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Archive for November 19th, 2007

Military hit for snooping on reporters covering mutiny trial

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 09:18pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) condemned as “deplorable, utterly moronic, and ultimately futile” the eavesdropping of alleged military intelligence agents on reporters covering the mutiny hearing of the 28 officers linked to the alleged February 2006 coup plot.

At the same time, the NUJP demanded that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., order an investigation into the incident and slap “maximum sanctions” on those behind it.

With the alleged spying, the NUJP said the military could be sending this statement to journalists covering the hearings: “We can toy with you and there is nothing you can do about it.”

“The NUJP condemns in the strongest terms the open stalking of journalists covering the court martial hearing of 28 officers accused of mutiny by men who appeared to be intelligence agents,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“We demand that Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. order an immediate investigation into this incident and impose the maximum sanctions on whoever were responsible in hatching and carrying out this deplorable and, yes, we daresay, utterly moronic and ultimately futile attempt to sow fear in the media community,” the group said.

This reporter was at the court martial hearing at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province last Friday, where at least four men, wearing military haircuts, appeared to be snooping on reporters.

The four, who wore civilian clothes, even sported orange security stickers issued to reporters on their shirt collars.

One of the “agents” appeared to be in charge of eavesdropping on the conversations of reporters with the accused during breaks from the proceedings, while another steals glances on reporters’ notes.

Another listened as reporters talked to defense lawyers while another was caught looking at photographers’ laptops as they filed their stories.

During the proceedings, one of the “agents” took video footage of the reporters.

Apparently aware that the four were intelligence agents, one of the accused officers, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Achilles Segumalian, shamed one of them saying, “Taga-Inquirer ka diba? Ipakita mo sa kanila ang sinusulat mo. [You’re from the Inquirer, right? Show them your notes.”

Stumped for words, the agent retreated to the back of the court room.

The alleged snooping came amid increased restrictions on the coverage of the Tanay hearings. Camp Capinpin is about 67 kilometers from Manila, or about a two-hour drive.

Last Friday, camp guards insisted on rounding up the reporters at the gate before they were escorted to the makeshift courtroom.

A holding area was set up, where the military served breakfast and lunch, but only two electric outlets were working. Reporters risked having the batteries of their laptops and cellular phones drained.

Photographers were told that they could leave the holding area when the proceedings were ongoing, but they have to leave their equipment there.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T14:54:36+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 14:54:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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Signal No. 2 over Visayan provinces as ‘Lando’ intensifies

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By Jhunnex Napallacan
Last updated 07:08pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

CEBU CITY, Philippines — (UPDATE) The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hoisted Public Storm Signal No. 2 in Cebu, Bohol, Northern Negros, Guimaras Island, and Iloilo Monday afternoon as the weather disturbance “Lando” intensified from a tropical depression into a storm.

The storm blew through Central Visayas around 4 p.m., packing winds of 65 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 80 kph near the center and was expected to cross the inland waters of the Visayas, moving west northwest at 13 kph.

Signal No. 1 was raised in Aklan, Antique, Capiz, the rest of the Negros provinces, Siquijor, Cuyo Island, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Dinagat Island, Western Samar, Eastern Samar, Camotes Island, and Biliran Island.

“Tropical Storm Lando is moving west northwest and is expected to cross the Visayas this evening,” said Nathaniel Cruz, PAGASA weather branch chief.

The storm did not weaken despite making landfall since it did not hit a huge mass of land when it left Surigao and hovered over the seas on its way to Cebu, Cruz said in a television interview.

“Definitely, the Visayas will continue to experience stormy, especially in areas where storm signals are up,” Cruz said.

A woman here was injured when a landslide hit her house in La Guerta, Barangay (village) Lahug .

At the height of the storm, the strong winds felled trees and some billboards, causing traffic jams in major Metro Cebu streets.

PAGASA said the storm will be in the vicinity of Cuyo Island, 130 kph west of Iloilo city on Tuesday afternoon.

Joel Guinto,; Originally posted at 04:54 pm

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T14:53:41+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 14:53:41 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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Gonzalez back as Justice chief, Arroyo defender

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 06:38pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez returned to work on Monday, after a two-month hiatus due to a kidney transplant and said he is raring to resume his role as staunch defender of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I’m back,” Gonzales said in a phone interview, after he met with department undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.

“Whenever an issue comes up and I am asked to comment, I will. I will always raise my voice to defend the President,” Gonzales said.

But Gonzales said he was cutting back on work hours on his doctors’ advice.

The 76-year-old secretary had fiercely defended Arroyo from her critics, including Senator Panfilo Lacson and former president Corazon Aquino.

When Aquino called for Arroyo’s resignation in June 2005, Gonzales said she should concentrate on her controversial daughter, actress and television host Kris Aquino.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T10:46:47+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 10:46:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Leader should quit on corruption links–59% of Filipinos

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70% wants NBN probe to continue

By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:03pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — For 59 percent of Filipino’s, a president’s being linked directly or indirectly to corruption, even without strong evidence, is enough reason for him or her to resign, according to a recent survey by polling firm Pulse Asia Inc.

Moreover, 70 percent of Filipinos are aware of the bribery scandal surrounding the government’s botched telecommunications contract with Chinese firm ZTE Corp., and the same percentage said the Senate should continue investigating the matter.

Pulse Asia polled 1,200 respondents nationwide from October 20 to 31. It has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent.

Pulse Asia ranked the answers to the question of what reason would be enough for a president to resign on four levels.

From the highest level and the percentage of respondents who opted for each, these were: that there should be “strong evidence” against the chief executive or his/her family (34 percent); that the president’s name be linked to corruption (22 percent); that even one member of the presidential family is linked to corruption (19 percent); and tolerating corruption among government officials (18 percent).

Only seven percent chose none of the reasons given by the survey firm.

Added up, the second, third, and fourth levels total 59 percent.

In a phone interview, Pulse Asia executive director Ana Maria Tabunda said this means for a majority of Filipinos, the “evidence does not need to be strong. A president just has to be linked to corruption [for him or her to resign].”

“That is what ZTE is about…In Japan, officials [accused of corruption] resign even without strong evidence,” she pointed out.

Asked what they would do to force a president to resign, 61 percent said they would sign an online petition, 28 percent said they would discuss it with friends, 27 percent said they would speak out in rallies, 26 percent said they would join rallies, 25 percent said they would do “whatever is necessary” beyond rallies, while nine percent picked none of the choices in the questionnaire.

The NBN scandal involves accusations by businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III that resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos allegedly tried to bribe him to give up his company’s bid for the $329-million project.

De Venecia, the son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia, also accused President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, of warning him to “back off” bidding for the project. The First Gentleman denied this.

Even as he maintained his innocence, Abalos resigned in the wake of the controversy.

Former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chairman Romulo Neri also accused Abalos of bribery. As NEDA chief, Neri has to approve economic contracts entered into by the government.

At a Senate investigation, Neri said he told the President of the bribery attempt. He declined to give further information citing “executive privilege.”

Asked who was “more credible” among the key players in the controversy, 17 percent chose the young De Venecia, 10 percent chose Abalos, six percent chose Neri, while 67 percent said “they’re all equally not believable.”

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T08:32:37+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 08:32:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Communist rebels own execution of ‘spy’ in Samar

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 02:16pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels in Eastern Visayas claimed to have executed a former comrade turned military spy in Samar, a statement posted on their website said on Monday.

The alleged spy, Elizabeth Gutierrez, was meted capital punishment by the New People’s Army (NPA) Arnulfo Ortiz command “in accordance with the laws of war,” said the statement from the information bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines, quoting Father Santiago Salas, spokesman of the National Democratic Front in the region.

“The NDF-EV [Eastern Visayas] has been informed by the Arnulfo Ortiz Command that the maximum penalty was meted on enemy spy Elizabeth Gutierrez after her arrest in barangay [village] Cancaiyas, Basey [town] last October 24,” the statement said.

“The arrest and punishment of Elizabeth Gutierrez serves as a warning to those who participate in the armed hostilities as enemy spies that they will never go unpunished,” the statement further quoted Salas as saying.

“Espionage is regarded as a war crime because of the use of ruse and perfidy. Enemy spies are subject to capital punishment upon being uncovered,” it added.

Salas said Gutierrez’s family could retrieve her remains provided that they would not take soldiers along.

A spokesman for the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over the Eastern Visayas, did not immediately return text messages seeking comment.

Together with her husband, Norberto Gacuma, Gutierrez allegedly “turned against the people and became accomplices as intelligence operatives of the military.”

The rebels accused the couple of involvement in the disappearance of activist couple Juliet Fernandez and Manuel Pajarito in Calbiga town, Northern Samar province last May.

Fernandez was also allegedly involved in cases of “enforced disappearances, torture, harassment, and economic disruption” including the torture of five suspected NPA members in Cogon village, three of whom remain missing, the rebels said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T06:32:56+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 06:32:56 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Gov’t lawyers told to respond to Estrada plea over assets

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Lead prosecutor no-show

By Joel Guinto
Last updated 02:06pm (Mla time) 11/19/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The lead government prosecutor in deposed president Joseph Estrada’s plunder case was a no-show at a Monday’s hearing on the former leader’s motion to stop government from taking his assets.

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, who has openly expressed his dismay over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s decision to pardon Estrada, did not attend the hearing because he was at a “very urgent meeting” at the Ombudsman’s main office, said his deputy, Robert Kallos, who attended the hearing on Estrada’s petition to quash the writ of execution.

“The Special Prosecutor attended our flag ceremony this morning.
Unfortunately, he has to attend to a very urgent meeting in the central office because of the consideration of applicants for the position of assistant ombudsman,” Kallos told reporters after the hearing.

During the proceeding, the court gave government lawyers seven days from Monday to submit their written opposition to Estrada’s motion. The former president’s legal team was also given seven days upon receipt to answer the prosecution’s opposition.

The presiding justice of the anti-graft court’s Special Division, Teresita de Castro, scheduled oral arguments on the case on December

One of Estrada’s lawyers, Estelito Mendoza, said the defense panel was opposing the portion of the writ of execution, which stated that the government could seize Estrada’s other assets or oblige him to pay a certain amount if the court could not find those which had been forfeited.

Moreover, Mendoza said the government could not seize assets which were not acquired using public funds.

Estrada was found guilty of amassing millions of pesos in kickbacks from the illegal numbers game “jueteng” and the sale of shares of BW Resources.

“There is no civil indemnity in this case, the money in question is not public funds,” Mendoza said.

Kallos acknowledged that “jueteng” payoffs were not public funds, but said, “We will reserve our comment on that in our written comment to quash the writ of execution.”

The writ includes more than P500 million in “jueteng” payoffs deposited in bank accounts of the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation and the “Boracay Mansion” in Quezon City.

Prosecutors were unable to prove that Estrada had amassed millions in kickbacks from the Tobacco Excise Tax.

Estrada was released on October 27 after the President granted him executive clemency, over a month after the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, in a landmark decision on September 12, convicted him of plunder.

Originally posted at 10:12am

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-11-19T06:32:21+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Mon, 19 Nov 2007 06:32:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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