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Friday, January 31, 2014

MNLF warns of wider war

by Jerry N. Adlaw Correspondent, Manila Times

An official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said on Wednesday the group could join forces with a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in waging war with the government if the Aquino administration continues to ignore the 1996 peace agreement the MNLF.

Ustadz Pendi Colano, chairman of the Selatan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee (SKSRC), a faction of the MNLF in Central Mindanao, aired the warning a day after government troops fought with rebels from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) led by Ameril Umbrakato in Maguindanao.

Colano said if President Benigno Aquino 3rd really wanted peace in Mindanao, he should not be the first to violate the pact signed by the MNLF and the government on September 2, 1996.
Colano described the signing of the Comprehensive Bangsamoro Agreement in 2012 as a “blundering misstep” of the Aquino administration.

“Instead of peace reigning in Mindanao, there is more disorder and confusion because the situation is getting more complicated,” Colano told The Manila Times.

He said the signing a peace deal with the MILF confirmed that the Aquino government had turned its back on the MNLF.

Colano added that the uncertainty in scheduling the tripartite meeting between the government and MNLF is part of the delaying tactics of the President who has made the Bangsamoro pact his priority.

“The review of the agreement with the MILF was rushed and there was no consultation with the people in Mindanao. In fact, Mindanaoans have no idea of the contents of that agreement,” he said.

Colano said there is no guarantee the agreement with the MILF will be honored by the next President who may have a different agenda.

He said the MNLF may be forced to link up with Umbrakato’s BIFF.

Clashes in Maguindanao between the BIFF, which is also opposed to the Bangsamoro agreement, and the military in the past days have left 37 BIFF members dead.

Colano said 60 percent of the 70,000 members of the MNLF across the Southern Philippines is ready to declare war on the government if the 1996 agreement is scuttled.

“For the meantime, we have been asking our state chairmen and commanders on the ground to stretch their patience . . . but if these MNLF commanders can no longer hold their patience, we cannot guarantee that they will not go against the provocative actions of President Aquino for setting aside the 1996 peace accord,” he said.

During the recent MNLF consultative forum held in Kabacan in North Cotabato, Jimmy Labawan, the MNLF vice chairman, said his group does not want to go to war but that the MNLF “reserves the right to fight for freedom as the need arises.”

Labawan said it is impossible to “integrate” the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the MNLF pact.

“We can only discuss the merging of both agreements after the coming 5th Tripartite Review Implementation Process but for the meantime, we strongly reject the proposed integration of both agreements,” he said.

President Aquino on Wednesday belittled attempts of peace “spoilers” such as the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf to derail the expected conclusion of the peace process with the MILF.

The President said the signing of all four annexes of the Framework agreement will ensure that the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can jointly run after rogue elements and private armed groups in Mindanao.

“We expect that after the signing of the agreement and the annexes, and as what is happening now, the MILF and the government are helping each other in going after these lawbreakers,” he told reporters.

“And such cooperation will be strengthened and we can run after those are determined to sow violence in Mindanao,” Aquino stressed.

Contrary to an earlier pronouncement by a Malacañang spokesman that the firefight in Maguindanao was triggered by government troops’ attempt to serve warrants of arrest on some individuals affiliated with the armed group, President Aquino said soldiers only countered attacks by the enemy.

“I understand that the current operations are due to the fact that they [BIFF] were engaging in harassment activities situated along the banks of the Pulangi River . . . sniping attacks and so on,” he explained.

He said even the Abu Sayyaf is against the peace pact because “they benefit from the status quo.”

Col. Dickson Hermoso said the rebels “set off improvised explosive devices and directed mortar fire on our troops. But they have splintered into smaller groups and our troops are now clearing these areas.”


With Joel Sy Egco and William Depasupil

http://manilatimes.net/mnlf-warns-of-wider-war/71772/

If The U.S. And Japan Don’t Deter China, Dominos Will Fall

The WorldPost
By Nathan Gardels   
Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of Japan’s leading paper, Asahi Shimbun, is chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and a member of The WorldPost Editorial Board. He spoke with The WorldPost last week.
Yoichi Funabashi, former editor-in-chief of Japan’s leading paper, Asahi Shimbun, is chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation and a member of The WorldPost Editorial Board. He spoke with The WorldPost last week.
THE WORLDPOST: How should the U.S. and Japan deal with the rising tensions with China over territorial claims in the East China Sea?
FUNABASHI: It is imperative for the U.S. and Japan to strengthen deterrence against the background of China’s more assertive posturing, particularly with respect to their territorial claims over the Senkaku Islands.
“If the US does not act robustly enough in defense of Japan, then its commitments anywhere will be called into question. Its credibility as an ally will be fundamentally undermined. We will see a new “domino effect” across the Asia-Pacific.”
Historically, the U.S.-Japan alliance has been structured as a kind of division of labor where the US used Okinawa and other installations as a base to project power and stabilize the region while Japan’s own territorial defense role has been blurred, Japan has supported U.S. global strategy in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but left its own backyard to the American umbrella.
This is the first time ever that a conflict has arisen directly related to Japan’s territorial security. That is testing the alliance. For the first time, Japan fears that it has a security risk where it cannot automatically rely on American protection. And it also fears that the U.S. may be tempted to avoid “entanglement” with the US-Japan alliance over the Sino-Japanese territorial, and possibly military, conflicts.
Senkaku is very different from the other disputes in the South China Sea. The United States controlled the region around Senkaku between 1945 and 1972 before Okinawa became part of Japan. Okinawa remains one of the largest US air and marine bases anywhere, one of the “three pillars” of its global defense posture. Also, it is very close to Senkaku, which is why these islands are a focal point for security.
For all these reasons, the U.S. and Japan cannot just stand by as China becomes more aggressive. Unless China backs off, the US will at some point be obliged to intervene or force Japan to act on its own. But at what point, in what way?
The situation is truly perilous. This is not just Japan and China fighting over some rocks in unknown waters; it is the heart of the U.S. military alliance system. If the U.S. does not act robustly enough in defense of Japan, then its commitments anywhere will be called into question. Its credibility as an ally will be fundamentally undermined.
In that event, we may see a new “domino effect” in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. There are plenty of other maritime security threats in the East and South China Sea that have been contained by the U.S. presence. If Japan questions the US commitment, so will everyone else: South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.
It is therefore imperative for the U.S. and Japan to map out a new strategy. Military planners in the U.S. are keenly aware of all this. They have sent a clear message to Japanese political leaders that Japan should refrain from nationalist agitation and provocative acts.
Restraint combined with a deterrence I call “quiet deterrence.” There are four elements to this quiet deterrence strategy.
First, we need to make clear that the U.S.-Japan alliance is not designed to contain and encircle China, or make it an enemy. That is not doable. It is too big. It is too interdependent. And we are all too interlinked economically.
Second, we must make it clear to China that becoming more aggressive will be counter-productive for its own interests; that aggressive acts will dismantle the stability –- which has been the condition of its rapid development — that has arisen from its “peaceful rise” posture. If it continues to follow this course, China will breed hostility instead of cooperation and undermine the successful foreign policy it has pursued for the last 30 years.
We must make it clear that the growing power of the military, navy and oil “mafias” in China who are pressing this new aggressive course are putting China’s development at risk.
In the West, in turn, we need to be aware of this internal dynamic and not inflame the nationalist sentiments which will further empower these forces.
When dealing with the maritime disputes, we have to take into account China’s tendency toward “reactive assertiveness.” China always has a pre-meditated action plan to change the status quo on the ground. China has tended to restrain itself while pressuring neighboring countries into a provocation. When the neighboring countries over-react, then China will seize the moment to make a permanent geo-political change.
You may remember former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s “passive aggressive” behavior. China’s approach is not dis-similar from that.
So, a deterrence strategy must be very careful not to play into China’s narrative.
THE WORLDPOST: Yet, this is just what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did recently by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine where, among others, the souls of WWII war criminals are enshrined?
FUNABASHI: That was very unfortunate. Definitely, this act played into the hands of those in China with a more aggressive posture.
The third element of quiet deterrence is to build a coalition of the other like-minded countries in the region to pursue this strategy. In doing so, we must not force the ASEAN countries somehow to decide between the US and China. No ASEAN country wants to make that unpleasant choice. All of them want security, and they all want prosperity, which is very much linked to trade with China.
So, don’t try to divide ASEAN.
Finally, we should not make the mistake of giving only a military cast to deterrence. It has to be bolstered by economic and financial dimensions and be rooted in the larger international order.
In light of this, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is critical. It would be a big mistake to exclude China from this proposed free-trade pact. Including China, perhaps in a later stage, will bolster those who support China’s “opening up and reform” policies against the forces of fledgling nationalism in the military and elsewhere.
By inducing China to reduce the role of its state-owned enterprises as a condition for joining TPP, we can help China avoid “the middle income trap” and further empower the growing middle class that will be an ally for a continuing “peaceful rise” and against counter-productive aggressive behavior.
This is the most crucial strategic bridge we can build with China. It is the greatest deterrence.
Bringing China into a free trade zone with the US and the rest of Asia will consolidate all the stabilizing forces in Asia and, at the same time, dampen the nationalist tendencies not only in China, but in Japan and South Korea as well.

Orchestrated Collapse

By Erick San Juan    

China-flag.2From prophecynewswatch.com which was sent to me through e-mail stated that – Financial institutions the world over are sounding the alarm of the possibility of a massive default in China, come January 31, 2014. If this should happen, it could lead to a cascading collapse of China’s entire banking system, which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit”.
In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia. And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States and to the world as well.
Some may wonder why on January 31, the Chinese New Year?
From Tyler Durden’s article published at http://www.zerohedge.com – “CNY represents China’s official currency. It also stands for Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday for the country and the occasion for family reunions and celebration. But less familiar for many, however, the Year (?) itself actually stood for a beast which comes out every 365 days and eats everything along the way from bugs to humans. The holiday tradition started as a way for people to fend off the beast by getting together and lighting up the firecrackers.
At the same time, Chinese custom dictated that people should also pay their due to avoid becoming the beast’s target. In particular, it has been a tradition to settle all debt before the New Year. From the perspective of such folk culture, the trust product Credit Equals Gold #1, referred as CEQ1 hereafter, by China Credit Trust planned poorly for having the maturing date on the New Year, leaving a 3bn CNY beast running wild.”
With a picture like this that will happen on the 31st of this month, some analysts see things based on study of history that 2014 (after a hundred years since the First World War), it seems that the same present scenario is heading the world to another war. Actually some economists too expressed their analysis as follows (from washington’s blog):
“A continuation of bailouts in Europe could ultimately spark another world war,” says international investor Jim Rogers.
“Add debt, the situation gets worse, and eventually it just collapses. Then everybody is looking for scapegoats. Politicians blame foreigners, and we’re in World War II or World War whatever.”
Marc Faber says that the American government will start new wars in response to the economic crisis:
“The next thing the government will do to distract the attention of the people on bad economic conditions is they’ll start a war somewhere.”
“If the global economy doesn’t recover, usually people go to war.”
We’re in the middle of a global currency war – i.e. a situation where nations all compete to devalue their currencies the most in order to boost exports. And Brazilian president-elect Rousseff said in 2010:
‘The last time there was a series of competitive devaluations … it ended in world war two.’
Jim Rickards agrees:
Currency wars lead to trade wars, which often lead to hot wars. In 2009, Rickards participated in the Pentagon’s first-ever “financial” war games. While expressing confidence in America’s ability to defeat any other nation-state in battle, Rickards says the U.S. could get dragged into “asymmetric warfare,” if currency wars lead to rising inflation and global economic uncertainty.
As does Jim Rogers:
‘Trade wars always lead to wars.’
Even in You Tube, most popular analysts like Gerald Celente. Glenn Beck, Jesse Ventura and others are all giving their self fulfilling prophesy. Even George Soros has predicted (orchestrated?) this possible impending collapse.
Forewarned is forearmed as the rest of the world may be preparing for the worst case scenario but sadly here in our country there is too much politicking already for the next election (if there is going to be one).
“The writing is on the wall” or the future is predetermined by the actions taken by men as much as people repeating history, well in this case – another World War One or a Great War in the offing.
Let us pray that the Chinese New Year will bring better things but as always it is all up to us what life will bring us if we will all work harder and avoid the unnecessary war created by the greed and stupidity of the world’s elite.

What’s wrong with the DOJ that makes Davao City Mayor Duterte so angry?

Frankly Speaking
By Frank Wenceslao
Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte
A PAMUSA legal adviser has been asking me to urge President Aquino and Executive Secretary Ochoa to sit down with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and clarify if the three are on the same page in the dispensation of justice.
The above gained importance when Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte went public and chided the DOJ Secretary for his frustration on the slow-moving investigation of rice smuggling that he perceived “criminal negligence.” That led another Pamusa legal adviser to ask why the DOJ is investigating a smuggling case when it’s a violation of the Tariff and Customs Code under the Bureau of Customs. There’s also the question why tax evasion cases and other Internal Revenue Code violations are investigated by the DOJ?
Leila de Lima
Leila de Lima
I’ve resisted criticizing the DOJ up to now in order not to repeat my mistake early in Aquino’s presidency when De Lima apparently took my questions on the DOJ’s program against graft and corruption as critical of her credentials. I could sense she’s punishing me up to now by being personal in rejecting the anticorruption tools and weapons I’ve advised her to adopt. True, graft and corruption can’t be eradicated until an international agreement has closed loopholes for government officials, their family members and close associates or private businessmen and individuals stop colluding and covering up each other in amassing ill-gotten assets from the proceeds of corruption but it can at least be minimized instead of resurging as many now feel is happening during the Aquino administration.
Since the Philippine criminal justice system hasn‘t effectively addressed graft and corruption, Filipinos tend to dismiss anticorruption U.S. laws, which could prove the undoing of former President Joseph Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Michael Ray Aquino, Reynaldo Tenorio and former BW Gaming and Entertainment president Dante Tan who prompted me to comment in my next column about the recently decided damage suit that Bubby Dacer’s children filed against them in San Francisco’s Federal Court presided by Judge William Alsup.
Meanwhile, our legal advisers believe to have found what’s wrong with the DOJ after examining two (2) originals of the same DOJ letter dated 4 December 2013 Ref: LML-L-04l13-1443 signed by De Lima in blue ink sent to me; hence, one wasn’t a copy of the other. The first was scanned, emailed as attachment and received by me last Christmas Day to which I replied to and argued the opinion was wrong; while the second was received one month later on 1/25/14 via airmail.
Even Pamusa’s non-legal advisers have concluded there’s confusion in the DOJ’s record-management which appears to be out of control. The identical originals of the letter contain the same legal opinions of Section 1 (Declaration of Policy) and Section 2 (Mandate) of the Administrative Code of the Philippines concerning the DOJ, as follows:
1. The designation of a legal attaché abroad I recommended to work with Pamusa to fight Philippine corruption by seeking U.S. assistance isn’t allowed in the Code; and
2. Only the DOJ is mandated to “administer the criminal justice in accordance with the accepted processes thereof.” This explains why De Lima is present in every discovery of a high-profile crime with photo-op making statements that could compromise the evidence that eventually the government case may rest in smuggling, tax evasion, electric power generation and distribution and pricing, etc.
The opinion-writer as though a second thought added as follows: “Anent the designation of a private corporation as a partner in prosecuting criminal offenses, suffice it to say that the prosecution of criminal offenses is a governmental function and cannot be delegated to private corporations or organizations.”
By a stroke of a pen, the opinion-writer passed a law (or is it a decree?) that prohibits sending legal attaches abroad and disallowing members of law firms that are basically private corporations or partnerships to act as private prosecutors in criminal cases. However, our legal advisers saw through the opinion to simply conform with De Lima’s opposition for the DOJ to enter into a cooperative agreement with Pamusa to bring action simultaneously in the U.S. against Filipinos accused of corruption if they may have violated similar Philippine and U.S. criminal laws.
After reading the letter signed by De Lima, even a non-lawyer like me concluded she has lost control of DOJ. For how could she uphold such nonsensical opinions, let alone sign the letter ratifying them? It’s therefore up to President Aquino and Ochoa to judge De Lima has the legal competence and management ability to administer a big justice department like DOJ. I may hasten to add that one doesn’t need to be a lawyer that objectively interpreted the operative clause of Sec. 1 (Declaration of Policy), “administer the criminal justice in accordance with the accepted processes thereof” means using every available means in administering the criminal justice system including the UNCAC and the latest international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) of which the Philippines is a party.
Besides, the declaration of policy isn’t a provision of law but merely a guide how far execution may go so that there won’t be a need for legislation every time disagreement arises on the real intent of the law whether in its letter or spirit.
Aquino and Ochoa must now confront their doubts if De Lima’s recommendations submitted to them in the last 4 years, say, to pardon or parole a convict with years still to serve might’ve been based on wrong legal opinions? Could De Lima really allow a twisted legal opinion to serve her purpose? How could she uphold an opinion the Philippines isn’t allowed by law to send legal attaches abroad when since the July 4, 1946 the country has been sending commercial, BIR, labor and other attaches as a practical, economic and wise budgetary solution to perennial lack of funds for promoting the country abroad?
The truth is Janet Napoles and co-conspirators especially Sen. Bong Revilla won’t be belligerent as they are and probably would’ve considered a plea agreement faster if the Bangko Sentral or its implementing arm on money laundering (AMLC) followed where the money went in Napoles various scams. Had the DOJ cooperated with Pamusa and we were tipped that proceeds of the scams were brought to the U.S., we could’ve asked the FBI to investigate, which in turn would’ve asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s FinCEN if there have such suspicious inflows of money from the Philippines.
Considering that Pamusa has been authorized by the FBI since 11/14/07 to participate in fighting corruption, we could’ve most likely prevented Napoles’ scams to continue had De Lima accepted Pamusa’s cooperation early in the Aquino administration. In fact, De Lima and I were delegates to the first International Corruption Hunters Conference in Washington, DC in Dec. 2010 and we could’ve established a cooperative framework and most probably Aquino’s “Tuwid na Landas” to fight corruption would’ve been very credible and its resurgence during his administration would’ve been checked.
De Lima from the outset has shown wariness of Pamusa as probable competitor and would earn the credit that belonged to her. Or, she’s afraid Pamusa will comply faster with the UNCAC provision because U.S. law enforcement agencies gather evidence and file charges in court faster than the DOJ as would happen with Janet Napoles and her co-conspirators especially members of Congress like Sen. Bong Revilla and their staffers, to wit:
“Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.”
Pamusa hasn’t been remiss in offering our services borne out of 6-year research on fighting corruption to Ochoa and his assistant Ronaldo Geron, PCGG Chairman Bautista with the commission members and others concerned. My problem is they themselves might be covering up people with unexplained wealth if not themselves and won’t let Pamusa be near it. Lest they’d be the first to be caught. Or, are they constrained by tayo-tayo system?
Then, they must be complicit with De Lima’s objection to work with Pamusa and the use of the latest anticorruption tools, weapons, prosecutorial discretion, UNCAC and other ICAACs. If there’s an iota of truth to this suspicion, the Aquino administration’s highest officials don’t seem to care if the country’s unabated graft and corruption is coming back. They don’t seem worried history will blame them for the resurgence of graft and corruption becoming worse than in the Marcos dictatorship and fast becoming like the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 from which the Philippines will never recover.
Pamusa’s organizers, supporters and volunteers all of whom voted for Aquino collectively ask if the President realized his administration is now locked on a slippery slope and doomed to fail with the continuing loss of opportunities to turn around the nation’s rapid deterioration due to resurging graft and corruption. They also collectively ask if President Aquino and his top officials don’t realize the law is not a solution but merely a catalyst to connect the dots that when properly put together make up good governance.
In baseball, after 3 strikes a batter is out so let’s look at the record. After only three months of the administration, Finance Secretary Purisima and BIR Comm. Henares announced to have endorsed to the DOJ over 30 tax evasion cases which reached 39 after I stopped counting. Thus far, the DOJ hasn’t filed in court against a single “big-fish” out of these 39 tax evasion cases. Strike 1.
The DOJ under De Lima reported that Janet Napoles began her series of pork barrel scams in the Arroyo administration. With the unexpected success of the hundreds of millions of pesos of pork barrel funds her fake NGOs got, Napoles et al. decided to try new and bigger sources such as the Malampaya fund and the Disbursement Program (DAP) that multiplied Napoles’ take. This is already during the Aquino administration. Strike 2.
Yet, to date not a single court hearing has been held to begin the trial of Napoles or any of her co-conspirators, let alone the accused members of Congress especially Sen. Revilla and staffers and other high-profile criminal cases. Strike 3.
There are, of course, more strikes such the Mindanao Massacre, Atimonan shoot-out and hundreds of crimes pending investigation and court filing whose resolution can’t be decided because De Lima wants to personally review each but she’s decided photo-ops are more important that she often spends the whole day in Senate and House hearings where she has been reduced to an eye-witness identifying, for instance, the suspected rice smuggler, Dante Tan.

PNoy’s Machiavellian mantra: The end justifies the means

FLIPSIDE
By Atty. Dodo Dulay 
The Manila Times
Noynoy.36Senator Bong Revilla’s privilege speech confirmed what many ordinary Filipinos already know: that PNoy’s “tuwid na daan”—the centerpiece of his supposed moral crusade in government—is nothing more than a convenient alibi for the “take down” of his political targets.
According to Revilla, PNoy personally tried to influence the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona by asking for the latter’s head right inside Bahay Pangarap, the presidential residence. “Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan sya ma-impeach. (Do this for me as a favor. He has to be impeached.),” PNoy reportedly said.
Although PNoy has his own version of his conversation with Revilla, what is clear is that by clandestinely meeting and talking with a senator-judge about an on-going trial, PNoy has shown that he is not above using any scheme or tactic—be it devious, underhanded or treacherous—to get what he wants.
That PNoy sees nothing wrong with what he did only makes the Bahay Pangarap incident even more alarming. This mindset, many observers say, reflects the Machiavellian philosophy that “the end justifies the means.”
“What I was trying to do was basically ensure that they decide the case on the merits of the case rather than any other outside factor . . . I would have been very irresponsible if I just let those who were exerting pressure to have their way without addressing this or doing something to counter this pressure,” Aquino explained.
But isn’t PNoy “doing something to counter (the) pressure” also an admission that he applied pressure on some senator-judges? And since it was common knowledge that PNoy was quarterbacking the ouster of Corona, isn’t telling senator-judges “that they should decide the case on the merits” tantamount to a veiled threat?
PNoy also admits telling senator-judges that he was ready to give his support “if they [did] what was right.” But why volunteer to “support” senator-judges when they weren’t even asking for it? Isn’t that just another way of saying that senator-judges would be rewarded if they voted to convict Corona? Isn’t that bribery?
Clearly, PNoy’s actions were meant to influence the decision of senator-judges while Corona’s impeachment trial was on-going. In the United States, that would constitute the crime of “jury tampering.” And that cloak-and-dagger tactics were employed to reach out to a senator-judge further bolstered the belief of many thinking Filipinos that PNoy and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas knew they were committing an unethical, if not illegal, act.
Of course, PNoy’s political allies were quick to defend his meeting with Revilla, arguing that an impeachment trial is political and not judicial in nature.
We don’t know where they got this absurd legal theory.
What we do know is that the constitutional guarantee of due process and fair play dictates that all defendants are entitled to nothing less than “the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.”
The Aquino administration’s seeming contempt for people’s civil liberties probably explains why it has no scruples in using “tainted” conspirators-turned-whistleblowers as so-called “state witnesses” against its political foes.
Several months ago, we asked in this space why admitted criminals were being prematurely granted immunity from prosecution by the Department of Justice (DOJ) despite serious flaws in their stories—and credibility.
Take the case, for instance, of pork scam whistleblower Ben Hur Luy whose story Revilla revealed to be “full of holes.”
We recall that Luy claimed to have given PDAF money to lawyer Richard Cambe, a member of Revilla’s Senate staff. Based on his ledger, Luy even gave a date and time when he handed the money over to Cambe.
According to Revilla, Luy’s allegations are patently untrue because Cambe was out of the country on the date and time that the whistleblower said he met with Cambe.
Revilla presented photos of Cambe’s passport and airline records showing that Cambe could not have met with Luy because he was not even in the Philippines at the time.
Revilla also said that, contrary to the whistleblowers’ claims, he did not sign documents endorsing dubious foundations as recipients of his PDAF. As proof, Revilla flashed on the screen two sets of signatures to show as “clear as sunrise” that the “documents that they’re using as evidence against [him] are not [his].”
These forgeries, Revilla pointed out, were the handiwork of Luy, whom the senator tagged as “Boy Pirma” because of the whistleblower’s own admission that he is an expert in forging lawmakers’ signatures to expedite the paperwork on their PDAF.
“Inamin ng kanilang whistleblower na eksperto siya sa panggagaya at pamemeke ng pirma. Ibig sabihin, sila ang gumagawa ng lahat ng dokumento mula sa endorsement ng proyekto pati mismong pag-notaryo,” Revilla said.
We’re certain the serious blows inflicted by Revilla on Luy’s credibility will have an adverse impact on the cases filed by De Lima. But then, that’s always the problem when you use tainted witnesses to pin down your enemies.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

HUMONGOUS

By REY O. ARCILLA  
Malaya
(GSIS head, Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, received the obscenely humongous remuneration of P16.36 million in 2012 alone, according to COA. What has Noynoy got to say about that?)
Robert Vergara (Photo credit: Rappler)
Robert Vergara (Photo credit: Rappler)
He was sidelined for a while for being such a bad presidential mouthpiece and was even rumored to be considered for a seat in the Supreme Court. (What?! Mabuti na lang hindi raw siya interesado.)
But for some unknown reason, Edwin Lacierda, the Boy Pickup of pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles when he fetched and brought her to Malacanang ostensibly to surrender to President Noynoy Aquino, is again back in full swing as a purveyor of government information and disinformation.
In fact, he is as of this writing (January 28) in Kuala Lumpur attending as an observer (kuno) of the ongoing talks between the government and the MILF panels on the hoped-for Bangsamoro state. So he could talk sensibly in case he is asked to brief the media on the matter? That’s good.
Lacierda really needs to be more forthright and sensible, especially after the disinformation he had just spewed out on the matter of excessively huge bonuses and allowances of Noynoy’s appointees to government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), courtesy of the useless Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) headed by Cesar Villanueva.
He obviously did not know whereof he spoke when he said that the highest emolument that GOCC board members can get now is P3 million a year.
Apparently, this fellow does not know that, for instance, the head and vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, got the obscenely humongous remuneration of P16.36 million in 2012 alone, according to COA, making him the highest paid government servant! Anong say mo?
Incidentally, according to the GCG website, the following cabinet members are in the governing board of various GOCCs, some with multiple membership as of 21 January 2014: Ona-DOH, Abad-DBM, Purisima-DOF, Baldoz-DOLE, Domingo-DTI, Balisacan-NEDA, Alcala-DA, Luistro-DEPED, Singson-DPWH, Ochoa-ES, Paje-DENR, Gazmin-DND, Abaya-DOTC, Petilla-DE, and Del Rosario-DFA.
The following officials are also in other GOCC governing boards: Duque-CSC, Vergara-GSIS, De Quiros-SSS and Tetangco-BSP.
Question: How much did these officials get in terms of bonuses and per diems from the GOCC boards where they sit? Now, be honest! Remember, daang matuwid!
******
After the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s move to postpone once again the resumption of the oral arguments on the un/constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), it is hoped that the Court will now decide promptly on the issue.
This evil thing called pork barrel in all its form has to go. Everybody is of the view that it should be the number one priority of the Aquino administration to be consistent with its daang matuwid policy.
Unfortunately, Noynoy himself doesn’t want to let go of his pork barrel. He should. It is good for the country. It is what his bosses want!
******
After more than three and a half years in power, Noynoy has not really accomplished much. The much-vaunted economic progress since he took office has not really made an impact on his bosses. On the contrary, 55% of the people now claim that their lives have become even worse.
Criminality is increasing at an alarming rate. The drug problem has become so widespread that the incidence of gruesome crimes has multiplied.
Graft and corruption has become even more rampant, as perceived by businessmen.
Smuggling alone has deprived the government of billions of pesos in revenue.
Even the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona has not led to the hoped-for improvement in the country’s judicial system. There is still rampant corruption in the judiciary today.
Noynoy’s promise of a Freedom of Information law is still hanging fire. So does the Reproductive Health law.
In short, his campaign slogans of “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap” and “daang matuwid” are abject failures up to this point. With barely two and a half years left, last two minutes in Noynoy’s words, it isn’t likely much of what he has set out to do will be achieved.
Even the implementation of a final peace agreement with the MILF is still uncertain, notwithstanding the accord reached on the annex on normalization. The emergence of a Bangsamoro will take a while yet, maybe even beyond the end of Noynoy’s term in June 2016.
Although it is still a bit early to hand down a verdict on what he has accomplished in the field of foreign affairs, it looks like there is nothing much to crow about there either.
Our relations with China, with which we should have been talking in earnest from the start, is not on an even keel.
Neither is our relations with the United States which is now trying to bamboozle us into going back to the days before Mt. Pinatubo helped us get rid of her military bases here in 1991. And with a foreign secretary and an ambassador in Washington who both appear to be more pro-American than pro-Filipino, I dread the day when a lopsided agreement on the so-called increased rotational presence of US troops in our midst would make us a virtual American colony once again.
Noynoy (and his minions) had better get cracking from now on if he wants at least some of the things he had set out to do for the national good gets done. Time is of the essence. Last two minutes, remember?
******
Alleged plunderers Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada both said that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was present together with DILG Secretary Mar Roxas when they met with Noynoy at the latter’s Pangarap residence.
Both also confirmed that the subject discussed was the then ongoing impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The question that people are now asking is what has a budget secretary got to do with an impeachment trial? Why was he there? Were there budget implications in the trial? And what did he mean when he allegedly said “let us help each other”?
We, of course, now know that, according to Noynoy himself, 9 percent or more than P1 billion of the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) concocted by Abad went to twenty senators in varying amounts.
Draw your own conclusion.
******
Noynoy began his term with bitter criticism of the alleged anomalies that took place in the National Food Authority during the unlamented Arroyo regime. Billions of pesos squandered and millions of tons of rice rotted in warehouses. He even said there were documentary evidence to prove the guilt of those responsible beyond reasonable doubt. Strangely too, he kept mouthing the same thing whenever he went abroad.
Alas, what has he done to right the wrong that took place in the NFA? Nada!
I am, therefore, not surprised that he has uttered nary a word on the scandalous and unmitigated smuggling of rice that is now hogging the headlines. His secretary of agriculture Proceso Alcala has been charged with plunder, not once, not twice, but thrice. Still Noynoy seems unperturbed. What gives? His bosses want to know.
*****
Although she may have the hide of a rhinoceros, surely Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Zenaida Ducut can read the proverbial handwriting on the wall.
Malacanang already said she can either resign or be suspended. Two solons have already formally accused her of gross neglect of duty for approving the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate increase of electricity last month without consulting the public.
Ducut was also charged late last year in the Ombudsman for malversation in connection with the pork barrel scam.
But she’s still around.
I am reminded of what Noynoy once said about Bureau of Customs officials:
“Saan kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga taong ito?”, or some such words.
******
Reminders (for Noynoy):
1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA) during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency.
2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and ordering his successor, Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former.
Noynoy should also order Vergara to report to him on COA’s findings that:
(a) He received the obscenely excessive compensation of P16.36 million last year making him the highest paid government servant and;
(b) That, as of seven or eight months ago, at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.
COA also said the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.
There are three questions being raised when remittances, or parts thereof, of government agencies are not recorded by the GSIS on time: a) Where are these huge sums “parked” in the meantime?; b) Do they earn interest?; and c) To where (whom?) does the interest, if any, go?
Pray tell, Mr. Vergara, what is the present status of these funds, including those that may have been remitted since and not yet recorded by the GSIS?
3) Facilitating the investigation of rampant corruption in the military and police establishments.
4) Resort to his immense presidential powers to expedite the resolution of the Ampatuan massacre case that is now on its fourth year.
******
Today is the 254th day of the seventh year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance
The Justice Department has dismissed the charges against several of those accused in Jonas’ disappearance. Cleared were former AFP chiefs of staff Hermogenes Esperon and Alexander Yano, ex-PNP chief Avelino Razon, retired Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ano and Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano. Only Maj. Harry Baliaga will be charged for arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice on the disappearance of Jonas.
“Pwedeng kasuhan ang kamay ng krimen pero ang utak ay hindi?” rued Lorena Santos, daughter of a desaparecido like Jonas.
Mr. President, is this what you meant when you called for a “focused, dedicated and exhaustive” probe of what really happened to Jonas?
******
From an internet friend:
MY NEW BOYFRIENDS! I am seeing 5 gentlemen (give or take) every day! As soon as I wake up, Will Power helps me get out of bed. Then I go to see John. Then Arthur Ritis shows up and stays the rest of the day. He doesn’t like to stay in one place very long so he takes me from joint to joint. After such a busy day, I’m really tired and very glad to go to bed with Earl Grey. What a life! Oh, yes, I’m also flirting with Al Zymer; or whatever his name is. I forget! And I’m thinking of calling Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Johnny Walker to come over and keep me company. Now remember: Life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. So have fun, think ‘good thoughts’ only, learn to laugh at yourself, and count your blessings!
******
Email: roacrosshairs@outlook.com

‘50,000 tons of rice smuggled weekly’

By Christina Mendez 
The Philippine Star 
Smuggled-rice.2MANILA, Philippines – As much as 50,000 tons of rice were smuggled every week last year, a ranking Customs official revealed yesterday.
Responding to a question of Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile at a Senate hearing, Customs Deputy Commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero said, “At its height they were bringing in 2,000 containers a week.”
Uvero said that would translate to 50,000 tons a week at 25 tons per 20-foot shipping container.
Dissatisfied with Uvero’s answers, Enrile said the Bureau of Customs (BOC) must strengthen its intelligence units to fight smuggling.
“We give you money for intelligence, what do you use it for?” Enrile asked.
Uvero said BOC operations were limited since its intelligence funds amounted to only P5 million last year.
He also lamented that BOC collectors who are tasked to collect P25 million are paid a “low” P60,000 a month.
Enrile said the BOC must have Malacañang’s backing and the cooperation of different agencies to wipe out smuggling.
“I’m not trying to embarrass you,” he said. “But I’m raising this question by way of triggering an effort because this is happening. We know it… This is a government effort, not just a BOC effort, to arrest the entry of untaxed products into the country. You cannot stop smuggling without the participation of Malacañang, and I’m talking from experience.”
Enrile said when he was Customs commissioner during the Marcos administration, he had the full backing of Malacañang to stamp out smuggling.
“I’m sure the President is interested, he must be giving you full backing,” he said. “What I’m saying is the entire government must exert effort, not just one agency.”
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Senate committee ways and means chairman, agreed with Enrile that any effort to crush smuggling needs the support of the administration.
“I think the signals from Malacañang had been clear that it has the backing, and I agree with Senator Enrile’s assessment that without the backing of the Palace any campaign against smuggling will not succeed.”
Modernization
Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla said computerization will maximize efficiency at the BOC and sought the private audit of Customs operations to ensure transparency.
Sevilla told the committee that the BOC must maximize information technology (IT) systems to allow it to minimize exemptions in their transactions.
With an effective IT system in place, human contact and human intervention will be minimized to curb corruption, he added.
Angara said he supports calls to modernize the BOC to stamp out corruption and smuggling.
“Although enforcement is largely a fight of the executive branch, we are prioritizing these anti-smuggling measures so Congress can aid the government in the fight and we want to ensure that they have the weapons to do so and are not unduly hampered,” he said.
Angara said the BOC needs a “shake-up” or reshuffle of port collectors to avoid too much familiarization with anomalous businessmen, who try to go around the laws and smuggle goods to the country.
He was quite satisfied with the answers of BOC officials, particularly since they had just been appointed, he added.
The committee will be requiring more thorough data and figures in future hearings, Angara said.
The Senate committee tackled the Customs and Tariff Modernization Bill and different versions of anti-smuggling bills, including S. No. 168 – Customs and Tariff Modernization Act of 2013; S. Nos. 442, 456, 741 & 882 – Anti-Smuggling Act; P.S. Res. No. 444 – Inquiry on the study conducted by the Federation of Philippine Industries which found that the government lost more than P1.33 trillion in revenue from 2002 to 2011 due to technical smuggling through the country’s ports.
Conducting the hearing was the Senate ways and means committee chaired by Angara.

Peace gets another chance

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas
BIFF-rebels.2Mindanao gets another chance at lasting peace with the signing of the final annexes to the framework agreement that would pave the way for a Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro. Members of the negotiating panels were optimistic that the final peace agreement would be signed in March or April in Kuala Lumpur.
As a Filipino and as a journalist who has watched developments in Mindanao for decades, we have always hoped that peace would finally come to that land of promise and give the beleaguered people a chance to finally lead normal lives and the region’s economy an opportunity to finally live up to its promise.
The promise of Mindanao has been stunted by the decades-old insurgency and hopefully, with peace in the horizon, the region would flourish with its rich mineral resources, verdant agricultural lands, and rich fishing grounds. And hopefully, with the Moro people finally no longer feeling abandoned and ignored, they will live in peace with the Christians and other tribes to lead Mindanao to its long-delayed prosperity.
But while the new peace agreement gives us hope, it also brings fears and uncertainties. Will the new peace accord be acceptable to all parties in the region? Will the Muslim rebels finally lay down their arms – all their weapons – as mandated by the peace accord? Will the Moro National Liberation Front, under Nur Misuari, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, under MILF renegade Ameril Umbra Kato, finally decide to join the MILF in embracing peace?
Will the final peace agreement and its enabling law be approved by the people of Mindanao in a plebiscite? Remember that Christians remain the majority in the region, and that many of them feel that they were not consulted on the issues raised in the negotiations.
It is almost certain that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, once signed, would be challenged before the Supreme Court as to its constitutionality. Will it pass muster before the justices? Or will the peace accord go the way of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in August 2008, sending the negotiating panels back to square one?
If Congress convenes to amend the Constitution to legalize the peace accord’s provisions, will the sought-after provisions pas the body even without President Aquino dangling pork barrel funds?
What if the Supreme Court junks the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or any of its provisions or Congress fails to amend the Constitution to fix whatever unconstitutional provisions it has, will it not trigger an even bigger war? This was what happened in 2008 after the Court junked the MOA on Ancestral Domain when forces of Umbra Kato and two other MILF commanders attacked several towns in Central Mindanao, resulting in the death of 44 people, including 23 soldiers.
But the biggest stumbling block to peace remains Misuari’s MNLF and Umbra Kato’s BIFF.
In August last year, Misuari criticized the government’s failure to comply with the provisions of the 1996 Tripoli peace agreement and warned of renewed war if the government abrogates the accord that was reached during the time of President Ramos. MNLF leaders also warned of war in Mindanao if the government were to sign a final agreement with the MILF and continued to ignore the peace pact with the MNLF.
As if to prove they are still a force to reckon with, rebels belonging to the Nur Misuari-led MNLF attacked several villages in Zamboanga and Basilan provinces in September, resulting in the death of 203 people, the destruction of several homes, and the evacuation of thousands of war-weary residents.
“The MNLF has demonstrated its capability to make trouble,” said Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research. He was referring to the MNLF headed by Misuari, a former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, which was involved in the Zamboanga standoff. “It can undermine the peace dividends; it can spoil the whole process and even hijack the agenda of the new Bangsamoro government.”
Muslimin Sema, chairman of the MNLF Committee of 15, said on Sunday: “The MNLF has spoken. We do not reject outright any agreement to be reached by the GPH and the MILF. Our reluctance to recognize stands from the point of view that the 1996 Final Peace Agreement is a final agreement for one people and one territory that has never reached culmination, it is still under review.”
The MNLF said if the new peace accord is signed, Mindanao will see a realignment of forces, with several MILF rebels joining Umbra Kato’s BIFF and eventually the MNLF.
Just two days after the signing of the final annex of the framework agreement, the military preempted any moves by the BIFF when government forces raided several camps of the BIFF in Maguindanao, killing 17 rebels and sending civilians scampering to safety.
The raids would only send wrong signals to both MNLF and BIFF rebels that the government is indeed leaving them out. Besides, the amnesty offered by the government was exclusively for MILF rebels and excluded any other insurgent groups. Perhaps, the government should have offered the amnesty to all Muslim insurgents just to prove that the peace the agreement offers is for everybody, not just the MILF.
In any case, let us just hope that the peace pact with the MILF would overcome all obstacles and that peace would reign at last in the troubled region of Central Mindanao. The people of Mindanao deserve it; the country needs it.
(valabelgas@aol.com)