Deadline all the time

breaking news stories, photos, and video

Archive for April 2008

AFP falls short of counterinsurgency target

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
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.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Advertisements

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Esperon vows ‘swift action’ on ‘mistah’ accused of graft

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:15:00 04/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. vowed swift action on the graft case filed against a two-star general, even if the accused officer is his “mistah” or classmate at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

On Monday, the Philippine Army announced that a pretrial investigation found sufficient evidence to try Major General Jose Barbieto and Staff Sergeant Roseller Echipare before a court martial for allegedly extorting from Army recruits.

“I’ll let the staff do their work and I’ll just act on it, of course, as soon as possible,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

The recommendation of the Army Judge Advocate awaits the approval of Esperon, who as chief of staff can convene a court martial to try the two officers for alleged violation of Articles of War 55 (officer making unlawful enlistment) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).

Barbieto, who, like Esperon, belongs to the PMA’s 1974 “Marangal” class, faces and additional charge for violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), which is applicable only to officers.

Asked if his being classmates with Barbieto would affect his actions on the case, Esperon said: “Hindi mistah mistah ‘yan [Our being mistahs has nothing to do with this]. You just remember that General Miranda is my classmate. It has nothing to do with being classmates.”

Esperon was referring to another classmate, former Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda, whom he approved for trial before a court martial, along with 27 other Marine and Army Scout Ranger officers for allegedly plotting to stage a coup in February 2006.

Barbieto will be the second two-star general to face a court martial for alleged corruption after retired major general Carlos Garcia, who was convicted of violating Articles of War 96 and 97 in December 2005.

Garcia was found guilty of amassing millions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth during his stint as AFP comptroller. He is also facing a P300-million plunder case before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-04-22T07:56:55+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 22 Apr 2008 07:56:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

More DNA samples sought as tests on ‘Dulmatin’ inconclusive

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:07:00 04/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities will gather more DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) samples from relatives of an alleged Indonesian terrorist for a fresh round of tests after initial tests on remains believed to be those of Dulmatin turned out “inconclusive,” the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Tuesday.

General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. acknowledged to reporters that initial testing by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) failed to prove that the remains exhumed in the southern province of Tawi-Tawi province February 18 were those of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) explosives expert Dulmatin.

“The test was inconclusive. It’s not yet finished,” he said, adding US officials had informed him of this last week.

However, even before Esperon’s admission, wire reports quoted Indonesian law enforcement officials as saying the remains were not Dulmatin’s.

Dulmatin, who with another JI bomb expert, Umar Patek, has long been reported as having taken refuge with the Abu Sayyaf group, carries a $10-million US bounty on his head.

The two are accused of masterminding the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people. The Abu Sayyaf, on the other hand, has been blamed for the bombing and sinking of the SuperFerry 14 in Manila Bay in 2004, which also killed some 200 people. Both incidents have been tagged the worst terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia.

“We will get samples from relatives as close [to Dulmatin] as possible,” Esperon said.

Esperon refused to identify whose DNA samples were used for the first test, saying the matter was “technical.”

Tipsters led authorities to the gravesite in Balimbing village, Panglima Sugala town, where Marines and alleged Abu Sayyaf and JI militants clashed in late January.

Dulmatin was believed to have been fatally wounded in that clash.

Prior to this, government forces also discovered Dulmatin’s wife and children. They have since been deported back to Indonesia.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-04-22T07:27:29+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 22 Apr 2008 07:27:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

General, sergeant to face court martial on graft raps

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:49:00 04/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines – A general and his subordinate who allegedly extorted money from applicant soldiers will be tried before a court martial, the spokesman of the Philippine Army said Monday.

A pre-trial investigation by the Army Judge Advocate concluded there is enough evidence to charge Major General Jose Barbieto and Staff Sergeant Roseller Echipare, said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr.

Barbieto will be charged with violation of Articles of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), and 55 (officer making unlawful enlistment), making him the second two-star general to face court martial for alleged corruption after Major General Carlos Garcia, who was convicted for violation of Articles of War 96 and 97 in 2005.

Garcia was found guilty of amassing millions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth during his stint as military comptroller. He is also facing plunder and perjury charges before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.

Echipare, on the other hand, will be charged for violation of Articles of War 97 and 55, but not Article of War 96, a charge applicable only to military officers, Torres said.

Barbieto and Echipare allegedly extorted from applicant soldiers, when the general was commander of the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.

“These illegal actions were carried out allegedly with utter disregard to the existing Army policies and regulations governing recruitment and the reinstatement of soldiers in exchange for financial gains,” Torres said.

“The Philippine Army is bent on implementing reforms in the organization and General Yano assured that this case will be pursued to its final resolution in accordance with due process,” he added.

Barbieto went on leave in late February to give way to the investigation of the allegations. He was relieved from his post the following month after he was suspended by the Ombudsman.

He is a classmate of outgoing Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) 1974 “Marangal” class.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-04-21T08:09:21+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 21 Apr 2008 08:09:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

Colonel who saw action vs Abu Sayyaf is new Rangers chief

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:40:00 04/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A colonel who saw action against Islamic extremists in the south has been appointed the new commander of the elite Scout Rangers, the spokesman of the Philippine Army said Monday.

Colonel Noel Coballes will assume command of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) later this month, replacing Brigadier General Reynaldo Mapagu, who was promoted to Army chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

Before his new assignment, Coballes was commander of the 105th Infantry Brigade in the island province of Basilan, one of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf.

He was later transferred to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), where he headed the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, Torres said.

Mapagu, on the other hand, replaces Brigadier General Ralph Villanueva, who was recently named commander of the 7th Infantry Division in place of retired major general Juanito Gomez.

Asked if the Army leadership was confident Coballes would remain loyal to the chain of command when he takes over the helm of a unit that has been involved in several coup attempts, Torres replied: “He has no history, he did not join such activities in the past.”

Nineteen Scout Ranger officers, including their former regiment commander, Brigadier General Danilo Lim, are on court martial for mutiny over the alleged February 2006 coup plot.

Junior officers from the FSRR were also part of a short-lived uprising in July 2003 in Makati City dubbed the Oakwood mutiny.

In the late 1980s, the Rangers, among them the then junior officer Lim, also figured in several coup attempts against the Aquino administration.

Coballes, a 1980 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), was selected by the Board of Generals headed by outgoing Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Torres said.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002008-04-21T08:08:49+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 21 Apr 2008 08:08:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

Esperon will be ‘honored’ to serve as DND chief

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 20:43:00 04/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he would be “honored” to handle the defense portfolio, even as he acknowledged that talk of his replacing Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. was “purely speculative.”

“The matter of serving at the Cabinet is entirely the President’s prerogative so I would be honored but then I would not impose myself,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

Asked if he would accept position of defense secretary if it was offered to him, Esperon said: “I’ll have to, if it calls for action, then I should act on that, as of now purely speculative. If there is no offer, I won’t even want to comment on that.”

Esperon, one of President Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo’s most loyal generals, will retire on May 9, when his three-month term extension expires.

Teodoro has served as defense secretary for nine months. He took over the department in August 2007.

Asked to comment on Teodoro’s statement that he would make a good defense secretary, Esperon said: “As far as I’m concerned he is one of the best.”

Esperon said remaining in government service after he retires from the military was an “option,” but he would like to visit his family abroad or go on vacation immediately after his retirement.

The military chief also said he would finish writing his book on counter-terrorism.

“That is part of our options, because 56 years old gives you a lot of time before you really want to be by yourself or before you are incapacitated,” he said. With Camille Diola, contributor

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-04-18T14:14:13+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Fri, 18 Apr 2008 14:14:13 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

Posted in Uncategorized

‘Thank you for defending the Constitution’

leave a comment »

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:32:00 04/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo thanked active and retired generals from the military and the police for being “defenders” of the rule of law and the Constitution.

“Sa patuloy na pagtaguyod ng AGFO sa ating Saligang Batas at mga proseso ng batas, maraming salamat [For defending the Constitution and the rule of law, thank you, AGFO],” the President said in a speech.

Arroyo was the guest speaker at the annual fellowship meeting of the 800-strong Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO), an organization of active and retired star-rank officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The President, with the help of her loyal generals, has stared down at least three coup attempts in July 2003, February 2006, and November 2007, sparked by allegations of massive corruption and election fraud.

Earlier this year, rumors of another coup attempt swirled amid allegations that the President, her husband, Jose Miguel, and ex-elections commissioner Benjamin Abalos Sr. pocketed millions of dollars in kickbacks from the botched national broadband project.

“And so I thank you, our retired generals and flag officers, because you have supported the rule of law. Because you have supported the constitution, we were able to make the tough decisions to raise revenues for our economy,” Arroyo said.

The retired officers also “inspired” those in the active service in their campaign against communist insurgents and crime, she said.

The guests at the Tejeros Hall in Camp Aguinaldo included retired generals in the Arroyo Cabinet: Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, and Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

Retired generals holding government positions who were present at the affair include: Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) deputy general manager Angel Atutubo, Metro Rail Transit General Manager Roberto Lastimoso, and Visiting Forces Agreement Commission chief Edilberto Adan.

During her speech, Arroyo acknowledged former AFP chief Generoso Senga, the only chief of staff under her administration who was not given a government position after his retirement.

Senga was rumored to have wavered in her support for Arroyo during the alleged February 2006 coup attempt. Senga denied the allegation.

With Camille Diola, contributor

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-04-18T09:15:08+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Fri, 18 Apr 2008 09:15:08 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized