May 2013

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Poverty-boy-cradling-a-brotherSometimes, we need a foreigner to articulate a truth so we can confront it. Dan Brown, author of the bestseller, “Inferno”, a fiction and sequel to previous books like “Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol”, mentions Manila in ways not so flattering. In fact, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino reacted quite sharply to Brown’s choice of Manila and his choice of words to describe the city – or metropolis.

There is some basis for Tolentino’s objections for the book’s characterization of Manila as “six-hour jams, suffocating pollution, horrifying sex trade…” The six-hour traffic jams are true only if we have an Ondoy typhoon flooding Manila. The suffocating pollution depends on how pure an environment someone’s lungs have been used to. The face masks of MMDA traffic enforcers, though, indicate they are affected by pollution. And sex trade is present, indeed, but a billing that Manila shares with many other cities in other countries. I do not know what horrifying means – is the author thinking of volume or perversity?

Tolentino said that the book used terrible description of pollution and poverty. Too bad, because pollution is dirty and a killer, and poverty is even dirtier and a greater killer. I cannot speak of other places beyond Metro Manila, but there is no denying that the metropolis is polluted. The pollution is not only in the air, which to me seems to have improved, but it is also in the garbage. Garbage dumps are way below standards, and garbage in the canals and rivers even worse. I think pictures of the big floods that have hit Metro Manila depict just how thick uncollected garbage is.

But Dan Brown was kind on poverty. The real poverty in the Philippines is indescribable. It not only affects almost 30 million Filipinos because that is truly understated. Filipinos who know they are poor and honest enough to say it reach 50 million or half of the population. Thank goodness that “Inferno” was not meant to tell the story of poverty in the Philippines because the author could have been more graphic and voluminous.

Poverty has been reported mostly in statistics. These reports in no way come close to the reality of poverty, the pain, the hopelessness, the constant fear of not surviving, and then the greater fear of surviving in hell. Gates of hell? No, poverty is past through the gates, poverty is hell itself.

Hunger.2Brown did not even get to the hunger. If he had concentrated more on Manila, it would not have been a work of fiction anymore – it would have not have used anything else but the truth to describe the dire reality of how poverty depraves the poor among our people. A storyteller tends to be more articulate and interesting than statistics. Numbers are cold, words are warmer, pictures are hot, and audio-video is graphic.

But Tolentino is concerned about the truth that had been conveniently left out by the author. There is beauty in Metro Manila, beauty not only in edifices but also the culture of the Filipino. Beyond beauty, there is opulence that can make many forget that there is poverty, too, horrible, terrible poverty.

My concern about trying to show the other side of Manila is that it shames us as a people for being most uncaring to the darker side of life. If we show the glitz, if we show the awesome food we can cook and present in restaurants, if we show the commercial centers, the condos and exclusive villages, if we show the wealth of the rich and powerful, these will become scandalous when contrasted with the pollution and poverty that “Inferno” referred to.

I know Chairman Tolentino is only trying to show a side that is also true, especially a new governance that is more sensitive and concerned about the poor. The macro is even more outstanding, the aggressive economic growth, the surging stock market, the call centers and BPOs, the construction boom, the exciting tourist avalanche. I believe this is what Chairman Tolentino did not want to be just omitted because it is real as well, it is dramatic as well, and it is bringing the country where we want it to go.

We should not too concerned about good news being locked out this time. Look at the approval and trust ratings of the President – at 70% or more after three years in office simply says that the people know about the good news, even the poor. Even more than what Filipinos feel and say are what non-Filipinos feel and say. The financial institutions and rating agencies have been one uninterrupted source of admiration. The global business world is looking closely, and investing heavily. P-Noy is the darling of the world, and the Philippines the enviable host for both business and fun.

What we should be constantly reminded of are issues which keep us down, which hold us back, and for which we attract scorn. And these are poverty and hunger as the worst of them all. Corruption, primarily because of P-Noy himself, is viewed as being addressed, far from perfect but being addressed.

Dan Brown and his term, “the gates of hell”, are necessary reminders, even quite gentle ones. The discomfort that we suffer by being called so is, by far, incomparable to the suffering of our poor. Dan Brown is not a Filipino hater, and neither am I. But until we hate hunger and poverty as a people, we deserve to be confronted with the truth in its ugliest form.

Over and over, I have said this, and time has only made me more convinced that our journey to progress and a bright tomorrow will find serious humps and obstacles until we care more deeply for our own.

By Iris C. Gonzales
New Internationalist Blogs 

Manila traffic by Mike McKay.  There is a furore in Manila now, as heated as the scalding sun, here in this densely populated country of 94 million people where on most days these days, the thermometer reads 34 degrees Celsius.

Manila traffic by Mike McKay. There is a furore in Manila now, as heated as the scalding sun, here in this densely populated country of 94 million people where on most days these days, the thermometer reads 34 degrees Celsius.

Fiction writer Dan Brown, the same man who said Jesus married Mary Magdalene, described Manila as the gates of hell in his latest novel, Inferno.

‘Six-hour-long traffic jams, suffocating pollution and a miserable sex trade,’ is how Brown’s heroine Dr Sienna Brooks describes Manila. She has never seen such teeming poverty. ‘I’ve run through the gates of hell,’ she says.

Authorities were quick to dismiss this depiction of Manila. The Catholic priests expressed displeasure while a presidential spokesperson gave the label a thumbs down.

Fiction or not, the depiction is by no means exaggerated.

Just ask any of the four million people who live in slums in Metro Manila alone.

The settlements are scattered all over the city as a result of urban migration. People in the provinces, where employment is more difficult and life harder, often choose to migrate to the city, hoping to find better lives.

Carlito Badion, secretary-general of the urban poor group Kadamay, said slum dwellers face a daily cat-and-mouse game with authorities that seek to demolish their shanties to give way to developers.

In 2012 alone, there were 782 demolitions, he said, and they have not stopped.

In fact, Badion added, on 4 June, there is an eviction scheduled in a riverside shanty in Pasig City, in the eastern part of the capital.

Authorities demolish squatter colonies to make way for big developers who want to build on the land where these slums exist.

However, it is no secret that the government does not have a relocation programme acceptable to the settlers. What happens is that people move to isolated sites after authorities tear down their homes but they often move back to the city to rebuild their life in yet another slum.

And poverty is not the only problem at the gates of hell.

Brown’s Brooks was right. The traffic gridlock in Metro Manila is hell indeed for thousands of commuters who brave the rush-hour traffic.

The few elevated train lines that ply major routes in Metro Manila become packed like sardines, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours, at least for five days a week.

Pickpockets thrive in the mayhem but hapless commuters choose to endure the chaos because in the roads down below, mayhem is a hundred times worse with the traffic jams, the thickest smog and the traffic enforcers, many of whom are corrupt.

Why traffic is so bad in Manila, however, is not at all puzzling.

Public buses, jeepneys and taxis congest the roads, because operators of these public vehicles can easily get franchises for their business if they know the right contacts in regulatory offices.

Corruption, indeed, is so rampant that even a driver’s licence is for sale in the Philippines.

Norma, a domestic helper, was able to get a driver’s licence without knowing how to drive at all. She bribed her way through the Land Transportation Office, the agency that issues licenses, to get a licence.

She was not interested in driving. All she needed was a government-issued ID such as a driver’s licence. She needed to have a government ID to be able to apply for a passport.

‘I paid P3,000 ($75) for my licence,’ she said.

What this reality tells us is that it is easy for anyone in the Philippines to have a valid driver’s license. Never mind if, like Norma, they don’t really know how to drive or know little about road safety and traffic rules.

I believe that rampant corruption is one of the big reasons behind the traffic in Metro Manila and poverty itself.

This extreme poverty, in turn, is what forces many women to work in the sex trade.

Poverty is so bad that in May last year, when the Philippines hosted the annual meeting of the Asia Development Bank, authorities had to put up a fence to cover a long strip of slums on the road from the airport to the conference venue.

So yes, welcome to Manila, where roughly four million people live in slum areas, where traffic is a mess every single day and where extreme poverty forces many women into sex work.

Photo: Mike McKay under a CC Licence

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Brown hounded, calling Manila ‘gates of hell’

Source: AP

Dan Brown (AAP)

Dan Brown (AAP)

Dan Brown’s description of Manila as “the gates of hell” in the American novelist’s latest book has not gone down well with officials in the Philippine capital.

The book Inferno, which is being sold in the Philippines, describes a visitor to the city who is taken aback by poverty, crime and prostitution.

The chairman of metropolitan Manila, Francis Tolentino, wrote an open letter to Brown on Thursday, saying that while Inferno is fiction, “we are greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis”.

Tolentino objected to the “gates of hell” description, and to Manila being defined by what he calls terrible descriptions of poverty and pollution.

He said that the novel fails to acknowledge Filipinos’ good character and compassion.

“Truly, our place is an entry to heaven,” Tolentino said. “We hope that this letter enlightens you and may it guide you the next time you cite Manila in any of your works.”

Brown’s publisher, Doubleday, declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Inferno is already a best-seller a little over a week since its debut. The story drawn partly from Dante’s epic again features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, the protagonist for Brown’s blockbuster The Da Vinci Code and its follow-up The Lost Symbol.

In the book, Langdon’s companion depicts Manila as a city of “six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution, horrifying sex trade”.

“I’ve run through the gates of hell,” she said.

It’s not the first time that authorities have been angered by an unflattering description of the sprawling city of some 12 million people, where urban shanties and the homeless exist side by side with glitzy shopping malls and walled residential compounds.

In 1999, then-President Joseph Estrada banned Hollywood actress Claire Danes, who shot the movie Brokedown Palace in Manila, from entering the country after she said in an interview that the city was smelly, weird and full of rats.

Estrada was elected mayor of Manila in last week’s elections on a promise to reverse the city’s decay.


By Camille Diola
The Philippine Star

A videograb showing Chinese military official Zhang Zhaozhong, lifted from Infoagentura blog.

A videograb showing Chinese military official Zhang Zhaozhong, lifted from Infoagentura blog.

MANILA, Philippines – A Chinese military general has revealed their strategy to take over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) off Zambales province.

China Daily Mail reported that in a recent television interview, Major General Zhang Zhaozhong said that China’s navy has been wrapping the disputed island like a “cabbage” with warships.

China calls the shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical miles exclusive economic zone, as Huangyan Island. It claims virtually the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

In the online news site’s transcript of the interview, Zhang explained at length China’s strategy to a television host who called the Philippines’ activities in the territory “rude” and “barbaric.”

“We have begun to take measures to seal and control the areas around the Huangyan Island, seal and control continuously up till now,” the Chinese news site quoted Zhang as saying.

The Chinese military added that they have been employing the “cabbage” strategy to secure the island from the Philippines by having constant surveillance and assigning administrative fishing vessels, besides warships, in the territory.

“If the Philippines wants to go in, in the outermost area, it has first to ask whether our navy will allow it. Then it has to ask whether our fishery administration ships and marine surveillance ships will allow it,” Zhang said in the interview.

The high-ranking officer said that the “satisfactory” strategy is to ensure Sino fishermen can carry out their work “safely.”

“We have gained quite satisfactory experience about the ways to recover the islands and reefs and defend them,” he told the TV host.

Zhang also explained that such a scheme can also be potentially used to monitor smaller islands in the disputed coastal waters, only that it resources would be scarce.

“For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the “cabbage” strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands,” he said.

Zhang complained that Philippine forces have threatened Chinese fishermen making their living in the area and have “violated … China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“As you have first violated the law and pointed your guns at our fishermen, you would never be allowed to enter the area,” Zhang said, indirectly addressing his Filipino counterparts.

“Each time our Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested, but (the Philippines) refused to listen. In the meantime, it was busy doing this and that, such as sunk a boat there and conducting lots of patrols there,” he said.

Forceful recovery

The major general said that China’s so-called successful recovery of similar contested areas such as the Spratlys group have been due to “right timing.”

“Over the past few years, we have made a series of achievements at the Nansha Islands (the Spratly Islands), the greatest of which I think have been on the Huangyan Island, Meiji Reef (Mischief Reef) and Ren’ai Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal),” he added.

China has also been sending ships to the Ayungin Shoal near Palawan province. The shoal is also within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Zhang said that Chinese authorities next step would be to have a “vigorous development” in the islands to support China’s economy as well as its tourism efforts, fisheries and marine protection.

“We have to do much more work there, and coordinate various efforts. We should not rely only on military effort. In the military perspective, fighting is the last resort while before it there must be production on a large scale and with high enthusiasm and large-scale production on the sea,” he concluded.

He also mentioned that China plans to implement its law and military might more forcefully for the islands’ complete “recovery.”


(File Photo)

(File Photo)

Beijing condemned the Philippines on Thursday over a Filipino warship grounded on a Chinese reef in the South China Sea.

It described the illegal grounding of the vessel on the Ren’ai Reef as a “serious encroachment of territorial sovereignty”, and warned Manila not to stir up the situation in the South China Sea any further.

Observers said Beijing acted in response to an attempt by the Philippines to assert territorial claims by keeping the warship stranded on the reef since 1999.

“China’s resolution and will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty is unswerving,” Geng Yansheng, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said at a press conference.

An allegation by the Philippines that Chinese vessels have threatened to cut off supplies of water and food to Philippine military staff at the reef is groundless, Geng said.

“Chinese naval patrols in the area are justifiable,” he added.

After the warship was grounded on the reef, Beijing repeatedly asked Manila to retrieve it, but the Philippines ignored the request despite having promised to tow the ship away.

Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “The Philippine’s logic is ludicrous in calling its grounded ship a symbol of occupation while it is in China’s inherent territory.”

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, which include Ren’ai Reef and adjacent waters.

Manila has highlighted the situation on the reef at a time of heightened tension between the two countries. Last April, troops on a Philippine warship harassed Chinese fishermen in waters off China’s Huangyan Island.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Thursday that Beijing has never tolerated Manila’s illegal attempt to seize the reef and Chinese government vessels are entitled to patrol there.

He was speaking in response to a recent claim by the Philippines that Chinese ships pose a threat to the security of the Nansha Islands.

Hong said China also urged relevant countries to fully and sincerely implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to refrain from actions that could aggravate or complicate the issue, and avoid any action that could undermine peace and stability in the region.

Yang Baoyun, a Southeast Asian studies expert at Peking University, said Manila is again acting like a victim but is actually provoking Beijing to gain international sympathy and show off its “influence” in the South China Sea.

“The Philippines also plans to play up the reef topic at the Shangri-La Dialogue, starting on Friday in Singapore, to win more support from major powers such as the United States. They did the same thing last year regarding the Huangyan Island,” Yang said.

Li said that meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held later this year will be used by Manila as a platform for spreading the argument on the South China Sea issue.

China also rejected a report by the US Defense Science Board, which said Chinese hackers have gained access to the designs of two dozen US weapons systems.

The Ministry of National Defense said the accusation is a misjudgment that underestimates the Pentagon’s security capability as well as Chinese people’s wisdom.

Li Hong, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said: “The accusation could be an excuse for the Pentagon to increase its military expenditure. And the cybersecurity issue, which has been exaggerated by the US media immediately before President Xi Jinping meets US President Barack Obama early next month, can become a bargaining chip for the US during the meeting.”

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Gazmin refutes China on sea row

By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star



MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has been complying with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and it is China that has been violating it, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin maintained yesterday.

“We’ve been adhering to the (declaration). We’ve been following the DOC. We did not violate anything,” Gazmin told reporters.

When asked if China is adhering to the declaration, Gazmin replied no.

“They don’t. That’s why we have filed successive protests,” he said.

Gazmin was asked to react to reports quoting Chinese officials as saying that claimants in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) row should honor the DOC.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei has been quoted by state-run news agency Xinhua as saying that relevant countries should “fully and earnestly implement” the DOC.

Hong also called on the countries to “refrain from actions that could amplify or complicate the issue, and avoid any action that could undermine peace and stability in the region.”

Despite China’s violations of the DOC, the Philippines will continue to strive to deescalate tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

“We have to avoid escalating the problem since we have already filed cases (before the international tribunal) to avoid jeopardizing legal proceedings,” Gazmin said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Philippine government must fight until the last man to retain Ayungin Shoal.

He said the government is trying to preempt a bloody solution to the issue on the Ayungin Shoal, which is now being targeted by China.

“We are preempting because remember we had further case for arbitration. That is a peaceful solution,” Binay said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China has no right to dictate to the Philippines what it can do within its own maritime domain.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the rotation of personnel and their provisioning by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a sovereign and humanitarian duty.

Hernandez responded to questions about the informal talk between Gazmin and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing on Chinese concerns over the Philippines putting of more structures in Ayungin Shoal.

“The Philippines exercises jurisdiction and sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea and has all the right to undertake lawful activities within its maritime domain without any interference or objection by any other state,” Hernandez said.

He maintained Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of the Philippine national territory.

“China is not in a position to dictate on what the Philippines can do within its maritime domain,” Hernandez said.

The DFA urged China to withdraw and leave the Philippine EEZ and continental shelf.

“As President (Aquino) said, we will defend what is ours. China has no right to be there. China has no right to dictate to us what we can do in our maritime domain,” Hernandez said. – Pia Lee Brago, Jaime Laude

By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star

Sixto-Brillantes.4Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. violated the Constitution in giving himself and the six commissioners intelligence funds last Feb. He also broke the fundamental law in buying land in behalf of the poll body in 2012. His legal brilliancy self-proclaimed, Brillantes presumably knew what he was doing was wrong. He could be impeached for such culpability.

Malacañang disclosed Brillantes’s P30-million intelligence fund last week in the course of defending the commissioners’ pocketing of a prior P10 million. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the P30 million was “realigned” from the Comelec’s budget savings in 2012. Brillantes had sought and got presidential clearance for the fund juggling.

The realignment went against the express provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2012. That budget law specifically forbade the Comelec from thenceforth having intelligence funds.

The prohibition was inserted during the budget hearings in late 2011 by Sen. Franklin Drilon, head of the Senate finance committee. He had then just finished a probe of fund abuses by government-owned and -controlled corporations. Unearthed were the pocketing of confidential and/or intelligence funds by GOCC heads. Example: P18 million at the Clark Development Corp. in 2010. Also just concluded was an inquiry into the military comptroller’s “conversions” of unused personnel funds into multimillion-peso pabaon (going-away cash gifts) for retiring chiefs. No longer would the malpractices be allowed.

Only security and policing agencies were to have intelligence funds starting with the 2012 budget. Specifically to be debarred from then on, the press quoted Drilon, were the Comelec, Public Attorney’s Office, Office of the Solicitor General, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Presidential Commission on Good Government, National Telecoms Commission, and the Judiciary.

Brillantes thus was explicitly prohibited from converting the Comelec’s savings into intelligence funds.

Specifically, Brillantes broke the Constitution’s Article VI (The Legislative Department), Section 25-(5), which states: “No law shall be passed authorizing the transfer of appropriations; however, the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

No law has been enacted to let Brillantes augment the intelligence budgeting of his constitutional commission. The GAA of 2012 in fact disallowed him from doing so.

Brillantes cannot invoke the Comelec’s “fiscal autonomy.” Article IX (Constitutional Commissions, Common Provisions), Section 5 is not applicable. For all it means is that his agency’s approved budget shall be automatically and regularly released, not subject to delay by the budget department.

Brillantes’s securing of a presidential approval does not exculpate him either. If at all, it shows a lawyer’s attempts to pass blame on a non-lawyer.

Ex-commissioner Gus Lagman exposed last week the misuse of Comelec intelligence funds. He said he was given two checks for P1.25 million in late 2011. In Mar. 2012 he was advised by the agency’s finance chief to sign a one-page report of concocted expenditures, and the money would be his to pocket. Appalled, he returned the P1.25 million.

It was part of a P10-million “intelligence fund” to which the six commissioners were “entitled” P1.25 million each, with Brillantes as chairman getting double, P2.5 million.

Brillantes has acknowledged receiving that amount. Presumably he has taken too his P7.5-million share of the subsequent P30 million released last Feb.

*      *      *

Another “savings” anomaly was committed earlier. Sometime in 2012 Brillantes negotiated to purchase land for P1.2 billion from the Philippine Retirement Authority. During the hearings in late 2012 for the GAA of 2013, he admitted to the Senate having paid an advance of P250 million. The money supposedly came from the Comelec’s P3.5-billion savings in 2011.

That again was a culpable violation of the Constitution’s Article VI, Section 25-(5). For, Brillantes had no authority from any congressional enactment to buy land for his agency from savings. There was no provision in the GAA of 2012 for the land acquisition.

As a constitutional commission, the Comelec may use its savings to augment only approved or existing programs. Like, if it has provisions of P1 million in salaries for 100 new recruits, but actually hires only 50, it can use the savings of P500,000 to augment ongoing projects, say, voter education.

No way may Brillantes cook up any expenditure at whim, like P1.2 billion for real estate, with a whopping P250-million down payment. The Constitution and the yearly GAAs contain checks and balances against fund abuses.

Brillantes has scuttled the P1.2-billion land deal. He said last Nov. that he did so on the Ombudsman’s advice that he could be breaking the Constitution (see…).

But then, discontinuing the purchase does not absolve Brillantes. For he already gave away P250 million without congressional consent.

Brillantes was piqued with Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s questioning that made him confess to the P250-million indiscretion. The latter had wanted to know if there was hanky-panky. Drilon said then that if Brillantes was removed from office for culpable violation of the Constitution, criminal prosecution could follow for technical malversation of public funds, with jail time.

Members of constitutional commissions can only be ousted by impeachment. Aside from breach of Constitution, the other grounds are graft and corruption, bribery, treason and other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

Brillantes is under fire for a series of blunders and fund anomalies related to the automation of Election 2013.

*      *      *

In wangling Malacañang consent of his P30-million intelligence fund, Brillantes needed justification. Valte said Brillantes’s stated reasons was “for intelligence and counter-intelligence activities and gathering of information relative to the activities of certain groups, individuals and technology experts suspected of conducting overt and covert operations to sabotage the results of the upcoming elections.”

The “technology experts” are likely the members of AES (Automated Election Systems) Watch, who have been critical of the Comelec’s use of unreliable, expensive voting machines. Brillantes at one point had called them “election saboteurs,” but gave no specifics of their alleged heinous offenses. After the election of May 13 he also said that, for making life difficult for him, he would get even with them by naming their supposed orchestrator. He has not done so.

The AES Watch has challenged Brillantes to make public his intelligence gatherings, if any. He has remained quiet. Perhaps he knows that he had treaded on illegal grounds — violation of civil liberties. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and redress of grievance; and the security of persons, houses, papers, and effects.

Brillantes culpably has violated those rights with his P30 million.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).


By Ed Velasco
The Daily Tribune 

Cesar-PurisimaTop economic officials, including Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr., Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, members of the Monetary Board Armando Suratos, Alfredo Antonio, Felipe Medalla, Ignacio Bunye, Peter Favila, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. president Valentin Araneta and Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Teresita Herbosa have been charged with graft before the Ombuds-man over their approval of the merger between two major banks.

Several text inquiries were sent by the Tribune to Purisima asking for his comment on the criminal complaint against the officials but he failed to respond.

Purisima was a member of the infamous Hyatt 10 consisting of Cabinet and sub Cabinet level officials who were fired en masse in July 2005 by then President Gloria Arroyo.

Last Feb. 25, Assistant Ombudsman Marilou Ancheta-Mejica of the Preliminary Investigation Administration Adjudication and Monitoring Office II (PAMO II) ordered the top economic officials and several other respondents to submit their counter-affidavit and those of their witnesses.

Purisima is Finance secretary and concurrent MB member. The complaint against the officials stemmed from the complaint of Rosa Caram, one of the stakeholders of General Bank and Trust Company.

Mejica gave credence to the claim of Caram that allowing the Philippine National Bank and Allied Bank to merge constitutes a violation of section 3(e) and (j) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Punishment for the criminal offense is six-year imprisonment, perpetual violation from holding public office and garnishment of all properties obtained while in government service.

The complaint alleged that the banks should not merge because almost 80 percent of Allied Bank’s paid capital were still being disputed in court.

Despite the controversy, the BSP, MB and SEC gave the go-signal for the merger of the two banks last Feb. 9.
The complainants claimed that the BSP, the SEC, and the PDIC violated section 3 (e and j) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the, which refers to the following: Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence.

“This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions; and knowingly approving or granting any license, permit, privilege or benefit in favor of any person not qualified for or not legally entitled to such license, permit, privilege or advantage, or of a mere representative or dummy of one who is not so qualified or entitled,” according to the law.

The complaint also said the respondents violated Republic Act No. 6723, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, as well as Article XI, Section 1 of the Philippine Constitution, referring to public office as equivalent to public trust and Article 19 of the Civil Code, which states that “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.”

“Force always attracts men of low morality.” — ALBERT EINSTEIN

By Alex P. Vidal

Philippine Ambassador Jose Cuisia appeals for impartial inquiry as Fil-Ams raise 'disproportionate force' issue against responding Virginia cops who shot dead a 38-year-old Fil-Am from Bulacan. (Source:

Philippine Ambassador Jose Cuisia appeals for impartial inquiry as Fil-Ams raise ‘disproportionate force’ issue against responding Virginia cops who shot dead a 38-year-old Fil-Am from Bulacan. (Source:

We don’t know what rules of engagement (if they are covered by the rules) did the American cops use when they responded to a commotion that resulted in the killing of Filipino-American Costco warehouse worker Mylene De Leon Scott on May 29 in Virginia, USA.

Either the life of the lawman who fired the shot or the lives of others present in crime scene were in danger that the situation warranted the use of excessive force, or the cops were unfit to deal with cases involving people with emotional and mental disability (Mrs. Scott had been suffering from nervous breakdown, according to a Canada-based relative).

Based on initial reports, it appears that the cop who shot and killed Scott may have panicked after efforts to calm her down with a taser failed. She was reportedly armed with a knife and scissor and was acting hysterically.

The question that boggles the minds of many people is this: if the cop failed to neutralize the 38-year-old Scott with a taser, was it necessary to fire a gun five times and fatally hit the woman amok? Rules of Engagement are rules or directives to military forces (including individuals) that define the circumstances, conditions, degree, and manner in which force, or actions which might be construed as provocative, may be applied.


If Scott’s actions were “provocative” was it necessary to kill her in order to stop her from committing a violent act? Rules of Engagement supposedly do not normally dictate how a result is to be achieved but will indicate what measures may be unacceptable.

It is given that cops in the Unites States, or any other countries for that matter, are trained to overpower hostage takers or individuals who run berserk, with the use of lesser force like taser, bat, or physical contacts proportionate to violent acts. But not the capital punishment of death!

In the case of Scott, extra caution should have been observed since firstly, she was a woman; secondly, she wasn’t carrying a high-powered gun; and thirdly, she was not known to be a hardened-criminal. Responding deputy sheriffs don’t respond to a call for commotion alone. They arrive in crime scene as partners. They have back ups and armed with walkie-talkies, cuffs, bats and service firearms. A knife-wielding woman doesn’t have a chance versus two male cops in any confrontation.


We just hope Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman will leave no stone unturned in the investigation now that the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC has asked US probers to focus on concerns by Fil-Ams that “law enforcement officials may have responded with disproportionate force” when they shot dead Scott.

We just hope Chapman meant well when he said during the press conference that “It’s a very unfortunate situation for everybody. I just want to make sure our deputies are safe and everything gets investigated properly. Ultimately we’ve got to go through and interview all the witnesses … I don’t want to speculate on minuscule details at this time.”

Meanwhile, in a statement posted at the official website of the Embassy, Philippines Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. extended “deepest sympathy to the family of Mylene De Leon Scott . . . who was shot dead by police officers responding to a reported disturbance inside the Costco Wholesale Store in Sterling, Virginia, on Wednesday, 29 May 2013.”


Cuisia added: “The Embassy stands ready to extend its assistance to the family of Ms. Scott. We will continue to coordinate with police authorities in Loudoun County to secure more information on this case.”

The embassy said it shared “the concerns expressed by Ms. Scott’s family in the Philippines and the members of the Filipino-American Community that law enforcement officials may have responded with disproportionate force.”

The statement concluded: “We request authorities to conduct a thorough, impartial and expeditious investigation of the incident.”

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Woman Handing Out Samples at Va. Costco Shot Dead by Police After Acting Strangely

Police tried to subdue her with stun gun, then shot her

By Mila Mimica
NBC Washington

The family of a woman fatally shot while handing out samples at Costco is questioning the use of deadly force against their loved one.

The melee began at about 3 p.m. Wednesday, when store employees noticed 38-year-old Mhai Scott acting oddly while handing out pizza samples, said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

Scott reportedly became upset when she ran out of pizza, reported Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey. Witnesses said she was waving a knife and scissors, threatening employees.

Deputies were called to the store to handle the disturbance. After they arrived, Scott — who worked for a company that handles sampling at Costco stores — approached the officers with the sharp items, authorities said.

One deputy tried to use a stun gun on Scott, but Chapman said the stun gun “did not work,” and another deputy fatally shot her.

A sheriff’s deputy also was wounded in the leg by a ricocheting bullet. The injury was not life-threatening.

Only one deputy fired shots, Chapman said. Both deputies were placed on paid administrative leave.

Relatives of Mhai Scott are gathering in Loudoun County to grieve and make arrangements. Other family members, including her mother and sister, are in mourning in the Philippines, Scott’s homeland. Her ex-husband, who is in the U.S. military, just returned to the Sterling area to join relatives.

Scott’s mother and sister told Philippine television station ABS-CBN News she was the mother of two girls, aged 8 and 12. In the Filipino TV story, Scott’s sister says she had an ongoing dispute with her ex-husband over the custody of their two girls.

Her sister said she had spoken to Scott about an hour prior to the shooting and didn’t think anything was wrong.

The following statement was submitted Thursday by the Philippine Embassy regarding the shooting:

“The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Mylene De Leon Scott, a member of the Filipino-American Community, who was shot dead by police officers responding to a reported disturbance inside the Costco Wholesale Store in Sterling, Virginia, on Wednesday, 29 May 2013.

The Embassy stands ready to extend its assistance to the family of Ms. Scott. We will continue to coordinate with police authorities in Loudoun County to secure more information on this case. We share the concerns expressed by Ms. Scott’s family in the Philippines and the members of the Filipino-American Community that law enforcement officials may have responded with disproportionate force. We request authorities to conduct a thorough, impartial and expeditious investigation of the incident.”

The Costco Warehouse Store is located at 21398 Price Cascades Plaza in Loudoun County, Va. It reopened at 10 a.m. Thursday. No samples were being handed out.

Nora Lateef said she was at the food court in the store when she saw three deputies rush into the store and head toward the employee lounge, asking, “Where is Linda?”

Soon, Lateef said, she heard five shots and the store was evacuated. They were saying “Everybody out of the store! Out of the store!” Lateef said.

Shopper Elizabeth Avelar told News4 she believes she had contact with Scott prior to the shooting. “The woman was very nice, very polite,” Avelar said.

Avelar was later ushered out of the store following the incident.

“I had no idea whether somebody was being shot, if there was a bomb threat,” Avelar said. “It was very difficult to get out of the parking lot — people were honking their horns. It was frightening.”

Chapman said Scott was an employee of Club Demonstration Services, Inc., a Costco subcontractor.

CDS President Don Dohanyos released a statement Wednesday:

“We are extremely saddened by the situation that occurred at the Costco warehouse in Sterling, Va., earlier today. We are treating this with the utmost sensitivity and are cooperating fully with the authorities as they gather more details on the events leading up to the shooting of our CDS associate. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected by this event.”

CDS issued a new statement Thursday, saying Scott worked part-time for them since October 2012.

“She was a valued member of the team” and “a respected associate,” the statement said.

Dohanyos said grief counselors are available to employees.


The Spanish aircraft carrier SPS Principe De Asturias (R 11) steams through the Atlantic Ocean while participating in Majestic Eagle 2004. (Picture: US Navy)

The Spanish aircraft carrier SPS Principe De Asturias (R 11) steams through the Atlantic Ocean while participating in Majestic Eagle 2004. (Picture: US Navy)

According to rumors that emerged recently in the Spanish press, the Philippines as well as several Arab countries have expressed interest in purchasing the former Spanish Navy Aircraft Carrier Principe de Asturias. In case of a sale, the contract would include refit and upgrading of the vessel by Spanish shipyard Navantia.

According to rumors that emerged recently in the Spanish press, the Philippines as well as several Arab countries have expressed interest in purchasing the former Spanish Navy Aircraft Carrier Principe de Asturias. In case of a sale, the contract would include refit and upgrading of the vessel by Spanish shipyard Navantia.

It is reported that Indonesia already expressed interest in the vessel earlier this year. Following an official visit by TNI AL (Indonesian Navy) delegation to the El Ferrol naval base however, Indonesia decided not to purchase the aircraft carrier.

Principe de Asturias was officially decommissioned in February 2013, with the initial intention to dismantle it for scrap. However this initial plan changed when Spanish Ministry of Defense reportedly received several requests for the aircraft carrier from several countries. Spanish Navy confirmed that there are potential buyers, but has yet to materialize any sales transaction.


By Alvin Elchico

It’s off-limits to Chinese, Taiwanese fishermen

Benham-Rise.4MANILA – As China asserts its presence in the West Philippine Sea, Filipino fishermen are actively avoiding Scarborough Shoal in the waters just off Zambales province.

Amid the tension in the western sea board, the Philippines has announced the opening of a new fishing ground in the east — the Benham Rise.

Benham Rise, a 13-million hectare undersea region that has untapped potentially rich mineral and gas deposits, is located off the coast of Aurora province, opposite the disputed waters of South China Sea.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Director Asis Perez said more than 60 fish-aggregating devices will be installed at Benham Rise starting May 30.

According to BFAR, the area is rich in marine resources.

“Maraming tuna, merong blue fin tuna, pinakamahal na isda. May galunggong, lapu-lapu, isdang bato,” Perez said.

The government is confident the new fishing ground will not be a subject of a territorial dispute in the future.

“Sinisiguro ko po sa inyo, wala ng aagaw,” Perez said.

But fisherfolk group Pamalakaya said while opening of Benham Rise is a welcome development for fishermen, they have information that a fishing ban will be implemented in 10 fishing grounds.

BFAR said Pamalakaya’s information is untrue, as there is no fishing ban at all in the whole country.

Philippine ownership

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Benham Rise, also known as Benham Plateau, is part of Philippine territory.

It is the Philippines’ first successful validation of a claim in accord with the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda earlier said the area is off-limits to Chinese and Taiwanese fishermen.

“There are no Chinese poachers in Benham Rise. Also there are no reports of Taiwanese fishing activities there,” he said.

“We are the only country that was allowed to fish blue fin tuna. There’s a regional Pacific management body in charge of fishing in the Pacific waters,” he added. – with ANC

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Pamalakaya: Benham Rise infested with foreign poachers

By Dennis Carcamo
The Philippine Star  

MANILA, Philippines – Militant group Pamalakaya on Thursday said that Benham Rise off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela, is infested with foreign poachers.

“The fishing waters surrounding the 13-million hectare Benham Rise is frequented by foreign large-scale industrial fishing fleets every year from January to July to fish for tuna. The government has been tolerating the tuna fishing expeditions of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan over the last five years,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France.

Pamalakaya made the statement in reaction to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’s (BFAR) announcement that the government will construct post-harvest facilities and equipment in Isabela and Aurora in anticipation of the increase in fishery production in Benham Rise.

Benham Rise, a rich source of tuna, was confirmed by the United Nations as part of Philippine territory in April 2012.

The BFAR said that its personnel have started putting up markers around Benham Rise, which it said could be a big source of fishery for Filipinos.

It said that more than 60 fish-aggregating devices will be installed at Benham Rise starting May 30.

France, meanwhile, said it is politically and literally impossible for Benham Rise to accommodate the livelihood needs of 1.3 million Filipino fishermen.

He said that while the government is opening Benham Rise to Filipino fishermen, the fishing area is the current object of transnational poaching and resource grab of foreign large-scale factory ships from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

He said that Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean industrial fleets are seen catching first rate tuna in the rise.

“The same foreign fishing vessels have even entered the municipal fishing grounds and the Philippine Coast Guard is not doing anything to stop these foreign ocean grabbers exploring the fishery resources of BenHam Rise. And now President Aquino is offering Benham Rise to small Filipino fisherfolk even if the real score at the grassroots level reveals that foreign fishing monopolies have successfully invaded BenHam Rise long before this is offer of alternative fishing ground to 1.3 million fishermen,” France said.

He said that a 3,000-ton tuna factory ship, accompanied by support fishing fleets, can catch as much as 150 metric tons of tuna on a 24-hour operation. By industry standard, a single factory ship could harvest 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year.

France noted that if there are eight Japanese tuna fishing vessels that regularly poach in the waters of Aurora province daily from January to July, that means a total haul of 27,000 tons of tuna per factory ship during the period or 216,000 metric tons of tuna for all eight fishing vessels.

According to Pamalakaya’s computation, the owners of the eight fishing vessels could have earned as much as $1.274 billion or $160 million per fishing vessel in just six months from tuna poaching in Aurora and other tuna-rich waters within Philippine territory.

Benham Rise, located off the coast of Aurora province, opposite the disputed waters of South China Sea, is a 13-million hectare undersea region that has untapped potentially rich mineral and gas deposits.

By Manuel Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) – A wrecked navy transport ship perched on a remote coral reef could be the next flashpoint in the South China Sea, where China and five other claimants bitterly dispute territory.

The Philippines is accusing China of encroachment after three Chinese ships, including a naval frigate, converged just 5 nautical miles (9 km) from an old transport ship that Manila ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory.

Philippine officials say they fear the Chinese ships will block supplies to about a dozen Filipino marines stationed in abject conditions on the rusting ship, raising tensions over one of Asia’s biggest security issues.

The area, known as Second Thomas Shoal, is a strategic gateway to Reed Bank, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. In 2010, Manila awarded an Anglo-Filipino consortium a licence to explore for gas on Reed Bank but drilling stalled last year due to the presence of Chinese ships.

Manila says Reed Bank, about 80 nautical miles (148 km) west of Palawan island at the southwestern end of the Philippine archipelago, is within the country’s 200-nautical mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone.

Beijing says it is part of the Spratlys, a group of 250 uninhabitable islets spread over 165,000 square miles, claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

“China should pull out of the area because under international law, they do not have the right to be there,” said Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, noting the area’s proximity to Palawan, the country’s largest province. He said the Chinese ships were a “provocation and illegal presence”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday the Second Thomas Shoal was part of the Spratly Islands, over which China had “indisputable sovereignty”.

“It is beyond reproach for Chinese boats to carry out patrols in these waters,” Hong said, adding China called on all parties to “refrain from taking actions that complicate the situation”.


The tension illustrates how a decades-old territorial squabble over the South China Sea is entering a more contentious chapter as claimant nations spread deeper into disputed waters in search of energy supplies, while building up navies and alliances with other nations.

Vietnam this week again accused China of endangering the lives of its fishermen with the ramming of a trawler in the South China Sea.

“The actions of the Chinese vessels have seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the East Sea, threatening lives and property damage of Vietnam’s fishermen,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said in a statement posted on Tuesday. Vietnam handed a diplomatic note the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi to protest the incident.

China said it was merely acting to prevent illegal fishing in Chinese waters, adding that Vietnam’s accusations “did not accord with the facts”.

A report issued on Tuesday by Chinese military think tank the Centre for National Defence Policy said it was the U.S. “pivot” back to Asia which had “shattered” the relative calm of the South China Sea, warning of crisis ahead.

“While the conditions do not yet exist for a large-scale armed clash, the dispute is becoming normalised and long-term … and ineffective management may lead to a serious crisis,” the report said, according to the China News Service.

The tension comes just before U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meets his Asia-Pacific counterparts at the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore at the weekend. The South China Sea is on the agenda of the regional security forum.

Second Thomas Shoal is one of several possible flashpoints in the South China Sea that could force the United States to intervene in defence of its Southeast Asian allies.


As of Tuesday, two Chinese marine surveillance ships remained in the area, Philippine navy spokesman Colonel Edgardo Arevalo said, adding the fishing boats and the frigate had left.

“The presence of those ships is a clear and present danger,” said another senior Philippine navy officer, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to media. He said the Philippines believed China was trying to pressure it to leave the shoal.

“We don’t want to wake up one day with fresh structures sitting near our navy ship there. We have to bite the bullet and strengthen our position there or risk losing the territory.”

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-nation grouping that includes the Philippines, has been talking to China about a binding code of conduct to ease tension. But China says it will negotiate “when the time is ripe”.

ASEAN foreign ministers are due to meet in Thailand in August to forge a position on the code of conduct before meeting Chinese officials in late August or early September in Beijing.

Zha Daojiong, an international relations professor at Beijing’s Peking University, said China was serious about asserting its claims in the South China Sea.

“There is now a quiet agreement among different Chinese voices that sometimes you have to act as well as issuing statements,” he said.

Ian Storey, a scholar at Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies, said tension at Second Thomas Shoal could prove more dangerous than last year’s stand-off at unoccupied Scarborough Shoal, given the presence of Filipino troops.

“It is hard to imagine China using force to gain full control over Second Thomas, but some kind of blockade to drive out the Philippines’ troops would have to be a possibility,” Storey said. “There is a real chance of escalation or miscalculation.” (Additional reporting by Greg Torode in Hong Kong, Martin Petty in Hanoi and Terril Jones and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Jason Szep, Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)