July 2011

Manila Standard Today

There is something curious about the appointment of recently-retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan as the new Bureau of Corrections chief. It was announced Thursday morning that Pangilinan would replace Ernesto Diokno, who had resigned in May over inmate former Governor Tony Leviste’s unauthorized trips outside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

Pangilinan took his oath as the new Corrections chief amid criticism of President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to appoint him. Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte admitted that Pangilinan’s appointment papers were signed as early as July 19, three days before he retired as chief of the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command. Apologizing to reporters, Valte, whose task it is to announce new appointees, said that events, particularly the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address, had overtaken what would have been an earlier announcement.

It turns out that the new Corrections chief, whose office is under the Justice Department, is one of the respondents in the P88-million plunder case filed by former military finance officer George Rabusa. According to Rabusa’s complaint, Pangilinan served as the “bagman” of the late Armed Forces chief Arturo Enrile in relation to the alleged illegal conversion of military funds.

Aside from having been stationed in the President’s province of Tarlac as Northern Luzon Command Chief, and supposedly being experienced in counter-intelligence—an expertise which the Palace must think as indispensable in detecting and addressing overt, glaring, and already much-publicized violations of law in prison—there must be something special about Pangilinan. So special, in fact, that presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda felt the urge to turn against state witness Rabusa and his lawyers in defense of Mr. Aquino’s favored appointee. Pangilinan should not have been charged with plunder as the crime had been introduced into the country’s legal system in 1995, when he served as executive assistant to Enrile, Lacierda argued.

Of course, Lacierda would later correct himself. Republic Act 7080, or the Anti-Plunder Act of 1991, was signed into law by former President Corazon Aquino—the incumbent President’s mother, no less—in 1991.

Of course, and as usual, the realization came just a tad too late. Already, the Palace was caught with its slip showing.

Announcing Pangilinan’s appointment before the President’s report to the nation would have invalidated the very principle on which his speech was premised. It would have made a mockery of his self-professed sincerity and dedication to corruption and belied as mere theatrics his loathing, personal and uncompromising, for corruption.

In itself, the expression of presidential preference for a person charged with high crime over so many who are not is foolish. To appoint someone to the very agency—the Justice Department—before which he stands accused is absurd. To argue legalities in favor of that appointee, flawed as the argument was, all the while speaking for the President and possibly affecting the outcome of the case, is insane.

The Palace says “innocent until proven guilty,” when what it truly means is “innocent until the President says otherwise.”


By Sara Soliven De Guzman
The Philippine Star

After the whole week’s celebration of the Philippine Star’s 25th Anniversary, it’s back to the grind. The big deal about this anniversary is that, the Philippine Star under the leadership of Miguel G. Belmonte (CEO & President) was able to sustain the paper’s success (even after the passing away of its founders: Betty Go-Belmonte, Max V. Soliven and Art Borjal). Miguel with his core team of editors, writers, circulation and advertising groups have elevated The Philippine Star into a media mogul! The VIP guest list proves it! The thick pages of the newspaper confirm it. The number of advertisers validates it. One very influential guest on that starry evening even commented, “This is not just a paper, it’s THE PAPER. It is very powerful, Sara, believe, me.”

The grand party at the Makati Shangri-La’s Rizal Ballroom last Thursday said it all. Almost 2,000 guests coming from all sectors (media, diplomatic corps, government, business, entertainment etc.) celebrated the big bang with high spirits having a friendly, family- oriented atmosphere. And this is what the Philippine Star is all about. Kudos! To all the hardworking and dedicated staff, here’s looking forward to a brighter STAR in the next decade.

* * *

GMA has always had her highs and lows. This medical problem of hers I am pretty sure has been there for quite sometime now. Well, for whatever reason or divine intervention it may be, in the heat of the moment, GMA was able to take a break from last week’s very stressful situation. She managed to ‘escape’ ( no matter how painful the process turned out to be) and momentarily shield herself from all the plunder cases filed against her: alleged misuse of P325 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the renewed allegations involving her in rigging the 2004 presidential elections, alleged failure to remit the P72 million capital gains tax from the sale of the old Iloilo airport to property giant Megaworld, alleged diversion of P550 million belonging to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to Philhealth during the 2004 presidential campaign, the P432 million fertilizer fund scam, plus other cases that are still to be filed.

Perhaps this had to happen, so that she can have the time to contemplate on her life as a public servant. I hope something good comes out from this.

Her illness may have given her that much needed break but I am very sure GMA will be fine. She will be back on her toes in no time. She is in excellent care. St. Luke’s Hospital has never failed us. It has the best doctors and facilities. In fact, there is a joke that if you want your spouse to continue living, bring him/ her to St. Luke’s, but if you want him/ her to rest in peace, then, take her to any other hospital in the metropolis. I know this is a bad joke but there is some truth to it. My father in all his frailty was always saved by St. Luke’s. He died in Japan because there was no branch of St. Luke’s in that country. Going back to GMA, she was in very good hands during her surgery. Dr. Mario Ver, a veteran orthopedic surgeon was her main orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Ver was the first to introduce in the Philippines microsurgery of the spine, microdiscectomy for slip discs and instrumental spine fusion as well as provocative discography both lumbar and cervical spine. Dr. Ver is the best orthopedic doctor in the country. What more could GMA ask for?

* * *

News about the five Marines who were beheaded and mutilated in Sulu and 26 soldiers wounded was alarming. But we must not forget that every year such tragic incidents have been happening not only in Patikul but also in Basilan and Jolo.

Patikul is a 4th class municipality in the province of Sulu. It has a population of 39,946 and 30 barangays. This is one of the areas where the presence of Abu Sayyaf guerillas are often felt and experienced.

The Philippine Marines (the elite of the Navy) are assigned in Sulu while the Special Operations Command of the Army under General Ortiz cover Basilan. If the leader is not wise enough with his plans for attack, then his team is bound to fall in the trap of the Abu Sayyaf. In this case, I am pretty sure the head of command made a drastic (or even careless) move that led to this tactical ‘blunder’.

As mentioned, this is not new. It happens every year. From year 2000 to the present time the Abu Sayyaf has managed to maintain its capacity and ability to stage successful attacks on the military. In 2006, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen knocked on the door of a farm in Patikul and opened fire on the residents killing six people including a nine-month old baby girl and five others. In the same year, a Filipino Marine officer was killed after government forces encountered a large group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the same place. In 2008, Abu Sayyaf soldiers executed one of two hostages they took during a raid on a Christian community in Lamitan City in Basilan. In January this year, four traveling merchants and a guide were killed and one wounded when suspected Abu Sayyaf militants ambushed them in Basilan. One soldier was also killed when government forces clashed with Abu Sayyaf militants in the same province. These are but a few of the many ASG encounters with the AFP in the past several years.

The importance of making tactical decisions is crucial in solving the insurgency problem of the country. With the many mishaps we have experience in Mindanao, it seems that the Abu Sayyaf has better tactical and strategic warfare planning than our men. I hope the AFP can intensify the training and planning in this area. They should go out and get experts in the field in the different parts of the world or even take advantage of the American Special Forces group confined in Basilan and learn from them to improve our skills in strategic planning and execution of counter-attacks.

In P-Noy’s SONA he bragged about the purchase of a new Hamilton Class Cutter, helicopters, patrol crafts and weapons to modernize the equipment of the AFP. I hope he takes this seriously and follows it closely. It is not only the new equipments that count. We need good and efficient training in the field so that the men and women in uniform can truly defend our country.


Source: Manila Standard Today

THE members of the National Police’s elite Special Action Force, led by Senior Supt. Rafael Santiago Jr., on Friday claimed that former National Police Chief Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. had ordered them to provide security to the people who switched the election returns in 2004 to secure victory for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Santiago told reporters at the Justice Department that they were used to cover up the cheating for Mrs. Arroyo, and that they didn’t know about it until later.

Ebdane, now governor of Zambales, refused to comment on Santiago’s claims and said he would answer all questions on the supposed cheating at the proper forum.

Santiago said they had unwittingly secured the people who sneaked into the House of Representatives in January 2005 to steal 6,000 election returns and replace those with fake ones to make Mrs. Arroyo win. The allies of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., Mrs. Arroyo’s closest rival, claim that Poe had won the presidential election.

But Santiago said it wasn’t his team that stole the election returns. They were merely the ones who provided access and security to those who sneaked into the House to switch the election returns.

He showed reporters 38 copies of the original election returns that he turned over to the Justice Department.

Santiago apologized to actress Susan Roces, Poe’s widow. Poe died in December 2004 while the electoral protest he had filed against Mrs. Arroyo was pending.

“We would like to extend our apology to Madame Susan Roces for the error,” Santiago said.

“At this point, we are trying to rectify [our error]. We know that our lives are at risk here, our families. We know we are facing powerful people, but there will be no turning back. The truth will set us free.”

But Santiago said he had no knowledge that former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo had any role in the switching of the election returns.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

In other developments:

• The Elections Commission said it had received “feelers” from 17 people who were willing to testify in the supposed cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections

• Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles, the House majority leader at the time, said he was willing to attend any investigation of the supposed cheating in the 2004 elections

• Deposed President Joseph Estrada said he would support all those who would come out to testify on the supposed cheating

• Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Poe’s daughter, said it wasn’t too late to find out who had really won the 2004 elections.

Poe’s widow Roces had once accused Mrs. Arroyo of “stealing the presidency not once, but twice.”

Justice Secretary Lilia de Lima said her department would place Santiago and his men under the Witness Protection Program because they had received threats. Joel E. Zurbano, Gigi Muñoz-David, Maricel Cruz, Rey E. Requejo


By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – An investigation into allegations of massive poll fraud during the previous administration will inevitably determine the real winner in the 2004 elections, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

“If the figures would be validated, then that would come out, and there’s nothing we can do if the correct figures would come out,” De Lima explained.

But she stressed that whoever would turn out to have the highest votes among the candidates would “only be incidental and would just be stating certain facts and findings, but not to say that he or she is the real winner” because there would be no more proclamation.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the officially proclaimed winner in the hotly contested elections in 2004 over veteran actor Fernando Poe Jr. She reportedly won by over one million votes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Elections are preparing to conduct a joint probe on allegations that the results of the 2004 presidential elections and the 2007 midterm polls had been rigged in favor of Mrs. Arroyo and her candidates.

De Lima stressed the investigation’s objective is to pin down those responsible for election fraud and not to determine the winners in the polls.

She explained that only Congress sitting jointly as national board of canvassers is empowered to proclaim a winner in a presidential race.

Mrs. Arroyo is now a Pampanga congresswoman while Poe died months after the elections.

But even before the DOJ-Comelec investigation could begin, De Lima had expressed belief in the credibility of new witnesses Senior Superintendent Rafael Santiago and five other policemen. She defended them from accusations from the Arroyo camp that their statements were rehashed claims.

Last week, the group came out to reveal switching of election returns at the Batasang Pambansa in 2005, in a series of operations believed to be ordered by the then Arroyo administration.

“It may be an old story but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. What happened in the past were cover-ups so how can you expect these people to come out? Just like what Col. Santiago said, kapag may baho talagang sisingaw (if something smells foul, it will come out),” she argued. “This is the right time for the truth to come out.”

She said a closure to the issue of poll fraud is important so that it will never happen again.

The DOJ-Comelec investigation is expected to kick off this week. She had already declared 38 of the 6,000 stolen ERs to be authentic and could represent “very significant evidence” of cheating in the 2004 elections.

“We’ve been hearing about that – there are areas where cheating took place because of involvement of uniformed men, either PNP or AFP. And now we know it’s apparently true, there were special operations,” she said referring to Santiago’s exposé.

“That kind of system must change. They should never be used for illegal, illicit purposes especially because this has something to do with the fundamental and sacred right to suffrage,” she said.

Santiago earlier said that former PNP chief and now Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and then SAF director Chief Superintendent Marcelino Franco gave the orders to break into the Batasang Pambansa building to steal ERs and replace them with fake ones that showed Arroyo leading the presidential race.

He said he overheard his former boss then saying that former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was financing the operations.

Santiago claimed that he and the other policemen’s participation was limited to “providing access and security to those who operated in order to cover up for their trail, or in order to jibe the tampered COCs (certificate of canvass) that were made in Lanao with those with the authentic election returns deposited at the House of Representatives that we found out only later.” He confessed that each of them got P10,000 for the job.

“If you give value to that amount of money to the value of operations we conducted I think that it’s negligible. We’re not talking about how much we were paid but how we committed ourselves to the task,” he said. He said that in SAF, they are trained to follow first before questioning an order.

Other charges

While those liable for election fraud may invoke the lapse in prescription period for the filing of case to escape prosecution, they may still be pinned down for related offense like illegal use of public funds, according to Malacañang.

“Even if under our laws these election irregularities have already prescribed, cheating in an election is not limited to actual electoral fraud. There maybe other crimes involved such as the illegal use of public funds. We will still pursue these cases and are currently trying to gather evidence from the witnesses that have decided to come out. We owe it to the people to ferret out the truth,” Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas said yesterday.

He said his earlier call for all potential whistleblowers, including former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to come out and tell the truth was meant to put closure to the issue of massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

“Clearly there are still very strong forces out there that are preventing ‘Garci’ from telling the truth. I just feel sorry for ‘Garci’ because this would have been an opportunity for him to finally put these matters to rest,” Llamas said in a statement.

Llamas said it was fortunate that many others were brave enough to talk.

“Many others have started to come out, including (former Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang) Bedol and other Comelec officials and even personnel from the PNP. We will listen to them because we need to find out what really happened in 2004. The people deserve to know the truth, if indeed the election of 2004 was stolen from them by GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo),” Llamas said.

Llamas lamented Garcillano’s persistent denial of his role in the alleged manipulation of results of the 2004 presidential elections.

“I feel sorry for ‘Garci’, the people already know that he cheated for GMA during the 2004 elections and this could have been his opportunity to make up for his crimes against the people. The people know it was his voice on the tapes, they know that he cheated for GMA,” he said.

“He could have brought closure to this dark chapter in our country’s electoral history if only he came out clean, but it seems other motivations prevailed over him and he is sticking to his old story which everyone knows is a lie,” Llamas said.

Unsure of Garci

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that with the possible surfacing of more witnesses, authorities are not sure anymore if they still need Garcillano’s testimonies.

“We will have to see what the evidence warrants. We cannot give a categorical answer without seeing and assessing the evidence. That will be irresponsible of us, so we will have to see first what the evidence points to,” Valte said.

On Garcillano’s possible criminal liability, Valte said “we don’t want to categorically say that he is not off the hook” because the interpretation would be that they had been planning something from the very beginning.

“At this point, it is premature to say one way or the other because the charges that -if and when charges will be filed -they will be based on the evidence adduced. We cannot just say, ‘you’re the one at fault.’ That’s not due process,” Valte said.

Asked if the Palace had felt tricked by Garcillano, Valte said “to some effect, we were not surprised that he came out the way he did and said the things that he said.”

“It’s to his interest to say those things and, again, if he shuts it – effectively, he has shut the door himself, we cannot do anything anymore. There are other witnesses, there are other testimonies,” Valte said.

Valte debunked claims by the Arroyo camp that President Aquino was being vindictive in pushing for an investigation into alleged election fraud.

Meanwhile, Garcillano may still be hauled to jail for perjury and electoral fraud in 2004, if those involved in the alleged cheating would testify and present credible evidence that he was instrumental in rigging the polls, lawmakers said yesterday.

“Garcillano, being a lawyer, knows that he could not qualify as a state witness as he would obviously be the most guilty, if there were cheating,” Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, vice chairman of the House committee on justice, said.

“He was a commissioner of the Comelec, which is the constitutional body tasked to conduct elections. He could not say he was following orders as he belongs to an independent constitutional body,” he said.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, for his part said Garcillano can’t be expected to contradict himself after denying against last Saturday his role in the alleged 2004 poll manipulation.

“But in the event it would be proven that he was not telling the truth all this time, he could be prosecuted for perjury,” Barzaga said. With Paolo Romero and Aurea Calica


By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino compared his job last Friday to that of a psychiatrist trying to cure damaged attitudes among people.

“When I was listening to the opening prayer, I was slowly getting very depressed. But I assure you, the problem that we face… I will have a lot more to face as the day progresses. So it is sometimes, in this occasion, it’s clearer where you are rather than where I am,” the President said in his speech at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Conference on Psychosocial Rehabilitation and 27th Post-Graduate Course and 22nd Midyear Conference of the Philippine Psychiatric Association in Makati City.

Aquino said he was aware that over 100 million people around the world were diagnosed with debilitating mental illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or even Alzheimer’s, among other complications, and could only imagine the difficulties these people are facing.

“As much as I want to share some ideas of my own, I am not a psychiatrist. But I do see that there are some similarities between your jobs and mine, in that we are both trying to mend damaging attitudes: you on an individual level, and us, on a national level,” he said.

“This is rooted in the same idea I shared when I addressed my countrymen three days ago. For the past years, our people had been mired in a damaging pessimism – the idea that government is not there to help them; and the idea that, no matter how hard they work, things will not change. This is the attitude we seek to change,” the President added.

He stressed that “changing a mindset cannot be done overnight, nor can it be achieved through empty words and mere rhetoric.”

“As it is in your field, the government must do what it can to empower its people and to foster an environment in which each and every one of them can thrive. To do this, we have chosen to change the system into one that is more capable of empowerment – one that saves our people from the fatalism and the so-called crab mentality that has for so long stunted our progress as a nation,” Aquino said.

He said the government was investing in significant interventions and social services in order to help the most disadvantaged and to give the means to improve their situation.

“We are also continuously pursuing the corrupt, who have not only redirected public funds to their own bulging pockets, but have also given our countrymen the notion that the powerful are above the law. We want to change this notion. We want our people to change their mindset toward corruption – from one that acknowledges it as a harsh reality, to one that expects the corrupt to be tried and put behind bars,” he said.

“These are the small psychic shifts we want our people to take, because however small they may be, they teach our countrymen once again how it is to hope,” Aquino said.

The President said the government was working with different groups to improve the lives of the people and thanked the association for its contributions.

“Our administration similarly wants to reach the unreached – we want to give livelihood to all Filipinos, from those dwelling in the streets of Manila to those in ramshackle houses in far-flung provinces. We want a nation that is united by hope. We know the important role you play in the lives of millions of people around the world – and in that regard, we not only give our support, but we are working to make your jobs easier. We are indeed behind you,” he said. – With Sandy Araneta


by Christine F. Herrera
Manila Standard Today

HOUSE Deputy Minority Leader Danilo Suarez on Thursday dared the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. to make public how government-run casinos lost P400 million to a foreign gambling syndicate in just one week in May.

“Pagcor admitted the Parañaque casino lost P150 million, but that is in one casino alone,” Suarez told the Manila Standard.

“There are two more casinos where the government lost P250 million more, bringing the total to P400 million.”

Suarez identified the government-run casinos as those in the Manila Pavillion Hotel and Heritage Hotel, where the government lost P100 million and P150 million, respectively.

“All told, the government lost P150 million in the Parañaque casino, which they confirmed, P100 million in Manila Pavillion, and another P150 million in Heritage Hotel,” Suarez said.

“The losses amounted to P400 million and these are public funds.”

The congressman from Quezon also demanded to know why the members of the syndicate, who were said to have been holding Chinese and Malaysian passports, were allowed to post bail.

“Now, Pagcor officials are saying the members of the syndicate cannot be located anymore after they posted bail,” he said.

“They were allowed to flee the country. So how do they think they can recover the P400 million now?”

Suarez on Wednesday said the gang had rigged the game, allowing one player wearing a small camera on the wrist to scan the cards and transmit the information to another accomplice.

He said five to six syndicate members were deployed to the government-run casinos, but Pagcor officials said they caught only three.

“I demand an official investigation on this matter because the reports reaching my office showed P400 million in losses in just a week for three casinos, but there are nine more government-run casinos,” Suarez said.

He also wanted Pagcor officials to explain why the suspects were allowed to flee the country without Pagcor recovering the money first.

“Why didn’t Pagcor officials file plunder charges against them?” Suarez said

“That’s P400 million in public funds we are talking about. There is no bail for plunder.”

Suarez derided President Benigno Aquino III for revealing during his State-of-the-Nation Address that the previous Pagcor management had spent P1 billion on coffee for casino patrons over the last nine years.

“This is always the case,” he said.

“The government will throw mud at the Arroyo administration to cover up the real mud covering the Aquino administration. The coffee went to clients that brought money to government coffers. This one, the P400 million, was stolen from the coffers under the very noses of the Pagcor officials.”

Suarez said he would question the Pagcor officials when their proposed budget was deliberated on in the House.

“Some heads must roll for making the government lose P400 million in just one week. That is plunder too.”

Suarez said the President was quick to accuse the Arroyo administration of misuse of funds when he turned a blind eye to the losses to the government brought about by his men.

“President Aquino is good at mathematics when it comes to the previous administration,” he said.

“Had he checked, the P1 billion for coffee was spent for clients for the past nine years and in 12 casinos. This P400 million was lost in just one week … and was never recovered.”

Suarez said it was “foolhardy” for Pagcor’s management to simply dismiss the P400 million lost as “You win some, you lose some.”

“The sum is so huge to be dismissed as usual losses,” he said.

“This merits a serious investigation, and the reports reaching my office show there is no probe being done. So now we ask, why is there no serious investigation? Are there some Pagcor officials who are in cahoots with the syndicate? Was President Aquino even made aware that the government lost that much? It was not lost in a fair game.”


By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy (PN) is about to finish construction of a second star shell-like structure on Patag Island in the Spratlys, which is intended to shelter and protect troops guarding and securing the country’s maritime domain in the hotly-contested West Philippine Sea from inclement weather.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in the meantime, is eagerly awaiting the US Hamilton-class ship acquired by the PN, which stopped in Hawaii yesterday for refueling before continuing its voyage to Manila.

The Navy’s 3rd Naval Mobile Construction Battalion is now nearing completion of the “Star Shell,” construction of which was started in late May, according to the the PN’s Naval Construction Brigade.

Once completed, Patag Island, the sixth largest among the nine islands being occupied by Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea, will complement another star shell facility constructed by the Navy for the troops deployed in the area.

The islet has a land area of 5,700 square meters and is also being claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The construction is aimed at improving the living conditions of the troops and was done way ahead of the brewing tensions among Spratlys claimant-countries.

The island is considered highly strategic, as it is located within the vicinity of Recto Bank where local and foreign partners have been conducting oil drilling exploration operations.

Recto Bank, which is within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEC), is believed to be sitting on huge natural gas and oil deposits.

At present, a 25-man strong Seabees groups headed by Lt. Armelito Alcazar are still in Patag Island building the structure, using pre-fabricated materials brought in by the Navy’s BRP Laguna (LT 501) from Cavite.

The AFP has also programmed the repair and rehabilitation of the Rancudo Airfield in the Pag-Asa Island, the biggest island in the Kalaayan Island Group (KIG), to be able to accommodate C-130 military planes and other civilian aircraft.

AFP spokesman Commodore Miguel Rodriguez said the US Hamilton-class ship will proceed to another port in Guam before proceeding to the Philippines.

“According to the Filipino community in the area, they are giving BRP Gregorio del Pilar a warm reception. We are excited about this,” Rodriguez said in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“It is not a voyage per se so there are a lot of trainings. Even the crew members want to familiarize themselves with the ship,” he added.

Rodriguez said the ship would complement the skills of Navy personnel, whom he described as “among the best in the world.”

A total of 95 Navy personnel are manning the US Hamilton-class cutter that will arrive in Manila in three weeks.

The ship would be used to secure the natural resources and the Malampaya energy projects in the West Philippine Sea. The transfer cost has been pegged at P450 million while the operational cost for two years is estimated at P120 million. A cutter is a high-speed vessel that can cut through waves.

The newly acquired ship is the Navy’s first Hamilton-class cutter and would become its largest vessel.

AFP unfazed by China’s modernization efforts

The AFP is also unfazed by reports that China is building two aircraft carriers to enhance the capabilities of its military.

Rodriguez said China’s move would not affect stability in the West Philippine Sea.

“I think it will not make that much difference because we understand that these disputes or any dispute for that matter is best resolved in the negotiating table,” he said.

Rodriguez said they knew about China’s plan to beef up its military as early as four years ago.

“It’s part of the confidence-building measures among navies of the world, that they are acquiring these and there is no cause for alarm,” he said.

A Reuters report said on Wednesday that China is building two aircraft carriers at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai.

The report quoted sources as saying that the ship may be based in Hainan Island.

Phl firm against bilateral talks

Meanwhile, maritime legal experts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet in Manila this September to discuss the West Philippine Sea dispute and to evaluate the Philippines’ proposal to transform the contested waters to a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C).

“We have been receiving a lot of support from the ASEAN foreign ministers and this can be shown in their welcoming of our proposal for a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said at a press briefing yesterday.

“We will be giving them our concept paper on the ZoPFF/C and let them discuss it, asses it – hopefully they would be able to support it. With their support we can present it to the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting and later to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting,” he said.

Hernandez also said ASEAN-member countries have expressed their support for the Philippines’ suggestion for a multilateral settlement of the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

“In general, the support is on the proposal for peaceful resolution and for a rules-based approach under international law. I hope China would listen to the voice of the ASEAN and even the voice of the international community,” Hernandez said.

China has been firm on its stand to talk with claimant-countries the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam on a bilateral level rather than a multilateral one as proposed by the United States and the ASEAN. – With Alexis Romero, Helen Flores


By Erick San Juan

I was bombarded by several emails and text messages from concerned citizens and bloggers like Ferdie Pasion, Walter Siy, Architect Ben Yu, Victor Yam,etc. Their mails and messages are really fiery and thought provoking. The issue is all about the helplessness of our military being set up and killed by a small group of scalawags in the south.

This week, seven Philippine marines were killed and 21 were wounded in Patikul, Sulu. There were allegedly 300 Abu Sayyafs who ambushed our soldiers. We never learned from our past mistakes. What happened to our intelligence operation on the ground?

Architect Ben Yu said,” I still believe that the Abu Sayyaf’s are supported by foreign groups especially by the U.S. intel, to justify the extended stay of the ‘Balikatan’ military exercises….which function is to secure the Exxon-Mobil oil operation in the Sulu Seas…. For Malaysia, that’s a waste of money supporting the ASG”.
From activist-nationalist Ferdie Pasion, he’s calling the attention of our government and asking the Armed Forces of the Philippines for an all out war against the Abu Sayyaf’s. He believes that this is the only answer to banditry and atrocities.

Victor Yam added that the real tragedy of this incident is not the defeat of the Philippine Marines, but the continued existence of the Abu Sayyaf group despite the years of presence of thousands of U.S. military personnels stationed and actually based in Minsupala with their aircraft carriers docked nearby.

I have written so many articles about the Abu Sayyaf Group (please see my blog, www.ericksanjuan .blogspot.com and one of my books, Conspiracies and Controversies). Methinks that Abu Sayyaf is a state sponsored terror group created by some puppets in uniform and manipulated by foreign vested interests through a clique of corrupt local government functionaries as weapon for their illicit fund raising and political control.

Most of the remnants of ASG are ‘ABU SHABU’, meaning many are drug users, reason they are so violent and fearless. They are good copy for terror and trepidation. If the local government units can’t weed out the bandits, let’s try putting a military government there. A pocket martial law is the answer. Command responsibility is a must. Terror infested communities should be put in such a situation to ferret out and eliminate the culprits, their cohorts and masters.

But, what if the creator and protector and of these Frankensteins are our enemies from within? Can our government do something? Do they know something but really helpless to act?

Beware of the real bandits!

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
By Linggoy Alcuaz

At about 8 pm last Sunday, July 24, our eldest brother, Manuel Araneta Alcuaz, Jr. (72) died. We cremated him on Monday at Arlington Memorial Chapels,Gregorio Araneta (Our maternal grandfather.) Avenue. We eulogized him on Tuesday at the National Shrine of Mt. Carmel on Broadway, New Manila. That is just five blocks south and three blocks west from our ancestral (Buily in 1927 and bought by my parents in 1941.) home on Balete Drive (between Sampaguita and Campanilla Streets). We buried him at 5 pm on Wednesday in the Mt. Carmel crypt. He was preceded there by two older cousins, Santiago “Goy” and Sebastian “Basty” (born in 1927) Alcuaz Munoa. In the future, our parents, Manuel Tuason Alcuaz and Rosa Zaragosa Araneta will be transferred there from La Loma.

In the last week of his life, Mano was intertwined with Koko Pimentel and OpinYon. We first found out that Mano was sick during a meeting of Justice for Koko, Justice for All. Tuesday, July 19. The organizer of La Salle Ateneo at Lahat Na as well as J4K, J4A, Patrick Donato Pantaleon, hosted lunch at a restaurant on top of the Tennis Courts of the Manila Polo Club. Mano did not talk as much as he usually did. He had to leave early for a business presentation at the Corinthian Plaza on Paseo de Roxas. I noticed that when he excused himself to Bing Pimentel, his voice and gestures were weak.

Sometime after, my daughter Cuchie called. Mano’s secretary had called to advise next of kin that Mano had collapsed in the parking lot. Patrick and l looked for him. We found him standing with two security guards across the road from his car. In front of him was a car that he had bumped. He had drifted from the through lane to the parking lane without realizing it and without seeing the only car that was parked there. Since I had experienced a worse head on collision in late 2008, I immediately realized that he was suffering from hypoglycaemia – low blood sugar. Mano explained to me that it was the second time that he had experienced over brightness in his vision when he came out from the covered tennis courts to the open air parking.

Like me, his cure for hypoglycaemia was to eat chocolates for the sugar in it. Patrick and I asked him to have a medical check-up, to rest and not to drive himself. However, he insisted that he had to go on to his next appointment and that he was fit enough to do so. We had to content ourselves with remotely monitoring his movements. That night, he got home safely. Friday, July 22, he went to his diabetes Doctor at the Makati Medical Center. She prescribed a battery of tests.

Mano and I are both diabetics. I am insulin dependent. He was still on medications. When I want to eat plenty and not have to follow the “Ladies First” rule, I claim that I overdosed on insulin and am turning weak and about to faint from hypoglycaemia. The latter is a state of low blood sugar which is the reverse of the rule for a diabetic – high blood sugar. Normal is 100 – 110. Dangerously low is 70. When my doctor prescribed insulin for me in March of 2008, my sugar was 300. My brother has had the same lady doctor for nineteen years. He must have discovered that he had it long before. My mother had diabetes. I discovered mine in 1989.

Mano was still single. He had had many girlfriends in his life. He and my other brother, Francisco “Paco” both studied in San Beda College during their grade school and high school years. They transferred to De La Salle Taft in 1956 and 1959 respectively, to take up Engineering, Mano Chemical and Paco Mechanical. My mother sent me to Ateneo in Loyola Heights for Grade School (‘62), High School (‘66) and College (batch ’70). Our uncle and youngest Zaragosa-Araneta sibling, Fr. Francisco Araneta was rising in the ranks of the Jesuit Order. He became the Rector/President of both Ateneo de Cagayan/Xavier University and the Ateneo de Manila University. Also, the Ateneo had opened its new Loyola Heights campus. San Beda and St. Theresa’s College, where my two sisters, Maria Carmen “Nena” A. Reyes (70) and Rose Marie A. Lim (66) studied before transferring to the Assumption Convent in Herran, had previously been the nearest good Catholic Schools to our home in New Manila. Ateneo and Assumption in Padre Faura were farther away. De La Salle Taft was much farther, near the Pasay City boundary.

On Sunday, July 24, my wife Baby (62), daughter Cuchie (39) and I woke up late because my son, Mikko (36) was suffering from an infection. In a very freaky accident, he was wounded by the jagged bone of a big piece of roast beef that we ate during his birthday party three weeks ago. We were about to leave for Unimart in Greenhills. Our Sunday routine is my wife and daughter go to the supermarket while I take coffee and enjoy the tsimis at Eric San Juan’s Kapihan in the Unimart Coffee Shop.

Then, I got a call in one of my cell phones from an unlisted number. “This is the Manila Polo Club Medical Team”, then he hesitated. I knew it was about my kuya and I feared the ambulance attendant’s inability to speak meant that my brother had died. Then, he continued, “We are sorry sir but we have to go back to the MPC. Your brother is alone. Can you come and take care of him?” “Sure, we will leave our home right away. But, we are still in Quezon City. It will take us some time”, I said. We went off, doing our darned best to call all concerned by land line and cell phone. My brother, Paco, got back from Mass and picked me up at Unimart.

Earlier that morning, Mano had gone to the Manila Polo Club to play his thrice-a-week tennis. He changed into tennis clothes in the locker room. At 10:00 am, the MPC clinic logbook recorded that he was complaining of dizziness. The MMC ER logbook recorded his arrival via MPC ambulance at 11:24 am. They say that he vomited. That is one sign of a heart attack or a stroke.

As two generations of the Araneta-Alcuaz clan mobilized to respond to what we thought was still a minor ailment, Mano had recovered and was lining up to pay his ER bill. By the time Paco and I got to the Mandaluyong Circle, he was on his way back to the MPC by taxi. We caught up with him at the MPC Sports Lounge. He offered us lunch but we only ordered a sandwich and waffles. Mano did not eat. He excused himself to take a shower and change back to street clothes.

At about two o ‘clock, a plainclothes security with a walkie talkie asked us to go to the clinic. Mano had collapsed after taking a shower. Fortunately, the efficient and coordinated clinic and security had been monitoring him and had even escorted him in the locker room. When we got to the clinic, Mano was lying down in a bed without his toupee. The nurse gave it to me. An attendant told us that they would take him to the ER of the MMC but that Mano did not want to ride their ambulance. He wanted to ride his car. So, I had to look for his car and had a hard time driving it since I’m not used to an automatic (Specially, one with a manual override.). The nurse rode in the back. The ambulance followed.

Along Ayala Avenue, between EDSA and Paseo, he vomited. Between Paseo and de la Costa/Salcedo Streets, his head slumped, eyes fully closed. But when we got to the Emergency Room’s driveway, he opened his door and stood up. They had to tell him to wait for the wheel chair. He had already had several heart attacks. For half of the time that he was in the ER, the X Ray and the Heart Catheterization Departments, he was conscious and could respond and speak. The ER staff would clear with us and explain everything they did to us and to Mano. Mano’s humour and pride were alive for a long time.

When they asked him about allergies, he said, “Chicken, but because of religion.” Chest pains? “Only due to being boxed.” When I asked him what to do with his toupee, he got it and put it on. But his BP was only 70 over 40. His lungs were flooding. The monitor broke. They transferred him to another cubicle with a fully working machine. Then, all hell broke loose. Was that “Code Blue”? Before long they were resuscitating him with electric shock. He had had a stroke too. He had to have a C T Scan for his brain. He had to undergo an andiogram and maybe an andioplasty. When they wheeled him into the Heart Catheterization room, I left. My sisters Nena and Binggay and Paco’s wife, Glorie, had arrived. Halfway home, Paco called me to tell me that an open heart triple or quadruple heart by-pass was immediately required. However, Mano got another attack or stroke. He did not make it to the operation. Before 8 pm, the author of last week’s OpinYon cover story (Foul! Zubiri Freezing the Ball!) died.

THE PHILIPPINES FOR SALE: How GMA sold the Spratlys to China.

Watch and Weep for the Motherland