August 2013


‘President Aquino’s recent actions and inactions suggest a kind of character that’s deeply flawed, revealing utter lack of leadership in times of crucial crises.’

Noynoy.24PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino was nowhere to be found in the wake of the deadly storm “Maring” that devastated, killed hundreds of people, and flooded Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. He was seen only days later, distributing relief goods to a small group of persons in nearby Cavite, as shown in propaganda photo-ops which appeared in front pages of newspapers, instead of making sure that immediate assistance was given to an estimated one million people rendered homeless and hungry and shivering from lack of food, water and clothes.

Then Aquino was silent when news broke out about scandals in his own administration involving his very close relatives, friends and officials in the reported $30 million extortion attempt on the Czech company Inekon proposing to supply new trains and refurnishing old fleet of the 14-year-old MRT3, the multi-million peso smuggling at the Bureau of Customs, and innumerable other cases of graft and corruption and ineptness and inefficiency by his public officials.

All this and more actions and inactions of Aquino suggest a kind of character that’s so deeply flawed, clearly revealing that he is unfit to rule a country now divided by partisan politics and a government sullied by corruption and plunder which have destroyed the core of public service after just three years in office.

“While there are very few public officials and government institutions remain unsullied and without reproach,” a media pundit observed, “men and women who never expected much from government now feel totally betrayed and violated” by the many scandals and malpractices inside Aquino’s administration and in Congress.

One such scandal, involving Aquino’s Executive Department and both houses of Congress under his control, is the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known derisively as the “Pork Barrel”, amounting to over P10-billion of the people’s money.

True, an investigation of the scandalous affair has been conducted by the Department of Justice and its National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), centering on one Janet Lim Napoles, who’s suspected to have siphoned billions in “Pork Barrel” funds to ghost NGOs, reportedly in collusion with certain executive department officials and lawmakers. Alas, there is an undeniable effort to limit the coverage of the scandal to the years of the past Arroyo administration, and not the Aquino administration, particularly those involved in implementation of the PDAF programs, and to downgrade the accountability to members of Congress alone, particularly those who are not considered its political allies.

Indeed, it’s turning out that the cancer of corruption has not spared the halls of power in Malacañang. According to independent lawmakers, still untainted by the virus, the Palace along the stinking Pasig River has failed to reveal not only Aquino’s pork barrel disbursements ever since he came to power in 2010 to this day, but also its handling of all lump sum items in the National Budget for 2013 alone. These amounted to over P755 billion and, if we include automatic debt service of over P449 billion, a total of P1.204 trillion.

Other Palace disbursements, which remain unaccounted and unexamined, they say, were P117 billion in un-programmed funds, hundreds of billions in Special Purpose Funds, including P44 billion in subsidy to government-owned corporations, P98 billion in pension and gratuity funds, P69 billion in miscellaneous personnel benefits fund, P56 billion in conditional cash transfer, billions in special accounts such as the Malampaya fund and others.

More, they asked, how come Aquino, who controls at least 50 percent of the National Budget, has not been made to account for over trillion pesos in his hands? When he was a congressman for nine years he received over P75 million in “pork barrel” funds, P600 million as a senator for three years, and over P74.8 billion a year as president in his first three years, one month and 27 days ago, not to mention another P74.4 billion for his remaining three years in office until 2016.These public funds have not been accounted for up to now.

And more questions, how much “pork” did Aquino award to each lawmaker who willingly helped him in the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona? And how much “pork” did he award them to railroad the controversial RH Law? All of this people’s money remains unaudited to this day.

This is the man who, with his vaunted political slogan of “Kung walang corrupt. Walang mahirap”, deluded millions of Filipinos who installed him at the nation’s helm of power until 2016. And, despite his most unequivocal defense of the highly controversial “Pork Barrel” funds, those very same people are now crying out to high heavens: “Scrap the Pork”! “Jail the scalawags, the crooks and the corrupt in your government”!

Indeed, all the scandalous waste of the people’s money, not to mention his dangerous foreign policy blunders vis-à-vis diplomatic relations as well as territorial dispute in the South China Sea with hegemonic China, clearly shows the complete inability, ineptitude, incapacity of President Aquino to govern the country well.

In any other country, such despicable state of affairs, including the covering up of irregularities by his executive officials and allies in Congress, would have been enough to cause his ignominious fall from power!


President Aquino last weekend suddenly announced the abolition of the PDAF, otherwise called “Pork Barrel” fund, reversing his original stand in favor of it, and replacing it with “a new mechanism” or line item budgetary system, but he didn’t give it an official name.

Well, tongue in cheek, some of Aquino’s critics have suggested the renaming of the PDAF to “Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund” or “BADAF”!


Quote of the Day: “A true leader must know, must know that he knows, and must be able to make it abundantly clear to the people and those around him that he knows!” – Anonymous Political Commenter

Thought of the day: “Leadership and learning are in dispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

By Mike Frialde
The Philippine Star 

Janet-Lim-Napoles-mugshot.3MANILA, Philippines – Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is not yet moving from the Makati City Jail to the Special Action Force (SAF) training school at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who inspected the facility at Fort Sto. Domingo yesterday, said Napoles would be transferred as soon as security enhancements to the bungalow where she would be detained are installed.

The bungalow has two bedrooms, a kitchen, water tank, two bathrooms, and a steel main gate. It is currently being used as an office and medical clinic by the SAF.

Roxas said among the security enhancements are closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to be installed inside and at the perimeter of the bungalow. He said security grills would also be added to the windows.

Except for a refrigerator, where she can keep her medicine, Napoles would not be allowed to keep other appliances in the bungalow, which has no air conditioner. She is also denied access to a mobile phone.

The bungalow was where former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari and Senator Gregorio Honasan had been detained.

Roxas said the security layout at Fort Sto. Domingo could better ensure Napoles’ protection compared to the Makati City Jail.

He said two perimeter gates secure the bungalow and some 300 SAF personnel would guard Napoles.

“There will be 300 SAF personnel and there is no other detainee here,” Roxas said.

“We will add more personnel. Whatever is the security package at Makati City Jail, we will bring them here,” he added.

Roxas said family members, lawyers and doctors of Napoles could only visit her at Fort Sto. Domingo.

Not taking chances

Roxas said the government is not giving Napoles any special treatment.

He said the government is just not taking chances, considering the public outrage amid allegations that she was the operator of the P10-billion congressional pork barrel scam.

“The preservation of her life is not because she is a VIP but we want her to face the judicial process,” he said.

Roxas said Fort Sto. Domingo also has sufficient medical personnel to aid Napoles in a medical emergency.

Nothing wrong

Malacañang also defended the participation of Cabinet officials in Napoles’ transfer to police custody.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it was not the first time Cabinet members were asked to handle such tasks, adding that the government was merely ensuring the safety of Napoles.

“It is clear to us that this person is a key player from all accounts in this PDAF (priority development assistance fund) scam. It is also easy to surmise why she is facing threats to her life,” Valte told radio dzRB.

“The government wants to ensure that this woman would be reached by the arms of the law because she surrendered and the process should start,” she added.

Asked why Roxas was tapped to inspect the room at Fort Sto. Domingo where Napoles will be detained, Valte said, “President Aquino personally issued an instruction to Secretary Roxas and PNP (Philippine National Police) chief Director-General Alan Purisima.”

“The two officials are just making sure that they are carrying out the President’s instructions,” she said.

She cited the explosions in Serendra, San Juan, and Cagayan de Oro and natural calamities, when certain Cabinet officials were also ordered to be in control.

Valte also justified the presence of the President’s communication team – presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang and herself – during the transfer of Napoles to Makati City Jail last Thursday.

“We were there to handle media concerns,” she said. “Secretary Roxas asked us to assist him and we did not hesitate. We assist any Cabinet member who asks for our help.”

Valte said the communication team members were also on site during the Luneta hostage crisis and the Ayala bus explosion.

Key officials were also present when Napoles surrendered to Aquino last Wednesday. They were Lacierda, Carandang, Valte, Roxas, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras and Communication Undersecretary Manolo Quezon.

Protesters welcome

Meanwhile, Roxas said protesters are welcome at Fort Sto. Domingo, but they would only be allowed at the camp’s first perimeter gate.

“We welcome them. Protest marches are in the center of our democracy. There is nothing wrong with that,” he said.

Members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) staged a picket at the Makati City Jail yesterday to denounce what they described as the “royal treatment” Napoles is getting from the government.

The VACC also called on Congress to repeal Presidential Decree 749, which grants “immunity from prosecution to givers of bribes and other gifts and to their accomplices in bribery against public officers.”

“A briber can be exempted from prosecution and can go scot-free if he willingly testifies against the public officials who receive the bribe under certain conditions (as in the case of senators and congressmen) using the cloak of PD 749. He may tell on his partners in crime and be exempted from prosecution and possible conviction,” the VACC said in a statement.

VACC chairman Dante Jimenez said the alleged special treatment being given to Napoles is a “mockery of justice.”

A number of Negros Occidental officials hailed the surrender of Napoles, and expressed hope that the truth about the pork barrel scam would come out.

Fourth district Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer said the long arm of the law would eventually catch up with wrongdoers and it is better for Napoles to face her accusers.

Third district Rep. Alfredo Benitez said the truth should come out also to reform the system aside from punishing those found guilty.

“Napoles surrendered on the charge of serious illegal detention. What the Filipino people would like to see is the government taking her to court for plunder,” Negros Occidental Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said. – With Alexis Romero, Danny Dangcalan

By Ron Gagalac

COA audit covers PDAF release for 2011-2012

Maria Grace Pulido-Tan (File Photo)

Maria Grace Pulido-Tan (File Photo)

MANILA – At least two more senators may be involved in the anomalous release of pork barrel funds, this time under the administration of President Aquino, the Commission on Audit (COA) said Thursday.

Speaking before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, COA Chairperson Maria Grace Pulido-Tan refused to divulge the names of the senators until the full audit report is released.

Tan said the two lawmakers are in addition to 7 senators mentioned in the COA report covering 2007-2009.

The 7 are Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Gringo Honasan, Ralph Recto, Edgardo Angara, and Manuel ‘Lito’ Lapid.

The COA chief said the 2 senators were named in a recent alleged anomalous Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) release to the Philippine Forest Corporation covering the years 2011-2012.

During the hearing, Tan said 4 of the 7 senators implicated in the misuse of funds covering the years 2007-2009 directed implementing agencies to choose specific NGOs.

She said Senators Enrile, Honasan, Estrada and Revilla allegedly handpicked the NGOs that will receive the money, and the implementing government agency merely followed the orders of the Senators.

The NGOs chosen by Enrile, Honasan, Estrada and Revilla have been linked to Janet Lim Napoles, while the PDAF of Lapid, Angara, and Recto went to NGOs not linked to Napoles.

Tan said there is no law allowing PDAF to be transferred to NGOs. She said this is a clear violation of the Government Procurement Act.

The COA chief said the only way it could be transferred is through a law passed by the legislative or an ordinance allowing such.

The COA stood firm in its findings that almost P2 billion in PDAF was given to 8 NGOs linked to Janet Lim Napoles, majority of the funds coming from the Senate.

This is just part of the some P6 billion of PDAF of senators and congressmen that were distributed to 82 NGOs nationwide.

COA testified that they are seeing a pattern of conspiracy between and among government, lawmakers, and private individuals in misusing the PDAF, as the same names of suppliers, NGOs, senators and government implementing agencies appear in the transactions.

Out of the seven senators mentioned, only Recto attended the hearing. Senator Jinggoy Estrada was present at the start of the hearing but stepped out in order to ensure Tan could speak freely.

The others have previously said they were unwilling to attend.

Recto stated during the hearing that he has not endorsed any NGO and has not requested any fund to be given directly to any NGOs.

Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Sen Teofisto Guingona said it cannot be said with certainty that money went to the pockets of the legislators until the entire investigation has concluded, and not until Janet Lim Napoles has spoken.

The committee will invite Napoles, the whistleblowers, suppliers and NGOs mentioned, and the staff of the senators implicated to the next hearing.

GMA News   

Janet Lim-Napoles. GMA News

Janet Lim-Napoles. GMA News

In 2006 and again in 2008, senators had a chance to nail Janet Lim-Napoles and pursue leads that could have led to fellow lawmarkers. But they dropped the ball, enabling Napoles to continue business as usual, until her quarrel this year with a subordinate blew up into a national scandal that continues to fixate the public’s attention.

She first appeared on the Senate’s radar in connection with the fertilizer fund scam investigated by two Senate committees.

Four years ago, then-Senator Richard Gordon warned of “other wolf packs …. feasting on government resources” when he ended his probe on the alleged P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

Little did he know that one of the “wolves” he was able to identify in his investigation — Janet Lim-Napoles — would be involved in an even bigger scandal years later.

Unknown to the public then were the alleged conspiracy between Napoles and several senators to divert pork barrel funds to private hands.

How did Napoles manage to slip through the Senate’s net, despite the fact that she was described during the investigation as “the second largest supplier” of allegedly overpriced fertilizers worth P58 million?

As of posting time, authorities have yet to serve the arrest warrant on Napoles, who is wanted along with her brother, Reynald Lim, in connection with the illegal detention case involving her employee Benhur Luy. Luy is the whistleblower in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Napoles.

Napoles’ falling out with Luy was triggered by suspicions by the former that her subordinate was running a secret pork racket on the side.

Magsaysay’s probe

Napoles first came to the Senate’s attention in February 2006, when then-Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr. summoned her to the agriculture committee’s probe of the fertilizer fund scam.

The scam involved the alleged diversion of government funds intended for poor farmers to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign kitty in the 2004 elections.

A copy of Napoles’ subpoena dated February 22, 2006 – where she was identified as “Jenny Napoles” of JLN Corp.– was obtained by GMA News Online from the Senate archives. The document showed that Cecilia Esquillo, a receptionist from Napoles’ company, was able to receive the Senate panel’s summons.

Napoles, however, did not show up at the hearing scheduled five days after she was summoned. The Senate records on the probe did not state the reason for her absence.

Napoles also did not have to attend any further hearings on the alleged anomaly during the 13th Congress. Magsaysay decided to end the investigation on the fertilizer fund scam after Mrs. Arroyo issued Executive Order 464, which bars Cabinet officials from attending congressional inquiries without permission from the chief executive.

In a phone interview, Magsaysay said time was also on Napoles’ side, because the 13th Congress was already ending when her name came up during the hearings.

“Actually, there were a lot of people who were sent subpoenas but did not come. Hindi na namin na-pursue iyon because we had to close our series of hearings. We had to complete our report. Parang kung baga, nasa archive na lang iyon. Marami iyon,” the former senator said.

Given the premature closing of the investigation on the fertilizer fund scam, Magsaysay said he just decided to “concentrate on the government side.”

In his final report, Magsaysay recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against five former top agriculture officials led by Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, who was described in the report as the “brains and implementor” of the alleged fertilizer fund scam.

Magsaysay also asked the Ombudsman to check and complete the paper trail to be able to file charges against suppliers of “substandard and diluted” fertilizers. The report, however, did not name Napoles or other suppliers who were supposed to attend the Senate probe.

Gordon probe

The hunt for persons involved in the fertilizer fund scam continued two years later, when the Senate blue ribbon committee then chaired by Gordon resumed the probe on the alleged anomaly.

Despite the fact that Napoles’ name was already mentioned in Magsaysay’s investigation, it took the Senate panel five hearings covering two months before Gordon ordered her to be invited to the new congressional inquiry.

In a hearing on December 17, 2008, then-Commission on Audit (COA) director Flerida Jimenez identified Napoles’ firm, Jo-Chris Trading, as a supplier of allegedly overpriced and diluted fertilizers amounting to P58,498,000.

During the inquiry, then-Senator and former military chief Rodolfo Biazon even remarked about Napoles, “Mukhang kilala ko ‘yan ah. Dealer ‘yan sa Armed Forces.” [Biazon now represents the lone district of Muntinlupa City.]

Despite Gordon’s orders, Napoles did not appear during the hearing on December 22, 2008. On that date, Gordon once again gave explicit orders to invite Napoles to face the Senate probe, but to no avail.

Just like in the previous Congress, the Senate transcripts did not give an explanation for Napoles’ absences.

In a text message last week, Gordon said he no longer pursued the leads on Napoles because the “principal focus” of the Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry was “Bolante and other big fish.”

“At the time, we had a good lead against all conspirators specifically Bolante and the others, which was our mandate. If you look at our report, we said the Ombudsman can continue with the rest of the investigation. That is what they are supposed to do,” the former senator said.

Gordon’s committee report indeed focused on recommending charges against agriculture officials and executives of Feshan Philippines, the largest supplier of allegedly overpriced fertilizers. Once again, there was no specific mention of Napoles or her firm in the final report.


In hindsight, Gordon said he “wished” he was able to catch Napoles early on in the congressional inquiry he headed.

He added that the Ombudsman should utilize the Senate committee reports to “go after” other suppliers in the fertilizer fund scam.

In 2011, the Ombudsman filed graft and malversation charges against Bolante and 23 other individuals, mostly former agriculture officials. No charges were recommended against Mrs. Arroyo.

Last month, Napoles said in an affidavit that she and her business outfit were never involved in the fertilizer fund scam.

Magsaysay, for his part, said he thinks Napoles was able to evade prosecution in the alleged fertilizer fund scam because she is being “protected” by some government officials.

“Ang nakikita ko riyan maraming nagpo-protect sa kanya within the government. Alam mo, ano yan e, you scratch my back and I scratch yours,” the former senator said.

Magsaysay did not identify any of the supposed protectors of Napoles. He, as well as Gordon, also denied having been pressured by their colleagues at the Senate not to pursue charges against Napoles. – RSJ/HS, GMA News

By Paul Atienza
The Daily Tribune


Chuck-Hagel-Voltaire-GazminTemporary stay of American forces in the country was defined as a period of up to 20 years, a foreign affairs department official said yesterday as the Philippine and the US panels divulged the results of talks on a wider US military footprint in Asia.

The negotiations aim to allow more US troops, ships, aircraft and other equipment to pass through the Philippines which had hosted tens of thousands of US troops until 1992.

Temporary visits of US military forces are allowed under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) but the span of the stay of foreign troops is only for the duration of regular military drills.

The Aquino administration had insisted that the new military arrangement with the United States government is covered under the VFA but legislators had indicated that the prolonged stay of American troops may need a new treaty.

“For the Americans, they typically have agreements like these that have a duration of 20 years. Right now, the Philippine delegation is looking at a much shorter duration,” negotiator Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta said in statement.

He gave no specific time frame for the Philippine counter-proposal, with the statement adding the “substantive issue of duration” would be “subject to further discussion.”

Asked to confirm if the US negotiators had proposed a 20-year agreement with the Philippines, American embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer declined to comment. Sorreta did not answer his phone when contacted by AFP.

The Philippines earlier said the proposed framework had been tabled by the United States as the talks began in Manila in mid-August.

Specific time frames were absent in the agreed minutes of the August 29 meeting in Washington, a copy of which the Philippine foreign department released to the press Saturday with Sorreta’s statement.

“The sides continued discussions, and made significant progress on… Article XIII (Entry into Force, Duration, Termination, and Amendment),” the minutes said.

It said the US would host the next round of talks in the second week of September.

Philippine officials have said an increased US presence was part of Manila’s efforts to build a credible defence posture as it faces territorial disputes at sea with China.

Manila accuses China of aggressively pushing its territorial claims over most of the South China Sea, including waters close to Philippine shores.

The United States, meanwhile, wants arrangements similar to what it has with Australia and Singapore as it seeks to bolster its ties across Southeast Asia, partly to counter China’s growing military power.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a visit to Manila on Friday that the two allies were moving towards an agreement, while stressing that Washington was not seeking to build permanent bases.
The United States once held Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base but was forced to hand them back in 1992 amid growing anti-US sentiment and a rental dispute.

A new accord in 1999 allowed troops to return to the Philippines for joint military exercises every year.
Several hundred US Special Forces troops are also on short-term assignments at Philippine bases in the south, where they train and advise local troops fighting Islamic militants.

Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte Hagel described Hagel’s visit as having “no other aim but to further boost the US campaign to project its power and strengthen its military foothold in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Beyond already the role that they are currently playing in the region, we are not certain in the future,” she said.

“It was in the words of the Secretary of Defense of the United States, you know, the world shifts, relationships change, dyanmics tend to reposition themselves,” Valte said.

“Let us not dwell on the hypothetical, and it’s better to really go by what the statements have been, as well as the actions,” Valte said.

Hagel met with Aquino in Malacañang to further discuss the so-called framework agreement presently being forged in negotiations held in Washington.

The framework agreement which is set to be completed in the next few weeks will virtually bring back US basing rights, allow the US to use the Philippines as a vast military outpost, raise the number of US troops in the Philippines and increase the frequency of US troop rotation.

The US wants to forge an agreement similar to what it has with Singapore where the US Navy is allowed to deploy and operate resupply vessels.

The US Navy is also allowed to use a naval base, a ship repair facility and an airfield.

The US maintains permanent presence of US fighter jet squadrons of which are rotated a month at a time.
It also uses Singapore as a logistics coordinating center for its Pacific command.

Other cause oriented groups claimed that the Philippine sovereignty is trampled when the US military is allowed to deploy and operate its own equipment, to have unlimited access to air and seaport facilities, operate surveillance equipment, launch and deploy military drones for intelligence and combat, dock its nuclear-capable warships and to land and launch its fighter jets and set up military command posts.

A Department of National Defense (DND) who is part of the Philippine panel in the ongoing negotiations insisted the increased rotational presence (IRP) of American troops and equipment in Philippine military facilities will be temporary and comply with the country’s Constitution.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, head negotiator of the Philippine panel added that both sides also agreed in the second round of negotiations held at the US Department of Defense in the Pentagon in Washington D.C. that joint exercises and activities under a framework agreement will require the approval of the Philippines and will be mutually beneficial to the individual and collective defense capabilities of the two countries in furtherance of Article II of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

“Both the Philippines and the US panels share the understanding that the American troops will not establish a permanent military presence in our country. That was clear during the discussion,” Batino said.

“From the beginning of the talks, we communicated to our counterparts that they could not establish a permanent presence in the Philippines in accordance with our Constitution,” he added.

In the agreed minutes released by the panels, it said that all the access to and use of military facilities and areas by the US will be at the invitation of the Philippine government.

“Where and what can be prepositioned will be subject to prior approval by the Philippine government and based on mutuality of interest. Any approval will contain specific areas and time for the temporary activity,” explained Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta, panel spokesperson.

During the talks, Sorreta said, the two teams of negotiators were able to establish “specific understandings” on the following: facilities used for prepositioning remain the property of the Philippines; the Philippines maintains the primary responsibility and authority in matters of security; any prepositioning or activities will not violate Philippine environmental laws; any construction will have to be removed by the US once the approved activity is completed; and stronger language on non-prepositioning of prohibited weapons.

Sorreta said the Philippines and the US were able to flesh out some details on humanitarian aid and disaster relief, including discussions on how training, equipment and materiel for maritime domain awareness would be used for HADR efforts.

A number of provisions in the proposed framework agreement, however, are subject to further discussion, including the substantive issue of duration, he said.

The Philippines and the US began last Aug. 14 the negotiations on a framework agreement on the IRP, an arrangement that will help the country achieve a minimum credible defense amid territorial threats and bolster plans to modernize the armed forces.

Based on the agreed minutes released after the negotiations, the next round of talks will be held in the second week of September in the US.

The Philippine panel is composed of Batino, Sorreta, Department of Justice undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post

Jim Watson/AP - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, receives a photo album of his visit to Vietnam from Gen. Vu Chien Thang upon his departure at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

Jim Watson/AP – U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, receives a photo album of his visit to Vietnam from Gen. Vu Chien Thang upon his departure at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

June 22, 2012 — As the Obama administration revamps its Asian strategy in response to a rising China, the U.S. military is eyeing a return to some familiar bases from its last conflict in the region — the Vietnam War.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon has intensified discussions with Thailand about creating a regional disaster-relief hub at an American-built airfield that housed B-52 bombers during the 1960s and 1970s. U.S. officials said they are also interested in more naval visits to Thai ports and joint surveillance flights to monitor trade routes and military movements.

In next-door Vietnam, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta this month became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the naval and air base at Cam Ranh Bay since the end of the war. Citing the “tremendous potential here,” Panetta enthused about the prospect of U.S. ships again becoming a common sight at the deep-water port.

The Pentagon is also seeking greater accommodations in the Philippines, including at the Subic Bay naval base and the former Clark Air Base, once the largest U.S. military installations in Asia as well as key repair and supply hubs during the Vietnam War.

The U.S. military either abandoned or was evicted from its Southeast Asian bases decades ago. Amid concerns about China’s growing military power and its claims to disputed territories, however, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have cautiously put out the welcome mat for the Americans again.

In response, Pentagon leaders have flocked to the region to speed up negotiations and fortify relations. The rapprochements so far have focused on limited steps, such as port visits and joint exercises, but the administration hopes they will lead to a more extensive and persistent U.S. military presence.

“Symbolically, those places are really attached to a very recent history,” said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “Part of moving forward with a lot of these nations is making amends with those symbols.”

U.S. officials said they have no desire to re-occupy any of the massive Southeast Asian bases from last century. Nor do they have the money to create new ones. So they’re looking for permission to operate from the old installations as guests, mostly on a temporary basis.

“I don’t carry around a backpack with American flags and run around the world planting them,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters after returning from a visit this month to Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. “We want to be out there partnered with nations and have a rotational presence that would allow us to build up common capabilities for common interests.”

The U.S. armed forces have been allowed, to varying degrees, to visit or conduct training exercises at its old bases for several years. But talks about expanding access have taken on a new urgency since January, when President Obama announced that the United States was making a strategic “pivot” to Asia after a decade in which it was preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The administration has denied that its resurgent interest is designed to contain China, which has alarmed many neighbors by making expansive territorial claims in the resource-rich South China and East China seas. U.S. officials said their primary goal in Asia is to maintain stability by ensuring freedom of navigation and free trade with the world’s fastest-growing economies, including China.

But analysts said the U.S. strategic pivot and fresh basing arrangements are necessary to reassure allies that Washington will maintain its Asian security commitments and remain an effective counterweight to China, despite looming defense cutbacks at home.

“This is a long game and a long-term trend,” said Patrick M. Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank with close ties to the administration. “They’re doing the best they can with what they have, and what they have is considerable. The problem is whether it is sustainable, and that’s what everybody in the region is asking.”

After years of paying little attention to Thailand, which was rattled by a coup in 2006, senior Pentagon leaders have rediscovered Bangkok. Dempsey’s visit was the first by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs in more than a decade.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is scheduled to make a trip next month. And Thailand has extended a formal invitation to Panetta, who also met with the Thai minister of defense at a conference in Singapore this month.

The two countries are discussing whether to run a joint military hub for responding to the devastating cyclones, tsunamis and other natural disasters that frequently strike the region. The center would be located at the Royal Thai Navy Air Field at U-Tapao, about 90 miles south of Bangkok.

The U.S. military is well-acquainted with U-Tapao (OOH-ta-pow), where it built the two-mile-long runway — one of the longest in Asia — in the 1960s. The Pentagon relied on the airfield as a major staging and refueling base during the Vietnam War, but withdrew its forces from the country in 1976 at the direction of the Thai government.

In the 1980s, the United States and Thailand resumed gradual military cooperation. The Thai government has allowed the U.S. Air Force to use U-Tapao as a stopover for troop transit flights to the Middle East. The base is also the center for the annual Cobra Gold military exercises, which started out as a U.S.-Thai training program but now involves more than 20 countries.

U.S. officials have been vague in public about how many troops they might send to U-Tapao or what missions they might perform if the disaster-relief center comes to fruition.

The lack of information has bred suspicion in the Thai media and among opposition lawmakers, who have held up a separate project that would allow NASA to operate climate-change surveillance flights from U-Tapao this fall. Chinese officials have also expressed skepticism about an expanded U.S. military presence.

Catharin Dalpino, a former State Department official and Southeast Asia expert, said any new U.S.-Thai military accords were likely to be “modest.” She noted that Thailand has a history of working closely with both superpowers and would be unlikely to sign any agreements that would alienate either Washington or Beijing.

“The Thais have a long relationship with China and a positive relationship with China, but they do not see this as contradictory with maintaining a treaty alliance with the United States and a strong economic relationship with the United States,” she said.

Some U.S. military officials said they also would like to upgrade naval access to Thai ports. The U.S. Navy is preparing to base four of its newest warships — known as Littoral Combat Ships — in Singapore and would like to rotate them periodically to Thailand and other southeast Asian countries.

The Navy is also pursuing options to conduct joint airborne surveillance missions from Thailand, the Philippines and Australia, officials said. Pentagon leaders said one of their highest strategic priorities is to improve their surveillance of shipping traffic and military movements throughout Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, home to some of the busiest trade routes in the world.

In 2014, for instance, the Navy is scheduled to begin deploying new P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft to the Pacific, replacing the Cold War-era P-3C Orion surveillance planes.

The Navy is preparing to deploy new high-altitude surveillance drones to the Asia-Pacific region around the same time. Under current plans, the drones will be based on Guam, but U.S. officials are also searching for Asian partners willing to host the aircraft.

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A new U.S. military strategy, old bases near the South China Sea

Source: Washington Post

As part of the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia, the U.S. military is seeking to regain access to foreign bases that it was forced to leave decades ago.



By Alan Robles 
South China Morning Post

General Emmanuel Bautista speaking yesterday. Photo: AP

General Emmanuel Bautista speaking yesterday. Photo: AP

Manila would not rule out allowing Chinese naval ships to call on the country’s bases, including a planned defence installation at the former US naval facility in Subic, the Philippines’ military chief told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

Subic, once a prized military facility for the US, is earmarked for a major upgrade with new bases that would allow the Philippines to station warships and new fighter jets just 124 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal, a contentious area now controlled by China after a tense stand-off last year.

“Many foreign ships visit our ports and we welcome them, that is part of military diplomacy,” Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista said during a foreign correspondents forum in Manila.

Bautista’s openness to the idea could be interpreted in a number of ways, including as a conciliatory gesture to Beijing. The PLA Navy has made three official ports of call to the Philippines since 1998.

But the Philippines has made no secret that it also wants to allow US forces to visit for longer periods and be stationed on Philippine military bases temporarily. Beijing has bristled at the intention of the US to “pivot” to the region it considers its backyard.

That issue would have no doubt been a theme of discussion between China’s defence minister General Chang Wanquan and US defence secretary Chuck Hagel, who were due to meet yesterday on the sidelines of a two-day gathering of defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea, and the area has for decades been regarded as a potential trigger for major military conflict.

Bautista said: “We are such a poor country compared to China, that is why we are trying to leverage our alliances with our friends, with our allies to collectively create a security environment to prevent any aggression.”

He added that “while we do not have the wherewithal, the capability to defend our territory by ourselves, we partner with others to collectively assure the security of our region.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is undertaking a five-year, 75 billion peso (HK$13 billion) programme that emphasises a build-up of naval and air forces. It recently acquired a second refurbished Hamilton-class cutter from the US coastguard to bolster its small navy.

Many believe the military build-up is a reaction to China’s strident claims on – and in several instances, outright occupation of – contested islands and shoals in the South China Sea.

Bautista said “there is a lot of encroachment from different nationalities; Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen are being caught in Philippine waters”.

“We do not see any country as our enemy,” he added.

“There is still a presence of Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and fisheries ships on Scarborough Shoal.”

Bautista was referring to one strategic area China calls Huangyan Island. Manila has continued to object to a Chinese presence at Second Thomas shoal.

When asked what the military’s response would be to the so-called “cabbage strategy” of China – blanketing contested territory with “layers” of fishermen, maritime vessels, and naval ships – Bautista replied: “Our policy is non-confrontation, and it will not change.”

He said the Philippines aimed to shift the military away from a decades-long counter insurgency effort into developing a minimum credible defence.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Manila open to allowing PLA ships to visit

Source: The World Outline

Trans-Pacific-PartnershipThe Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a complex multinational regional agreement, previously known as the P4, that was created to facilitate economic relations between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore.

The TPP entered into force in 2006 and since then, the potential economic coverage of this free trade area has enlarged considerably. Currently, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, The Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam are negotiating entrance terms.

This partnership between Asian and American countries will not only enhance trade, investments and facilitate innovation, but it will also impact economic growth and development whilst creating jobs. Being a full regional agreement, the negotiation rounds tackle topics that go beyond economic issues, including competition policies, capacity building, cross-border services and customs procedures, intellectual property, environment, government procurement, labour and legal regulations in its agenda.

Actually, the TPP aims to go beyond existing trade agreements, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and create a single market so as to widen their reach. To have an idea of the objectives, APEC currently has a population of over 650 million people, a U$31,491 per capita income in 2011 and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over U$2o trillion, representing 30% of global GDP, where the member-countries export – on average – U$4.4 trillion in goods and services every year, consequently representing 30% of global exports.

Thus, this single market would alter international trade flows significantly. This wide scope is likely to have implications to trade flows in America and Asia as a whole, and alter the “Asia Pivot” significantly. As far as US-Chinese relations are concerned, at the same time as the TPP has been designed to become a key source of sustained growth by guaranteeing new markets for American products, and assist in the US economic recovery, it could also become a tool for containing and undermining Chinese economic power in the Asia-Pacific region.

By providing these strategic partners with incentives to concentrate on trade relations amongst each other, the TPP is likely to diminish the dependence of certain countries on Chinese goods. It is worth noticing that in times of tensions between China and Japan over the Sensaku Islands and between China, Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam etc, and over navigation in the South China Sea, having a tool to diminish Chinese economic power in the region and the diversification of partners could represent a preferable foreign policy approach for these countries.

On the Latin American side of the TPP, since the last decade, Brazil has been investing massively toward infrastructure programs designed to integrate the region and to facilitate the transport of goods and services among its neighbours. Regional integration is a priority in Brazilian foreign policy agenda. By providing promising trade alternatives in a wider Financial Trade Agreement (FTA), the TPP could also represent a challenge for Brazil, as its neighbours still receive a considerable portion of Brazilian exports, which represent an important tool for economic growth. Furthermore, having other partners to assist in the regional development could also diminish Brazil’s role as the regional paymaster.

This agreement is being designed to incorporate topics that are highly criticised for benefiting large corporations and conglomerates, which would open procurement contracts to businesses operating in any of the member-countries. The TPP is an important partnership because it can upgrade existing trade pacts, whilst taking into account the new challenges FTAs face in the international commercial arena.

Although the countries participating believe that the TPP would highly benefit the negotiating parties, they do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to priority policies and the specific terms of each topic being tackled, as they are likely to have to change domestic policies and practices in order to adapt to the agreed terms.

Since the negotiations to enlarge the P4 started, 16 rounds of discussion have taken place, with the next one will taking place next month in Peru. There is a lot of criticism regarding these discussion rounds, which have been described as lacking public participation, governmental processes and transparency due to the fact that the negotiating proposals have not yet been made public.

Although the agreement is ambitious in its agenda, its success will depend on its ability to go beyond negotiations. The TPP is a promising new approach for international trade with a wide economic and political agenda to facilitate not only interstate trade, but also trade relations among companies and private parties.

Ironically, complex multilateral trade agreements that involve long and comprehensive processes represent an important tool in overcoming systemic challenges, economic and political barriers to goods and services. However, the difficulties in achieving agreed terms to create the conditions for their effective implementation are still a challenge – the uniqueness of the TPP is actually the reason why its implementation is taking so long.

All in all, these time-consuming negotiations provide space for the development of alternative deals that could maintain the status quo. Whilst challenges are not overcome and the implementation terms are not achieved, the parties continue to engage in economic relations through existing channels, thereby not representing a threat to existing bilateral and multilateral FTAs and regional integration groups.

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Anti-pork-barrel-rally-Luneta-8-26-13.9The big mistake is to be awed by the numbers of the million people march. It did not hit one million, maybe not even one half. It is a bigger mistake to not to be awed by the event last Monday because it deserves all the credit it claims.

Having several hundreds of thousands in the Luneta when there was clear organizer is a feat. In different major cities, they had their version of the Luneta gathering as well. The numbers were not overwhelming, but those same numbers are not static. Even today, the numbers grow because the spirit of million people march remains agitated.

Thirty years ago, August 21, 1986, a big mistake was made. The dictatorship shot one man in the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. He was only one man, after all, and so many had been killed by the dictatorship by then. But one man’s martyrdom was more than enough to light a fire. It was simply time. Filipinos did not want to live in fear anymore. They said, “If they could kill Ninoy Aquino like that, they could kill any of us anytime.”

Thirty years later, August 26, 2013, Filipinos said, “If they could steal our money like that, so much, so arrogantly, they can do that anytime they want to.” People have had enough today; it is simply time.

Yes, 1986 Edsa was about freedom lost and regained. Freedom most of all was the battle cry. But the evil of corruption followed very closely as motivation for Filipinos to fight the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The call for a boycott against crony firms after the snap elections meant that Filipinos knew how the dictator fed his cronies while he bled the nation.

Marcos underestimated the temper of the times just as he underestimated the numbers of Filipinos willing to confront him. For too long, he did not depend on the support of the people. He was too used to using the military to frighten people into quiet submission. In the end, he lost both the people and the military. In the end, the spirit for change drove the people to Edsa and Marcos to Hawaii.

In Transparency International’s list of the World’ Most Corrupt Leaders as of 2007, Ferdinand Marcos was in Number 2. This shame apparently was not enough to deter big time corruption because Joseph Estrada was convicted of plunder and found his way to the 10th place of the same list of the World’s Most Corrupt Leaders.

Estrada’s subsequent removal from Malacanang came about after an aborted impeachment trial turned into street action. Like Marcos in Edsa ’86, people went to the street. When Estrada lost the people, he also lost the military. In the same list of the World’s Most Corrupt Leaders, Estrada made it to number 10.

Twice, sitting presidents went into plunder and twice, the people and the military turned against them. It was impossible that the number one beneficiary of the Erap Resign movement would not learn from the fiasco of her predecessor. But apparently, Gloria learned the other lessons but not the most important – honesty. She kept the military close to her, or at least the key leaders from day one to year nine.

She could not keep her image clean, though, and all the more her husband’s. Early in her presidency, the IMPSA scandal broke out before she could warm her bed in Malacanang. The most expensive roads in the reclamation area scandalized the people, followed by the smuggling of rice, of sugar, of different foodstuff. The list went on and smelled so bad that in December 2002, she announced that she would not seek reelection in 2004. She lied, of course, but the lie worked enough to fool the people and eased the political pressure.

Learning as well that Edsa ’86 and Edsa Dos in 2001 worked because the Catholic Church went with the people against Marcos and Estrada, Gloria went out of her way to establish a relationship with bishops. She got enough of them to be supportive of her and there were only muted cries against the corruption of her administration. She was not able to prevent being viewed so negatively by the public that she has emerged as the most unpopular president ever in Philippine history.

Of course, Gloria now stands accused of plunder and stealing the 2004 presidential elections. It is no wonder that the 10 billion peso scam could have taken place in the environment Gloria built around her nine years in office. And it will be no wonder if many times that amount will also surface as stolen. Sen. Serge Osmena already pointed to a 111 billion scam in a bridges-to-nowhere program. COA is investigating the mis-use of the Malampaya oil amounting to 23.6 billion.

The ZTE scandal did not materialize because whistleblower Jun Lozada found the courage to tell the public about what was going on. But the story goes that the Chinese firms involved had already given advances, not to government, of course, but to government officials. But cases could not prosper despite all the corruption because the environment did not encourage prosecution.

It is expected that the current furor over the 10-billion scam, the PDAF, and the so-called pork barrel will find a government eager and willing to run after the thieves. Already, the DOJ/NBI are combining efforts with the Ombudsman and the COA, including AMLA for money-laundering activities. And why shouldn’t they? Was it not P-Noy’s first act to establish the truth Commission? Was it not Former Chief Justice Corona’s first act to shoot down that Truth Commission – because it seemed to target only Gloria Arroyo? Well, Rene Corona, we may not live long enough for government to finish finding, investigating, prosecuting and convicting her and all the thieves from 2001-2010.

A little history of the thievery will go a long way in making social media revolutionaries realize the context, and difficulty, of cleansing society of corruption in high places. But the odds are now in our favor because people power is alive.

Source: GMA News

 Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is home of the PNP's Special Action Force. Photo courtesy of Cecil Villarosa, dzBB reporter.

Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is home of the PNP’s Special Action Force. Photo courtesy of Cecil Villarosa, dzBB reporter.

(Updated 7:12 p.m.) A Makati court has approved the transfer of controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles from the Makati City Jail to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, a report on GMA News TV’s “Quick Response Team” said Friday.

Judge Elmo Alameda of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 ordered the transfer following the suggestions of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-NCR chief Senior Superintendent Roberto Fajardo and Makati jail warden Fermin Enriquez, according to the report.

Napoles’s camp asked for her transfer for “safety reasons.”

The alleged mastermind in a P10-billion pork barrel scam, Napoles was first brought to Camp Crame in Quezon City after her surrender Wednesday evening. She was brought to Makati City Jail on Thursday night.

According to Enriquez, the Makati jail could not ensure the safety of Napoles since any person with a valid ID could enter the facility.

Fajardo said they arrived at the conclusion after an ocular inspection of the Makati jail.

A report on GMA News’s “24 Oras” quoted Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac as saying that Napoles would not be tranferred to Fort Sto. Domingo within the day.

Among the prominent personalities who were previously detained at Fort Sto. Domingo were former President Joseph Estrada and his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Nur Misuari, and Sen. Gringo Honasan.

The rural facility houses the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police.

‘Not a threat’

Napoles’s lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, said they did not expect Napoles to be detained at the Makati City Jail. She also said her client needed protection, as she experiences palpitations and has diabetes.

“She is not a threat to anyone but everyone is a threat to her,” Kapunan said.

Napoles and her brother are facing a serious illegal detention case involving whistle-blower Benhur Luy, who implicated her in an alleged scam that funneled billions of pesos into non-existent projects and fake NGOs.

The other jail facilities eyed for Napoles were Camp Crame in Quezon City, where she was originally brought after her surrender to President Benigno Aquino III late Wednesday night, and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

It is up to the PNP to decide when to transfer Napoles, according to the “Quick Response Team” report, citing the clerk of court. — with Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News

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Napoles transferred to small, air-conditioned detention room

By Louis Bacani
The Philippine Star 

Janet-Lim-Napoles-mugshot.3MANILA, Philippines – The government transferred alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles to a small, but air-conditioned room inside the Makati City Jail, late Thursday.

Napoles’ convoy left the Philippine National Police national headquarters, Camp Crame, past 11 p.m. and arrived at the Makati City Jail around 11:20 p.m. where she underwent a medical check-up.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said in an interview with reporters that Napoles was placed in a small office inside the city jail, which will be her temporary detention room.

Roxas said that the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam mastermind was excluded from the 103 female detainees of the city jail. The detention facility also has more than 400 male detainees, he added.

“Small, may lumang sofa, white na sahig, air-conditioned at basically isang desk,” the interior secretary said, describing Napoles’ detention room to reporters.

He said that the beleguered businesswoman’s lawyer Lorna Kapunan and husband, Jimmy Napoles and a doctor will stay with her inside the detention room.

“Kapag settled down na, palagay ko aalis na sila,” he said, citing concerns on Napoles’ health because she is a diabetic.

24/7 security

Roxas said that as part of the government’s promise to secure Napoles, two female guards will stay with Napoles inside the detention room.

He said that more guards outside and around the detention and the entire facility have been assigned to Napoles, but he declined to elaborate on the security team member’s positions.

“Tuloy ang concern sa kanyang security. Ang importante dito ay ang kanyang mga nalalaman at mga isisiwalat na ebidensya ay napi-preserve natin,” Roxas said.

PNP chief Director-General Alan Purisima said that they are making sure that they have a visual confirmation that Napoles and safe and inside the detention room 24 hours a day.

Malacañang had said that Napoles is very concerned with her security, which is the main reason for her voluntary surrender.

Roxas said that Napoles’ lawyers will be given full access to the detention room, but her family would have to abide by the visiting rules of the detention facility.

He said that during weekdays, the visiting hours at the city jail are between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and during weekends visitors are allowed from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

However, the official said that Napoles will not be allowed to have a cellular phone or any communication device inside the detention room. He added that the lawyers can only use cellular phones outside the room.

Hunt still on for brother

Meanwhile, Purisima said that the hunt for Napoles’ brother, Reynald “Jojo” Lim, continues. He added that tracker teams have been dispatched to look for Lim.

Napoles and her brother were ordered arrested by the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 150 based on the serious illegal detention case filed against them by their former employer and pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.

The government is offering P5 million in exchange for information that would lead to the arrest of Lim.

The P10-million reward earlier issued for the arrest of Napoles has been withdrawn by the government.Jojo Lim, based on the serious illegal detention case filed by pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.