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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
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Duterte to ‘courteously’ seek mercy for Veloso

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte yesterday said he would plead for mercy on behalf of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso when he meets with Indonesian President Joko Widodo this week.

Veloso, who was sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking, was scheduled to be executed in April last year but got a last-minute reprieve after her recruiters who allegedly planted illegal drugs in her luggage surrendered to Philippine authorities.

Veloso has maintained she is innocent and was only tricked by her recruiter into smuggling cocaine.

“I may just have to ask President Widodo in the most respectful and very, very courteous way… (I would) plead for mercy,” Duterte said yesterday.

“But if my pleading will fall on deaf ear, I am ready to accept it,” he said in a press briefing prior to his departure for Laos to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

From Laos, the President will proceed to Indonesia on Thursday for a two-day state visit.

Duterte, whose administration is waging a drug war, said he does not doubt the efficiency of Indonesia’s judicial system.

“I’ve been there once upon a time and was able to observe how it works,” he said.

“I might just accept the system and plead for mercy but if President Widodo will deny it, still I would be grateful that she had been treated very well. After all, we have our laws to follow,” he said.

Duterte, who is pushing for the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines, admitted he would not know how to respond if he were in Widodo’s shoes.

“Had it been the other way around – I might also be at the receiving end of so many pleas for mercy – I would never know how to react,” he said.

Source: The Philippine Star, Edith Regalado and Giovanni Nilles, September 6, 2016

Duterte ready to accept Mary Jane's fate


Rodrigo Duterte and Mary Jane Veloso
Rodrigo Duterte and Mary Jane Veloso
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said he will try to appeal the case of Filipina drug convict Mary Jane Veloso when he meets his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo later this week. 

Duterte, who will fly to Indonesia on Thursday after attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit in Laos, said he will discuss Veloso's case with Widodo. 

''I may just have to ask Widodo in a most respectful and very, very courteous way. And if my pleading will fall on deaf ear, I am ready to accept it,'' he said.

Veloso was due to be executed last year by firing squad but she was given a last-minute reprieve by Widodo.

The reprieve was given after Manila told Jakarta that it had in its custody Veloso's recruiter who allegedly planted the illegal drugs in the Filipina's luggage.

Veloso maintains she is innocent and was only tricked by her alleged recruiter into smuggling cocaine.

But Duterte, who is waging a bloody illegal drug crackdown at home, said he does not doubt the efficiency of Indonesia's judicial system.

''I don’t doubt the judicial system of Indonesia. I've been there once upon a time and was able to observe how it works,'' he said.

''I might just accept the system and plead for mercy but if President Widodo will deny it, still I would be grateful that she had been treated very well. After all, we have our laws to follow."

Duterte, who is pushing for the reinstatement of death penalty in the Philippines, admitted he would not know how to respond if he were in Widodo's shoes.

''Had it been the other way around -- I might also be at the receiving end of so many pleas for mercy -- I would never know how to react,'' he said.

Indonesia and the Philippines are two of Asia's main suppliers of migrant workers, with about 8.5 million such workers overseas, official data show.

There are 205 Indonesians and 94 Filipino migrant workers on death row overseas, according to Indonesia's women's commission and Migrante International, citing figures from their respective foreign ministries.

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on executions for five years before resuming them in 2013. It has executed 14 convicts, most of them foreigners, under Widodo.

But amid international outrage last year, scheduled executions were postponed while the government focused on reviving the economy, officials said.

Source: ABS-CBN News, with Reuters, Dharel Placido, Sept. 5, 2016

Philippines scrambles to soothe tensions after insult to Obama


Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
VIENTIANE (Reuters) - The Philippines scrambled to defuse a row with the United States on Tuesday and its new president, Rodrigo Duterte, voiced regret for calling President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch", comments that prompted Washington to call off a bilateral meeting.

The tiff between the two allies overshadowed the opening of a summit of East and Southeast Asian nations in Laos.

Duterte has bristled repeatedly at criticism over his "war on drugs", which has killed about 2,400 people since he took office two months ago, and on Monday said it would be "rude" for Obama to raise the human rights issue when they met.

Such a conversation, Duterte told reporters, would prompt him to curse at Obama, using a Filipino phrase "putang ina" which can mean "son of a bitch" or "son of a whore".

After Washington called off Tuesday's bilateral meeting between Obama and Duterte in response, the Philippines issued two statements expressing regret.

"President Duterte explained that the press reports that President Obama would 'lecture' him on extrajudicial killings led to his strong comments, which in turn elicited concern," the Philippines government said in one statement.

"He regrets that his remarks to the press have caused much controversy," it added. "He expressed his deep regard and affinity for President Obama and for the enduring partnership between our nations."

The White House had earlier said Obama would not pull any punches on his concerns about human rights abuses in the Philippines, its treaty ally, when meeting Duterte.

It was not immediately known if the bilateral meeting between the two president would be rescheduled.

The unusually open tensions between the United States and the Philippines, its former colony and long-term ally, threaten to overshadow the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summits in Laos from Tuesday to Thursday.

Duterte won the presidency in May as he promised to suppress crime and wipe out drugs and drug dealers. At least 2,400 people have been killed since he took office on July 1, including 900 in police operations against drug pushers.

The rest are "deaths under investigation", a term human rights activists in the Philippines say is a euphemism for vigilante and extrajudicial killings.

Duterte has poured scorn previously on critics, usually larding it with curses.

He lambasted the United Nations after it criticized the surge in killings and he turned down a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Laos summit.

In May, he called Pope Francis a "son of a whore", although he later apologized, and called U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg a "gay son of a whore."

Source: Reuters, Sept. 6, 2016

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