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Archive for February 25th, 2008

DoJ mulls filing sedition charges vs Estrada

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:35:00 02/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The government is considering filing sedition charges against former president Joseph Estrada for calling on the military to support calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s to step down, an official of the Department of Justice (DoJ) said.

Moreover, Estrada’s calling Arroyo an “illegitimate” president “put into question” the conditional pardon for plunder she gave him, Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor told a news conference in Malacañang on Monday.

“On this particular case, yes. On these remarks, we are gathering facts,” Blancaflor said, when asked if Estrada’s statements were seditious.

“[It is] a seditious remark, calling for the Armed Forces to rise against government,” he added.

By questioning the legitimacy of the Arroyo government, Estrada, in effect, was “putting into question his own pardon,” Blancaflor said.

“We have to apply the legal dictum: the spring does not run higher than its source. That’s the problem with his statement,” the official said, adding his statement was the DoJ’s “legal opinion” on the matter.

Asked in a later interview if the pardon for Estrada could be revoked based on his statements, Blancaflor said: “Not necessarily, he’s just being inconsistent.”

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pardoned Estrada in late October, over a month after the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court convicted him of plunder for amassing millions of pesos in kickbacks from the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T08:47:40+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 08:47:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo to people: ‘Remind Senate of ‘rule of law’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:34:00 02/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Delivering a counterpunch to senators for the first time since the national broadband network (NBN) row erupted, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on the public to remind the legislators to respect the rule of law in its investigations into alleged corruption in her government.

At the same time, Arroyo, who is facing a growing clamor for her to resign or face ouster, reiterated earlier government calls to leave the courts to rule on allegations that the NBN contract with China’s ZTE Corp. was tainted by overpricing and kickbacks.

Among those linked to the scandal are Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel, and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., who are accused of having benefited from the alleged overprice of the $329-million contract.

“Malaki rin ang magagawa ninyo para sa ating kaunlaran, ang inyong tinig ay dalhin nyo hanggang doon sa senado. Yung mga senado [sic] niyo ngayon. Yes, lahat tayo laban sa katiwalian, pero ang pinaglaban naman ni [hero and first Philippine president General Emilio ] Aguinaldo ay rule of law, democratic principles, ipaglaban natin yun [You have done much for our development, bring your voice up to the Senate. Your senators today. Yes, we are all against corruption, but what Aguinaldo fought for was rule of law, democratic principle, let us fight for those],” she said in a speech in Trece Martirez town, Cavite province.

“Ang paglilitis hindi dinadaan sa tsismis. Ang paglilitis dinadaan sa ebidensiya. Meron sapat, meron karapat dapat na korte para doon. Kaya kung paguusapan natin ang kalayaan, kung paguusapan natin ang demokrasya, pagusapan natin ang rule of law [A trial is not conducted through gossip. A trial is conducted through evidence. There are enough, there are the proper courts for that. Thus, if we talk of freedom, if we talk of democracy, let us talk of rule of law],” she said.

Arroyo told Cavite residents that the South Rail project, which would connect the province to Metro Manila, is facing delays due to the threat of a Senate investigation.

At the same time, Arroyo reiterated her claim that the world would not forgive a third people power uprising to force her from power, which she said would be like to “shooting one’s self.”

Ironically, it was a similar uprising that brought Arroyo into power in 2001 after ousting then president Joseph Estrada.

”The world celebrated EDSA 1. The world tolerated EDSA 2. The world will not forgive an EDSA 3. The world will say, what is happening to the Philippines? They have the best workers in the world but they are shooting themselves,” she said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T08:32:13+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 08:32:13 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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VIDEO: Ramos, De Castro: ‘Magkaisa’

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines–With President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conspicuously absent, Vice President Noli de Castro and former president Fidel Ramos lead the commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolution that restored democracy in the country. The rites included the singing of “Magkaisa” as a helicopter flew overhead and dropped confetti. Video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Joel Guinto on February 25, 2008.

Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T06:12:50+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:12:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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VIDEO: Military, police hold ‘unity march’

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QUEZON CITY, Philippines–The chiefs of the military and the police, Generals Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Avelino Razon Jr., lead a “unity march” from the People Power Monument to Camp Aguinaldo to reaffirm their allegiance to the chain of command, as calls for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation mount. Video taken by INQUIRER.net reporter Joel Guinto on February 25, 2008.

Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T06:11:59+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:11:59 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Military, police top brass show ‘unity march’ for Arroyo

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 09:03:00 02/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) The military and police top brass have put up a united front, and pledged anew their loyalty to the chain of command, even as their commander-in-chief, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, fights off fresh calls for her to step down amid allegations of corruption.

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The chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Director General Avelino Razon Jr. led the “unity march” from the People Power monument along EDSA to the Camp Aguinaldo golf club, some 300 meters away.

“We assure the Filipino nation of our unequivocal allegiance to the flag, the Constitution, and we give our word not to engage in any partisan political exercise,” Esperon said.

“The military was and is a proud part of people power, but the military must not be coaxed to lead or join another EDSA,” he said.

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Military intervention was crucial to the 1986 and 2001 People Power uprisings that toppled the Marcos and Estrada administrations.

Razon said calls for security forces to intervene this time around were “totally uncalled for.”

“We in the PNP, we will not get ourselves involved in politics, much less political intervention,” Razon said, adding, “Our chain of command is inviolable and respected by our personnel.”

“Kasama sa tungkulin namin ang paglingkuran at protektahan ang ating pangulo [It is part of our mandate to serve and protect the president],” said Razon.

Also present at the “unity march” were the commanders of the major AFP services — Army Chief Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, Air Force Chief Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog, and Navy Chief Vice Admiral Rogelio Calunsag.

Six of the seven unified command chiefs were also present: Lieutenant Generals Rodrigo Maclang (Northern Luzon), Rodolfo Obaniana (Southern Luzon), Victor Ibrado (Visayas), Cardozo Luna (Eastern Mindanao), Major General Fernando Mesa (Metro Manila), and Rear Admiral Ruperto Borromeo (Western Philippines).

Marine Commandant Major General Ben Dolorfino, and elite Army unit commanders — Major General Daniel Casabar, the chief of the Special Operations Command, and Brigadier Generals Arutro Ortiz and Reynaldo Mapagu, the chiefs of the Special Forces and Scout Ranger regiments — also joined the march.

Razon was accompanied by his second-in-command, Deputy Director General Jesus Versoza, and Director Jefferson Soriano, chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM).

In a later, interview, Esperon was asked if loyalty to the chain of command meant protecting the President from ouster.

He said the military would step in only when efforts to unseat the President were unconstitutional, or when the situations get violent.

“As long as these are done in [a] constitutional manner, that should be alright but when it comes to use of violence, that’s a different story,” he said.

“That’s what we mean, partly that’s what we mean, by being loyal to the Constitution, anybody who uses force, unwarranted force for their beliefs, like the NPA, [will be stopped],” he said.

Pressed further on whether the military was protecting the institution of the presidency, and not necessarily Arroyo, Esperon said: “She is the duly-constituted authority so that goes hand in hand.”

But despite his assurances, Esperon acknowledged that several groups were trying to recruit soldiers against Arroyo. He however expressed confidence that the military would remain solidly behind the President.

Calls for Arroyo to quit have been mounting after a government official testified in a Senate inquiry early this month that her spouse and a political ally tried to get millions in kickbacks from a telecoms deal with a Chinese firm that was suspended last year.

The witness, Rodolfo Lozada, said Arroyo aides and police officers also tried to stop him from testifying and that his life was in danger. He said that Arroyo had tacit knowledge of the deals.

Opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Sunday that he would urge Senate committees investigating the contract to look into Arroyo’s admission was suspect and to assess whether she violated anti-graft laws.

Arroyo said Sunday she knew she was not perfect, but warned her rivals that an attempt to oust her would damage the Philippines’ image and repel foreign investment.

“We all know I am not perfect,” she said in the speech. “But I have worked hard every day to achieve positive and lasting change for the nation.”

Militant groups were to take to the streets later Monday for street protests around Manila. Leaders of the influential Roman Catholic Church as well as former president Corazon Aquino have joined calls for Arroyo’s resignation.

Former generals jailed for an aborted coup in 2006 on Monday also urged troops to turn against Arroyo, who is also the commander-in-chief.

“Going out of barracks to join the people in communal action to rid the ills that befell our nation is a Constitutional duty,” detained Scout Ranger chief General Danilo Lim said in a statement.

“In fact, it is demanded of us, as soldiers, by the very people whom we failed. Let us not, this time, fail them,” he said.

He called on the troops to “be seen in and out of the barracks.”

Arroyo has been compared to Marcos, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 20 years until he was ousted in a popular church-led revolt in 1986, and died in exile three years later.

He is believed to have stolen up to $10 billion from government coffers but to date less than one billion has been recovered.

With reports from Thea Alberto, INQUIRER.net; AFP, AP

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T06:09:41+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:09:41 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Palace mum on Arroyo admission about tainted NBN deal

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:45:00 02/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has remained tight-lipped on why it took President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo six months to scrap the $329-million national broadband network contract, after she was informed that the agreement was tainted with corruption.

At the same time, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita shrugged off a threat from Senate President Manuel Villar that Arroyo could be impeached for allowing the agreement between the government and China’s ZTE Corp. to push through, despite the allegations.

In a radio interview over the weekend, the President admitted that she was told of the alleged corruption in the ZTE contract on the eve of its signing in Boao, China in April 2007. But she said she had intended to scrap the contract.

Arroyo cancelled the project in October, after the son of then Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jose III, a losing bidder in the NBN project, claimed that former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos tried to bribe him to give up his bid for the project, while the President’s husband, Jose Miguel, told him to “back off.”

“It was the President’s action of making that statement, so I could not make any statement on that,” Ermita said, when asked what took the President some time before scrapping the contract.

“This just means that the President is telling the truth. When it was cancelled, this proved that President Arroyo knew all along what she had to do when it started creating a lot of noise,” Ermita told reporters at the People Power monument, where he attended celebrations for the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt.

Ermita said he did not know who informed the President of the alleged anomalies surrounding the ZTE agreement.

Asked about Villar’s pronouncement, Ermita shrugged it off, saying, “They will always think of something that will be the basis for anything that is against the President.”

“Even before the hearings started, they have been calling on the President to step down and call for snap elections. You can see that their agenda has always been like that,” Ermita said.

The Senate has resumed its hearings on the ZTE dispute after a new witness, former government consultant Rodolfo Lozada Jr., exposed the alleged overprice of the contract and claimed that Abalos and the First Gentleman received kickbacks from it.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-02-25T06:06:42+00:00+00:0002b+00:00Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:06:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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