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Archive for February 11th, 2008

Troops linked to Sulu ‘massacre’ restricted not suspended

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:16:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Fifty soldiers facing investigation for the deaths of eight civilians in Sulu province that has been called a “massacre” have been “restricted” not suspended, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public information officer said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro clarified that the word “suspended” is not part of military jargon.

Nonetheless, he said “restricted” meant the 50 troopers are “restrained from participating in combat operations” and will be made to stay inside their respective camps.

“We’d like to clarify that the Secretary of National Defense did not use the word suspension during his visit to Sulu and his instruction was to restrain, restrain these soldiers from participating in other operations,” Bacarro said.

“So that if there is an investigation, they will be readily available during the conduct of the investigation, so the term suspension was never used, restrained was the exact word used,” he added.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. was in Sulu over the weekend to oversee an investigation into the February 4 incident that the military says was a firefight with Abu Sayyaf extremists but which relatives of the dead civilians as well as local officials have called a massacre.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-11T10:38:43+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 10:38:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo on track to complete term–spokesman

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:04:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration stands on “solid ground” and she is confident of finishing her term in 2010 despite the political turmoil stirred by the inquiry into the scrapped $329-million national broadband network deal, her spokesman said Monday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye issued the statement when asked if the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) show of support for two whistleblowers in the scandal-tainted deal, planned street protests, and rumored power grab threats, were a cause of worry for the Palace.

“We’ve said that people are tired of destabilization. You know we have had more serious problems before, and the trend of street protests has been going down consistently,” Bunye told reporters in Malacañang.

“We are firm [in] our belief and [in] our stand that the President has a mandate up to 2010,” he added.

On Sunday, the CBCP praised former government consultant Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. and businessman Jose de Venecia III for testifying before the Senate investigation into allegations of overpricing and bribery surrounding the winning bid of China’s ZTE Corp. for the NBN project.

The CBCP also called for “collective action” against corruption.

Asked if the Palace was worried it might lose the Church’s support, Bunye said: “I believe that the Palace or this administration stands on solid ground. We’re just saying that whatever collective action we will be taking should be on the basis of proper evaluation of all the facts and all the circumstances.”

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Mon+00:002008-02-11T09:33:02+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 09:33:02 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Singapore keen on upgrading Clark airport–Arroyo

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:56:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced Monday that executives of Singapore’s Changi Airport are interested in upgrading the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga province.

“Singapore [has expressed intent] to meet with airport officials in Clark to give an unsolicited offer to further develop the DMIA,” Arroyo was quoted as saying in a speech in San Fernando City, in her home province of Pampanga.

The President said the offer from the Changi Airport officials was a “clear indication” that foreign investors remain “bullish” on the country despite controversies on the political front, according to the statement

Named after her late father, a former president of the country, the DMIA hosts budget carriers that fly to several Asian cities.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-11T09:05:39+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 09:05:39 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Palace: Gov’t execs at Senate probe debunk Lozada abduction

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:43:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang believes government officials testifying at the Senate inquiry into the controversial national broadband network (NBN) deal have proven that they did not kidnap Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., a key witness in the probe.

“All those who acted, or took action, apparently acted in good faith. They were after the safety of the witness and they took action accordingly,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye told reporters at the Palace.

Among those at the Senate are Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon Jr., Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Alfonso Cusi, MIAA deputy general manager for security Angel Atutubo, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

Former Cabinet secretary Michael Defensor also attended the hearing.

Bunye said the government officials’ testimonies showed up “inconsistencies” in Lozada’s claim that he was taken against his will by men he said appeared to be military agents upon his return to the country.

Lozada, said Bunye, was “not restricted” and had “every opportunity” to call family members from his cell phone while he was under police custody, and at one time, was even left alone in a restroom for 10 minutes.

“It begins to appear that the previous testimony of the witness is full of inconsistencies. The circumstances would lead one to conclude that an abduction or a kidnapping has taken place have been refuted by Secretary Atienza and those who took the stand,” he said.

Lozada claims to have knowledge of corruption surrounding the since scrapped $329-million NBN contract with China’s ZTE Corp.

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Mon+00:002008-02-11T08:57:27+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 08:57:27 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Be ‘loyal, faithful,’ AFP urges troops

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‘Don’t help spread text rumors’

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:19:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The military called on troops anew to remain loyal to the chain of command, amid renewed tensions due to the scandal triggered by the inquiry into the controversial national broadband network contract.

“They should remain focused on their job, the mandate given to them…For them to be involved in any activity that can be categorized as political matters is beyond them,” Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, told a news conference.

“As members of the Philippine Army, our purpose remains clear, our role remains clear. We will remain loyal and faithful to the chain of command and to the commander-in-chief,” Brigadier General Ricardo Morales, commander of the Philippine Army’s Headquarters and Headquarters Support Group, said in a speech in Fort Bonifacio.

“Ours is a purely volunteer Army. No one in the Army is indispensable,” Morales added, according to the statement.

At the same time, Bacarro also warned soldiers against expressing their opinions on political matters in public.

“They should not be doing that,” the spokesman said, when pressed by reporters.

In a phone interview, Morales said he wanted “to remind them [troops] of their oath of obedience and loyalty.”

The Army official also warned troops against spreading “rumors” through text messages.

“Do not spread rumors. You will pass on this message or rumor only to your intelligence officer. Remember that! We will not participate in any political activity,” Morales said.

Morales’ statements on Monday were in contrast to his behavior in mid-2005, when he criticized the construction of resort for soldiers in Boracay Island in an email circulated to alumni of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Asked if his present position was a turnaround from his previous statements, Morales said: “It’s not. That was an internal matter. I was just questioning the allocation of military resources.”

“I paid my dues because of that,” Moales said with a laugh, when asked if he stood by his 2005 letter.

Shortly after the letter was leaked to media, Morales was sacked as commander of the 404th Infantry Brigade based in Mawab, Davao del Norte.

After roughly a year in the freezer, Morales was assigned as brigade commander in Bukidnon province, and then as camp commander of Fort Bonifacio.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-11T08:56:45+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 08:56:45 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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CBCP communal prayer gets mixed reactions from Palace execs

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:37:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has issued contradictory statements on the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for “communal prayer” and “soul-searching” amid the unfolding scandal triggered by the Senate inquiry into scrapped $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

In a statement Monday, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that while “we respect the CBCP’s call for communal action,” it was “premature.”

Communal action should be preceded by a “consideration of facts” before the courts, not before an “emotionally charged forum,” said Bunye in an apparent reference to a Senate inquiry into bribery and overpricing allegations surrounding the scrapped national broadband network agreement with China’s ZTE Corp.

“Communal action precisely calls for circumspection, a consideration of all the facts, and due regard for what will serve the common good in the long-term,” he said.

Bunye’s statement contradicted a pronouncement by Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo, who said that the Palace “supports” the CBCP’s call for “communal prayer” and “soul-searching.”

In a separate statement released by Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez earlier in the day, Saludo said the Palace “respect[s] the moral guidance of our bishops.”

However, Saludo did not address the CBCP’s praise of NBN whistleblowers Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. and Jose de Venecia III.

“We support Archbishop Lagdameo’s call for communal prayer, soul-searching, and other community activities in accordance with the CBCP’s call last month for all sectors to collectively work for moral renewal to fight [the] age-old scourge of corruption,” Saludo said.

In a statement Sunday, CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo hailed Lozada and De Venecia III for their “courageous” testimonies before the Senate on the alleged overpricing and bribery that surrounded ZTE’s winning bid for the NBN project.

Lozada was a technical consultant of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) while De Venecia III’s firm, Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI), had expressed interest in the NBN project.

The two witnesses had implicated former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in the controversy.

Without naming the First Family, the CBCP said: “Their public confession may be considered a providential event that may yet save our country from being hostage to scandalous and shady government deals that offend the common good and serve only personal, family and group interests.”

“Only the truth, not lies and deceits, will set our country free. This truth challenges us now to communal action,” the CBCP added.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-11T08:55:56+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 11 Feb 2008 08:55:56 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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