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Archive for March 2008

Teodoro: Troops on guard vs ‘desperate’ communist rebels

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:08:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Government troops are on guard against “desperate” communist insurgents who continue to warn of more attacks even as their numbers dwindle, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Monday.

Teodoro issued the statement after the New People’s Army (NPA) said it would attack businesses, including mining firms, as the rebel force marked its 39th founding anniversary over the weekend.

“The more they weaken, the more desperate they become, and we have to guard against that. Desperation, you know, conjures up more violent and more vile forms of reactions sometimes, and we really have to guard against such eventualities,” he said.

“We enjoin vigilance on the part of business establishments to be more security conscious and aware of their surroundings,” he added.

Teodoro said the rebel threat “borders on terrorism” and should be “condemned to the highest degree.”

“The general plan to guard specific communities is there and, perhaps, through adequate intelligence work, commanders in certain areas may want to factor into their preparations such a fact,” the defense chief said, when asked how troops would thwart the rebels’ plan.

At the end of 2007, the military estimated the strength of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, at 5,700.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given security forces until the end of her term in 2010 to defeat the communist insurgency, destroy Islamic extremist groups, and contain the Muslim rebellion.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-03-31T07:17:20+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 31 Mar 2008 07:17:20 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Troops to train as paralegals vs human rights abuse raps

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:16:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The military will train soldiers on desk duty as paralegals to help fellow troopers facing charges of human rights abuse and other cases, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Monday.

The training will start in April and the defense establishment aims to train at least one soldier per battalion, Teodoro told reporters.

“To assist the soldiers, to provide them with advice, to answer basic petitions, which they may need, or which may be filed against them,” Teodoro said, when asked how the paralegals would assist the troops.

Asked if the training was part of the military’s efforts to improve its human rights record, Teodoro replied: “Everything.”

Teodoro conceded it is “difficult” to draft lawyers to the military service.

“In the implementation phase, we can use senior non-commissioned officers, those [who] do clerical and office work, [for the paralegal training],” he said.

Having soldiers as paralegals would also cut the military’s legal costs, he said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-03-31T06:49:29+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 31 Mar 2008 06:49:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Most Filipinos believe economy has ‘worsened’–survey

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:55:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Two in three, or 66 percent, of Filipinos believe that the economy “worsened” over the last three years and a growing percentage of the population consider themselves poor and their quality of life worsening, according to an independent survey.

The Pulse Asia Inc. findings are in contrast with the rosy economic picture that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has painted, with the end-2007 gross domestic product growing by 7.3 percent.

The independent study was conducted nationwide from February 21 to March 8. It has a margin of error of +/-3 percent and a confidence level of 95 percent, Pulse Asia said in a statement.

Asked to compare the state of the economy now from 2005, 66 percent said the economy was “worse now,” 23 percent said it was the “same,” while 11 percent said it was “better now,” according to the survey.

Of those who said that the economy was “worse now,” 75 percent said they “strongly felt” the deterioration in the economy, 22 percent said they “felt [it] somewhat, while four percent said they “did not feel” the deterioration, according to the survey.

Of those who said that the economy was “better now,” 20 percent said their “strongly felt” the growth, 56 percent said they “felt [it] somewhat,” while 24 percent said they “did not feel” the growth, according to the survey.

Asked to rate their personal situation, 71 percent said they were “very poor or poor” up from 68 percent in October 2007 and 75 percent in July 2007, the survey showed.

Fourteen percent said were “on-the-line” while only 15 percent said they were “well off or wealthy.” In October 2007, 18 percent said they were “on-the-line” while 14 percent said they were “well off or wealthy,” the survey showed.

Asked about their quality of life, 10 percent said they were “better now,” 31 percent said they were “same as then,” while 59 percent said they were “worse now,” according to the survey.

In October 2007, 14 percent said they were “better now,” 40 percent said they were “same as then,” while 46 percent said they were “worse now,” according to the survey.

“Difficult times continue for most Filipinos, with a big majority of them — 71 percent, or about 12.8 million households — saying they are very poor/poor,” Pulse Asia said.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-03-31T06:30:11+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 31 Mar 2008 06:30:11 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Army: General, NCO in extort raps restricted until judgment

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:47:00 03/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — An Army general and his subordinate facing court martial proceedings for allegedly extorting from soldier-applicant soldiers have been restricted to quarters in Fort Bonifacio and will there until their cases are resolved, a spokesman for the service branch said.

At the same time, the Army cancelled the appointments of 184 soldiers for “irregular” entry into the service, allegedly with the help of the accused, Major General Jose Barbieto and Staff Sergeant Roseller Echipare, Army public affairs chief, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., said.

Of the 184, 97 were undergoing training at the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City, while 87 were recently enlisted as privates, Torres said.

“The conduct of the pre-trial investigation, which normally precedes a general court martial, necessitates that those accused be arrested and confined,” Torres said in a statement.

“The restriction shall take effect until such time that their cases are resolved,” Torres said.

Upon orders of Army chief Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, Barbieto and Echipare were “confined and restricted in quarters” and placed under the custody of Fort Bonifacio camp commander Brigadier General Ricardo Morales, Torres said.

Barbieto was restricted a month after the Army started its investigation into the graft allegations against him. He was relieved as commander of the 4th Infantry Division after he was suspended by the Ombudsman.

“The Philippine Army is serious in implementing reforms within the organization. Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, Philippine Army commanding general, assured that there will be no whitewash and cover up, and due process will always be observed,” Torres said.

Barbieto and Echipare could be charged for violation of Articles of War 55 (officer making unlawful enlistment), 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), the Army spokesman said.

Barbieto is the second major general, after retired general Carlos Garcia, to face court martial for alleged corruption.

Garcia, a former military comptroller, was convicted by a court martial in December 2006 and sentenced to imprisonment, hard labor, and forfeiture of his retirement benefits.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-03-31T06:28:38+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 31 Mar 2008 06:28:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Lack of fighter jets won’t stop Spratlys defense–PAF chief

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‘With warm bodies, if we die, we die,’ he says

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:07:00 03/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The lack of fighter jets will not stop the Philippine Air Force (PAF) from defending the country’ claim to the disputed Spratlys group of islands in the South China Sea, the PAF commanding general said Friday.

When asked how the PAF would protect the reportedly oil-rich islands, Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog said, “[With] warm bodies, if we die, we die. Our mission is that simple.”

The PAF decommissioned the last of its F-5 fighter jets in 2005. It has converted several of its S211 trainer jets into fighter aircraft.

Acknowledging the PAF’s lack of air capability, Ceding said: “It is nearly impossible that we can claim sovereignty. As far as we are concerned, being truly Filipino, and understanding sovereignty, we offer our service and our lives over that part of our country.”

Cadungog issued the statement amid the controversy generated by the
Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), a tripartite agreement among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

The political opposition is claiming that the Philippine government had softened its claim on the Spratlys by entering into the JMSU, in exchange for a multimillion-dollar loan package from China.

The Spratlys is being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

On Monday, Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. visited Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys to “reinforce” the country’s claim on the islands.

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Fri+00:002008-03-28T07:53:05+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 28 Mar 2008 07:53:05 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Military engineers to renovate Pag-asa airstrip

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:46:00 03/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Military engineers will refurbish the airstrip on the largest Filipino-occupied island in the disputed Spratlys group after a private contractor backed out of the project, the chief of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said Friday.

Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog said the barracks of soldiers stationed on Pag-asa Island will be renovated to concrete and semi-concrete structures.

Cadungog said the infrastructure improvements on the island would not violate the Code of Conduct among claimant countries to the reportedly oil-rich islands, which prevents the buildup of military forces there.

“We are free to go there anytime. [There is] no violation [of the Code of Conduct] at all,” Cadungog told reporters at Villamor Airbase, the PAF headquarters.

Last Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. visited Pag-asa Island and brought with him a satellite communications system that will connect troops on the island to military general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Asked if he was worried the planned construction on Pag-asa would trigger protests from other claimants, Cadungog said: “Not actually a lot of protests because they [other claimants] have their own occupied islands, like Vietnam [and] China

“As a matter of fact we are the legitimate claimant, as a sovereign country therefore they cannot complain about it. We are supposed to be the one complaining because those occupied islands by other countries are not supposed to be theirs,” he said.

However, Cadungog acknowledged that “relationships among friendly countries” in the Spratlys should be preserved.

The private contractor was supposed to refurbish the Pag-asa airstrip for P31 million but backed out unless the project cost was raised to around P100 million, Cadungog said.

Cadungog said the contract was scrapped with the P3.1-million performance bond that the construction firm submitted to the government, which represents 10 percent of the project cost, to be forfeited.

Asked if the refurbishing of the airstrip was meant to strengthen military presence on the island, Cadungog said: “Not necessarily strengthening, [but] providing presence.”

The PAF chief said Navy ships will start hauling building materials from Puerto Princesa in Palawan to Pag-asa Island next month, to take advantage of calm seas during the summer.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-03-28T07:51:46+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 28 Mar 2008 07:51:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Filipina is customer service manager at Dubai Duty Free

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:40:00 03/27/2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Doing the job with a smile has taken this Filipina from arranging liquor bottles on store shelves to managing the customer service department in one of the busiest airports in the Middle East.

As manager for customer service at the Dubai Duty Free, Lilian Vargas, 54, manages a sales staff 1,600, 400 of which are Filipino.


“We [Filipinos] have a good work attitude. If it’s a decent job, we do it. We find ways to make work fun, even when displaying liquor bottles,” Vargas said in an interview at the Palm Jumeirah Hotel, during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s visit.

The President met with a group of Emirati employers, including Vargas, when she was here in late January to launch a hedging facility and an investment road show for overseas Filipino workers.

Vargas moved to the United Arab Emirates in 1984, after starting a family in the Philippines. She first worked as sales assistant at the liquor and tobacco section of the Dubai Duty Free.

She then rose from the ranks, getting promoted to shop controller, to retail manager, before becoming customer service manager.

“I make sure that everyone going to the airport has a fantastic shopping experience. I think we have become one of the friendliest airports,” she said.

Vargas said she recruits staffers from the Philippines, China, and Uzbekistan. She said 25 percent of the entire operations department of the Dubai Duty Free is Filipino.

“Customers love us for that, when we pay attention,” Vargas said, when asked if the trademark Filipino hospitality was a plus in her line of work.

The shop floor is unmistakably Dubai, with palm trees and white tent roofs, but the counters and store shelves, even nearby fast food outlets, are run mostly by Filipinos, who greet shoppers with a smile.

Nearing retirement age, Vargas is not about to slow down just yet. She said she wants to stay on until the Dubai Mega Airport finishes construction.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002008-03-27T07:10:53+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Thu, 27 Mar 2008 07:10:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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