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Archive for September 21st, 2007

Military chief open to reimposition of martial law

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‘It can come in handy,’ he says

By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:15pm (Mla time) 09/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is open to the re-imposition of martial law, saying it will “come in handy,” especially in times of “rebellion.”

“It might still come in handy. In other words, it’s for the national government to protect its citizens,” Esperon told reporters late Thursday, the eve of the 35th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

“We will use it if there is a rebellion in the city,” he told reporters on the side of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) forum at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Esperon said martial rule was provided under the 1987 Constitution, as long as the courts and the legislature would not be abolished, unlike what the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972.

Esperon was a second lieutenant in Basilan during martial law, two years after he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

On Friday, Esperon said six junior officers were relieved either from their posts, reassigned, put “on hold,” or placed under surveillance for allegedly attempting to recruit soldiers for a fresh attempt to topple the government.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said the military did not owe the public an apology over alleged human rights violations committed by soldiers during martial law.

Teodoro said that in his view, the 1986 People Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and restored democracy, provided closure in a “political sense” to the martial law years.

“No, because atrocities are not made by institutions, they are made by men,” Teodoro said, when asked if the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should apologize over alleged abuses.

“And there is nothing countenancing atrocities within and amongst the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, so definitely, the institution should not apologize for the wrongdoings, if ever, of any of its members,” he said during the MOPC forum.

Incidentally, Teodoro is a nephew of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, a former crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Teodoro said the military could erase the martial law stigma by “providing an example, based on competent evidence, that [it] does not tolerate” human rights abuses.

He said soldiers should also show their “professionalism” like in the recent encounters between government troops and Abu Sayyaf forces and Moro rebels in Basilan and Sulu.

“[The] confluence of these factors, will perhaps improve the image of the armed forces, not overnight but over time,” he said.

Originally posted at 3:20pm

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-09-21T09:04:31+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:04:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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13 soldiers face probe for 3 cases of extrajudicial killings

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 12:52pm (Mla time) 09/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Thirteen soldiers are undergoing pre-trial investigation for three cases of extrajudicial killings before newly-formed military courts that will try cases of human rights violations, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Friday.

Esperon said the three cases being investigated included the 2005 killing of journalist Marlene Esperat in Tacurong City.

He said a total of four people were killed in the three cases being investigated.

The five military courts were set up in June. Esperon said two courts would handle cases in the Army, one for general headquarters (GHQ), one for the Navy, and one for the Air Force.

“However, at this stage, nobody yet is on trial before the GCMs [general court martial], but there are now three cases which have reached the pre-trial investigation,” Esperon told a forum of the Manila Overseas Press Club on Thursday evening.

Should military prosecutors find sufficient evidence against the accused after the pre-trial inquiry, they would press appropriate charges under the Articles of War and send the case for trial before a military court.

Esperon said he wanted the proceedings against the alleged human rights violators to be “quick” while observing due process.

“We do not want to pin down anybody based on suspicions, we want to be very thorough about it but I can tell you that the GCMs will be working on this,” he said.

The Palace-formed Melo Commission, United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, and the Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog group, have blamed security forces for the extra-judicial killings that targeted mostly left-wing activists.

But the military has denied the charge, saying the killings were part of a purge within the communist movement.

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Fri+00:002007-09-21T09:03:32+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:03:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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6 junior officers in new plot to topple gov’t relieved

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:37pm (Mla time) 09/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) At least six junior officers were either relieved from their posts, reassigned, put “on hold,” or placed under surveillance for allegedly attempting to recruit soldiers for a fresh attempt to topple the government, Military Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Friday.

“We have done some moves [that are short] of arresting them, like reassigning them or putting them on hold, and continuing surveillance on them,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

At the same time, some 640 soldiers from nearby provinces were moved to Camp Aguinaldo to augment the 3,000-strong National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) and thwart possible coup attempts.

“As we have said, there are attempts. We want to be on the safe side.
We want to have the forces available forces here with us, just in case,” he said.

Esperon refused to identify the six junior officers, whom he said were removed from their posts “in the last week.”

He said the military was also looking into the involvement of retired military officers, politicians, and civilians in the alleged recruitment.

“It is more of active or former members of the military approaching some active members of the military. Fortunately, I’d like to credit our soldiers for reporting this to their superiors,” he said.

Asked how many officers were relieved, Esperon, said: “I’ll give you a clue, at least six.”

He said court martial proceedings have not been initiated against the officers yet, but nonetheless warned them: “Hindi naming tatantanan ‘yan [We are not going to stop].”

Esperon confirmed the alleged recruitment activities on Thursday. He said anti-government forces were using “flimsy” and “old” issues like alleged corruption in government, to agitate the troops and persuade them to join destabilization attempts.

The military chief said the recruitment has so far been unsuccessful because there have been no unauthorized troop movements.

Addressing the alleged fresh destabilization plot, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news forum on Thursday evening: “I wouldn’t take it lightly, I don’t take anything lightly but I don’t think they’re succeeding.”

The augmentation includes the 200-strong 760th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force based in Clark Field, Pampanga province, and the
440-strong 54th Infantry Battalion, based in Isabela province.

“There would exactly be no immediate deployment, no immediate threat. But we want to be prepared by way of exercises,” Esperon said.

Esperon said the Air Force reinforcements were briefly halted at a police checkpoint in Caloocan City’s Camachile district, outside the North Luzon Expressway tollgate, since they were not informed of their transfer to Manila from Clark Field.

NCRCom spokesman Captain Carlo Ferrer said the augmentation troops were in Manila for an “operational readiness exercise.”

“They will be the first to be called to Manila in case of emergency.
[With the exercise], they will know what to do in case of emergency,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said the training would run for several weeks, after which the troops would return to their respective areas of assignment.

Originally posted at 11:57am

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Fri+00:002007-09-21T09:02:53+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Fri, 21 Sep 2007 09:02:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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