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Archive for June 2007

Esperon sad to see namesake go, welcomes new defense chief

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:26pm (Mla time) 06/30/2007

MANILA, Philippines — While he is sad to see his namesake go, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. welcomed the appointment of outgoing Tarlac Representative Gilbert Teodoro as defense secretary, as announced by Malacañang on Saturday.

Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., who handled the defense portfolio for nearly five months, will return to his old position at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales will be concurrent defense secretary until Teodoro’s appointment takes effect on August 3, the Palace said.

Esperon said he knew of the shake-up at the Department of National Defense (DND) before the Palace announcement.

“I am a little sad, though it’s quite personal, we are both [named] Hermogenes. He’s my team leader, our wives are friends, we have been friends for a long time,” Esperon said in a phone interview.

Esperon said his namesake worked “quietly but effectively” since he assumed as defense secretary last February 1.

Esperon said Teodoro’s background at the House of Representatives is a “plus factor” for the military. He also noted that the nephew of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco is a reservist Air Force colonel.

“His experience in Congress will surely benefit the AFP because we have some legislative advocacy also…Even when he was still in Congress, he has been talking to us. He’s very respectful, very wholesome,” the military chief said.

Esperon saw he saw Teodoro in action when he was assigned commander of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division, whose area of responsibility includes Tarlac province.

At that time, Esperon said Teodoro supervised relief efforts for victims of floods due to a collapsed dike.

Esperon said he saw no problem with Gonzales temporarily taking over the defense department. He said the AFP’s Capability Upgrade Program (CUP), as well as the 2010 target to wipe out the communist insurgency, remain on track.

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Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2007-06-30T11:40:29+00:00UTC06bUTCSat, 30 Jun 2007 11:40:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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INQUIRER.net VDO: Trillanes and fan

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CALOOCAN CITY, Philippines–A lady belts out “Let Me Try Again” while another woman uses a fan to cool down senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV as he prepares to take his oath of office before his townmates. Video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Joel Guinto on June 29, 2007 at Barangay 169 in Caloocan City.

Written by joelguinto

SatUTC2007-06-30T02:51:58+00:00UTC06bUTCSat, 30 Jun 2007 02:51:58 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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‘Seek gov’t post after retirement to invoke EO 464’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:19pm (Mla time) 06/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV has advised Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to seek a government position after he retires on February 28 if he wants evade summonses to legislative hearings on his involvement in alleged cheating operations in 2004.

trillanes-biazon.jpg

“He can invoke [Executive Order 464] until he retires. He better line up and apply for a new position if he wants to invoke that,” Trillanes told reporters after he took his oath of office in Caloocan City.

EO 464, issued last year, bars government and security officials from testifying in legislative hearings without clearance from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Supreme Court struck down several of the order’s provisions as unconstitutional last year.

Despite this, Esperon has said he would invoke EO 464 to evade congressional hearings that Trillanes plans to call to look into extrajudicial killings and the alleged cheating in the 2004 elections.

Nevertheless, Trillanes, who is being tried in both civil and military courts for being an alleged mutiny leader, maintained: “It’s nothing personal. We are after the truth.”

Trillanes said he would also summon other officers who allegedly figured in the supposed cheating operations.

Esperon was linked to the election fraud controversy after he and three other senior officers, who are have all retired, were mentioned in purported wiretapped telephone conversations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her alleged accomplice in vote-rigging operations, ex-elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

“Garci [Garcillano] mentioned his [Esperon’s] name clearly. Garci will not fool the President by dropping his name if he had not talked to him,” Trillanes said.

In the tapes, it was implied that Esperon had a hand in the relief of Marine Brigadier General Francisco Gudani, who was perceived to be sympathetic to the opposition, as 1st Marine Brigade commander.

A military fact-finding board cleared the four so-called “Hello Garci” generals but its report was not fully disclosed to the public.

EO 464, on the other hand, was issued just as Gudani and another Marine officer was to testify before the Senate into the alleged electoral fraud.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-06-29T13:13:36+00:00UTC06bUTCFri, 29 Jun 2007 13:13:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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Military: ‘Positive development’ in search for Bossi

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:29pm (Mla time) 06/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The military said on Friday there has been a “positive development” in the search for kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi.

Without giving details, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said troops have finally pinpointed the “general area” where Bossi’s abductors have been holding the 57-year-old Italian clergyman.

Quoting Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo, Bacarro said: “There are positive developments. As to what these developments are, he [Cedo] wouldn’t mention at this moment.”

Bacarro said the new development would lead “to freedom” for the Italian cleric, who was kidnapped in Payao town, Zamboanga Sibugay province while on his way to say mass last June 10.

Officials earlier clashed on Bossi’s whereabouts.

Cedo said he was being kept in the Zamboanga Sibugay area, while Major General Ben Dolorfino, a member of the government peace panel to talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the priest was being kept on the boundary of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.

Earlier this week, Dolorfino said he would leave the talking on the Bossi kidnapping to Bacarro.

Bacarro could not ascertain whether three government emissaries who were out to get “proof of life” on Bossi have made contact with his captors.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-06-29T13:12:23+00:00UTC06bUTCFri, 29 Jun 2007 13:12:23 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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Trillanes sworn in as senator, vows probe into poll fraud

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:17pm (Mla time) 06/29/2007

(UPDATE 3) MANILA, Philippines — The investigation into the alleged cheating in the May 14 elections that had resulted in the victory of administration senatorial candidates will be on top of Antonio Trillanes IV’s agenda when he takes his seat at the Senate.

trillanes-swear.jpg

Together with reelected Senator Panfilo Lacson, Trillanes said he has gathered testimonies by witnesses and documentary evidence of alleged vote-rigging, not only in Maguindanao province, but in other areas as well.

“We will be relentless. We will make sure that there will be closure in any investigation unlike in the past,” Trillanes, who placed 11th in the senatorial race, told reporters after taking his oath of office in front of his townmates in Caloocan City on Friday.

Asked about administration candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri, who is in a tight battle for the 12th and final slot with the opposition’s Aquilino Pimentel III, Trillanes said: “We cannot have another cheat [now] in the Senate.”

Trillanes said he would also investigate the military’s alleged role in vote-rigging operations in the 2004 elections and the wave of violence against left-wing militants.

He said the three unidentified generals who were quoted in reports in the Philippine Daily Inquirer were “real,” but evaded further questions, saying he did not want to “preempt” things.

The generals were quoted as saying that the murders of leftist militants were discussed openly in military command conferences, and that a general told his men that to get promoted, they had to kill activists.

“They [generals] are real,” Trillanes said.

The newspaper report said the generals would give Trillanes evidence during the hearings.

Trillanes was sworn in by Ruben Gatchalian, Barangay (village) 169 chairman, before a packed crowd at a covered basketball court that was filled with ribbons and streamers in red, the known color of the Magdalo group, of which he was one of its alleged leaders that staged the July 27, 2003 mutiny at the posh Oakwood Apartments in Makati City.

“I assure you I can accomplish the mission you gave me,” said Trillanes who wore a blue Barong Tagalog, in a speech after the oath-taking.

To his family, Trillanes said, “They have been my strength ever since I went to Oakwood and until now.”

Aside from Trillanes’ children — Seth, 9, and Thea, 8; his mother, Estelita, and other relatives — also present at the oath taking were
Senator Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief, Caloocan Representative Luis Asistio, and ex-Caloocan City mayor Rey Malonzo.

A marching band welcomed Trillanes, who arrived under heavy guard from his detention cell at the Philippine Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.

Trillanes has been charged with coup d’etat over the foiled mutiny in 2003.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-06-29T13:10:36+00:00UTC06bUTCFri, 29 Jun 2007 13:10:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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‘Dirty war charge unfair’ — AFP

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:56pm (Mla time) 06/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) belied a US-based watchdog group’s report that it was waging a “dirty war” against left-wing activists, calling the accusation “one-sided” and “unfair.”

AFP public information officer Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said there was no indication that military personnel were among the 50 resource persons Human Rights Watch said it had interviewed.

“We categorically deny the allegations that there is a dirty war being waged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly against the leftist groups,” Bacarro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“It (Human Rights Watch report) is one sided in the sense that they did not ask the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said. “I would categorize it as unfair reporting because we have been collaborating with any investigative body relative to extrajudicial killings.”

Human Rights Watch echoed the earlier findings of United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston and the Palace-formed Melo Commission that linked security forces to the wave of violence against leftist activists.

“There is [a] possibility that some individuals belonging to the Armed Forces of the Philippines could be involved but it is not an AFP-sanctioned activity,” Bacarro stressed. “It is not a policy to commit extrajudicial activities.”

Bacarro theorized that leftist groups could be seeking an audience with the international community to pin down the AFP on the issue of alleged violence against their comrades.

“They would like to get support internationally, to pressure the armed forces or even
the government,” he said.

Human rights groups estimate that more than 860 lives have been lost in extrajudicial killings and more than 200 other persons have been abducted since 2001, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2007-06-28T07:27:21+00:00UTC06bUTCThu, 28 Jun 2007 07:27:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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‘Even without US aid, we’ll beat NPA’ — AFP

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:50pm (Mla time) 06/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Even without the help of the United States, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can defeat the communist New People’s Army, a military spokesman said Thursday.

The military is also on track to meet President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 2010 deadline to cripple the NPA, AFP public information officer Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said.

Bacarro was reacting to the pronouncement of US Pacific Command chief Admiral Timothy Keating that his troops were ready to help the AFP fight the NPA upon the request of the Philippine government.

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison scoffed at Keating’s offer, calling it “futile.”

“Strategically, yes, the way we are going right now, based on the projections that we have, we are doing well, we are even ahead of the [2010] schedule,” Bacarro said, when asked if the AFP could defeat the communist guerillas without the help of the Americans.

Bacarro said the NPA’s strength is currently placed at 7,000 and, based on the military’s projection, their offensives could reduce rebel strength by 1,000 every year until 2010.

“We will be able to reduce them by 2010 to [such] a very inconsequential level that they will not be able to make major attacks,” the spokesman said.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been waging a guerilla campaign from the countryside for nearly 40 years.

On Wednesday, Keating and AFP chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. approved a five-year plan for joint exercises between Filipino and American troops geared mainly against the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah in the south.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2007-06-28T06:16:34+00:00UTC06bUTCThu, 28 Jun 2007 06:16:34 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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