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Archive for February 2008

Arroyo in Camp Crame police headquarters

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:40:00 02/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was holed up at Came Crame for three hours Friday, surrounded by top Cabinet and security officials, as thousands of protesters staged an interfaith rally in Makati City to press for her resignation on corruption charges.

The President was not worried by the protest, the largest since a new witness in the national broadband controversy surfaced earlier this month, which she monitored on television, said Director General Avelino Razon Jr. the chief of the Philippine National Police.

Razon said he and General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, also briefed the President on security preparations for the protest. The meeting started at past 4 p.m. and ended at around 7 p.m.

Arroyo was with key Cabinet officials, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

Three of the Cabinet members present are retired generals — Ermita, Mendoza, and Ebdane. The last two are former national police chiefs.

“The President listened to the briefing of the AFP and the PNP, and for a while, monitored the happenings in Makati,” Razon told reporters.

Asked if the President was worried, Razon said: “No. She returned to her normal duties, there is a function in Malacañang, her schedule was back to normal,” he said.

“Matahimik at maayos ngayon [It was quiet and peaceful] and we thank the rally organizers… We will return to normalcy,” he said.

The police chief said the President was in a “happy” mood as she left, after thanking security forces.

Razon said no threats were detected in Friday’s protest. Earlier, officials had warned that communist rebels or Islamic extremists could sabotage the rally.

Hours before the rally, Razon announced the arrest of a foreign terror suspect in a follow-up operation on the alleged plot by the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah to assassinate the President.

Razon said the capture of the terror suspect was not discussed during the meeting with Arroyo.

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Fri+00:002008-02-29T13:50:03+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Fri, 29 Feb 2008 13:50:03 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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Faeldon dares AFP, PNP chiefs to expose ills of gov’t

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:35:00 02/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Fugitive Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon dared the chiefs of the military and the police to break from their commander-in-chief and expose alleged wrongdoings in government, as he reiterated his call for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign.

“Hinahamon ko si Heneral Esperon at si Ginoong Razon: Kung totoong ayaw ninyong babuyin ng mga pulitiko ang military at pulisya, itigil ninyo ang pagpapagamit kay Arroyo [I challenge General Esperon and Mister Razon: If you don’t want politicians to make a mockery of the military and the police, stop allowing Arroyo to use you],” Faeldon said in a handwritten statement.

Saying it was “not too late to serve the country,” Faeldon dared Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and National Police Director General Avelino Razon Jr. to testify before legislative inquiries.

Faeldon’s lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, released the statement. She said he has confirmed with the rebel junior officer’s family that the statement came from him. Angeles added the handwriting also appeared to be that of her client.

“Si Arroyo ay hindi ang gobyerno. Ang mga lumalaban sa kanya ay hindi kaaway ng tao, kundi kaaway ng mga magnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan [Arroyo is not the government. Those who oppose her are not enemies of the people, but rather enemies of those who steal from public coffers],” Faeldon said.

“Huwag ninyong ipagpilitan na ang chain of command ay natatapos kay Arroyo [Don’t insist that the chain of command ends with Aroyo],” he said.

“Ngayon, inuulit ko, dapat na bumaba sa pwesto ang pekeng pangulo o paalisin sa mapayapang paraan [I reiterate my call to the fake president to step down, or be ousted through peaceful means],” he said.

Faeldon also hinted that soldiers would join calls for Arroyo to resign over allegations of massive corruption in her administration to which she herself was recently directly implicated .

“Ang mga sundalo ay sumusunod lamang sa mga sibilyan. Makakaasa ang Pilipino, marami pang sundalong nagsisilbi sa bayan. Ipagtatanggol namin kayo at ang ating demokrasya [The soldiers merely obey the civilians. The Filipino can rest assured, many soldiers still serve the people. We will defend you and our democracy],” he said.

The elusive officer has been the subject of a manhunt since he slipped past a government cordon around the Manila Peninsula hotel in Makati City, which renegade troops occupied in late November last year in a failed uprising.

He was also involved in a short-lived uprising, dubbed the Oakwood mutiny on July 27, 2003.

Angeles said the statement only proved that “he [Faeldon] is alive and he can communicate,” although she could not confirm the officer’s condition.

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Fri+00:002008-02-29T13:49:21+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Fri, 29 Feb 2008 13:49:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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AFP to go ‘full force’ vs power grab

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:52:00 02/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The military vowed to go “full force” against attempts to grab power, mustering 2,000 fully-armed troops and 16 battle tanks and armored personnel carriers on Friday, hours before a huge anti-government rally in Makati City.

“Whoever is planning to use force to grab power will be met with the full force of the Armed Forces,” Major General Fernando Mesa, chief of the military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), said in a pep talk to the troops assembled at the Camp Aguinaldo grandstand.

“Everything we will do will be according to the law and to the Constitution,” Mesa said.

At the same time, NCRCom troops started to put light blue stickers on the collars of their fatigue uniforms and the butt of their firearms, as a counter-sign.

Captain Carlo Ferrer, NCRCom spokesman, said this was due to reports civilians would pose as soldiers and join the Makati rally to give the public the impression that troops against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were withdrawing support from government and joining calls for her ouster.

Ferrer said all NCRCom troops would be required to wear the counter-signs at nightfall. He added that the color of the sticker could vary depending on the threat level.

One of the soldiers explained the purpose of the stickers: “Para malaman namin kung sino ang kalaban pag nagkagulo [So we will know who the enemy are if there is trouble].”

Ferrer said two civil disturbance management (CDM) companies of 100 troops each have been sent to guard Malacañang Palace.

Five other companies were dispatched to Fort Bonifacio, where the headquarters of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Marines are located.

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Fri+00:002008-02-29T13:48:35+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Fri, 29 Feb 2008 13:48:35 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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AFP still won’t join rally even with 1M people–Esperon

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:58:00 02/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has maintained that as long as the mass actions against the government were peaceful, troops would not intervene.

Esperon issued the statement ahead of the interfaith rally later this Friday in Makati City where organizers said at least 100,000 people were expected to attend.

Esperon added that if the crowd at the interfaith rally would swell to one million, the military would still stay put.

Security in the capital was placed on red alert for the rally to be staged by thousands of religious leaders, left-wing militants, opposition politicians, and students to demand President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation on corruption allegations.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has deployed 5,000 troops to secure vital points in the metropolis while 3,000 soldiers from the Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) were placed on standby.

“It doesn’t make a difference, as long as things are done peacefully [and] without violence,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, when asked if a huge crowd would convince the military to join the anti-government protesters, as it did in the 1986 and 2001 People Power uprisings.

Days ahead of the protest, which organizers said would gather a crowd of 100,000, text messages circulated in military circles that soldiers would intervene if the anti-government crowd swelled to one million.

“I chastise those who would want the military to intervene because after ’86, what we should have done was to strengthen our democratic institutions and if you say that we have to continuously intervene, then, we must be failing in our maturing process as a nation,” he said.

“I’m sorry to tell those who are urging us to take to the streets and join destabilization attempts. The more that you call the military to intervene, the more you weaken democracy,” he said.

Arroyo is facing fresh calls for her resignation amid allegations that she and her husband, Jose Miguel, pocketed millions of dollars in kickbacks from the botched $329-million national broadband network project.

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Fri+00:002008-02-29T13:47:18+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Fri, 29 Feb 2008 13:47:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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Palace not worried by Estrada at interfaith rally

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Won’t comment on resignation call

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:40:00 02/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is not threatened by former president Joseph Estrada’s attendance at an interfaith prayer ally on Friday to press for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over allegations of corruption.

Estrada himself confirmed he would show up at the rally, which organizers said will be the biggest gathering of anti-government protesters since a new witness in the national broadband corruption scandal surfaced earlier this month.

“It does not matter. For as long as he is not violating any laws,” deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said in a phone interview, when asked if the Palace was threatened by Estrada’s presence at the rally.

Estrada, who was convicted of plunder in September but pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a month after, also said he would call on the incumbent to resign.

Arroyo, who was Estrada’s vice president, succeeded him after he was ousted by a popular uprising in 2001, ironically, also because of allegations of corruption.

But Golez refused to comment on Estrada’s call for Arroyo to step down.

“We wouldn’t want to take part of a lowly word war with the former president. We have more important things to focus on that will help uplift the lives of poor Filipinos. Instead we encourage the former president to help by being part of the solution,” he said.

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Thu+00:002008-02-28T09:50:29+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Thu, 28 Feb 2008 09:50:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Palace defers decision on EO 464

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:38:00 02/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has deferred its decision on whether to accede to the demand of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to revoke Executive Order 464 to allow Cabinet officials to testify before legislative inquiries even without its approval.

“We will present our position to the CBCP next week when we will also have a dialogue with the bishops. There are several things that have to be studied first by the legal team,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

“We have to arrive at a consensus first. Of course we want to ensure that our Cabinet officials have some safeguards when they attend Senate hearings,” he added.

Ermita has announced that a legal team composed of himself, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol, government corporate counsel Alberto Agra, and Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera would submit their position on the CBCP call on Thursday.

As it called for the scrapping of EO 464, the CBCP, in a pastoral statement, also called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to lead the fight against corruption.

Allegations that the President and her husband had pocketed millions of dollars in kickbacks from the botched national broadband network project sparked a fresh wave of street protests calling for her ouster.

Meanwhile, the President’s election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, said government officials were still covered by executive privilege even if the controversial EO was abolished.

“Any action to scrap EO 464 is a useless exercise because the executive privilege of a President provided for in the said order is embedded or enshrined in our Constitution,” Macalintal said in a statement.

“In other words, the abolition of EO 464 will not diminish a President’s right to exercise her executive privilege which exempts her or her Cabinet members from testifying in Congress without her consent,” he added.

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Thu+00:002008-02-28T09:22:04+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Thu, 28 Feb 2008 09:22:04 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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AFP: Officers’ ‘manifesto’ fabricated to sow division

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Paper calls AFP-PNP unity walk ‘walk of shame’

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:25:00 02/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dismissed as “fabricated” an alleged statement by junior officers that derided the “unity walk” of top security officials earlier this week as the handiwork of “cowards” with “vested interests.”

“This manifesto is nothing but a concoction fabricated to destroy the AFP and create an image of divisiveness within our ranks. The AFP remains to be solid,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said.

“Did it [manifesto] really come from junior officers, or was it crafted by one person who is definitely partisan or done by groups with vested interests?” Bacarro asked in Camp Aguinaldo.

The manifesto read: “We, the junior officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, feel utterly embarrassed by the irrational actions of our senior officers who marched at EDSA last 25 February.”

“While they call it ‘unity walk,’ we see it as a depraved display of partisan politics. That walk of unity might as well be called a ‘walk of shame.’ We enjoin all decent-minded cavaliers to put a stop to [Presdient Gloria Macapagal-] Arroyo and [AFP chief of staff General Hermogenes Jr.] Esperon’s blatant corruption of our organization. This has got to stop, sirs,” according to the manifesto.

On Monday, the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt, Esperon and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Avelino Razon Jr. led their officers and men in a march from the People Power monument to Camp Aguinaldo on EDSA to show their unity with the chain of command.

The march came ahead of street protests calling for the ouster of Arroyo, who, along with her husband, Jose Miguel, and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., are accused of having received millions of dollars in kickbacks from the botched national broadband network project.

The manifesto also blasted Esperon for his alleged involvement in the supposed rigging of the 2004 presidential elections in Arroyo’s favor.

Bacarro said whoever was behind the manifesto was doing an injustice to the junior officers in the battlefield.

“This manifesto is not the handiwork of our junior officers, who, at this very moment, are in the mountains, focused on doing their jobs, but rather crafted by cowards hiding behind the name of our brave junior officers,” he said.

Earlier, military and police officials also had to issue statements dismissing a text message claiming government troops would withdraw support from the administration if an interfaith prayer rally in Makati City Friday draws a million people.

Taking a swipe at Razon, the manifesto said the PNP chief “doesn’t know the difference between kidnapping and protection,” apparently referring to his role in the alleged kidnapping of Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., key witness in the Senate inquiry into the NBN scandal.

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Thu+00:002008-02-28T09:21:05+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Thu, 28 Feb 2008 09:21:05 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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