Friday, February 28, 2014

Increased rotational presence of the US

(Once concluded, Noynoy is duty-bound to let his bosses know the terms and conditions of the agreement and what we are getting in return for it.)
(File Photo)
(File Photo)
The case of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Cadet Jeff Aldrin Cudia has been hogging the headlines for the past week. Cudia, No. 2 in the 2014 PMA graduating class, has been dismissed from the Academy for reportedly violating the PMA Honor Code.
The Code states: “We, cadets, do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate among us those who do so.”
A good code imbued upon the future military officers and leaders of the nation’s armed forces. But now, people are wondering… how come many PMA alumni seem to have forgotten or discarded the Code when they reached positions of responsibility in the armed forces, not the least of which were those who became AFP chiefs of staff and have allegedly availed of the “pasalubong” and “pabaon” system whereby an incoming AFP chief automatically gets a certain amount and given another sum when he retires. And how can one forget the infamous Gen. Carlos Garcia, former AFP Comptroller?
While on the subject, I believe it is time the government heeded the advice of retired Lt. Gen. Antonio Sotelo to establish separate academies for the air force, navy and the coast guard. At least, the national police now has its own academy from where future officers of the police force, including its chief, will be drawn. The force has always been headed by PMA graduates.
There is no check and balance in the armed forces, Sotelo says. PMAers control the military through a “mistah system”. “We have officers who want to preserve the elitism of the PMA”, he adds.
Gen. Sotelo, whom I have the privilege of knowing personally, is a genuine hero of EDSA I People Power revolt against the Marcos regime. He was the commanding general of the Philippine Air Force when he retired.
President Noynoy Aquino is going on a state visit to Malaysia this week but will not take up the question of Sabah with the Malaysian leader.
Bakit naman? Can he not at least ask about the hundreds of Filipinos whose human rights have been reportedly violated by Malaysian authorities before being deported from Sabah, a territory that belongs to us? They are also his bosses, entitled to government assistance and protection.
Noynoy said the talks between the Philippines and the US on the Increased Rotational Presence (IRP) of American military forces in the Philippines is very close to completion. Once concluded, Noynoy is duty-bound to let his bosses know the terms and conditions of the agreement and what we are getting in return for it.
In this regard, a ranking member of the Philippine negotiating panel, DFA Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta, was suddenly removed from the panel. He was moved to the Foreign Service Institute as director. When I asked him why, he said his transfer was just part of “normal rotation”.
“In the middle of the negotiations?”, I asked. He merely reiterated his reply rather feebly.
I knew better, of course. And I fully understand why he wouldn’t talk. Some DFA sources say that Sorreta could not stomach the pro-US stance of Foreign Secretary Albert “Amboy” del Rosario and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia.
If that is the case, then I would like to applaud Sorreta, a career professional, for standing up to his superiors in his desire to uphold the national interest.
Other DFA sources, however, say that Sorreta was suspected of telegraphing to the US the Philippine position. If this is the case, then he ought to have been suspended instead and placed under investigation. If found guilty, he should be summarily dismissed from the service and prosecuted for committing what is tantamount to a treasonous act.
The question is, has Del Rosario apprised Noynoy of Sorreta’s removal from the panel and why? If not, then I believe Noynoy should ask Del Rosario. It may well be he hasn’t been getting the correct feedback on the matter to the possible detriment of the national interest.
I cringe every time I read reports of US officials, the latest being Secretary of State John Kerry in Jakarta, saying that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea, need to be settled in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The US has not yet acceded to UNCLOS. Shouldn’t she ratify the convention first before urging signatories to adhere to it? It’s like urging someone to do something that you yourself won’t do.
Presidential mouthpiece Edwin Lacierda confirmed that each senator who voted to convict former chief justice Renato Corona received huge amounts from a “stimulus” fund created by the administration called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as “incentive”.
Earlier, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad denied the additional funding was a “bribe”.
For the information of the two, “incentive” is simply a euphemism for “bribe”.
“Euphemism” is defined by the dictionary as “a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing”.
So there… bribe, incentive, the same.
Question: What does that make of the senators who received the bribe?
Readers have asked why I keep publishing the Reminders portion below.
Well, the reason is pretty simple. The public has a short memory and the government even shorter when it comes to scandals in government. And, in general, the media, being in the business such as it is, cannot sustain follow-up stories indefinitely, especially when other newsworthy events take place.
For this, I thank my publisher and executive editor for their tacit approval of what I’m doing.
No doubt, the concerned authorities and those individuals, including Noynoy, who are in the crosshairs of these reminders think that ignoring the questions raised is the best way to deal with them. That may be so, but sooner or later, they will have to account for their misdeeds. And the public would remember!
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.
In an attempt to jar his memory and spur him to action, quoted hereunder is what Noynoy said about the anomaly in his first State of the Nation Address on 26 July 2010:
“Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).
In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.
“In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.
“What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.
“Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?
“The result is NFA’s current debt of 177 billion pesos. (The Inquirer recently quoted former NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo, a Noynoy appointee, as saying that (the present) government importation of rice is causing billions of pesos in losses. “We are going to be deep in debt,” Banayo said in his statement. The Inquirer further reported: “He (Banayo) said that by the time President Aquino steps down in 2016, the government could be in debt to the tune of at least P190 billion because of rice importation without private sector participation.”)
“This money that was wasted could have funded the following:
- The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year.
- The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos.
- All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.
“This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted.”
So, how come, Mr. President, you have not done anything about this in the last three and a half years?! And to make things worse, the corruption in the NFA today appears to be even worse than during the Arroyo regime. Your bosses want to know!
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 in 2012 making him the highest paid government servant then (how much did he get in 2013?) 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 at the time that 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 282nd 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 (has been?) charged for arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice on the disappearance of Jonas.
Ano was even recently promoted to major general and confirmed as head of the Intelligence Service of the AFP.
“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:
During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not an older person should be put in an old age home?”
“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the person to empty the bathtub.”
“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”
“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”
****** 25 February 2014



Here's the personal observation of one lawyer who commented on the recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Republic Act No. 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act that criminalizes online libel. Under Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code, the important element of the crime is PUBLICATION of the imputation of a crime, or vice or defect, real or imaginary, or an imputation of any act, omission, condition, status or circumstances tending to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead. 

Reading it again, anybody who intends to libel one must ensure that his imputation is PUBLISHED. That means, he has to use some kind of medium for the public to read and know his imputation, like using the newspapers, radio, television, pasting posters to be read and seen in public, distributing handbills to the public in general, or through the internet for which he purposely intended his libelous article to be read all over the world. 

Without it, one's libelous imputation remains a privilege communication. It is not the number of persons that counts, but of the fact that it was addressed to specific persons by the author he specifically identified as his friends for them to read or to share his ideas containing his imputations. Whether or not the readers to whom he addressed his article will agree with him is beside the point. What is important is it was specifically addressed by the author to a particular person. What he wrote remains a privilege communication even if he wrote, MGA GAGO SILA!

To make ourselves clear, if one uses his Yahoo, Facebook or Twitter account to communicate to his selected, chosen or accepted friends, all his communications with regard to them remains a privilege communication, unless as said the author used the internet as a means to publish his imputations. But for as long as his message is addressed exclusively to his friends, it remains a privilege communications. He need not even invoke his freedom of expression because that belongs to another legal parameter. 

Unless, as said, the person used his say Facebook, Yahoo, or Twitter account for the world to read or to be accessible to all for then that would amount to PUBLICATION. There could be no case of online libel should the person or the government agency read an article transmitted through the internet without permission from the author or that it was not addressed to them.

Internet communication is now the modern equivalent of postal letters of which the law provides protection for privacy of communications. On the contrary, anybody who will pry open that message sent through the internet without the consent of the author would violate that law.

In fact, the practice of the US National Security Agency (NSA) to pry internet communications sent by its citizens, not open to the public in general, was raised by American whistleblower Edward Snowden. The act of intercepting communications is the one that is considered a threat to freedom of expression. In cyber language that criminal act of prying open communications by persons not authorized to receive them amounts to hacking, a threat this pretending-to-be-government wants to adapt. 

By the way, that law was merely copied by our subservient senators from the US legislated law. Kaya palubog na ang America at balak pa natin sundan sila sa impyerno!

Manila says it will respond militarily if China uses force against Filipinos around disputed island

By Raul Dancel
Philippines Correspondent In Manila
Strait Times
General Emmanuel Bautista, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the United States' ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg at a forum on Feb 24 organised by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. Gen Bautista and Mr Goldberg are urging Beijing to return to a United Nations arbitration process to settle disputes over the South China Sea. -- ST PHOTO: RAUL DANCEL
General Emmanuel Bautista, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the United States’ ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg at a forum on Feb 24 organised by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines. Gen Bautista and Mr Goldberg are urging Beijing to return to a United Nations arbitration process to settle disputes over the South China Sea. — ST PHOTO: RAUL DANCEL
The Philippines said on Monday it would respond militarily if China uses force to drive away Filipinos fishing in waters around a disputed island in the South China Sea.
General Emmanuel Bautista, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), issued this warning as a response to reports that ships from China’s Coast Guard drove away Filipinos fishing in areas around Scarborough Shoal using water cannons on Jan 27.
“We have to react militarily if force is applied,” he said at an event organised by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
When asked about the situation around Scarborough Shoal, Gen Bautista said it is Manila’s policy to avoid a confrontation with Chinese vessels patrolling the South China Sea.
But he stressed that it is the AFP’s duty to defend Filipinos when they are subjected to “armed violence” within Philippine territories.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea but the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
At a daily news briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of details of the situation, and repeated that China had sovereignty over the South China Sea and its islands.
“I want to emphasise China’s indisputable sovereignty of the Nansha islands and other areas surrounding it. China’s relevant naval capabilities will continue its official patrols of the area as per usual,” she said.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have risen in recent years as Beijing becomes more aggressive in asserting its claims.
Last month, China also announced a new fisheries law that requires foreign vessels to seek permits for activities in much of the South China Sea, in another move that triggered angry protests from Manila.
Additional reporting by Esther Teo in Beijing

US committed to defense pact with Philippines

By Marichu Villanueva
The Philippine Star 
US Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris Jr. gestures during an exclusive interview with The STAR at the US embassy in Manila yesterday.VAL RODRIGUEZ
US Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Harry Harris Jr. gestures during an exclusive interview with The STAR at the US embassy in Manila yesterday.VAL RODRIGUEZ
MANILA, Philippines – The United States is committed to fulfill its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines even as there is full support for diplomatic resolution of territorial disputes with China and other claimant countries in the South China Sea.
Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the US Pacific Fleet, reiterated this commitment yesterday as he met with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Philippine Navy commander Jose Luis Alano.
The reiteration of US commitment came a few days after Adm. Jonathan Greenert, naval operations chief of the US Navy, made a statement that stirred some controversy. Greenert was quoted as telling a military academic discussion about the 1951 MDT being implemented in case of Chinese aggression in the contested Pagasa islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“Greenert reiterated the strength of the Mutual Defense Treaty. He reaffirmed the US commitment to the Philippines with the Mutual Defense Treaty and I agree with that completely,” Harris stressed, quickly adding: “And I want to underscore the US-Philippine treaty obligations and we live up to that obligation.”
Harris arrived in Manila Sunday night. He met yesterday with Philippine military officials before he left last night.
In an exclusive interview with The STAR, Harris underscored the important role that the Philippines plays in Asia.
“What makes the Philippines, from our perspective, is it’s a full treaty partner,” Harris pointed out.
Currently, he cited, the US only has seven bilateral treaties worldwide and one of them is the MDT with the Philippines. “But the Philippines is a leader in Asia,” he added.
Harris also reiterated there is no talk about renewing the abrogated Philippine-US military bases agreement in the ongoing discussions for rotational visits by US forces.
“We are not going to base anything in the Philippines. This is about access and use of Philippine facilities in order to work together,” he stressed. “Whatever the Philippine government wants US to have – this is part of the agreement that is being negotiated.”
President Aquino earlier disclosed the Philippines is “very close” to completing an agreement to boost the number of US troops allowed into the country at a time of growing tension over territorial disputes with China.
“We applaud the recent action of the Philippine government to moderate Chinese behavior for international venues as a means in resolving dispute… This is a mark of a mature nation to resolve this dispute diplomatically and not with coercion but other peaceful means,” Harris stressed.
He was referring to the international arbitration court at the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) where the Philippines has taken its territorial dispute with Beijing on the South China Sea.
On the part of the US, Harris said continuing military-to-military talks with Chinese officials are also being done. He cited the talks of US Army chief of staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, who met with his Chinese counterpart Lt. Gen. Wang Ninga a few days ago in Beijing, as well as the recent visit to China by US vice chief of operations Adm. Mark Fergusson, who met with Adm. Wu Sheng-li, chief of China Navy.
“I am hoping that we continue to have a strong military to military relationship with China over the next years, with openness and not shrouded with opaqueness,” Harris said.
“On the other hand, we want to have strong and positive relationship with China. Gen. Odierno’s visit to Chiba is indicative of that,” the admiral pointed out.
The US Pacific Commander admitted, however, the US views with concern the lack of transparency of China, especially with its recent unilateral decision to impose the controversial air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
When he assumed his post last October, Harris said there was no change in their operations even after China announced the ADIZ.
“As far as the US Navy operations go, we are conducting our operations at sea and in the air through and in the so-called Chinese identification zone without respect for the zone itself. Business as before,” he declared. – With Pia Lee Brago


By Fr. Shay Cullen
PREDA Foundation
Global-warming.2Powerful storms, tidal surges, high winds, toppled trees and electric posts and massive floods over a wide area, natural disasters that are typical of the Philippines. We have endured 25 such storms in the past year more than ever before. Millions of people have lost their houses, lands and crops. Thousands of light fishing banka boats were destroyed or damaged and over 6000 people were killed. Many still depending on relief food and are surviving in tents.
What I describe above is now happening to a lesser degree in Ireland and England as I write this. In the United States and Canada, massive ice and snow storms have paralyzed the North Eastern side of the continent and to the South West in California, there is extreme drought. This is the worst in living memory, according to the people living there and whose cattle are dying by the thousands and crops are burning up.
In Australia, bush fires are devouring homes and forests year after year, and in South America likewise, forest fires are destroying the beautiful wilderness of Chile. In China, massive unprecedented yearly floods destroy lives and property. Huge sand storms, coming from encroaching deserts in the North East, are engulfing the capital Beijing every year.
In days gone by, they were called acts of God, or natural disasters over which humankind has no control or responsibility for. The overwhelming scientific evidence (despite billions of dollars spent to deny it) shows that the climate has changed dramatically and is more violent, the change is caused by human activity.
Yes we, the humans with the big brains and intelligence, who have the duty and responsibility to protect all life and creation, are causing this. Our lifestyles are excessively damaging to the environment. It’s called global warming due to the non-stop pumping of obnoxious poison gases and chemical fumes into the atmosphere for the past one hundred years. This has caused a blanket of methane, CO2 and every other gas produced by industry to rise to the stratosphere and blanket the globe. Inside the blanket of gas, the suffering planet is overheating. Its finely-tuned sensitive and balanced interdependent ecosystems are being disrupted.
This happened hundreds of millions of years ago through volcanic eruptions and later crashing asteroids spewed dust and chemicals that brought life to the brink of total extinction.
Human intelligence developed a gigantic chemical industry driven by coal and oil burning electric power stations that pour gas and chemicals into the atmosphere non-stop day and night. No wonder that cancers of all kinds are spreading all over the planet.
In the northern hemisphere, people grew wealthy, and cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens are now produced on an industrial scale and are fed chemically tainted foods. They changed the diet from a predominately vegetables, fruit and fish diet to one based on fatty meat and dairy products on a gigantic scale. The result is cholesterol clogged arteries and heart attacks.
To make more pastures for the animals, the rich land-grabbers and corrupt government officials cut down the rain forests for pastures and meat production resulting in animals by their billions producing billions of tons of methane gas every year adding to the ever thickening blanket of gasses in the atmosphere making the planet warmer.
The ice-caps melt so the hot sun beams are not reflected back into space but are absorbed by the oceans, so warmer oceans means more melting, causing rising ocean levels, greater storm surges, more evaporation, clouds, torrential rain, and more floods.
The deforestation has deprived the planet of its protective forests that absorb naturally occurring CO2. The Philippines had 92 percent forest cover in 1903. Today, it has just 3 percent forest cover. The oceans are damaged also. The CO2, methane, and sulphur gasses are absorbed by the ocean, making the waters more acidic and that poisons the fish or kills the eggs and they head for extinction and people go hungry. Billions of tons of industrial plastic floats on the ocean currents killing marine life and depriving fish of their natural foods.
Everything is connected in the planet’s ecosystem and industrial pollution and global warming is damaging everything. If the planet earth were a living creature that is being tortured and tormented by swarms of attacking mosquitoes, it would be driven to retaliate and react to the threat. That’s how I see the planet today; it’s reacting to human attack.
The Gaia theory developed by James Lovelock in the 1970 suggests that the planet earth is a magnificent, self-organizing entity whereby all systems promote life on earth and life forms evolve and adapt to maintain a healthy life sustaining environment. But it has a cancer and it is us – humans. We attack the planet in parts and as a whole through industrial production and this disrupts the delicate balances of all ecosystems.
We as a species have societies with uncontrolled greed and excessive consumption. We have no natural enemy to eliminate us other than deadly viruses and our own self-destructive lifestyles and violence against each other and against nature.
We have to master and control both or we will destroy ourselves and eventually become extinct. And that may not be such a bad thing after all. [,]

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Disputed sea is ours – China

By Pia Lee-Brago and Aurea Calica 
The Philippine Star 
Pag-asa-island-and-Chinese-flagMANILA, Philippines – China declared yesterday it has “indisputable sovereignty” over South China Sea islands being claimed by its neighbors and rejected the Philippine protest over an incident where the Chinese coast guard reportedly fired a water cannon at Filipino fishermen in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal last Jan. 27.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Manila said China’s sovereignty also covers Huangyan Island, its name for Panatag Shoal.
“The Chinese side does not accept the so-called ‘protest’ by the Philippine side. We urge the Philippine side to work with the Chinese side to resolve differences through bilateral consultations and negotiations,” Zhang Hua, deputy chief of Political Section and spokesman of the Chinese embassy in Manila, said. “Chinese government vessels are conducting regular patrols within China’s jurisdiction,” he said.
At Malacañang, President Aquino demanded an explanation of the incident from China. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned yesterday and handed a note verbale to Charge d’Affaires Sun Xiangyang of the Chinese embassy to protest the Jan. 27 incident and other acts of aggression by China in the West Philippine Sea.
“The Department likewise strongly protests the acts of harassment and the manner by which these were committed by China to forcefully drive away Philippine fishing vessels from Bajo de Masinloc,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
“The Department vehemently protests the acts of China when its law enforcement vessels drove away Philippine fishing vessels seeking shelter in the Philippines’ Bajo de Masinloc during inclement weather,” he said.
He said that based on information received by the DFA, the Jan. 27 incident involved a Chinese coast guard vessel with bow number 3063 and two Filipino fishing boats.
“The CCG vessel continuously blew its horn and thereafter doused the fishing vessels with water cannons for several minutes,” he said.
The Filipinos, he said, were on boats F/B P8 and F/B Kin based in Zambales.
Hernandez said they received reports of nine other cases of harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese civilian maritime law enforcement agency (CMLEA) vessels last year. He said harassment occurred even during inclement weather.
“They (fishermen) reported it (water cannon incident) to the authorities and they expected us to make this protest against the Chinese,” he added.
“As far as the Filipino fishermen in the area, our fishermen have every right to pursue their livelihood in Bajo de Masinloc which is an integral part of the territory over which the Philippines exercises sovereign rights and jurisdiction,” Hernandez said.
“We call on China to respect our sovereignty and the rights of our fishermen in that area,” he said.
President Aquino, for his part, wants Beijing to explain the Jan. 27 incident and spell out its policy in dealing with similar situations.
“Now, the first step will be… a diplomatic message… There are various terms for these diplomatic messages directed at the People’s Republic of China to ask them to explain what this incident was all about and what their directions are,” the President told reporters in Cebu where he led the 28th anniversary celebration of EDSA People Power Revolution.
Aquino reiterated there are diplomatic means to settle the matter and that Manila has actually turned to the United Nations for arbitration to peacefully assert the country’s claim over Panatag Shoal, which is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The President said he just learned about the incident recently and would like to have confirmation by getting more information from the people involved.
He said this would provide sound basis for corresponding Philippine action.
“We are not sure at this point in time if we can call it their (Chinese) standard operating procedure because as of (Monday), we have fishermen inside the shoal who are not being harassed nor intimidated by any entity,” the President said.
He said he did not want to react to an incident which Beijing could easily dismiss as having been carried out by coast guard personnel following orders from their commanding officer.
“But be that as it may, I think it is proper for us to ask them exactly what this incident was all about, what their intentions are,” he said.
He added the DFA and the Department of National Defense are now “drafting the appropriate communications” after “conferring and after getting the necessary proof.”
Panatag Shoal, also locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, is a traditional Filipino fishing ground just 220 kilometers off Zambales and 650 km from Hainan island, the nearest major Chinese land mass.
The shoal has been under virtual occupation by the Chinese since April 2012 when they prevented Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese poachers on eight boats.
For the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the international community should condemn the Chinese coast guard’s use of force on unarmed fishermen.
“The international community can now be aware of what is the real situation there, that it really merits an international response and condemnation,” AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said yesterday.
He called the incident “alarming” considering the “already volatile situation” in the area.
“We are supporting the pursuit of government in the path of international tribunal to solve the problem here and the best really is a code of conduct so that it will not happen again,” he said in a press briefing.
When asked by the media what incident would merit military action, Zagala said: “That’s speculative. Don’t let me talk about deploying forces there if that’s what you want to hear.”
He reiterated his call for local fishermen to continue with their normal activities despite China’s aggressive acts. “We cannot let an aggressor stop our way of life,” he said.
Zagala also said the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) has assumed supervision over Panatag Shoal from the Northern Luzon Command in Tarlac.
“This is to enhance our external defense capabilities, which are now being concentrated at the Western Command, unity of effort and unity of command, so that our external defense efforts will just be under one commander,” he said.
“The Western Command has the necessary assets that can address territorial defense and monitoring. They have the necessary aircraft that can fly to all these areas for the purpose of monitoring and reporting to higher government office,” he added.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda leads the Wescom.
The Nolcom is headed by Army Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang. Zambales, which has jurisdiction over Panatag Shoal, is under Nolcom.
Other West Philippine Sea areas being claimed by China and under Wescom’s jurisdiction are Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, Recto (Reed) Bank and Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan.
When asked whether Wescom already has its hands full, Zagala said: “Yes, but that is their core competency. Remember, Western Command traditionally is commanded by an Air Force or a Navy officer primarily because of external (defense) and that the battle space is at sea and air.” With Alexis Romero, Michelle Zoleta

Betrayal of EDSA

By Val G. Abelgas
EDSA Shrine
EDSA Shrine
The Supreme Court has an uncanny way of commemorating the 28th anniversary of the People’s Power Revolution. On a day when the whole nation was celebrating the restoration of freedom in the country with the downfall of strongman Ferdinand Marcos following four days of massive protests on EDSA in February 1986, twelve justices of the Supreme Court opted to curtail freedom of speech when they upheld the constitutionality of the libel provision of the Cybercrime Law.
On September 12, 2012, almost exactly 40 years after Marcos curtailed the people’s freedom with the declaration of martial law, President Aquino cracked down on one of the freest internets in the world when he signed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which, among other things, penalizes online libel with imprisonment of up to 12 years and a fine of P1 million.
The high tribunal upheld most of the provisions of the cybercrime law, including the contentious provision on online libel. And Aquino, the only son of the eminent icons of democracy – the martyred former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late President Cory Aquino – was quick to defend the SC ruling. He said the new law does not curtail freedom of expression.
“As responsible journalists, you have your rights, and those rights like all other rights have limitations,” the President said. “We were taught in school that our rights end when we impinge on the rights of others.”
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Aquino’s latest Supreme Court appointee and the youngest among the justices, disagrees. He said, rightfully, that the continued criminalization of libel, especially in platforms using the Internet, “unqualifiedly produces a chilling effect that stifles our fundamental guarantees of free speech.”
Leonen is the lone SC justice who dissented to the majority decision of 12 other magistrates declaring the libel provision in the cybercrime law as constitutional.
Leonen not only opposes online libel but also supports the decriminalization of libel — both online and under the Revised Penal Code — which he describes as “an anachronistic tool that may have had its uses in older societies: a monkey wrench that will steal inspiration from the democratic mob.”
“Criminalizing libel contradicts our notions of a genuinely democratic society… The constitution requires that libel… be struck down as infringing upon the guarantee of freedom of expression,” he stressed in his opinion.
With the stiff penalties against defamation committed online, journalists, bloggers and ordinary individuals will be constrained from expressing their opinion against people, particularly wealthy businessmen, politicians and government bureaucrats, who, in their belief, are committing acts that are inimical to the country and the people’s interests.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, an acknowledged expert in constitutional law, urged netizens to stage protests against the SC ruling. She cited a provision in the Constitution that guarantees absolute freedom of speech, which states: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech.” She said the constitutional language was absolute about the protection of the freedom of speech.
There is now a move, led by Santiago and four administration senators, to decriminalize libel, following examples in other countries, including most of the states in the US.
“Libel in many countries is no longer criminal. Here, it’s criminal and worse, it’s now considered a crime on the Internet. The Cybercrime Law can really stifle the use of technology and threaten the right to free press and freedom of expression,” said Bayan Muna partylist representative Neri Colmenares.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, who has filed Senate Bill No. 2128 to decriminalize libel by repealing Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, said the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Sen. Sonny Angara has also filed a measure that would impose lighter penalties for libel. He said decriminalizing libel has been the trend worldwide.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano and Sen. Chiz Escudero said the cybercrime law’s provision on Internet libel should be repealed like all libel laws. Cayetano pointed out that the provision suppresses the netizens’ freedom of speech. He said the Internet should still be regarded as a different kind of medium where anyone has the right to express his views and opinions.
The Washington DC-based advocacy group Freedom House rated Filipino netizens the freest in Asia and sixth in the world when it comes to Internet freedom. Not anymore. With the Cybercrime Law placing a Sword of Damocles on every Filipino netizen’s head, I’m certain Freedom House would rate the Philippines side by side with China, the least free in the latest ratings.
The Internet allows the people, who otherwise would not have access to regular media, to ventilate their opinion, which is the very essence of democracy. Threatening the people with stiff penalties is tantamount to curtailing their freedom, as much as the brutal martial law stifled dissent.
For a government that rose to power on an agenda of transparency, accountability, freedom and justice, the Aquino administration has moved to the opposite side of the democratic fence. This is clearly a betrayal of EDSA.

When thieves fight among themselves

By Perry Diaz
Janet Lim Napoles and Ruby Chan Tuason in happier days.
Janet Lim Napoles and Ruby Chan Tuason in happier days.
Ruby Chan Tuason opened a can of worms when she testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) implicating Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile in Janet Lim Napoles’ pork barrel scam. Indeed, never in the history of the Philippine Congress had someone testify before the legislative body accusing incumbent lawmakers for accepting kickbacks.
Prior to Tuason’s testimony, BRC chairman Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III opened the hearing by saying the testimony of Tuason will be a “three-point, buzzer-beater, winning shot.” This enraged Estrada who then rebuked Guingona and accused Guingona of prejudging him in the pork barrel scam. “I feel so hurt by the parting statements made by the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee. If that’s the case, if he chooses that battle, I will give him that battle. No problem with me,” Estrada said. With that the word war between Guingona and Estrada began.
Senators Jinggoy Estrada and TG Guingona.
Senators Jinggoy Estrada and TG Guingona.
A few days later Guingona took the floor and delivered a privilege speech. He clarified Jinggoy’s concerns by saying that his “three-point shot” statement was not a reference to Jinggoy’s innocence or guilt. He said that he was just trying to emphasize the value of Tuason’s testimony. But Jinggoy had none of that. “If your statement was not intentional and not to prejudge me, then what is your intention?” Jinggoy asked Guingona.
The heated verbal exchange between Jinggoy and Guingona sidetracked the purpose of the hearing, which was to hear the testimony of Tuason to get a clear picture of how Napoles worked with at least three senators – Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. – in funneling pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGO) controlled by Napoles.
Tuason, who was the social secretary of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, was the “bagwoman” of Napoles who delivered kickbacks to senators who had endorsed their pork barrel allocations to “ghost projects” of Napoles’ NGOs. Acting as the go-between between Napoles and the senators, Tuason, by her own admission, earned P40 million in “commissions” for brokering bogus projects funded from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel as it is commonly known. But that’s peanuts compared to the colluding lawmakers who received the lion’s share amounting to 40% to 70% of the money released to NGOs.
Tuason testified that in 2008 alone she delivered kickbacks totaling at least P9 million to Jinggoy. But Jinggoy refuted her claim saying that Tuason merely brought him food – pancit – and not money. She admitted that she had brought assorted sandwiches to Jinggoy; however, she claimed that she used those occasions to deliver Jinggoy’s kickbacks as well. But poor Tuason, Napoles dropped her out of the scam operation when Napoles figured a way to directly do business with Jinggoy, which makes one wonder: Did Tuason testify to get back at Napoles for cutting her out of the scam operation?
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gigi Reyes with President Benigno Aquino III (File Photo).
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gigi Reyes with President Benigno Aquino III (File Photo).
Tuason also implicated Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile whom she claimed to have delivered money to Enrile’s chief-of-staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes. However, she admitted that she never got to talk to Enrile about his pork barrel allocations. But she said Reyes showed her Enrile’s authorization letter indicating he had “full trust” in Reyes.
To date, three senators – Estrada, Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. — are among 38 individuals who are facing plunder, bribery, and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged participation in the pork barrel scam. But Jinggoy insisted that there were more senators who were involved in the scam, which begs the question: Who are the other senators who had schemed with Napoles to steal the taxpayers’ money?
During his word war with Guingona, Jinggoy asked Guingona why didn’t he ask Tuason whether she also requested other senators — incumbent as well as former senators — for project allocations? Guingona replied that he had indeed asked her but Tuason denied any involvement with any of them. But Jinggoy claimed that he had received information proving Tuason’s involvement in transactions between Napoles and other senators. This prompted Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to chastise Jinggoy that he shouldn’t resort to “blind items” and instead should name names.
New witness
Dennis Cunanan, Sen. Bong Revilla, and Janet Lim Napoles
Dennis Cunanan, Sen. Bong Revilla, and Janet Lim Napoles
Recently, another respondent in the $10-billion pork barrel scam case offered to turn state witness. Dennis Cunanan, former head of the Technology Resource Center (TRC), said he was willing to spill everything he knew about Sen. Revilla’s misuse of his pork barrel allocations. The Department of Justice put him “provisionally” in the Witness Protection Program, subject to the Office of the Ombudsman’s final approval.
Interestingly, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed an “urgent resolution” asking the BRC to summon Cunanan as a resource person to the Senate investigation. “It is in the public’s strong interest for Cunanan to testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s ongoing hearing on the PDAF scam; he can divulge information on the criminal involvement of certain public officials in the scam, and how the scam is perpetuated through the exploitation of loopholes in the disbursement of government funds,” Santiago said in her resolution. She said that the more eyewitnesses come forward, the stronger the case will be.
Dipping into the cookie jar
Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Bongbong Marcos.
Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Bongbong Marcos.
On another front, Estrada and Revilla, together with Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III are in hot water for receiving P370 million in “stimulus fund” in March 2012 at the height of the impeachment trial of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona. This was confirmed by no less than presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who said that the money came from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Senators-bribed-to-convict-CoronaLittle was known about DAP until September 25, 2013 when Jinggoy delivered a privilege speech exposing the “secret dealings” and “behind closed-door” negotiations of high government officials to juggle taxpayers’ money including the pork barrel funds. Then he dropped the bombshell: Malacañang gave “incentives” — or bribes — to senators in the last two years in exchange for their support – and vote – for the President’s legislative agenda. Jinggoy mentioned 20 senators who received an extra P50 million in the form of additional pork barrel for their vote to convict former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Of the 23 incumbent senators at that time, only Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Miriam Defensor-Santiago were untainted by the anomalous releases of DAP funds during the Corona impeachment trial.
With witnesses coming out of the woodwork to testify against those involved in the $10-billion pork barrel scam and the alleged bribery of 21 senators during the Corona impeachment trial, the Senate chamber is degenerating into a free-for-all among the lawmakers. The spectacle of senators pointing fingers at one another in full view of television viewers makes one wonder: What happens when thieves fight among themselves? The answer is: the people suffer. Indeed, that’s what’s happening right now.