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Archive for May 2nd, 2007

Navy vice chief prefers no poll duty for troops

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:09pm (Mla time) 05/02/2007


SANGLEY POINT, Cavite City, Philippines — If the second-in-command of the Philippine Navy had his way, soldiers should not be tapped for election duties to erase suspicions they would be used in vote rigging operations.

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“As far as we are concerned, we don’t want election duties, so there will be no issue against the Armed Forces,” Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Amable Tolentino told reporters Wednesday. “Even if we just do our jobs, it will be linked to the election issue.”

“If possible, we don’t want to be involved [in the elections], but we have the MoA [memorandum of agreement]. We still have to offer our capability and assets if needed,” said Tolentino, who inspected disaster response troops in this Navy base south of Manila.

The Navy vice chief was referring to the MoA signed by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in October 2006, which limits the role of soldiers during elections to responding to “serious armed threats” as determined by the poll body.

The MoA was an offshoot of allegations senior military officials, including the Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., helped President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rig the 2004 election results in her favor.

A military investigation cleared Esperon and four other so-called “Hello Garci” generals, but its report was never made public. The military chief was liked to the vote fraud scandal after he was mentioned in purported wiretapped recordings of Arroyo’s phone conversations with former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

The cheating allegations stirred restiveness within the troops, reaching a boiling point during the last week of February 2006, when senior officers allegedly planned to withdraw support from Arroyo en masse to protest the alleged cheating.

Officials from the Marines, a unit under the Navy, publicly assailed the alleged cheating during the night-long standoff at their Fort Bonifacio headquarters on February 26, 2006.

Asked if Marines would be deployed to election hot spots, Tolentino said he saw nothing wrong with it, as long as it’s on Comelec’s orders.

“It’s okay, as long as it is instructed [by the Comelec]. I guess there are provisions [in the MoA] that [ensure soldiers] will be apolitical,” Tolentino said.

Earlier this year, Esperon and Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., upon his installment into office, said military vehicles could be tapped to ferry election paraphernalia when no other means of transportation is available.

Like Ebdane, Ebdane was also mentioned in the “Hello Garci”recordings. Ebdane, who was transportation secretary during the 2004 elections, was never investigated over the vote-rigging scandal.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002007-05-02T13:09:16+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 02 May 2007 13:09:16 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Esperon balks at comparison to martial law counterpart

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:09pm (Mla time) 05/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has taken exception to former Senate president Jovito Salonga’s statement likening him to his counterpart during the Marcos dictatorship.

In Malacañang, Executive Eduardo Ermita also defended the AFP chief, saying Salonga’s comparison of Esperon and Ver “doesn’t have basis.”

In an open letter that primarily expressed his concern over the possible deployment of soldiers for election duties, Salonga said Esperon brought to mind the late general Fabian Ver, who was the military chief in the final years of the 14-year dictatorship of his cousin Ferdinand Marcos.

Like Marcos, Ver fled the country after the ouster of the dictator in 1986 and died abroad.

Salonga said like Ver, Esperon also has low approval ratings in opinion surveys.

But an AFP statement quoted Esperon as saying the “underlying situations” during the dictatorship was “totally different” from the present.

“The chief of staff respects the personal opinion of former senator Salonga. However, [the] said opinion is based on perception,” the statement said.

The statement added: “General Esperon has and enjoys the trust, confidence, and support of the AFP.”

“I wish people will understand that a military commander such as General Esperon has a duty to do and for that matter he is very conscious that his actions and those of the Armed Forces are under close scrutiny,” Ermita, a former military officer.

“You can be very, very sure they [military] will just do what is mandated of them — that is safeguard the election process, utilize the men in uniform for peace and order,” Ermita said.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002007-05-02T13:06:55+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 02 May 2007 13:06:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Philippine Navy ready for disasters despite equipment lack

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:49pm (Mla time) 05/02/2007

SANGLEY POINT, Cavite City — The Philippine Navy is ready to respond to maritime disasters as the rainy season nears, even as an official acknowledged the need to upgrade its vessels and equipment.

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To demonstrate its preparedness, 290 of the over 1,000-strong Navy disaster response team participated in an inspection and capability drill at sea here at their main base south of Manila.

“We are showing what we can do, what these people can do in response to maritime disasters,” said Navy Vice commander Rear Admiral Amable Tolentino.

“You can see that we lack equipment,” Tolentino said, adding, “We have to live with that. Not all organizations are fully equipped. We have to live with our limitations.”

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Tolentino said the Armed Forces was expected to spend P5 billion of the P10-billion allocation from Malacañang for the military’s capability upgrade program to purchase sea vessels and helicopters, which could be used in disaster response and internal security operations.

He said the military would also procure automatic grenade launchers, squad automatic weapons, and sniper rifles for the Marines, the Navy’s main fighting unit.

Helicopters, Tolentino said were “very, very necessary” especially in rescue operations.

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During the drill, troops demonstrated how personnel on board a Navy Landing Ship Tank could put out a fire on the deck of a nearby vessel.

They also demonstrated how troops on board a BO-105 helicopter and a rigid hull inflatable boat could rescue shipwrecked passengers in open sea.

Tolentino said preparing for disaster response was necessary, with weather forecasters warning of a prolonged rainy season.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002007-05-02T13:06:06+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 02 May 2007 13:06:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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