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Archive for June 27th, 2008

Ocampo gets flashback as he visits ‘coup plotters’ at ISAFP

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:37:00 06/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo got flashbacks of his days in military detention when he inspected the cells of six Marine and Scout Ranger officers linked to an alleged February 2006 coup plot.

Ocampo joined Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Leila de Lima and other members of the House committee on human rights, of which he is a member, in checking the detention cells at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday.

Ocampo, a former spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF), spent years in detention under the Marcos dictatorship and the Aquino administration, some of them at the Intelligence Service Group (ISG) in Fort Bonifacio, the Philippine Army headquarters.

“I am familiar with the place. There’s a narrow cell and a really high wall,” Ocampo said, noting the similarities between the ISAFP and ISG detention centers.

“There was a small window where they slipped my food. I also remember being blindfolded and when I had visitors, I was made to walk twice around the compound blindfolded before I can meet them,” he said.

Ocampo said Miranda and Querubin jokingly kept on making references to his own detention inside military camps during the meeting that lasted nearly three hours.

“They said I was familiar with that kind of living condition,” Ocampo chuckled.

The six officers detained at the ISAFP are: from the Marines, Major General Renato Miranda, Colonels Ariel Querubin and Orlando de Leon and Lieutenant Colonel Achilles Segumalian; and from the Scout Rangers, Lieutenant Colonel Edmundo Malabanjot and Major Jason Aquino from the Army Scout Rangers.

Ocampo said he practically shared the same experience during his detention at the ISG as Aquino, who used to be jailed there, and Army Captain Dante Langkit, who is still held at the Fort Bonifacio facility.

During the dictatorship, Ocampo spent nine months in solitary confinement.

Langkit and Aquino were also kept in solitary for months. And Ocampo said a certain Sergeant Bossi remains in solitary confinements at the ISAFP.

Ocampo said Aquino told him how, on one occasion, his blindfold was removed in front of his family.

“The impact of it was traumatizing for his wife and children,” the lawmaker said.

Ocampo described Aquino as an “outspoken and assertive” officer who believes that “his colleagues were soldiers of the people and not of Malacañang.”

The leftist solon stressed that human rights applied to all, including members of the military. He expressed support for his committee’s plan to review the Articles of War that govern the AFP.

“There could be abuse in the implementation [of the Articles of War]. The [detained]officers said there’s a need to revise it, not for them but so that their fellow soldiers would not suffer the same fate,” Ocampo said.

Asked if he gave any advice to the detained military officers, Ocampo again chuckled.

“I didn’t have to. They are a determined group,” he said.

The detainees detained at the ISAFP are among 28 facing court martial for mutiny over the alleged 2006 coup plot.

Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim is detained at police headquarters in Camp Crame along with junior officers from the Magdalo group for the November 29 occupation of the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

The rest are detained at an Army camp in Tanay town, Rizal province.

Nikko Dizon, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-06-27T09:42:02+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Fri, 27 Jun 2008 09:42:02 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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AFP chief open to review of Articles of War

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:29:00 06/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Alexander Yano said he is open to a “restudy” of the Articles of War to address “present situations.”

Yano was responding to proposals from Commission on Human Rights chair Leila de Lima, and House Committee on Human Rights head Representative Lorenzo Tañada, following an inspection earlier this of the jail cells of six military officers linked to an alleged coup plot in February 2006.

The inspection revealed alleged poor living conditions.

“I would welcome any legal way to restudy the Articles of War so that it can address present situations, but as long as no amendments are made, definitely, we have to adhere to the [Articles of War],” Yano told reporters.

Tañada said Marine Major General Renato Miranda, the highest ranked accused, had a point, when he told the Quezon representative that “it would be hard to keep a professional military establishment if the leaders of the military are given too much discretion and would be too influential.”

De Lima said the Articles of War should be “attuned to human rights standards and human rights conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory.”

Miranda is detained at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) compound in Camp Aguinaldo with five other officers — Colonels Ariel Querubin and Orlando de Leon and Lieutenant Colonel Achilles Segumalian of the Marines; and Lieutenant Colonel Edmundo Malabanjot and Major Jason Aquino of the Army Scout Rangers.

Twenty-eight officers are facing court martial for mutiny charges stemming form the alleged 2006 plot.

Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim is detained at police headquarters in Camp Crame along with junior officers of the Magdalo group for the occupation on November 29 last year of the Manila Peninsula Hotel. The rest of the accused officers are detained at an Army camp in Tanay town, Rizal province.

The 28 officers were at odds with Yano’s predecessor, retired general and now presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., over the allegedly inhumane treatment they suffered in detention, and their abrupt transfers from the Intelligence Service of the AFP compound to Camp Capinpin.

Esperon repeatedly invoked Article of War 105 or the detaining power of the commander for his actions.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-06-27T07:50:22+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Fri, 27 Jun 2008 07:50:22 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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Pesticide found inside ferry; search halted

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net, Agence France-Presse
First Posted 09:21:00 06/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Ten metric tons of highly toxic pesticides were found inside the capsized M/V Princess of the Stars, prompting authorities to halt rescue and retrieval operations, officials said.

Although the suspension has dimmed hopes of finding more survivors from the ship, operations in coastal provinces would continue as a lot of the victims had been recovered here, said Transportation undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista, who heads a government task force in charge of the search.

The ferry was carrying a container packed with insecticides when it went down, with over 800 passengers and crew, during typhoon “Frank” (international codename: Fengshen) on Saturday, Anthony Golez, spokesman for the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), said Friday.

Golez said authorities would launch legal proceedings against the ferry’s operator, Sulpicio Lines, for not informing them of the toxic cargo.

“Delikado, inabort namin ang retrieval, wala munang divers dahil sa problema ng pesticide [It’s dangerous, we aborted the retrieval, we stopped the divers because of the problem with pesticide],” Vice President Noli De Castro told a news conference at the Department of National Defense also Friday.

De Castro said the pesticide cargo belonged to Del Monte Philippines.

De Castro and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said they were trying to determine whether additional charges against Sulpicio should be filed.

There will also be an investigation into the liabilities of Del Monte and the Philippine Coast Guard, which admitted that it was not aware that the ship was carrying pesticide, De Castro and Ermita said.

Passenger vessels, like the M/V Princess of the Stars, are not allowed to carry toxic chemicals, Bautista said.

De Castro was angered by the fact that Sulpicio Lines did not inform the government that the ship was carrying pesticides even as rescue operations were in full swing.

Bautista said the government found out about the hazardous cargo only on June 24, when Del Monte wrote to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) of the Department of Agriculture, informing the agency that it had loaded 10 metric tons of Endosulfan on the ship.

The pesticide was contained in plastic bags tied only with twister wires, and enclosed in a 40-foot carton. It is in the cargo compartment of the stern, the part of the ship that had been submerged deepest, Bautista said.

While it is a controlled substance, Endosulfan is not banned in the country. It is used by Del Monte to control mites that cause pink discoloration in pineapples, De Castro said.

Asked if charges were being prepared against Sulpicio Lines over the loading of the pesticide, De Castro said: “Of course, pinaghahandaan na namin [we are preparing].”

“Siguro ang unang mapupugutan ng ulo dito [Maybe the first ones to be beheaded here] are Marina [Maritime Industry Authority] and Coast
Guard,” he said.

But Health Secretary Francisco Duque said there were “no observable signs of contamination” from the pesticide, such as fish kill.

When asked however what could happen if all of the 10 metric tons of pesticide would spill into sea, Dr. Lyn Panganiban of the University of the Philippines Toxicology Department, said, “It can be a catastrophe. It is a highly hazardous and toxic chemical.”

Endosulfan can kill humans, with a ratio of 0.8 to eight milligrams per one kilo. Someone weighing 50 kilos for example, could be poisoned by 400 milligrams (50 kilos x eight milligrams) of the pesticide, said Panganiban of UP’s National Poison Management and Control Center.

The substance, which is in flake powder form, does not dissolve easily in water, but could break up and settle on the ocean floor. There are no immediate signs that the poison has spilled, Panganiban said.

Asked if the halt to rescue operations has dimmed hopes for survivors, Bautista said in Filipino: “I think that’s where we’re headed.”

Bautista said foreign and local divers, suited in protective gear, would examine the vessel again on Saturday to determine how the pesticide could be retrieved.

Divers who had been searching the ferry for four days and the bodies that had been recovered would be examined for possible exposure to the poison, she said.

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002008-06-27T06:57:44+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Fri, 27 Jun 2008 06:57:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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