described as a “good friend” who “speaks my language”.

“It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that you are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words,” Duterte said Sunday in a speech before Filipinos in Israel.

Duterte landed in Israel on Sunday for a four-day stay as the Philippines seeks to develop new sources of military hardware and nail down protections for its overseas workers.

“If it is (in) your heart to forgive, you forgive. I have forgiven you, just like my girlfriends when I was still a bachelor… I have forgiven them also,” the Philippine leader said in the same speech.

After his election in mid-2016, Duterte quickly earned a reputation for using vulgar language against critics which his aides have tried to minimise or explain away.

He branded Pope Francis and the then US ambassador to Manila “sons of whores”. He also fired expletives at the United Nations and during a speech in the Philippines raised his middle finger in defiance to the European parliament.

Duterte often rails at critics of his campaign to rid the Philippines of narcotics, which police say has killed 4,410 alleged drug dealers or users.

Rights groups say the actual number of dead is triple that and could amount to crimes against humanity.

Duterte cursed Obama ahead of a regional summit in Laos two years ago prompting the US to cancel a meeting between the two leaders there.

Obama later described Duterte as “a colourful guy” as he urged him to conduct his anti-narcotics campaign “the right way”.

Duterte sparked new criticism ahead of his departure for Israel, blaming the high number of rapes in his hometown of Davao on a large number of beautiful women there.

“They say there are many rape cases in Davao,” Duterte said in a speech on Thursday. “For as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too.”

Duterte has on several occasions made rape jokes in public since his presidential campaign. The latest comment was denounced by women’s rights defenders.

“Beauty doesn’t cause rape, rapists do,” said Philippine lawmaker Risa Hontiveros, a Duterte critic.

AFP

Anger Trails Philippines’ President Kissing Woman On Stage

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attends a South Korea-Philippines business forum in Seoul on June 5, 2018. Duterte is in Seoul for a three-day visit to discuss ways to bolster economic and other cooperation between the two countries. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, drew condemnation Monday after kissing a Filipino woman onstage during his visit to South Korea, prompting outraged activists to call it “disgusting”.

Duterte‘s previous comments on women, including rape jokes and incitations to shoot women guerrillas in the vagina, have resulted in angry charges of misogyny against him.

During the appearance late Sunday in front of a mostly Filipino crowd, Duterte called the woman onstage and pointed to his lips.

“Come here! Where’s my (kiss),” Duterte said, instructing her to explain to her husband — after learning he was not among the audience — that they were engaging in a “joke”.

“Don’t take it seriously. It’s just for fun, a gimmick,” Duterte later told the crowd, who mostly shrieked in apparent approval.

But the women’s rights political party Gabriela in a statement denounced Duterte for his “perverted way of getting back at his women critics”.

“Gabriela views President Duterte‘s recent kissing of a migrant Filipina during his meet-and-greet with Filipino (workers)… as the disgusting theatrics of a misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim,” it added.

Duterte has fought publicly with powerful women who criticised his deadly narcotics crackdown and human rights record.

He labelled the now-ousted head of the nation’s judiciary, Maria Lourdes Sereno, an “enemy” before her colleagues on the Supreme Court sacked her last month.

Duterte critic Senator Leila de Lima is behind bars on charges she insists are politically motivated after battling with the president.

In this case, the unidentified woman told the state-run Philippine News Agency in an interview that “there was no malice” to what the president did.

Duterte, who has a daughter by his current partner after splitting from his wife, is wildly popular at home but has angered many Filipinos for his allegedly misogynistic comments.

In the 2016 presidential election campaign Dutertesparked controversy over comments made on the rape and killing of an Australian missionary during a prison riot in the southern city of Davao in 1989 while he was the mayor.

“What occurred to me was they gang-raped her,” he said then. “I was angry because she was raped. But she was so beautiful the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”

In February this year he told a local audience foreign women did not attract him because they have a “queer odour” unlike Filipinas who were “fragrant”.

A day later while meeting a group of former communist rebels Duterte joked he would have specific orders for how the military would treat female guerrillas.

“We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina so that if there is no vagina, it would be useless,” he said.

AFP

Philippines Resorts Ordered To Clean Up ‘Cesspool’ Island In Two Months

Govt Orders Philippines Resorts To Clean Up Island In Two Months
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao on February 9, 2018. AFP

 

Scores of holiday resorts on the Philippines’ famous white-sand island Boracay have been given two months to clean up or face closure, officials said Wednesday, after President Rodrigo Duterte warned tourists were swimming in waters polluted by faeces.

The outspoken Philippine leader last week blasted the tiny island’s hotels, restaurants and other businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea and turning it into a “cesspool”.

The Environment Ministry said a total of 300 businesses faced “evaluation” for sanitary or other offences on the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) island, of which 51 have already been handed official warnings for violating environmental regulations.

Many of these businesses are accused of using the island’s drainage system to send untreated sewage into the sea, officials said.

“(The ministry) is giving them two months to comply with the law. Otherwise, we will close them,” Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in a statement posted on his agency’s website.

Officials will also investigate businesses that put up buildings in protected parts of the island.

Boracay, 308 kilometres (190 miles) south of Manila, is one of the Philippines’ top tourist destinations, attracting some two million visitors each year.

It has some 500 tourism-related businesses, although most of the island’s supplies have to be shipped in from nearby ports.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said island needs a “massive clean-up”, adding that the work was “a bitter pill that we have to swallow if we (are) to collectively save and sustain Boracay”.

Local businesses said Duterte’s remarks had yet to have a serious effect on visitor numbers.

But Nenette Graf, head of industry association the Boracay Foundation, said there had been “one or two cancellations” since the issue came to light.

Local government official Rowen Aguirre conceded that inspectors had often found cases of resort violations concerning wastewater discharge and expanding into “no-build” zones, but expressed optimism that the problems could be resolved.

“The term ‘cesspool’ is too strong. You just have to come here and see the situation for yourself,” he told AFP.

Philippine President To Increase Soldiers To Fight Rebels

Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, said on Monday that he would recruit more soldiers in the fight against a rebel group.

Duterte cited the security threat the country is facing as the reason behind the military force expansion. The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have reportedly launched a dozen attacks at government agencies in July.

He was tough on the rebels, warning “I said I am a bully to the enemies of the state. So if you don’t want me, to talk to me, I do not want to talk to you, and I do not want you. If you want to call off the talk, it will be welcomed. Let the war which you started 50 years ago continue for another 50 years. That is my suggestion.”

“So, a countermeasure would start to call for a mobilisation. I want the army added by about 20,000 fighting men. I have lost a considerable number of my soldiers in Marawi, then I will add about another 10 to 15 thousand soldiers, but I want them soft, and quite comfortable with the number now assigned in the prisons and in the environment of provinces and cities. I would need about 35,000 to 40,000 to meet the future threats coming our way from within and outside the country,” said Duterte in his second annual State-of-the-Nation Address before Congress.

Duterte’s report to the nation took place as war rages in Marawi City where government security forces battle with the remaining 80 heavily armed extremists allied with the Islamic State group that attacked the southern Philippine city on May 23.

The 63-day fighting has so far killed more than 600 people, including nearly 100 civilians, and displaced around 500,000 civilians, according to government data.
Government officials and diplomats attended the annual event, including former presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo. Duterte’s predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino, did not attend.

The 72-year-old Philippine leader remains popular despite criticism hurled at him for waging a war on drugs that has left suspects dead and for charting a foreign policy independent of the United States, a treaty ally of the Philippines.

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UN Concerned About Lake Chad Basin Food Crisis

United Nations, UN, Lake Chad Basin, FoodThe United Nations has said that at least nine million people are in urgent need of aid in Nigeria’s northeast and neighbouring countries.

The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said at least $559 million would be needed in the next four months to ease the crisis in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

He said more than six million people were “severely food insecure” with 568,000 children acutely malnourished adding that the UN has appealed to Britain and other western governments for help.

Mr Lanzer said at the Chatham House in London: “With population growth of speed and nature, in an area where everyone is already poor, the environment is incredibly stressed.

“There is a never-ending stream of heavier violence, it is only natural to conclude that more people will migrate,” he said.

The Heads of State of the Lake Chad Basin and donor countries would meet on the margins of the annual United Nations General Assembly holding next week.

Meanwhile, the US President, Barack Obama, would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of the Assembly.

US Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, disclosed that President Obama would hold separate sessions with the Nigerian President, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi and Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.