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Archive for October 15th, 2007

Gabriela to press for release of woman leader

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 06:23pm (Mla time) 10/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The women’s group Gabriela will hold a “silent protest” at the gate of military general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday to press for the release of a peasant leader, whom the leftwing group alleged to be under military custody.

Aware that the camp security drowns out protest rallies with loud music, Gabriela media liason officer Cynthia Felicia said: “It will be a silent protest. We will hold placards with her picture. That will be the scenario tomorrow.”

Peasant leader Juliet Fernandez, 32, was allegedly kidnapped in Calbiga town, Samar province last May 11, while she was organizing local fishermen, Felicia said in a phone interview.

“According to our fact-finding investigation, soldiers from the 52nd Infantry Battalion were behind the abduction,” Felicia said.

“According to the locals, she was abducted by the military. But the hard thing is, our evidence is hearsay, no one has enough courage to point to the military, for fear that they will get back at them,” she said.

Reached for comment, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said had “no information” on the matter.

After the picket at Camp Aguinaldo’s Gate 1 along Boni Serrano avenue, Gabriela Secretary General Emmi de Jesus and Fernandez’ parents, Roberto and Kristeta, would meet with Lieutenant Colonel Benedicto Jose, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) human rights office, Felicia said.

Gabriela initially sought an audience with AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., but his office referred the group to Jose, Felicia said.

“If Fernandez is really under their custody, if she is inside one of their camps, they should release her,” Felicia said.

At the time of her abduction, Fernandez was believed to be two months pregnant, Felicia said, adding the missing activist sent a text message to her mother, greeting her on Mother’s Day, before she disappeared.

Fernandez was working for a local affiliate of the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya). Before that, she worked for the women’s peasant group Amihan and during her college days at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, she was secretary general of Gabriela Youth.

“She really wanted to serve the less fortunate, especially in the Eastern Visayas where her family was from” Felicia said of Fernandez.

While Fernandez’s family is based in Muntinlupa City, Felicia said they were originally from Tacloban City.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-10-15T15:36:42+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Mon, 15 Oct 2007 15:36:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Lawyer: Accused ‘coup plotters’ won’t abandon detained men

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:39pm (Mla time) 10/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The 28 military officers charged with mutiny for allegedly plotting a failed uprising last year “will not abandon” 40 enlisted men they accuse Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of holding “hostage,” one of their lawyers said Monday.

Lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles, who represents Army Captain Ruben Guinolbay, said Esperon was keeping the 40 enlisted men from the Scout Rangers detained, even without formal charges, so he could “pressure” the officers to have themselves arraigned.

“One thing is for sure; their [enlisted men’s] officers will not abandon them,” Angeles said.

A lawyer for former Scout Rangers commander Brigadier General Danilo Lim, Vicente Verdadero, issued a similar assurance: “We are doing something about the case of the EPs [enlisted personnel].”

“[The enlisted men] are held hostage to pressure the officers into something [such as] subjecting themselves to arraignment or making prejudicial admissions,” Angeles said in a phone interview.

The 40 Scout Rangers have been detained since as far back as June 2006 although the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO), the military’s prosecution arm, has not filed formal charges against them.

In earlier interviews, Esperon said the JAGO would not charge the enlisted men until the case of the 28 officers, led by ex-Marine commandant Major General Miranda, Lim, and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, progresses.

Since the trial opened in December 2006, the officers have not been arraigned after they repeatedly questioned the legality of the proceedings and ejected several presidents of the seven-man tribunal through a “peremptory challenge.”

“That’s his [Esperon’s] strategy. Unfortunately, he violates human rights with his strategy,” Angeles said.

Esperon said the JAGO was studying possible charges against the enlisted men upon the recommendation of an earlier investigation by the Army’s Inspector General (IG).

Verdadero doubted that the Army IG conducted such an inquiry, saying the 40 enlisted men, whom he talked to, told him they were never approached by investigators.

“Walang kinausap sa kanila [None of them was questioned],” Verdadero said.

Angeles said the charges against the 40 should be dropped since Esperon earlier dropped charges against Major Oriel Pangcog, the Army Scout Rangers operations officer.

“As operations chief, [Pangcog] knew exactly who was moving,” Angeles said.

Esperon said the 40 enlisted men were poised to join street protests on February 24, 2006, which Lim and Querubin allegedly planned to use as a springboard for a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is accused of cheating in the 2004 elections.

Meanwhile, a shadowy group called the Tirad Pass Brigade, which claims to be composed of military officers and men, decried the “secret and illegal” detention of the 40 Scout Rangers.

“We denounce the AFP leadership for placing these soldiers under conditions very much like the dreaded US Guantanamo prison,” the group said in a statement posted on its blog.

“It is such glaring injustice, cruelty and indifference to the plight of the rank-and-file soldiers and the common folk that are pushing those of us, who can no longer stomach what we see in the service, to rebel and seek to radically change the armed forces and government,” the statement, attributed to a certain Major Red Pasion, said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-10-15T15:34:55+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Mon, 15 Oct 2007 15:34:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Australian Navy coming for ‘tabletop’ exercises

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 01:11pm (Mla time) 10/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Australian naval forces will be in the country for a four-day tabletop exercise on maritime security and surveillance with Filipino counterparts, a regional spokesman for the Philippine Navy said Monday.

The fifth run of the annual Philippine Navy-Royal Australian Navy Exercise Lumbas 2007 will run from Wednesday to Saturday and involve some 200 to 300 troops from both forces, said Lieutenant Alex Garso, spokesman of Naval Forces Central.

The Australians, onboard HMAS Parramatta, a vessel capable of surface and undersea warfare, surveillance, reconnaissance, and interdiction operations, and air defense, will dock at the Cebu City port on Wednesday.

The Lumbas kick-off on Wednesday will bring to three the number of joint exercises between and Filipino and foreign military forces this week.

The Philippine Air Force kicked off “Talon Vision” exercises with American troops at the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga province and the former Subic Naval Base in Zambales province.

On Tuesday, Filipino and American Marines will start the amphibious Phiblex exercises in Crow Valley, Tarlac province; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province; and the Philippine Marine base in Cavite province.

“These are purely tabletop exercises; there will be no movement at sea,” Garso told reporters.

“[The exercises] will consist of a series of scenario-driven activities that will engage the various maritime and government agencies in conducting maritime security operations,” he added.

It will be first time that the Lumbas exercise will be staged in Cebu. Previous runs were done in Luzon, he said.

In May, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed in Sydney the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), which will pave the way for large-scale join training between the two countries’ militaries.

The SOVFA is awaiting approval of the Philippine Senate.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-10-15T05:31:46+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Mon, 15 Oct 2007 05:31:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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