April 2014

By Val G. Abelgas

Abad and Aquino (File photo)

Abad and Aquino (File photo)

Here we go again.

After Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was tagged as the alleged mentor of businesswoman Janet Napoles in designing the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Malacanang spokespersons were quick to point out that Abad still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Aquino.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said Aquino would not be affected by the allegations until proven, and that while Aquino and Abad had talked after the claims were made, they did not discuss the pork barrel scam involving funds of the now illegal Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). It’s hard to believe that Aquino would not be bothered by the allegations, and that Abad would not even try to deny the claim or give his side to the boss. Unless, of course, they’ve become so calloused they didn’t care what the people think about the shameless scheme.

We would have understood his focus on reforms except that the allegations would tend to shatter the very foundation of his much-ballyhooed campaign against corruption, Abad being one of his most trusted aides and the Department of Budget Management (DBM) that he heads being the central agency from which all those billions were released to the allegedly fraudulent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to fund ghost projects.

And from the many bits of information being leaked by former Sen. Ping Lacson, who is one of the few lawmakers not tainted by the pork barrel stigma, and Napoles’ lawyer Bruce Rivera, it would seem that Abad was not the only Aquino ally and aide who are being tagged by Napoles in her “tell-all” affidavit, but over a hundred other government officials.

Among those allegedly named as co-conspirators in the biggest heist of public money ever were Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, another Aquino trusted aide and who also remains in Aquino’s confidence; a leading senator and prominent member of Aquino’s Liberal Party; an agriculture undersecretary; and a former agrarian reform secretary.

“They instructed me about the procedures and taught me the process of how to undertake the PDAF cycle,” Napoles was quoted as saying in her affidavit.

In a report in the Manila Times, Dr. Dante Ang, the paper’s chairman emeritus, said some Malacañang officials were not spared in the damning affidavit. Quoting a reliable source, he said a ranking DBM official is alleged to have taught Napoles the ropes. “[Name of DBM official] was the one who taught me how to follow the procedures at the DBM in order to expedite the releases of the funds,” said the source quoting from the Napoles affidavit. Napoles added that she “followed up the releases” with another ranking DBM official.

Ang added: “Yet another Palace factotum was also mentioned in her affidavit. Wrote Napoles, “[Name of the Palace official] is one of my contacts in Malacañang and who was introduced to me by [name of a Public Relations practitioner]. We casually know each other.” She said she “talks” to the PR guy “for advice every now and then.”

The alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam says persons very close to the Aquino administration were the real masterminds of the scheme, and Aquino is not bothered and remains focused on reforms? Because he believes they are innocent until proven guilty?

But why did the President not accord former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and instead proclaimed him guilty of so many violations before the House of Representatives could even vote for his impeachment and before the Senate could start his trial? Why can’t the President and his allies accord the same presumption of innocence to all the senators and congressmen that have been maligned and unfairly tried in the court of public opinion?

Why did Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, obviously on the say so of Malacanang, so easily released all damning information about the roles of leading opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, and is now overly careful to release the names of all those tagged in the signed written affidavit of Napoles, which De Lima claims seemed very credible.

If the affidavit were credible, then why is she hesitant to release the names or its contents? Is she really concerned about the harm it would do to the “innocent” persons that may have been dragged into the controversy, or is she worried about the harm it would do to Aquino’s allies in the list and to the Aquino administration’s “clean” image?

Now we know why the Aquino administration has been forestalling the approval of the Freedom of Information Act. If an FOI law were in place, the people, through court action, can compel De Lima to reveal the contents of the affidavit since it is a signed document submitted to a government agency, making it a public record and, therefore, subject to public disclosure.

Even without the FOI law, the document is now public record and in the interest of fairness, transparency and accountability, should be disclosed to the public or made available to scrutiny by Congress, the courts and media.

It is becoming obvious that the pork barrel scam that the administration blatantly used to destroy the reputations of opposition leaders, and which it hoped would damage the backbone of the opposition before the 2016 presidential elections is doing a boomerang and is coming back to haunt the country’s leadership.
Apparently, the public is beginning to see through the hypocrisy of the Aquino administration. In the latest survey released by the Social Weather Station, Aquino’s ratings dropped by a huge 13 points in the first three months of the year. The survey was conducted just after revelations of corruption in the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) and the Technology Resource Center (TRC) involving billions of pesos.

But ‘daang matuwid” or not, the Ombudsman must prove its worth and prosecute to the full extent of the law all those responsible for this shameless scheme, whether they are opposition leaders or allies of the Aquino administration.

The Lady of Justice was not blindfolded for nothing. It means that justice will be meted out without fear or favor, and that ultimately the scales of justice would tip in favor of the truth. Hopefully, that will be the case with this horrendous crime presented before her.


By Louis Bacani and Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

President Barack Obama addresses U.S. and Philippine troops at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Obama is wrapping up his four country eight day tour of Asia. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama addresses U.S. and Philippine troops at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Obama is wrapping up his four country eight day tour of Asia. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

MANILA, Philippines — Saying nations’ territories must be respected, President Barack Obama vowed on Tuesday that the United States will remain committed to defend its treaty ally, the Philippines.

Speaking to about 500 American and Filipino troops in Fort Bonifacio, Obama said the two nations are reaffirming their enduring alliance that has been bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty for more than 60 years.

“This treaty means our two nations pledge and I’m quoting ‘Our common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone,’ Obama said in his remarks delivered at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

“In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. And the United States will keep that commitment ’cause allies do not stand alone,” the American leader added, drawing applause from the audience.

Obama made no mention of China in his short speech, but he did reiterate that the territorial disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force.

“We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace and have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected. We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved, and commerce must not be impeded,” Obama said.

His remarks came after failing to categorically assure in a press conference on Monday that the US will defend the Philippines if and when the tensions in the disputed South China Sea escalate into an armed conflict.

When asked Monday whether the US will defend the Philippines in case its dispute with China leads to an armed conflict, Obama did not give a direct answer, stating instead that Washington does not seek to contain Beijing.

He added that the US does not take sides on disputes between nations but believes that these should not be managed through coercion and intimidation.

Obama echoed similar lines in his remarks as he noted the importance of upholding territorial integrity and freedom of navigation.

Obama has said that the US is not aiming to counter nor contain China, which is claiming virtually the entire South China Sea.

Taking advantage of the Philippines’ weak military capability, Beijing has occupied areas that are well within Manila’s exclusive economic zone including the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

China has also set up a blockade in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to prevent supplies from reaching a grounded ship that serves as a Philippine military installation.

The Philippines has filed a complaint against China before an international arbitral tribunal, a move that has drawn support from the US.

The US and the Philippines on Monday signed the 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, allowing increased rotational presence of American soldiers in the country.

Areas of cooperation

Former President Fidel Ramos, who was present when Obama delivered his remarks, said the Philippines should seek collaborations with China on issues like disaster mitigation and poverty.

He said nations should work together to address common problems instead of engaging in bickering.

“Who is the enemy here? Is it us against them or them against us? No, the enemy here is climate change, super typhoons, infectious diseases, poverty, hunger, lack of electricity, lack of jobs. That should be our focus,” Ramos said.

“Let us gather all our assets we use for building up lethal weapons and defenses and use them to fight poverty, disease hunger, and ignorance. (We should) take care of the young people,” he added.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former soldier, said Obama’s remarks should not be construed as referring to the West Philippine Sea row.

“We have to take that away in the context of the territorial dispute because they (US) are also very clear in that regard that they are not going to intervene in territorial disputes so we have to deal with the dispute ourselves,” Trillanes said.

“They (US) are not at war with China. They are dealing with China and strengthening their alliance with us so we can do the same. We can have a strong ally with the United States and deal with China in a more friendly way,” he added.


By Emily Rauhala  
TIME Magazine

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a bilateral press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino at Malacañang Palace in Manila on April 28, 2014 Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a bilateral press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino at Malacañang Palace in Manila on April 28, 2014 Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement took eight months to negotiate but mere days to anger Beijing, which sees U.S. involvement in East Asia as interference despite President Obama’s insistence the goal is not to “contain” China

This is not about China. That has been the theme of Barack Obama’s four-nation trip to East Asia. Yet China loomed large over stops in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. And in the Philippines today, China was front and center.

On Monday morning, local time, the U.S. and the Philippines signed a 10-year pact that will give U.S. planes, warships and troops more access to the archipelagic nation. The U.S. will not re-establish a permanent base, but will rotate troops through. The deal, officially called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, took eight months of negotiation, and gives some substance to the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia.

At a joint press conference in Manila, President Obama insisted the deal was not about thwarting China’s rise. “Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of international disputes,” he said.

His counterpart, President Benigno S. Aquino III, said the agreement was about deepening U.S.-Philippine ties and would promote “regional peace and security.”

China begs to differ. Locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines, Japan and others, Beijing sees U.S. involvement in East Asia as unwelcome interference. In an editorial published less than an hour after the agreement was officially signed, state-backed newswire Xinhua blasted the pact, calling the Philippines a “troublemaker in the South China Sea” and warning the U.S. that its plans may backfire.

“Given that the Philippines is at a bitter territorial row with China, the move is particularly disturbing as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing,” it read.

The agreement is no less contentious within the Philippines. The country has a long and complicated history with the U.S., particularly the U.S. armed forces. The Philippines spent 300 years as a Spanish colony before being “liberated” by the U.S. in 1898. What followed was a brutal Philippine-American War and the U.S. colonization of the islands. When the Philippines became independent in 1945, the Americans left behind massive military bases — and with them a well-documented legacy of rights abuses and environmental problems.

More than a decade of antimilitary activism led to the closure, in 1992, of U.S. bases. But the Americans never fully withdrew. U.S. forces have maintained a small but continuous presence, conducting training exercises and, since 2002, antiterrorist operations as part of the so-called global war on terror. For a dedicated block of activists, the fact that the U.S. military still has boots on the ground is tantamount to neocolonialism. Some staged protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila last week.

“I think people are angry that this was negotiated behind close doors and made public after it was signed,” says Alex Magno, former professor of political of science at the University of the Philippines, now a political commenter for the Philippine Star. “It is being sold to the public as an enhancement of our national defense [but] Obama tries to tone down that expectation by saying that it is not America’s role to counter China.”

The deal is also under fire from Filipino politicians who see it as a hasty and counterproductive turnaround. In an email reply to questions from TIME, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago blasted the government for signing the pact without input from the Senate and questioned the logic behind the agreement. “The U.S. should not continue to treat [the Philippines] as a satellite state, while aiming to remain on good terms with China,” she wrote. “America cannot have it both ways.”

Since his election in 2010, President Aquino has alternated between reassuring and castigating Beijing. In a 2012 interview, Aquino told TIME that U.S. military aid “helps us address our needs without giving [our neighbors] any sense of added nervousness.” (One of the unnamed neighbors, of course, was China.) He has since become more direct: in a February interview with the New York Times, Aquino compared his country’s plight with the West’s failure to protect Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Hitler demanded land. “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’” he asked.

At the press conference in Manila on Monday, Aquino once again spoke softly, noting, among other things, that his country does not have a single fighter jet. But he said it with President Obama at his side — a fact that will not be lost on Beijing.


The Second Thomas Shoal is the new flashpoint in the South China Sea. Solving it is vital for the region and the world.

By Darshana M. Baruah
The Diplomat 

Chinese-Coast-Guard-ship.5Last month China prevented two Philippine boats from reaching the Second Thomas Shoal, claiming that Manila was trying to build structures on the reef in an attempt to fortify its claim. In 1999, the Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre – a former U.S. tank landing vessel – ran aground the shoal and has been since stationed there ever since with a handful of Filipino marines to enforce the Philippines’ claim to the reef. The shoal lies within Manila’s 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but is also claimed by Beijing. The presence of the Sierra Madre and the soldiers aboard is part of Manila’s larger strategy in the South China Sea to protect its contested maritime territories.

While the Scarborough Shoal incident drew international attention in 2012, the Second Thomas Shoal is the new flashpoint in the South China Sea (SCS). The region is becoming a maritime hotspot with Beijing engaging in territorial disputes with four ASEAN nations. Beijing claims most of the sea as its territory with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also having overlapping claims in the area. China is the largest party and has been engaged in growing provocations, which are being vehemently opposed by the Philippines and Vietnam – who are seeking the presence of external actors to counter Beijing.

China is becoming increasingly assertive in its claims and its recent move to block Philippine boats carrying supplies to their troops stationed in the Second Thomas Shoal is indicative of this trend. Supporting Manila in its protests, Washington said that the blockade is a “provocative move that raises tensions,” calling for all parties to maintain status quo. With growing international attention to the region and the U.S. rebalance, the Philippines has been increasingly vocal about its ongoing dispute with China. Meanwhile, China’s aggressive and assertive behavior in both the East and South China Sea is hampering Beijing’s relationship with its neighbors.

While Beijing’s assertiveness in the region is not a new phenomenon, its attempt- if any- to occupy the Second Thomas Shoal will have serious consequences for Asia. As noted, Washington has been increasingly vocal in opposing Chinese actions in the region and is likely to extend its support and influence against Chinese attempts to seize the Second Thomas Shoal. This will also create panic and tension amongst the other claimants to the South China Sea, creating mistrust between governments and a greater potential for confrontations in the waters of the South China Sea.

Manila is worried that Beijing will repeat the Scarborough Shoal fiasco all over again, wherein the Philippines withdrew its forces to ease tension while China continued to maintain its vessels in the region, treating the shoal as its territory. However, the scenario is much different this time around as any attempt by China to occupy the Second Thomas Shoal will run up against the Philippine Marines stationed on the Sierra Madre. Thus, Beijing would have to remove the Filipino soldiers either by force or by intimidation as Manila has resolved to fight “up to the last standing soldier.”

Further complicating the situation is China’s adamant refusal to engage with the other claimants to the South China Sea at an international/multilateral forum. In an effort to force China’s hand on the matter, in January 2013 the Philippines approached an international tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) to submit the dispute for resolution. Although Beijing has refused to participate at the tribunal, the Philippines is continuing the process and recently submitted its memorial to the court. China argues that there are no territorial disputes in the South China Sea and all of its claims are legal. Hence, it argues it does not have to participate in any international forum. At the same time, China seeks to appear conciliatory be expressing a willingness to discuss the disputes bilaterally with each party, where Chinese power would be at its greater. The Philippines, on the other hand, does not want to be seated alone against its powerful neighbor and therefore seeks to discuss the issues in multilateral forums.

Even if the UN court rules in favor of Manila, it will not have a binding effect on China. However, it will strengthen the Philippines’ position by grounding it in international law, and putting China in a negative spotlight. This could also set a precedent for other claimants to the South China Sea who would have a renewed incentive to bring their own disputes with China to international arbitrators.

In the meantime, China is unlikely to stop patrolling the waters near the Second Thomas Shoal. While the Philippines air dropped the supplies to its troops the first time around and dodged Chinese vessels the second time, it cannot continue to avoid and escape Beijing’s maritime vessels. Manila will have to continue shipping supplies to the Marines so they can maintain their outpost. Each time the Philippines does so now carries the risk of a miscalculation leading to a conflict between the two countries. The problem however is that a conflict between the two nations won’t be limited to their respective militaries or even the region. The South China Sea is a vital international trade route affecting countless countries around the globe.

While most other nations put forth their concerns regarding freedom of navigation in the area, China is prompt in its response that it will never affect the innocent passage of ships. However it is not just about the passage of trade vessels, the question is about one country controlling very important waters where no military reconnaissance will be allowed. It is in global interest to keep the region free of conflict.

In the face of strong opposition from the Philippines and an assertive China, ASEAN as a community must speak with a single voice in helping to resolve the matter. As four ASEAN countries continue to clash with China over the South China Sea, it is becoming increasingly important for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. While ASEAN is not a silver bullet for solving the various territorial disputes, it definitely has the potential to facilitate dialogue with China. It must seize this opportunity or risk living with the consequences of failing to do so. These consequences will shake the world.

Darshana M. Baruah is a Junior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Associate Editor of the ORF South China Sea Monitor.


Source: Want China Times

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter developed by Lockheed Martin. (Photo/CFP)

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter developed by Lockheed Martin. (Photo/CFP)

The US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is capable of combating China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, reports Huanqiu, the website of China’s nationalistic Global Times tabloid.

In a hypothetical aircraft carrier battle between China and the United States, the main fighter jets would include the United States’ F-35C fifth-generation multirole fighter developed by Lockheed Martin and China’s J-15 carrier-based jet developed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.

The F-35 is equipped with extremely powerful offensive capabilities for both land and sea combat, with a weapons load of eight tonnes and the capacity to carry four AIM20C and AIM-9X mid-range and short-range air-to-air missiles.

In an attack on the Liaoning the F-35 could carry joint strike missiles developed in Norway, which have a range of 290 kilometers. The J-15, on the other hand, could carry two YJ8-3 anti-missiles with a range of only 180 km.

In terms of radar technology, the US has the clear upper hand with its AN/APG-81 AESA radar developed by Northrop Grumman, which has a thousand transceivers with the ability to simultaneously search for 23 moving targets, including 19 targets in just 2.4 seconds, after which it would turn to tracking mode.

Even against China’s J-20, the stealth, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft prototype being developed by Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, the F-35 would still be the first to detect its opponent due to its superior radar.

Observers are asking whether the Japan Air Self-Defense Force will make modifications to its F-35A jets to use the domestically developed AAM-4 and AAM-5 medium-range active radar-guided air-to-air missiles or if they will use US missiles given the differences in dimensions.

The problem for Japan is the cost of the F-35A, which could mean fewer aircraft if the price continues to rise. The price of the F-35A was US$111.6 million back in 2010, while the F-35B cost US$109.4 million and the F-35C was priced at US$142.9 million; since then the average price of one F-35 has risen to as high as US$228 million, according to some sources.


By Dan Weil

GDP-Industrial-ProductionRussia’s economy is tanking, even as the West’s sanctions for its takeover of Crimea have just begun to bite.

The country faces stagflation and plunges in the ruble and stock market. That has helped send foreign investors running for the hills, taking billions of dollars out of the country with them. Recession appears to be looming, New York Times columnist David Herszenhorn writes.

“This is our fee of sorts for conducting an independent foreign policy,” Aleksei Kudrin, a former Russian finance minister, said at a recent investor conference in Moscow, according to Herszenhorn.

Kudrin said Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine would ultimately strip hundreds of billions of dollars from the economy and put the kibosh on economic growth through year-end.

“Even before the Crimean episode, and the resulting imposition of sanctions by the West, Russia’s $2 trillion economy was suffering from stagflation, that toxic mix of stagnant growth and high inflation typically accompanied by a spike in unemployment,” Herszenhorn explains.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that Russia’s GDP will expand only 1.3 percent this year, matching last year’s total and down from the IMF’s 2 percent estimate in January. Russian inflation hit 6.9 percent in March, the highest in nine months.

“The near-term growth outlook for Russia, already weakened, has been further affected by these geopolitical tensions,” the IMF said in its World Economy Review, according to Bloomberg.

The report was referring to the situation in Ukraine, of course. Concern remains that Russia will invade the eastern part of that country.

Meanwhile, if oil prices fall, the Russian economy will suffer greatly, given its huge dependence on oil and natural gas.


St. John’s University

Conrado M. Gempesaw, Ph.D.

Conrado M. Gempesaw, Ph.D.

It is our great pleasure to announce that the Board of Trustees has elected Conrado M. Gempesaw, Ph.D., Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, as the 17th President of St. John’s University effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Gempesaw will succeed Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., who will be stepping down as planned at the conclusion of this academic year.

Dr. Gempesaw is an accomplished scholar, teacher, and administrator who comes to St. John’s with almost three decades of academic experience. At Miami University, he led the institution’s comprehensive strategic planning efforts and introduced new enrollment management strategies based on capacity planning that increased the school’s applicant pool and improved student diversity. Miami University comprises six colleges and more than 22,000 students and 1,000 faculty members. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Miami third nationally for its exceptionally strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, 31st among national public universities, and 75th overall.

In Dr. Gempesaw, we have found a visionary leader who understands and embraces St. John’s mission as a Catholic and Vincentian university, and has the skills necessary to realize our goals for the future. We are confident he will help St. John’s continue its remarkable transformation from a commuter school into a global educational institution with enhanced and expanded facilities and new academic initiatives, while maintaining its mission of providing a world-class affordable education.

We would like to extend our deep appreciation to all of you who provided input and feedback throughout this process, and in particular, to the members of the Presidential Search Committee for their hard work in conducting this extensive national search. The 13-member committee represented multiple constituencies, including faculty, students, administrators, alumni, and trustees. As a result of their efforts, we had a final pool of truly exceptional candidates. The search was led by Mr. Bill Funk of R. William Funk and Associates, one of the nation’s leading higher education consulting firms, and Mary Harper Hagan, Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Strategic Planning, St. John’s University, whose professionalism ensured that the search process remained focused and on track.

As Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Miami University, Dr. Gempesaw led the development of new academic initiatives to enhance retention and graduation rates, increase international enrollment and global partnerships, establish student learning outcomes assessment practices, and create e-learning niche programs and market strategies.

Before joining Miami University, Dr. Gempesaw held several positions at the University of Delaware. As Dean of the Lerner College of Business and Economics, he was responsible for the University’s second largest college with five academic departments, 3,500 students, and 120 faculty members, as well as the university-wide Division of Professional and Continuing Studies. Prior to that, he served as the University’s interim Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, with more than 8,000 students, 24 academic departments, and 600 faculty members. His other positions at the University of Delaware included Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Planning; Acting Associate Provost for International Programs and Special Sessions; Chairperson of the Department of Food and Resource Economics; and Acting Director, Operations Research Program. He also chaired the NCAA compliance effort at the University of Delaware. In 2000 and 2005, he co-chaired UD’s Middle States Commission on Higher Education Steering Committee for Accreditation. He also co-chaired UD’s NCAA Certification Self-Study Committee in 2002.

Dr. Gempesaw has also held faculty positions as a professor in the Department of Economics at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business, and professor in the Department of Economics and Department of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Gempesaw received his Ph.D. in agricultural economics from The Pennsylvania State University; a Master of Science degree in agricultural economics from West Virginia University; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines. He has published more than 100 papers in various academic journals on financial simulation analysis and modeling, higher education administration, agribusiness economics, and marketing and international trade.

Dr. Gempesaw and his wife, Clavel Albay Gempesaw, are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oxford, Ohio. In Delaware, Dr. Gempesaw served on the St. Thomas More Oratory Advisory Council and the Diocese of Wilmington Catholic Youth Ministry’s (CYM) Athletic Committee, and was a CYM basketball referee. Clavel Albay Gempesaw earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware. They have two sons, Daniel, who earned Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware and a Master of Science degree from Georgia Tech, and David, who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and finance from the University of Delaware and is currently a graduate student at Miami University.

Beginning today and over the coming months, many of you will have the opportunity to meet Dr. Gempesaw during his visits to St. John’s before he officially joins the University. Additionally, there will be ample time to express our gratitude to Fr. Levesque for his service, and we will keep you apprised of those plans. We look forward to a seamless transition to St. John’s new leadership and an outstanding future for our beloved University. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Gempesaw and his family to the St. John’s community.


By Perry Diaz

Magnificent 12 or Dirty Dozen?

Magnificent 12 or Dirty Dozen?

Twenty-eight years after the EDSA people power revolution and 23 years after the Philippine Senate kicked the U.S. bases out of the Philippines, the Americans are back at the request of the Philippine government. Why?

The toppling of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 whipped up nationalistic fervor among the new intelligentsia who saw an opportunity to create a society free of foreign influence and interference. It was a period of unbridled nationalism that blamed the malaise of the past on America’s perceived meddling in the Philippines’ national affairs.

U.S. Marines lower the American flag as their Philippine counterparts raise the Philippine flag  in November 1992.

U.S. Marines lower the American flag as their Philippine counterparts raise the Philippine flag in November 1992.

It did not then come as a surprise that the 1987 Constitution was crafted to prohibit foreign military bases on Philippine soil. Article XVIII, Section 25, of the new constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate and, when the Congress so requires, ratified by a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.”

In 1991, twelve senators voted 12-11 to reject the extension of the US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement. The vainglorious senators – who called themselves, the Magnificent 12 – justified their vote by claiming that the treaty was favorable to the U.S. but not to the Philippines. The following year, the U.S. bases were closed.

Chinese aggression

Chinese fortifications on Panganiban Reef.

Chinese fortifications on Panganiban Reef.

Two years after the closure of the U.S. bases in 1992, China seized the Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef) in the middle of the night. And the Philippine Armed Forces couldn’t do anything to take it back.

In the past three years, China aggressively pursued her territorial claim to about 80% of the South China Sea including the Spratly archipelago. In 2012, she took possession of Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).

That didn’t bode well with President Benigno Aquino III, who, ultimately would bear a stigma of guilt should he fail to do something to deter Chinese aggression. While the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is still in effect, there is no ironclad guarantee that America would come to the Philippines’ aid in a timely fashion.

Ayungin Shoal. BRP Sierra Madre is shown encircled on the photo.

Ayungin Shoal. BRP Sierra Madre is shown encircled on the photo.

Recently, China attempted to take possession of Ayungin Shoal, which is only 105 nautical miles from the coast of Palawan and within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). But what deterred the Chinese from taking over the uninhabited but strategically located shoal was a small detachment of Philippine marines deployed to a rusty naval ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which lay aground off Ayungin.

BRP Sierra Madre

BRP Sierra Madre

Consequently, China made several diplomatic efforts to pressure the Philippine government into removing Sierra Madre from the vicinity, claiming that China has absolute and indisputable sovereignty over Ayungin and the rest of the Spratlys including the proven oil- and gas-rich Recto Bank. But with a navy with no warships and an air force with no warplanes, the Philippines is defenseless against Chinese attack.


Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg after the signing of EDCA on April 28, 2014. (Photo credit: Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler)

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin shakes hands with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg after the signing of EDCA on April 28, 2014. (Photo credit: Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler)

The signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) last April 28, 2014 came at a time when China was poised to strike at the Spratly islands. Signed hours before U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Manila, EDCA will give American forces temporary access to selected Philippine military bases, and allow them to preposition fighter jets and ships.

The question is: How significant is EDCA to the overall rebalancing of U.S. naval and air forces in the Asia-Pacific region? To answer that question, one has to be cognizant of China’s goal of controlling the First Island Chain and Second Island Chain. The First Island Chain runs from Japan all the way to Vietnam by way of Taiwan, Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Second Island Chain runs from Japan all the way to Australia by way of the U.S. territories of Guam and Saipan, and Papua New Guinea.

China Dream

Admiral Liu Huaqing

Admiral Liu Huaqing

In an article titled, “China to take Second Island Chain by 2020,” published last year in the Want China Times, it said: “In 1982, Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, said that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020. The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. If China is able to dominate the Second Island Chain seven years from now, the East China Sea will become the backyard of the PLA Navy.”

Prior to the signing of EDCA, the Philippines was the weakest link in the First Island Chain. Not anymore. EDCA strengthened the chain link; thus, containing China to the confines of East China and South China Seas.

Obama’s four-nation Asian tour to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines plays an important part in maintaining the status quo and balance of power in the Asia-Pacific Region. China should realize that she couldn’t – and shouldn’t — bully her neighbors into submission for as long as America remains a Pacific power.

It was a long journey from EDSA to EDCA indeed. But it was a journey worth taking.


By Jose Ma. Montelibano



Napoles begins to crack, and the crack can be major. It goes beyond the smaller details that most commentaries are focused on. Rather, Napoles spilling some or all that she knows about what she did and whom she did it with breaks the myth that crime pays.

Certainly, I have no illusions that some will get away. I have no doubts either that many will not, especially when they thought they had already covered their tracks. There is a wall that seemed invincible except by People Power. After all, two versions of People Power did trigger plunder raps against two presidents.

Today, though, another former president faces plunder cases. It did not take for people to rush to the streets, it just asked people to support PNoy when he took on a disgraced and impeached Chief Justice. That now removed Chief Justice appeared to many as one who would provide legal cover to a plunder that may yet prove to be worse than the Marcos experience.

Decades of corruption not only stole hundreds of billions of people’s money but, in fact, skewed the very standards of accepted morality. Corruption from the very top produced two presidents who found their way to being named among the top ten of the world’s most corrupt leaders. A third, Gloria Arroyo, can find herself in that dirty global list when more whistleblowers come into play.

The corruption of presidents effectively extended the era of colonial masters when the Filipino people and their natural wealth were looted legally. Colonial rule was done by Spain and the United States for primarily one reason – to take what belonged to the natives, whether these be their slave labor, the fruit of that, or the hordes of gold and silver of our land. Japan would have done the same had it been given more time.

Independence, then, was what corrupt presidents stalled from growing in the hearts and minds of Filipinos after 1946. Because societal leaders became as rapacious as the colonial masters they replaced, the majority of Filipinos have felt no difference in their impoverished state. The wealth of the land was denied them, especially as the land that was first grabbed by Spain from our ancestors has not been returned to the rightful owners.

The attitude of submission that emerged from centuries of foreign rule aided by local warlords or collaborators, the Filipino people lived with resignation and acceptance of wrong being right if it is so mandated, or modeled, by those in society who rule them. This attitude of submission has persisted beyond colonial rule. Native leaders who took over after 1946 did little to empower the people but did much to extend the two-tiered, contrasting reality of status and opportunity. How else could two presidents become part of the world’s most corrupt elite and another one on her way if the people had not accepted their deprivation even in the face of scandalous wealth of public officials?

Over the same centuries, and especially over the last 45 years since Ferdinand Marcos, corruption defined governance. Even Corazon Aquino, unwilling to use her revolutionary powers to cut deep incisions into a cancerous bureaucracy ably complimented by private sector greed, could not fire a single dirty employee of government without having to go through court. A wall of invincibility fortified the corrupt as long as they had money or position – and they had both.

It cannot be but by destiny that President Noynoy Aquino took on corruption as his primary cause when he ran for the presidency, and mean it beyond the usual campaign politics. It cannot be but destiny that PNoy gave his fundamental reason why he did so. That was the heart of his inaugural speech, “No Wang-Wang”, a declaration that Filipinos are equal in worth and dignity – and the law. That statement of equality between the ordinary and the high-ranking established that government resources are not the private domain of public officials, that they are mere stewards and must accept accountability for their theft.

The protective wall that shields the powerful from prosecution and conviction combined well with the submissive attitude of the population, especially the majority poor, for corrupt not only to thrive but become a sub-culture of public service. The aggressive arrest of Gloria Arroyo followed by the impeachment case and conviction of Rene Corona showed the resolve of one man to take on the invincibility of corruption. I believe that with his radical initiatives, PNoy opened the doors of possibility in the hearts and minds of Filipinos who pursued the bold trajectory by going after the PDAF with hammer and tongs – and succeeded!

The moment of equality is upon us if the resolve of a president is matched by a resolve of the people. PNoy and the people may not agree over which issues represent their priority, but they have not disagreed about corruption itself – that they both must persevere in dismantling it. At the same time, PNoy and the people must be clear about the nature and status of corruption in the Philippines, that they do not deal with what is on the surface but also what rots in the inside, what is now a part of our assimilated history.

What is important is that the trajectory continues, and the beginning of the unraveling of Janet Napoles is a powerful symbol that what was invincible is now beginning to crack. Thieves and liars, faced with the combined resolve of the destiny of a leader and the people, will have to weaken and wilt in their arrogance, recognize that their doom approaches, and begin to do what they do best – betray one another. After all, their thieving and plundering ways had been continuing acts of betrayal against the people they swore to serve.

What lifts my optimism is not only that something great has begun, but that the new generations are here to sustain this trajectory towards nobility over corruption. By a miracle, many of our own children and grandchildren, including those of the corrupt, have not been stained enough to lose their idealism. They will save us yet.

By Dr. Dante A. Ang, Chairman Emeritus
The Manila Times

Napoles: Senator, former DAR chief, ex-DA Usec taught me the ropes



In yesterday’s papers, Janet Lim-Napoles, primary suspect in the P10-billion PDAF scam, insisted that she was not the brains behind it and pointed instead to another.

Her lawyer, Bruce Rivera, said “she is not the most guilty.” That being the case, she can qualify as a state witness, Rivera added.

Whether she is “not the most guilty” and, therefore, qualified to be a state witness, is for the Sandiganbayan to decide.

The Sandiganbyan picks from a list of possible state witnesses given by the Ombudsman.

Ironically, there may be some truth to Napoles’ statement that she was not the mastermind of the massive theft of the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The “brains” are three highly prominent government officials who had advised Napoles on the intricacies of fund releases, according to a highly reliable source who requested anonymity.

In her signed affidavit, Napoles narrated the roles the “brains” had played in the PDAF scam, the source told The Manila Times on Thursday.

The three (a leading senator and prominent member of the Liberal Party, an Agriculture undersecretary and an erstwhile secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform or DAR) “are my mentors. They instructed me about the procedures and taught me the process of how to undertake the PDAF cycle,” the source quoting Napoles said.

“The former DAR secretary and the current Agriculture undersecretary who is related to a senator were in constant communications with me,” Napoles added.

Some Malacañang officials were not spared either. A ranking official of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is alleged to have taught Napoles the ropes. “[Name of DBM official] was the one who taught me how to follow the procedures at the DBM in order to expedite the releases of the funds,” said the source quoting from the Napoles affidavit. Napoles added that she “followed up the releases” with another ranking DBM official.

Yet another Palace factotum was also mentioned in her affidavit. Wrote Napoles, “[Name of the Palace official] is one of my contacts in Malacañang and who was introduced to me by [name of a Public Relations practitioner]. We casually know each other.” She said she “talks” to the PR guy “for advice every now and then.”

Some 11 senators belonging to the administration and opposition were also implicated in the Napoles affidavit.

In that same affidavit, the jailed businesswoman recounted that she met one of the three senators indicted by the Ombudsman in a social function and that she followed up on the status of the documents with his Chief of Staff.

Napoles, according to the source, decided to come out in the open and name names when the people whom she considered friends abandoned her. She was blaming them for her having contracted urinary tract infection (UTI), “kasi marumi ang facilities [because the facilities in Santa Rosa are dirty],” he explained. Napoles was being held at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa City, Laguna, until she underwent major surgery in a government hospital on Tuesday.

She had asked “them” for help in securing a hospital arrest for her and a transfer of venue. Both requests were denied by the courts. Napoles then decided to go public and talked to the government to reveal what she knows of the theft of the government funds, the source said.

On Thursday, former senator Panfilo ‘Ping” Lacson disclosed that in March this year, Jimmy Napoles, husband of Janet, gave him documents and a list of lawmakers who allegedly received kickbacks from ghost projects funded by PDAF. Lacson said the number of senators included in the list could constitute a quorum. With the Senate having 24 members, at least 13 are needed to make a quorum.

But Senate President Franklin Drilon cautioned against using the Napoles list to attack the chamber.

“If the list is supported by credible documentary evidence, please go ahead. Pero kung listahan lang naman, siguro naman pag-ingatan naman natin ang institusyon ng Senado [But if it’s just a mere list, I believe we should preserve the Senate as an institution],” he said in a news briefing also on Thursday.

Drilon insisted that every testimony should be backed up by evidence and that the best evidence is the document itself.

The senator also expressed confidence that his name is not on the Napoles list because, according to him, not a single centavo of his PDAF went to any questionable non-government organization (NGO).

“I wish to say once more that insofar as I am concerned, my name is not and will never be [on ] any list because I have not assigned a single peso of my PDAF to any NGO of Mrs. Janet Napoles” he said.