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Archive for April 23rd, 2008

‘Pullout of Malaysian monitors won’t affect talks with MILF’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 19:11:00 04/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. played down the impact of the planned pullout of Malaysian ceasefire monitors on peace talks between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“My sense from the commanders in the area is that the people, that means including the MILF, as well as local residents are so desirous of peace… We would say that the people in the area have greater preference for peace rather than for violence,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Malaysia has announced that it is pulling out its contingent to the International Monitoring Team, which has been overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire between the military and the MILF.

Malaysia is also the third party negotiator for the peace talks, which has been stalled on the issue of ancestral domain.

Recent news reports said Brunei might also pull out from the IMT if Malaysia does so.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-23T12:54:53+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 23 Apr 2008 12:54:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Esperon willing to testify in ‘Hello Garci’ after retirement

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:53:00 04/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he is willing to testify at legislative inquiries into the so-called “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal after he retires, but only if the proceedings are “reasonable.”

Esperon, who will retire May 9, was linked to the alleged cheating operations in the 2004 elections after his name was mentioned in purported wiretapped conversations of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ex-elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, after whom the controversy was named.

He is the last of four generals mentioned in the tape to retire from the military service.

“If I will be called to a hearing, I would attend it if I find it reasonable, meaning I would be advised on what questions will be asked so that I could also be prepared,” he told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

“If it is a democratic process, then I will go for it. We have always upheld the democratic processes, the rule of law,” he said.

In the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes, it was implied that Esperon had a hand in the relief of Brigadier General Francisco Gudani as chief of the 1st Marine Brigade in Marawi City, for allegedly supporting Arroyo’s chief rival, movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., who died seven months after the bitterly contested elections.

Maintaining his innocence, Esperon said that as deputy chief of staff for operations during the 2004 election period, he had no power to relieve Gudani.

Esperon spoke to reporters during a break from a command conference in Camp Aguinaldo. Among the attendees was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Balutan, Gudani’s former battalion commander.

Gudani and Balutan testified before a Senate investigation into the alleged cheating operations in September 2005. They were investigated for possible court martial for testifying without permission from the military leadership.

As Esperon answered questions on the “Hello Garci” controversy, Balutan was seen smiling before he drank water from a glass.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-23T11:05:44+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 23 Apr 2008 11:05:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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AFP falls short of counterinsurgency target

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:24:00 04/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fell short of its counterinsurgency goals, dismantling only eight of 17 communist guerrilla fronts it had targeted for the first quarter of this year, chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Despite the shortfall, Esperon said security forces were on track to meet President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 2010 deadline of dealing the nearly 40-year old guerilla war of the New People’s Army (NPA) a “strategic defeat”

“The AFP would like to report that the [it] is heading towards the direction of achieving the target set by the President,” Esperon told a news conference, on the sidelines of the AFP’s quarterly command conference on internal security operations.

Aside from the dismantled fronts, Esperon said 10 others of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been “downgraded” while 13 are in an “advanced” state of degradation.

Esperon said the eight dismantled fronts and the 10 downgraded fronts represent a 20.69 percent reduction from the 87 guerilla fronts at the end of 2007.

He said the 10 downgraded fronts could have been considered dismantled, but he chose to be “cautious” in labeling them.

The dismantled fronts are located in the Ilocos provinces, Isabela, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Laguna, Marinduque, Samar, and Misamis Oriental, he said

A guerilla front is composed of several platoons operating in five to 10 towns. It is considered “dismantled” if 70 percent of its members and firearms have been neutralized, Esperon said.

A front is considered “downgraded,” or a notch below “dismantled,” if its political arm is no longer effective and its leadership has been neutralized, he said.

When fifty percent of a front’s members and firearms have been neutralized, Esperon said it is considered to be in an “advanced” state of degradation.”

“As a result of the collective efforts with the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies there was a notable downtrend in all insurgency parameters,” he said.

During the first quarter, Esperon said NPA numbers were reduced by 2.41 percent with the neutralization of 291 rebels, bringing their numbers down to 5,470 from 5,761 at the end of 2007.

The 291 include 14 top leaders, including an alleged member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) central committee, Randall Echaniz, the military chief said.

Troops also seized 154 firearms during encounters with the NPA, reducing their firepower by 2.7 percent to 5,540 from 5,694 in the previous quarter, he said.

The number of villages affected by the NPA was down 10.37 percent to 1,719 from 1,919 in the last quarter of 2007.

While their numbers are on the decline, Esperon warned troops against possible ambuscades, landmine attacks, and liquidation attempts by the NPA, which he called acts of “desperation.”

Arroyo extended Esperon’s term for three months to sustain the counterinsurgency campaign’s momentum.

The AFP chief will retire on May 9.

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-04-23T09:40:44+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Wed, 23 Apr 2008 09:40:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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