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Archive for October 21st, 2007

Querubin brought to hospital

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:23pm (Mla time) 10/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines–Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, one of 28 officers facing court martial over the alleged coup plot in February 2006, was brought to a military hospital on Sunday morning after suffering from fever and chills, his wife and lawyer said.

Querubin was moved from his detention cell at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center in Quezon City where he will undergo several tests, including an ultrasound, Maria Flor Querubin said.

A few months back, Querubin was confined at the same hospital, formerly known as the V.Luna Medical Center after his malaria recurred.

“Ariel is in V. Luna now but [it’s] nothing serious… He will be confined and will have a complete medical check up,” Mrs Querubin said.

“I think this has aomething to do with his malaria,” Querubin’s counsel Homobono Adaza said.

Adaza said Querubin had been suffering from fever and chills since Friday night.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:13:47+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:13:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Defense chief urges PMA cadets to respect human rights

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net

Last updated 02:57pm (Mla time) 10/21/2007

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City–Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has asked cadet officers of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to “uphold” human rights as the military establishment continues to dodge allegations of rights abuses.

“I must stress once again together with the whole Armed Forces the need to respect and to understand the concept of upholding human rights and human dignity,” Teodoro said in a speech during the academy’s 109th founding anniversary here.

Teodoro, a lawyer by profession, said it was important for soldiers to respect human rights especially since enemies of the state were employing “extremely asymmetrical tactics” while security forces are constrained by “stricter legal norms.”

“The worth and dignity of each and every human being must be ingrained in the cadets,” he said.

He told the cadet corps that “the academy is not merely an institution of education or an institution for building up a professional career but a place where values, where morals, and where skills are ingrained through a unique training concept not merely into the minds, not merely the hearts, but the souls of each and everyone who passes through its portals.”

“Thus you have the three words — courage, integrity, and loyalty — drilled into you when you start and continue to flow through your veins with your blood as you come out,” he added.

The military was most recently linked to the disappearance of activist Juliet Fernandez in Calbiga town, Samar province in May this year. The Philippine Army has been tasked by general headquarters to investigate the alleged involvement of its men in the incident.

Major General Victor Ibrado, the chief of the Armed Forces Central Command (Centcom), which includes Samar, dared militant groups to show evidence that his men kidnapped Fernandez, a local organizer for the fisher folk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

“If my men are identified, we will bring them to court. It’s very difficult of you accuse without evidence,” Ibrado said in a recent interview in Cebu City.

Ibrado said that in general, leftist groups have been reported to have kidnapped or killed their comrades who were suspected to be government spies.

“It’s like hitting two bird with one stone, they blame it on us,” Ibrado said.

Three alumni of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) were linked to the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in Quezon City last April 28 – Lieutenant Colonels Noel Clement, Melquiades Feliciano, and Edison Caga.

All three graduated from the PMA in 1985.

Prior to his transfer to Fort Bonifacio as chief of the Security and Escort Battalion, Clement commanded the 56th Infantry Battalion, which the Burgos family has blamed for his disappearance.

The license plate reportedly used on one of the vehicles of Burgos’ alleged kidnappers was traced to a vehicle that was impounded inside the 56th IB headquarters in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province.

The plate was lost several months before Burgos’ disappearance, when Clement and his men were pulled out camp for training and was eventually replaced by Feliciano. Caga, the chief of the 69th IB briefly kept watch over the 56th IB camp before Eliciano took over from Clement.

With a report from Nikko Dizon, Inquirer

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:10:53+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:10:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Sulu eyed for RP-US war games next year

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:42pm (Mla time) 10/21/2007

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City–The Philippines and the United States are eyeing the island province of Sulu, a hotbed of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, and several other areas in Mindanao and Luzon for the fresh round of Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) war games next year, a Philippine official said.

Visiting Forces Agreement Commission head Edilberto Adan told reporters that the sites for the war games would be announced in the coming weeks, after planning conferences finish.

“Were are looking at different parts of Mindanao, and also Luzon but nothing has been fixed yet,” said Adan, who was a guest at the 109th founding anniversary of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here.

Earlier, US troops on board a Humvee were photographed in Sulu. The Americans, according to the Philippine military, were surveying sites for the 2008 Balikatan.

“[With the joint training], we’ll be better prepared to address the different kinds of threats in our environment, what is described as asymmetrical threats, especially terrorism,” said Adan, a retired lieutenant general and former PMA superintendent.

Adan said the upcoming Balikatan would include civil military operations, humanitarian projects, subject matter exchanges, and “Balance Piston” tactics. Balance Piston is one of the war games in previous editions of Balikatan.

This year’s Balikatan was limited to table-top exercises after the conviction of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in December 2006 stalled preparations for the joint exercises.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:09:32+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:09:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Group’s claim it’s behind Glorietta blast not validated–AFP

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:36pm (Mla time) 10/21/2007

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City–Military intelligence has not validated reports that the extremist Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) was behind the bomb attack at a shopping mall in Makati City that killed 11 people and left over a hundred injured.

“I called up ISAFP [Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] and there is no validation of the report. They’re validating it,” Armed Forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro told reporters here.

The Philippine National Police has also said that the group’s claim had not been verified.

“The RSM has traditionally been known to conduct bombings but we can’t say for sure that they were behind it,” Bacarro added.

ABS-CBN television reported on Saturday evening that it had received a phone call from someone who identified himself to be an RSM member and who claimed that the group was responsible for the bomb explosion that ripped through a portion of the Glorietta mall last Friday afternoon.

It was the second time in two years that a bomb blast has hit the country’s premiere financial district.

On February 14, 2005, a bomb exploded on a bus along the EDSA highway in Makati, leaving three people killed. It was part of synchronized attacks of the Abu Sayyaf and the RSM, that also hit General Santos City and Davao City and left a total of eight people killed and several others wounded.

While he could not give an exact figure, Bacarro said the RSM was smaller in number, compared to the Abu Sayyaf, which the military estimates at around 300.

Asked if the RSM is capable of such an attack, “Lahat naman sila capable [They are all capable].”

In 2005, an alleged plot by the RSM, reportedly funded by the Jemaah Islamiyah, to bomb a nightclub strip frequented by foreigners in Manila’s Malate district with the arrest of one of its members, Dawud Santos.

Santos was charged with illegal possession of explosives but was freed on bail. He has denied the allegation.

The RSM was also allegedly involved in the February 27, 2004 Supererry bombing off Manila Bay, that killed some 200 people.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:08:36+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:08:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Be advocates of unity, defense chief tells PMA cadets

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:26pm (Mla time) 10/20/2007

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. urged cadet officers of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to be “advocates of unity and oneness,” amid reports of grumblings within the ranks over the bribery scandal in Malacañang.

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“You will soon be graduates of the Philippine Military Academy…That endows you with an obligation to be soldiers not merely to win wars or battles, not merely to be fighters for peace, but to be advocates of unity and oneness within the ranks,” Teodoro said in a speech at the Borromeo Field here Saturday.

“So you must reach out when you go to the fold of the mainstream Armed Forces to your brother and sister officers,” said Teodoro, who is an honorary member of the academy’s 1976 class.

“[To those] who may not come from this institution, put an arm around them and say we are one, we are no different from each other. I will judge you on the basis of how you act, how you think, not where you come from,” he said.

The defense chief acknowledged that it would take “a lot of humility” for PMA graduates to reach out to those outside the military establishment, but he expressed confidence that the academy’s alumni could do this because of “love of country and dedication to duty.”

“In terms of honor, I am confident that the alumni, the cadet corps, will always be ready to respond to the challenge ‘all right sir’ because the honor code is the linchpin in building up a strong character,” he said.

In the academy, when a cadet is asked “all right, sir?” he is supposed to tell the truth.

Military officials have said that troops were not restive over allegations that lawmakers and local government executives received up to P500,000 in cash gifts from the Palace which its critics saw as a bribe to protect President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from a fresh impeachment complaint.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:07:11+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:07:11 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Makati blast a ‘terror act,’ military says

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Leftists, rightists, extremists eyed

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:19pm (Mla time) 10/20/2007

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon said the bomb attack at a shopping mall in the country’s financial district was a “terrorist attack” that could have been perpetrated by leftist, rightist, or extremist elements.

While he flatly denied allegations that soldiers were behind the attack, Esperon said on Saturday that he would open the military to a police investigation.

“It is a terrorist attack. Whoever is the perpetrator, they are terrorizing the people, but we have not identified them yet,” the military chief told reporters here via speakerphone.

Pressed further, Esperon said the suspects in the attack could be communist rebels, Islamic extremist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, or rightist groups.

Esperon was scheduled to attend the 109th anniversary of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here, but he backed out at the last minute after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called for a meeting at the police general headquarters in Camp Crame on Saturday morning.

According to a police count, nine people were killed while 92 others were wounded after a powerful bomb blast ripped through a portion of the Glorietta Mall in Makati City.

“They alleged that I was the mastermind. It’s illogical, I should be the one who will secure our people,” he said.

Esperon said investigators would probe the statement of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who accused the military of involvement in the attack. But off hand, he said, there was “no credible evidence” to prove the rebel soldier’s claim.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. cried foul over reports linking the military to the bombing, saying those behind it, including Trillanes, should be “condemned by society.”

At the same time, Teodoro dismissed speculation that the explosion on Friday, which left nine people killed and over 100 others wounded, was meant to divert the public’s attention from the bribery controversy in Malacañang.

“I think those who make that accusation or blame are to be condemned by society because this is a terrible and painful incident,” Teodoro told reporters.

“It should not be used as a forum or politicking, laying blame for anyone,” he told reporters here.

Teodoro was the guest of honor and speaker during the PMA anniversary rites. Before his speech, he enjoined the audience in a minute of silence for the blast victims.

Asked about Trillanes, Teodoro said: “It’s unfortunate that Senator Trillanes made the statement without any basis whatsoever…With that kind of accusation on that incident that is so tragic, it’s kind of sad.”

Trillanes, a former Navy lieutenant, is detained while on trial before military and civilian courts over a failed mutiny in July 2003.

Military and police forces in the capital have been placed on the highest alert level to thwart any future attacks.

On Saturday morning, the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was shipped to Camp Aguinaldo military general headquarters to augment the National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) which plays a support role to metro police.

One Army platoon was dispatched to each of the five police districts in Metro Manila to guard shopping malls, hotels, transportation facilities, and other crowded places, NCRCom spokesman Captain Carlo Ferrer said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said a total of 6,000 policemen and soldiers are on security patrol in the capital.

“We remain full or red alert to serve as a deterrent to anyone who may wish to take advantage of the situation,” Teodoro said.

“[There is] heightened presence of police and military personnel in Metro Manila. Checkpoints are being conducted. [There is] police visibility and AFP visibility in public places and areas particularly hotels malls and other places where people converge,” he said.

Teodoro refused to say which group was suspected behind the attack, saying the investigation was ongoing.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:05:15+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:05:15 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Accused ‘coup plotters’ dare Esperon to ‘face-off’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:54pm (Mla time) 10/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The 28 military officers facing court martial over an alleged coup plot in February 2006 have challenged Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to a face-off before “any forum.”

The accused officers dared Esperon to play the so-called “Hello Garci” recordings, in which the military chief’s name was mentioned in connection with alleged vote-rigging in the 2004 elections.

The tapes are purported wiretapped phone conversations between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano in which they appear to discuss plans to rig the 2004 election results in her favor.

In exchange for playing the Hello Garci tapes, the officers said they would agree to play a videotape of one of their co-accused, former Army Scout Rangers commander Brigadier General Danilo Lim, declaring a withdrawal of support from Arroyo.

The officers’ dare was in response to Esperon’s earlier challenge for them to “tell the truth” about the February 2006 incident. The chief of staff was responding to an earlier challenge by the officers for him to “tell the truth” on the Hello Garci scandal.

“But the real challenge for both of us, Mr. Esperon, is to heed the clamor of 85 million Filipinos, whom we owe allegiance to, the truth,” the officers said in a statement entitled “face off or back off.”

“Let’s finish this once and for all Mr. Esperon. Our countrymen have suffered enough since the ‘kawalanghiyaan’ [shamelessness] that happened in 2004,” they said.

The group also laid down nine conditions to remove “restrictions” on the playing of the tapes.

The first eight were: no lawyers, play the tapes in public, set lie detector tests and accept questions from voters, publish all relevant documents, allow all witnesses to come forward, do away with Executive Order (EO) 464 and rules against invoking “military secrets,” televise the proceedings, and accept the verdict.

The ninth condition, the officers said, is “more importantly, no crying please.”

It was an apparent swipe at Esperon, who was caught on camera shedding a tear in December 2002 when Arroyo announced she was not running in the 2004 elections, a statement she eventually went back on.

The officers also accused Esperon of evading legislative inquiries on the wiretapping row by invoking invoked EO 464, which bars top government officials from testifying without Malacañang’s approval.

“Warriors do not hide behind alibis,” the officers said. “That is so shameful for a warrior.”

The officers, led by Lim, ex-Marines commandant Major General Renato Miranda, and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, allegedly plotted a mass withdrawal of support from Arroyo in February 2006 because of her alleged cheating in 2004.

Tempers reached a boiling point during a mutiny hearing at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town in Rizal province on Friday, when the mutineers raised their voices during the hearing because of military prosecutors’ continued refusal to release the pre-trial advice (PTA).

One of the accused Rangers, Captain Frederick Sales, was cited in contempt after he approached the seven-member court to explain why he raised his voice during the proceedings, said one of the defense lawyers, Trixie Cruz-Angeles.

Angeles said the lawyers wore red arm bands to the proceedings to protest how most of them were not allowed to speak by military lawyers.

The accused also waved red handkerchiefs in the air as they exited the courtroom, Angeles said.

In the PTA, Esperon reversed earlier recommendations by military investigators not to charge the group with mutiny. Angeles said the PTA was not signed by Esperon.

“Up to now the PTA is not signed, it does not have any value,” Angeles said, adding, “If there is no jurisdiction, they should not be imprisoned.”

The accused have been detained in Camp Capinpin since mid-2006, along with 40 enlisted men who have not been formally charged but allegedly planned to join the supposed power grab attempt.

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Written by joelguinto

Sun+00:002007-10-21T13:04:09+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Sun, 21 Oct 2007 13:04:09 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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