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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Imelda, ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Ordered To Pay $354M Fine


Source: Hawaii Politics and Government
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday (Oct. 24) ruled that Imelda Marcos and Ferdinand “Bonbong” Marcos Jr. must pay a $354 million fine after violating a court order to freeze their assets.
The fine regards payment to victims of human rights abuse under the dictatorship of the late Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos.
The three judge Ninth Circuit appeals panel heard oral arguments in Honolulu earlier this month.
“While Imelda and Bongbong continue to do everything they can to disobey the court and hide the lavish wealth Ferdinand stole from the Filipino people while he held on to power by torturing and killing his opponents, we will continue to pursue them,” said Honolulu Sherry Broder, attorney for Philippines human rights victims, in a statement.
The late University of Hawaii Law Professor Jon Van Dyke, Sherry Broder’s husband, co-wrote the brief which was upheld yesterday and was a leading member of the attorney team for decades.
In 1994, the District Court in Honolulu awarded a $2 billion judgment to the Filipino victims, a ruling that was upheld by the 9th Circuit in 1996.
Photo courtesy billypalooza.

How minimal should our ‘minimum defense capability’ be?


AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR 
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star
Morgan Stanley investment guru Ruchir Sharma said that investments in BRICs (BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China) are passé and that wise money should focus on TIP — Turkey, Indonesia and the Philippines. An HSBC Research (“The World in 2050”) outlined the basis for calling us a Star Performer. The HSBC “The World in 2050” Report had predicted that our country will become the world’s 16th largest economy by the middle of the century: up 27 places from today.
All these rosy projections are pies in the sky if we continue to be a country that can be bullied by the likes of China. Few will invest in a country that cannot ensure the protection of its own sovereignty. It’s time to carry a very big stick and make good money for all Filipinos.
US Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Chief of the US Pacific Command based in Hawaii, had conveyed to President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) that the US is committed to develop a “minimum defense capability” for the Philippines. Nothing less than a military capability similar to that of Taiwan and Israel should constitute that minimum.
For nearly seven decades now, we have grown wearily accustomed to China’s ranting and threatening Taiwan. If you look at the “tale of the tape” of a China-Taiwan conflict, you’d say that it’s a big mismatch. How come then that China has never applied the iron hand treatment to Taiwan, no different from what they enforced upon Tibet?
The answer is this: China can defeat Taiwan but it’ll be at a very high cost. Taiwan’s military capability, like that of Israel, can inflict serious damage to any adventurer seeking to invade it. You don’t need to match the military capability of China in order to discourage it from bullying you. Just show them that they could get hurt with what little you’ve got and they’ll think twice before bullying you. Then too, there’s the US to reckon with if China invades Taiwan. Taiwan is like a sharp dagger positioned strategically at the underbelly of the Chinese dragon, which symbolizes China.
W. Scott Thompson, geopolitics and defense expert, New York Times and New Straits Times columnist, had noted that the Philippines is a strategic asset to the US and is key to facilitating the protection and maintenance of US military and economic power in Asia. In contrast, Israel is what W. Scott Thompson described as a strategic liability of the US.
Scott drew the dramatic difference between the Philippines and Israel: “Yes, the Philippines lacks the power to blackmail the US government and president, who, as Filipinos will understand, would like to be reelected of (and then guess what his policies will be). The Philippines has something far more important going for it. A long time relationship, shared values, and strategic advantage. Israeli policies are leading potentially to a national disaster for them; Filipino policies are the precise opposite, with a popular president highly regarded in Washington.”
The US has been spending over $123 billion since 1949 to help sustain the state of Israel, a state that never ceases to drag the US into many complicated problems. It’s only fair that we receive a similar support from the US considering that we constitute the center flank of their empire preservation plans in Asia. Without the Philippines, the US might be forced to adopt a defensive posture in Asia against China. In which case, they can kiss their empire goodbye.
Transforming our defense capability to the level of Taiwan or Israel is quite different from the controversial provisions of the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement). In the VFA, we’ve allowed the US to operate in our country. The result of this VFA is that the sovereignty issue bothers us and causes constant friction among us Filipinos. It’s ridiculous to protest against China for encroaching on our sovereignty if we are to allow the US to do the same. Slaves cannot choose their masters.
In attaining a Taiwan or Israel level ‘minimum’ defense capability, we acquire state of the art weaponry and we’re the ones defending our country, not US forces assigned here. In the VFA, we’re mere lackeys of the US. When we attain a Taiwan or Israel level defense capability, we transform into a major military power. With that new status will come stability, international respect and a flood of investments.
We should be alarmed by what US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said before arriving in Tokyo during a recent Asia trip. Panetta stated the dangerous possibility of a Japan-China war over islands that are claimed by both countries and he mentioned that such a Japan-China war could expand.
“I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” Panetta said. “And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding.” Panetta added.
Our entertainment addicted media hardly paid attention to Panetta’s warning. They have the time and space for fictional demolitions jobs but not for real geopolitical events that could ruin us.
* * *
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reject them in May


ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas 
After 14 years of martial law, the framers of the 1987 Constitution made an unequivocal declaration of their intent to restore democracy in the Philippines and to remove power in the hands of a few: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
To ensure that power is not monopolized by a few, the Constitution framers included at least three provisions — term limits for all elective officials, the party-list system, and the express provision banning political dynasties.
The term limit provision was designed to decentralize power and allow more Filipinos, including those belonging to what is defined as marginalized sectors, to become public servants. Under the Constitution, the president can only serve for one term and cannot run for reelection to the same office. Senators are allowed two six-year terms while members of the House of Representatives, governors, mayors and other local officials are allowed three successive three-year terms.
But instead of democratizing public office, the term limits only strengthened the oligarchy, or what is known in the Philippines as political dynasties, because after reaching the term limit, elected officials would only hand over the position to their wife, children or other relatives by making them run for their current position and seeking other elective posts.
What results is a political merry-go-round among members of the same political families or loyal followers of entrenched political clans. Thus, it is not uncommon for voters to see members of the same family running for various offices in a single election.
The list of candidates for the 2013 election, which is for both senatorial and local officials, is thus full of familiar political names — Binays, Estradas, Aquinos, Cojuangcos, Arroyos, Angaras, Villars, Belmontes, Cayetanos, Enriles, Revillas, etc.
The other constitutional provision that seeks to democratize public office is the party-list system that was intended to give representation to marginalized sectors such as workers, teachers, drivers, women, youth, peasants, and urban poor. The party lists are allotted at least 20% of the slots in the House of Representatives.
But even this noble concept was shamelessly used by politicians to further strengthen their hold to political power. For example, Mikey Arroyo, the son of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, represents a party list of security guards and tricycle drivers.
The third provision that was designed to democratize power is the prohibition on political dynasties. Article II Section 26, the Constitution states: “The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties, as may be defined by law.”
And yet because Congress has not enacted an implementing law to enforce this constitutional mandate, political dynasties continue to rule over both national and local elective posts.
It took 17 years before an enabling bill was filed in Congress. Former Senator and now Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim filed Senate Bill 1317 in 2004, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed SB 1904 in 2005m and Sen. Panfilo Lacson filed SB 1468 in 2007. Note that all three does not have a single relative in any other elective office. Note, too, that not a single bill was filed in the House of Representatives, where many congressmen are known to be members of political clans.
All three bills did not see the light of day and died of natural causes, natural because it is the nature of these traditional politicians to preserve their hold to power in their respective constituencies. They treat elective posts as personal properties that can be transferred to other members of the family. And because they have the wealth and resources to beat their opponents, they are able to perpetuate their hold to power.
In the House of Representatives, it took all of 25 years to file such a bill. Just recently, Akbayan party list Rep. Teodoro Casino filed House Bill 3413 seeking to stop political dynasties.
In the 14th Congress (from July 23, 2007 to June 4, 2010), according to Wikipedia, it was surveyed that more than 75% of the lawmakers are members of old political families. According to a study by political scientist Dante Simbulan of the Philippine politics from 146 to 1963, there were 169 prominent families at that time, producing 584 public officials, including seven presidents, two vice presidents, 42 senators and 147 congressmen.
I would surmise that while many of these political families have faded following the advent of martial law, new political clans have replaced them, producing even more elective officials and more powerful families. Thus, the Laurels of Batangas, the Leidos of Oriental Mindoro, the Crisologos of Ilocos Sur, the Rodriguezes of Rizal and Quezon City, the Asistios of Caloocan, and other old political families may be gone but the Villars of Las Pinas, the Angaras of Baler, the Belmontes of Quezon City, the Estradas of San Juan, the Binays of Makati, the Revillas of Cavite, the Cayetanos of Pateros, the Pacquiaos of Saranggani, the Garcias of Cebu, and many other new political dynasties have emerged to replace them.
Many of the people, on the other hand, have been accustomed to politicians from these political dynasties winning elections for generations that they have learned to accept, wrongfully I must say, that when the incumbent has run out on term limits, the wife, the son or the daughter has a right to succeed him.
An online petition that has been circulating for some time now estimates that almost 70% of candidates in the 2013 elections come from a political clan. The same petition cites a study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center (AIMPC) that says poverty is more prominent in areas long ruled by a political dynasty.
Santiago has revived her anti-dynasty bill in the Senate thru SB 2649 that says no spouse or person related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to an incumbent elective official seeking reelection shall be allowed to hold or run for any elective office in the same province in the same election. It says that any citizen of voting age, candidate, duly-registered political party, organization, or coalition of political parties may file a petition to disqualify a candidate with the Commission on Elections, which shall hear and decide on the issue.
But we all know that the bills filed by Santiago and Casino will only gather dust in the two chambers for obvious reasons.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, admitting that it is helpless against political dynasties for lack of an enacting law, said the people must take it upon themselves to act against political dynasties thru a people’s initiative.
The Constitution provides that the people may propose amendments to the Constitution or propose and enact legislations through a people’s initiative based on a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters. Republic Act 6735 was passed in 1989 to enforce this constitutional provision.
But launching a successful people’s initiative is easier said than done. The petition must be signed by at least 12 percent of registered voters, meaning at least 6 million of the more than 50 million registered voters as of the May 2010 elections. The signature will have to be manually verified by the Comelec. Just taking 6 million voters to physically sign the petition would take months, if not years, and verifying them would take several more months.
Once verified, the petition will have to be approved in a national election called for this purpose, where the combined wealth, resources and influence, not to mention the coercive power of the political dynasties will most probably defeat it.
The Supreme Court has been asked in a petition filed by a businessman to order the Commission on Elections to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties in the coming national and local polls. Can the high tribunal order Comelec to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties without an enabling law? Even if it does, how will the Comelec enforce it without an enabling law? Certainly, the Supreme Court cannot issue guidelines to enforce its mandate because it would be subverting the functions and duties of the legislative branch.
So what will the people do to stop the perpetuation of oligarchy in our political system? Does this mean we just have to shrug our shoulders and live with it?
I say reject them in May.
(valabelgas@aol.com)

Obama and Romney on Scarborough Row


Telltale Signs 
By Rodel Rodis
Filipino American supporters of Pres. Barack Obama, all dressed in blue, and backers of Gov. Mitt Romney, decked in red, met at the battlefield of the Redwood Shores studios of ABS-CBN on October 18 to participate in the 2012 Balitang America town hall presidential debate. Obama’s Blue Team was led by TLC Beatrice CEO Loida Nicolas-Lewis while Romney’s Red Team was championed by Mission Hope Day Program CEO Nimfa Yamsuan Gamez.
In the audience for the debate were not only the Blues and Reds but also the Whites representing the “Undecideds” whose votes, as in the general election set for November 6, would decide the outcome of the Balitang America presidential debate according to the format established by the ABS-CBN producer.
Balitang America first held this presidential debate town hall format in 2008 when I was designated the debater for the Democrat Obama and Rudy Asercion was the spokesman for Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.
What was remarkable about the town hall debate on October 18 was that virtually all the participants, including the undecided, are active members of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) and most had participated in rallies in front of the China Consulate in San Francisco to protest China’s encroachment in the Scarborough Shoal.
Lewis is the USP4GG national chair while Gamez is an active member of its Nor-Cal chapter where Asercion and I are also members. Among the Whites in the audience were several notable USP4GG members and participants in protest rallies in front of the China Consulate including Rad Abarrientos, Victor Barrios, Ramon Bunag and Bradley Roxas.
The debate format included questions from the audience. Among those who lined up to pose a question was Romney supporter Charito Benipayo, USP4GG treasurer and Nor-Cal coordinator. She asked the representatives on their candidates’ positions on China’s encroachment on the sovereign Philippine territories of the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.
Speaking for Obama, Lewis said that the U.S. government under Pres. Obama will stand by its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines to defend the country if it is attacked by China. Gamez was not aware of Gov. Romney’s position but expressed confidence that he would also abide by the Treaty.
Unfortunately, there was no further elaboration on this issue but an extended discussion would have elicited the differences between the parties on this issue.
Gov. Romney has identified Russia as the country’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe”, a position he reiterated in his October 22 presidential debate with Pres. Obama on US foreign policy. In that same debate, Pres. Obama identified Al Qaeda and its allied Islamic terrorists as the US’ top enemy.
But Pres. Obama has his eye on another country. As William Engdahl wrote on August 24, “after almost two decades of neglect of its interests in East Asia, in 2011, the Obama Administration announced that the US would make “a strategic pivot” in its foreign policy to focus its military and political attention on the Asia-Pacific, particularly Southeast Asia, that is, China.”
When he visited Australia in December of 2011, Pres. Obama explained that “with most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation…As President, I have, therefore, made a deliberate and strategic decision — as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future.”
While the US is officially “neutral” on the Scarborough Shoal dispute, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has openly sided with the Philippines in its call for multilateral talks to resolve the territorial dispute.
There is also the concern that in a Romney Administration, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson may wield great influence. Adelson has pumped in more than $100 million to the “super PACs” supporting Romney who has met with Adelson on a number of occasions. Adelson, whose personal fortune is estimated at $25 billion and is most known for advocating for Israel, is also the largest casino owner in China. His four casinos in Macau account for half of his income.
Because Adelson could not operate his profitable Macau casinos without the backing of the rulers in Beijing, there is concern that under a Pres. Romney, the US will turn its attention away from the South China Sea towards Iran and Russia.
Going back to the ABS-CBN town hall debate, aside from their common agreement on the Scarborough Shoal, both Lewis and Gamez share another similarity. Both are willing to go against their economic interest in their support of their presidential candidates.
Lewis, the CEO of TLC Beatrice, a multinational corporation with worldwide business interests, would greatly benefit from Romney’s pledge to extend the Bush Tax Cuts to everyone including those making over $1 million a year which Obama opposes. Romney has also pledged to add another 20% cut in taxes to everyone including the top 1% which Obama charges will amount to a loss in government revenue of $5 trillion over 10 years.
Gamez .is the CEO of Mission-Hope Day Program, a business that deals with the developmentally disabled, which is funded by the California Department of Developmental Services which receives more than $1 billion a year from the federal government, which funding will be cut in the Ryan Budget Plan adopted by Gov. Romney to pay for the tax cuts to people in the income bracket of Lewis.
Both Lewis and Gamez are going against their own economic interests to support their candidates.
(Rodel50@gmail.com)

Monday, October 29, 2012

China and India jostle in Indian Ocean


By Rajeev Sharma
Global Times 
Illustration: Liu Rui
Sino-Indian rivalries will be watched closely for years, perhaps decades to come. They are part of the affairs that are going to dominate the 21st century and influence world events.
There is one core area of divergence, if not conflict. China is not an Indian Ocean power and yet it is investing a lot of diplomatic and military capital into becoming one. In retaliation, India, which is not a power in the South China Sea or East China Sea, is working overtime to project itself as one. This is the crux of Sino-Indian strategic rivalries.
Rivalries in the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region are not limited to China and India. Other East Asian powers like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are also pro-actively involved in strategic one-upmanship in both regions. This has given rise to a new coinage in the strategic world, the “Indo-Pacific,” linking two regions once as different as chalk and cheese.
Ironically, East Asia is currently in a tailspin largely because of China putting a laser-beam focus on the South China Sea and East China Sea from 2009 onward. Unlike East Asian powers, India has no territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, and yet New Delhi would be ignoring its strategic interests by remaining a passive watcher.
In many ways, the South China Sea and Indian Ocean are strategically interrelated. The presence of a maritime power in one international water body inevitably increases its leverage in the other international water body. While China has been arguing that, despite the name, the Indian Ocean doesn’t belong to India alone, India and other countries can equally contend that South China Sea too does not belong to China alone.
The Chinese strategic imperatives are not very different. China looks at South China Sea as a core area in its strategic matrix. It does not want foreign powers, particularly the US, to have a military presence in this area. From the Chinese perspective, it is not just a matter of the hydrocarbon potential of the region, but a much larger issue.
The other powers, particularly the US and Japan, will have none of this. It is not for nothing that the US has started relocating 40 percent of its naval assets and personnel to this region. Therefore, what one is seeing on the Asian maritime chessboard is interesting and intriguing moves and counter-moves.
It is against this backdrop that the Indians are busily reworking their strategies toward island nations in the Indian Ocean. Their actions, Indian strategists insist, are mainly reactive, not proactive. They say that they are forced to react to a Chinese strategic juggernaut unrelentingly hurtling toward their backyard. The much-hyped Chinese “String of Pearls” strategy is outdated. Now it is time for safeguarding national interests as the Chinese juggernaut is leaving fewer options.
The new Indian strategy can be broadly summed up as having two tenets: safeguarding and further boosting Indian strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region, combined with forays into the Asia-Pacific region and forging closer ties with countries that constitute China’s backyard.
The latter has already been happening at a rather rapid pace as India has intensified its engagement with countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. As far as the former is concerned, India’s recent Maldives strategy is a case in point. The tiny island nation is seen by the Indians as a pivotal spot to ensure that India remains a dominant force in the Indian Ocean region. The Maldives serves as an important link between the sea lanes of East Asia and the Middle East. China’s recent announcement of a $500 million package of economic assistance to the Maldives and its vigorous outreach to countries like Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka has not gone unnoticed in New Delhi.
Maldives, a country situated in the Indian Ocean where China has significantly enlarged its strategic footprints, has of late popped up on the front burner of the Indian strategic establishment. Indian Defense Minister AK Antony, who is now virtually the No.2 in the Manmohan Singh government after Pranab Mukherjee quit the government to become the country’s president, visited the Maldives last month.
During this visit, Antony announced his government’s twin decisions of stationing a defense attaché in Male, the capital of Maldives, and positioning its advanced light helicopters, the Dhruv, for an additional period of two years beyond April 2012. Incidentally, the Dhruv was recently brought back to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s workshop in Bangalore for an overhaul and has now been upgraded with night flying capabilities.
For seasoned strategic watchers, the “Indo-Pacific” is the new region to watch out for. The new power games there are already underway.
The author is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and a strategic analyst. bhootnath004@yahoo.com

SC asked to compel Comelec to ban political dynasties in 2013 polls


Source: GMA News
A petitioner has asked the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to bar members of political dynasties — which include relatives of President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay — from running in the 2013 elections.
Louis “Barok” Biraogo, in his 26-page petition for mandamus, cited Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution as basis for prohibiting political dynasties from running in elections.
“The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law,” reads that particular section of the Constitution.
Biraogo, who said he filed the petition as a Filipino citizen, a qualified voter, and a taxpayer, pointed out that the government has not enacted any law defining the term “political dynasties,” and thus allows political dynasties to remain to this day.
He said the “spirit” and “intent” of the particular provision of the Constitution, instead of its letters, should prevail even without the backing of law defining what a political dynasty is.
Biraogo blamed Congress for its inaction in coming up with an enabling statute, and cited a Supreme Court ruling stating that “cataclysmic consequences” would crop up if Congress would be allowed “to ignore and practically nullify the mandate of the fundamental law.”
“The sad reality is that the awaited legislation remains nowhere in sight even after the lapse of the 25 years since the charter was ratified,” he said.
Political dynasties
Biraogo said the list of candidates for national and local government posts in the upcoming May 2013 elections “is the best testament to the mockery Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution has been subjected to in the hands of political dynasties.”
Among the so-called political dynasties he cited in his petition was the clan of President Benigno Aquino III, whose cousin Benigno Aquino IV and aunt former Tarlac Gov. Margarita are both running for senator.
Biraogo also cited the clan of Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose son, incumbent Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, is running for re-election, and daughters, Abigail and Nancy, are running for congresswoman and senator, respectively.
Other families he cited are those of former President Joseph Estrada, Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Sen. Alan and Pia Cayetano, Sen. Manuel Villar, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, the Jalosjos in Zamboanga provinces, the Dutertes in Davao, and the Plazas in Agusan.
“Twenty-five (25) years have passed since the 1987 Constitution outlawed political dynasties. Today, these political dynasties still dominate the national and local elections in the Philippines,” Biraogo said.
“Whether or not political dynasties are evil per se is no longer debatable from a constitutional perspective… Whether a political dynasty is reform-oriented, or is known for public service, does not really matter,” he added.
Comelec power vs dynasties
Biraogo said the Supreme Court has the power to compel the Comelec to enforce the ban on political dynasties, because Section 26, Article II of the Constitution “is considered to have a juridical life of its own [and therefore] can be the source of a judicial remedy.”
Biraogo claimed Comelec has the ministerial duty and authority to ban political dynasties despite the absence of an enabling law, especially since the Constitution itself grants the Comelec power to “decide questions affecting elections.”
“[Twenty-five] years has been too long a waiting period. Another 25 years will be too much to bear. It is time to put an end to the continuing insult visited upon the Filipino people by the inexcusable and adamant refusal of the Congress to enact legislation for the full enjoyment by the people pf a guaranteed state policy,” Biraogo said. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News

Sunday, October 28, 2012

U.S. aircraft carrier cruises disputed Asian waters


Source: CBS NEWS
ON BOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON A U.S. aircraft carrier group cruised through the disputed South China Sea on Saturday in a show of American power in waters that are fast becoming a focal point of Washington’s strategic rivalry with Beijing.
Vietnamese security and government officials were flown onto the nuclear-powered USS George Washington ship, underlining the burgeoning military relationship between the former enemies. A small number of journalists were also invited to witness the display of maritime might in the oil-rich waters, which are home to islands disputed between China and the other smaller Asian nations facing the sea.
The visit will likely reassure Vietnam and the Philippines of American support but could annoy China, whose growing economic and naval strength is leading to a greater assertiveness in pressing its claims there. The United States is building closer economic and military alliances with Vietnam and other nations in the region as part of a “pivot” away from the Middle East to Asia, a shift in large part meant to counter rising Chinese influence.
The Vietnamese officials took photos of F-16 fighter jets taking off and landing on the ships 1,000-foot- (305-meter-) long flight deck, met the captain and toured the hulking ship, which has more than 5,000 sailors on board.
The mission came a day after Beijing staged military exercises near islands in the nearby East China Sea it disputes with U.S ally Japan. Those tensions have flared in recent days.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, where the U.S. says it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in an area crossed by vital shipping lanes. Vietnam, the Philippines and several other Asian nations also claim parts of the sea. The disputes attracted little international interest until the late 1990s, when surveys indicated possible large oil reserves. American rivalry with China has given the disputes an extra dimension in recent years.
The U.S. Navy regularly patrols the Asia-Pacific region, conducting joint exercises with its allies and training in the strategic region. The trip by the George Washington off the coast of Vietnam is its third in as many years. A second aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, has also conducting operations in the western Pacific region recently, according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Capt. Gregory Fenton said the mission was aimed in part at improving relations with Vietnam and ensuring the U.S. had free passage in the South China Sea.
China’s military buildup, including the launch of its own carrier last year and rapid development of ballistic missiles and cyber warfare capabilities, could potentially crimp the U.S. forces’ freedom to operate in the waters. The United States doesn’t publicly take sides in the territorial disputes among China and its neighbors.
“It is our goal to see the region’s nations figure out these tensions … on their own, our role of that to date is to conduct freedom of navigation exercises within international waters,” Fenton said in an interview on the bridge.
Although claimant countries have pledged to settle the territorial rifts peacefully, the disputes have erupted in violence in the past, including in 1988 when China and Vietnam clashed in the Spratly Islands in a confrontation that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disputes could become Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.
Vietnam is pleased to accept help from its one-time foe America as a hedge against its giant neighbor China, with which it also tries to maintain good relations.
Still, the Hanoi government reacted angrily to recent moves by Beijing to establish a garrison on one of the Paracel islands, which Vietnam claims. The United States also criticized the move by Beijing, earning it a rebuke from the government there.
“China will take this (cruise) as another expression by the United States of its desire to maintain regional domination,” said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii. “The U.S also wants to send a message to the region that it is here for the long haul … and that it wants to back up international law.”
While most analysts believe military confrontation in the waters is highly unlikely anytime soon, they say tensions are likely to increase as China continues pressing its claims and building its navy.

US carrier force supports Asean


Source: Bankok Post
The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell fires its MK45 5-inch lightweight gun during a live-fire exercise off Vietnam on Saturday.
The United States has sent an aircraft carrier and support ships through the South China Sea in a show of support for Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam in their territorial disputes with China.
Vietnamese officials were invited aboard the nuclear-powered USS George Washington as it cruised off the coast of Vietnam Saturday. There were exhibitions of F18 warplanes taking off and landing, and a live-fire exercise by an accompanying destroyer.
Vietnamese officials said they were “pleased” to accept help from one-time foe America, as a hedge against its giant neighbour China, with which it sometimes finds difficult to maintain good relations.
“This is part of a typical patrol that (the carrier task force) conducts throughout the area of operations,” Seventh Fleet spokesman Anthony Falvo said in a phone interview with the Bloomberg news agency Saturday. “We regularly patrol the Asia Pacific, have done so for many years and will continue to do so.”
Two US FA-18Es fly in formation with two Sukhoi Su-30s from the Royal Malaysian Air Force above the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during operations on Monday of last week off Malaysia. (US Navy photo)
Captain Gregory Fenton of the USS George Washington said the mission is aimed at improving relations with Vietnam and ensuring the US has free passage through the disputed waters.
The US Navy regularly patrols the Asia-Pacific region, conducting joint exercises with its allies and training in the strategic region.
The trip by the George Washington off the coast of Vietnam is its third in as many years. A second aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, has also conducting operations in the western Pacific region recently, according to the US Pacific Fleet.
The high-profile weekend cruise past Vietnam, however – with the press invited along with Vietnamese military and civilian security officers – escalated the so-called “pivot” by the United States away from Europe and towards Asia.
US President Barack Obama announced the pivot two years ago, and said a 10-year project would place more troops and mobile forces in a wide Asian arc from Australia to Guam, and north to Japan.
The United States has taken no side in the territorial disputes among China and its neighbours.
But the cruise, and joint military operations with Malaysia, support for Vietnam and a port visit to the Philippines shows Asean support.
Aboard the George Washington, Capt Fenton told newsmen, “It is our goal to see the region’s nations figure out these tensions … on their own, our role of that to date is to conduct freedom of navigation exercises within international waters.”
There was plenty of speculation about the George Washington’s weekend cruise, and there will be more at mid-week when the aircraft carrier task force visits the Philippines, arguably the most involved nation in the South China Sea territorial dispute.
“China will take this (cruise) as another expression by the United States of its desire to maintain regional domination,” said Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii, according to a report by the Associated Press. “The US also wants to send a message to the region that it is here for the long haul … and that it wants to back up international law.”


Peace pact shaky


By Florante S. Solmerin 
Manila Standard Today

Clan wars may escalate

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and bandits from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters headed by Umbra Kato have clashed several times recently, and a military official said the skirmishes could escalate although the clashes had nothing to do with the framework agreement signed between the MILF and the government the Philippine government signed a week ago.
The gunbattles that started on Friday in Barangay Lower Libutan left both sides with several casualties, said Mayor Benzar Ampatuan of Mamasapano town.“They clashed and both sides suffered casualties,” Ampatuan said.
But Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the recent clashes had nothing to do with the peace pact since those involved were Moro clans who were fighting against each other over ownership of lands. Muslim clan wars, according to Ardo, is called a “rido.”
“Two or three days ago we’ve received information about encounters of rival clans or families in Mamasapano here in Maguindano killing two or three people from one side. The number of fatalities or casualties could rise because we expect a retaliation from the aggrieved clan or families,” Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said.
Ardo, who was recently promoted as commander of the Western Mindanao Command by President Aquino, added that some groups use the name of the MILFF and BIFF to bolster their claim in the clan wars.
“Ang daming nagbabarilan diyan, halos araw-araw ang barilan… Hindi na bago ‘yan diyan. Actually the other pa [ang labanan], the same group na may standing rido. Practically, kung minsan they are just bringing the name of the MILF and BIFF,” Ardo said.
The clashes have reached the attention of Malacanang, but government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen made an assurance that the military and the police are on top of the situation.
“Reports from the ground indicate that this was a chance and accidental encounter between the two forces. Members of the BIFF are the subject of law enforcement operations by the army and the police. There are no spillovers and this is guaranteed by the current normal deployment of the army,” said Leonen in a statement.
Ardo said the 1st Mechanized Brigade under the command of Col. Edgardo Gonzales was looking into the situation to prevent the escalation of the clan wars into a full-blown conflict.
Ampatuan has also asked the government and the MILF ceasefire committees to step in and put a stop to the wars.
Meanwhile, police Director-General Nicanor Bartolome on Saturday lauded the commitment of the MILF to support government efforts in hunting down lawless elements, including the Abu Sayyaf Group, which continues to sow terror in Mindanao.
Bartolome said the MILF’s commitment was a “magnanimous gesture” in support of the government’s policy in implementing “all out justice” against lawless elements in Mindanao.
“Consistent with our commitment to support all initiatives for peace, the PNP will act decisively against any group that wish to sabotage or derail this peace agreement with the MILF.”
Bartolome said with MILF’s cooperation, the PNP can look forward to more aggressive police operations against “lawless elements” similar to the recent operations launched in Sultan Kudarat and Basilan that led to the capture of two sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
On Tuesday, the police arrested Sali Basal TAIB, alias Gonggong Sali and Abu Husni, near Barangay Wal Primary Schol in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.
The suspect is wanted for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of 10 workers of the Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan, Basilan in 2001. The government has offered P3.3-million reward for his arrest.
The next day, the police also arrested three other outlaws in Abdula ALAD alias Abdulla Magdal, Salip Abdullah anad Aduwa Salip in Malamawi, Isabela City.
Alad is wanted for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in Sulu and carried a P2-million reward for his arrest. With Francisco Tuyay

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cross the Palace line, risk Senate post, Miriam warns Enrile


By Angie M. Rosales 
The Daily Tribune
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile should see it coming, his possible ouster from his current post in the upper chamber, if some of the measures being pushed by Malacañang will not be passed under his leadership.
Amid coup talks in the upper chamber which continue to be denied by Malacañang, insofar as its supposed involvement is concerned, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the Executive could likely make a bold move to ensure passage of needed measures.
“We do not know how or what President Aquino is thinking right now. But if the Senate president would refuse to lend support to the President, even if the Chief Executive holds only a minority bloc as what is the situation now, with the Liberal Party (LP) members numbering to only four or five, the tendency really is to lean toward the wishes of the sitting President,” she said.
Santiago, in an interview over dzBB radio, was asked if Enrile’s strong stance against some of the highly-controversial measures, particularly the Reproductive Health (RH) and sin tax bills, could cost him his position as upper chamber leader, especially if these will not be approved in the plenary.
“If the President happens to be supportive of some of the proposed legislations and these measures are facing a lot of obstacles because of the active participation of the Senate president, it cannot be helped but for the President to entertain such thoughts,” she said, referring to the possibility of instigating leadership change in one of the two houses of Congress to ensure support to the administration.
“That’s a perfectly natural conclusion that the President might draw. So that will happen. I think they’re just waiting for something. Wait for it,” Santiago said, further predicting that Enrile’s stronghold on his post will be put to a test if these two bills would not be able to see their passage under the Aquino administration.
“Definitely his time horizon will grow shorter if the two bills are not passed,” she said.
Santiago was quick to point out that she has not been receipt of any “call” soliciting support to whoever may be being tapped as replacement to Enrile or have any inside information as to whatever plans that might be being plotted against the Senate chief, whether in the past or in the future.
“I told you I’m a complete pariah when it come to reorganization. They know that I don’t care, I don’t want to get involved in intrigues,” she added.
Santiago said it can only be expected of Malacañang to wash hands whenever there are coup talks going around and express continued support to Enrile.
“Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Senate president is really as popular as the press releases say. But in any event, there is no question that President Aquino is much more popular than he is. So if he is countering President Aquino, his popularity will diminish. It’s not the other way around. He’s not more popular than President Aquino to the extent that if he goes against President Aquino, the President’s popularity will plummet. That is not the case. That’s why he is also thinking about it,” she said.
As for Enrile’s oft-repeated line that he’s ready to step down anytime, Santaigo said her colleague says that all the time because has no choice.
“All Senate presidents hold their position at the discretion of fellow senators and of the President who is sitting in power at the time. So they have no security of tenure. That’s why there is a need to court your fellow senator, the President and public opinion,” she stressed.
In reality, Santiago said no one would dare go against the President and meet the Chief Executive head-on while sitting as a leader in Congress.
“No one will do that except for a person like me I must add,” she said.
But Enrile has earlier maintained that the Senate is not a rubber stamp of any body.

Debunking arguments against RA 10175


AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR 
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star
Contrary to what several of my media colleagues have espoused against the RA (Republic Act) 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, I maintain a generally positive view of the legislation. I admit that there are areas in RA 10175 that need to be clarified or rewritten in order that it might not be abused or misused by a future tyrannical ruler.
We have no such worries with President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy) because he would not defile the memory of his father and mother by resorting to something oppressive or repressive. However, not all presidents are like P-Noy and we must be prudent not to enact laws that would equip a bad ruler’s tyrannical tendencies.
We need the RA 10175 if we are to survive the challenges of a cyberspace-influenced world. Already, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had warned about the new world arena of combat – cyber warfare. Modern societies are now operating with the use of computers. A hostile cyberspace attack could come in the form of interfering with vital operating systems such as those of electricity providers, water suppliers, traffic control systems, food distribution, passenger air traffic and the disabling of online communications of the armed forces, and so forth. Within this perspective is seen the national security impact of RA 10175.
Insofar as we’re concerned, the more immediate cyber threats are those that are in the realm of cybercrime and hacking in order to profit from or disable a business operation. In the past so many years, our economic growth has relied upon the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) call centers. Sans an RA 10175, the BPO companies doing business here could be forced to transfer to another country where their operations are better protected. Within this perspective is seen the economic impact of the RA 10175.
Cybercrimes that result in the exploitation of Filipinos show the need for RA 10175 as a protector of human rights. Then, there are the personal violations of human rights such as libel. Many legal minds are of the opinion that with or without RA 10175 – there is already libel accountability for cyberspace postings. In other words, if the libel provisions of RA 10175 are removed, there’s still accountability based on the existing laws that, unknown to many, also cover cyberspace.
According to my neighbor and occasional legal adviser, Romy Macalintal: “Once a statement has been released and gained public attention, there is already publication. The libel law does not make any distinction on how it is published, when heard or learned by two or more persons.”
So, when your Facebook posting clearly refers to another person in what’s considered libelous, then that offended person doesn’t even need an RA 10175 in order to prosecute you. All the offended person needs to do is printout the libelous statement and produce two people who admit having seen it and perceived the libel in the remark.
The imposition of a stiffer penalty for cyberspace libel is unjustified and should be scrapped. There’s no reason for a stiffer penalty on cyberspace, especially since most newspapers are also posted online. Some even argue that this lays the basis for possible double jeopardy.
I don’t buy the usual line of my media colleagues that RA 10175 will have a chilling effect. So what if it sends a chill up and down your spine. If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen. For those of us who fought Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, we never allowed the chilling effect of Marcos suppression laws to stop us from communicating the inconvenient truth, which was then considered as seditious. Libel is a mere poke in the nose when compared to the firing squad prospects for a conviction on charges of sedition.
RA 10175 doesn’t prevent you from saying what you want to say but you must never forget that there are modes of behavior that guide communications. You’ll have to be responsible for what you wrote or said. You have no right to libel another person whether on mainstream media or on cyberspace. That other person is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence until the crime has been proved in a fair trial.
I was pleased to see the big positive effect on Facebook after the controversy surrounding RA 10175 reverberated. All of a sudden, folks became more careful with what they posted on Facebook. RA 10175 isn’t bad for press freedom. It can only be good for press freedom when statements are made with due deliberation and regard for the rights of others.
I agree that RA 10175 should be refined to prevent the valid concerns about its possible abuse or misuse by a tyrannical ruler. What I do not agree with is the hysteria that met the RA 10175, making it appear as revolting as the Marcos PD (Presidential Decree) 1081 that imposed martial law in 1972. E-martial law – that’s how the hysterical objectors called RA 10175. In their hysteria they demonstrated their fears that are mostly based on imagined curtailment of press freedom and they lost sight of the importance of RA 10175 for our national survival.
* * *
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hong Kong ruling on hostages not binding, says De Lima, but…


BY EVANGELINE DE VERA
MALAYA
THE Philippine government is not likely to honor the award for damages granted by a Hong Kong court to victims of the August 2010 Luneta hostage-taking incident in Manila where eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and seven others were injured during the 11-hour standoff.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday said the ruling of the Hong Kong high court is not binding on the Philippines.
“No foreign government can grant its citizens leave to sue another government and bind the other government to such an action. International law grants sovereignty to each nation and a primary character of this sovereignty is the immunity of states from suits,” she said.
“The grant of Hong Kong government to the relatives of the hostage victims has neither legal consequence nor significance in international law,” she added.
De Lima was apparently referring to the international law doctrine of comity of nations wherein one state, to the greatest extent possible, recognizes the legislative, executive or judicial acts of another, as states seek to fully assert their sovereignty and traditionally refuse to recognize or enforce the judicial decisions of others.
Under this principle, she said a government may be sued only with its consent, whether by a foreign government or citizens of that foreign government.
Thus, the Hong Kong court’s award of damages is nothing more than an “expression of moral support to the victims of the Luneta incident by their government,” she said.
Reports quoting the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) last October 12 said a high court master had granted a “Legal Aid Appeal” from survivors and relatives of the fatalities in the Aug. 23, 2010 incident.
In particular, they were demanding that the Philippine government issue a formal apology and provide compensation for the victims and their families.
Among those from whom they seek damages are those they believe were responsible for the bungled hostage rescue operation, including Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and the police force.
Democratic Party legislator James To was quoted in the report as saying the application for legal aid by the survivors and relatives of victims was rejected by the Hong Kong’s Legal Aid Department at first because the Philippines may invoke state immunity as a defense.
While President Aquino already expressed regret over the incident and admitted that the crisis should have been handled better, the government refused to apologize.
De Lima, who headed the Incident Investigation and Review Committee that probed the hostage-taking incident, said last year after a visit with her Chinese counterpart in Beijing that she would welcome the request of the hostage survivors and their families to inquire about the status of the cases against those found liable for the death of their loved ones.
She expressed doubt that the plans of the victims to file a lawsuit against the Philippine government, allegedly based on the prodding of some political figures in Hong Kong, would prosper.
However, she said they may file a civil suit under Philippine laws for payment of damages.
“Under the Philippine law and justice system, anyone has the right to seek redress by way of damage…If they are asking to consider negotiating for the purpose of getting compensation, the response is: nothing can prevent them from making demands,” she said.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios, another member of the IIRC, said the move of the victims to claim for damages should not come as a surprise.
“Some officials could be really held liable for negligence based on our report,” he said.
IBP spokeswoman Trixie Angeles said while the Hong Kong court may not be able to impose its ruling on the Philippine government, the Manila hostage survivors and their relatives can file a case in the Philippines against individual respondents.
Angeles said the hostage survivors may use the decision of the Hong Kong court as evidence in pursuing the case in the country.
“They may file the case here just to establish their right to sue the person responsible, but they cannot sue the government, unless the government waives its immunity from suit. They may file the case against persons not acting in their official capacity, or those who acted in excess of their official capacity,” she said.
However, the survivors may run into the “same obstacles” because government is not likely to waive its immunity, she said.
“That means that they will have to litigate the case here, which also requires the presentation of evidence and the acquisition of jurisdiction over the government. Even here, they will run into the same obstacle since the government cannot be sued without its consent,” she said.
The IIRC, which was formed to probe those responsible for the fiasco, originally identified 13 individuals as probably liable. However, when a two-man Malacañang panel reviewed the IIRC report, only SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza, the brother of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza, was charged in court.
Later on, President Aquino dismissed from service Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzales for failure to act immediately on Rolando’s administrative case.
A recent Supreme Court ruling reinstated Gonzales, saying Malacañang erred in dismissing him on alleged mishandling of the graft case against the hostage-taker, which triggered the hostage crisis.
Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus in Intramuros and commandeered the bus to the Luneta Park. After foiled talks with police negotiators, he shot the passengers. He was eventually killed by snipers.