Archive for the ‘military’ Category

Life on a balance: hostages can’t rely on the government for help?

April 1, 2009

For more than two months , Filipinos were asked to wait for the rescue of the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers, but it appears nothing tangible has come out of the attempts to free the hostages

Ramon Casiple, director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform says the government is handling the hostage crisis badly. He speaks of “bumbling” and the lack of cohesive plan to rescue the hostages that even the military admits.

“A disgusted Marines officer hit the government for its alleged weakness in handling the hostage crisis and choosing negotiations over the military option. He said the military stands to get the blame if something bad happens to the hostages.”—Malaya (04/02/09, Reyes, V)

After a skirmish that claimed the life of 3 soldiers and wounded 19 more, the rescue of Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter, and Italian Eugenio Vagni from the hideous Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bandits have met a perilous impasse. No reliable word about their fates are known after the deadline on Tuesday, March 31, 2009. The Abu Sayyaf extremists’ demand that government military personnel leave the area has not been met.

Now, it is a fearful wait and see. Filipinos are told the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers are cordoning the forest where the hostages and their kidnappers are holed. Is it a preparation to attack the Abu Sayyaf’s position and free the hostages?

Those who know what transpired in the deaths of hostages Guillermo Sobero, Deborah Yap, and Martin Burnham can only hope for the best. The innocent humanitarian ICRC workers don’t merit the inhuman treatment from Abu Sayyaf. So too are the unnamed captives who languish in the bandit’s lair. The government rescue plan, branded as inutile, must do better to save them. (Photo Credit: Charlie Saceda x 2) =0=

UPDATE: Apri 2, 2009 reports suggest that the kidnappers have abandoned their position and splintered into groups in anticipation for a rescue operation. The condition of the three ICRC kidnapped victims are so far unknown.

RELATED BLOGS: “Abu Sayyaf extremists warn of beheading ICRC captives” Posted by mesiamd at 3/31/2009; “Hostage takers now demand $10 million ransom” Posted by mesiamd at 2/09/2009

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Fighting between government troops versus Abu Sayyaf kidnappers brings 6 dead

March 17, 2009

After unsuccessful negotiations to free the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC,) humanitarian workers who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, Philippines, a firefight erupted between the rebels and government forces bringing death to at least 3 kidnappers and 3 military men and hurting at least 19 soldiers. Albader Parad, the leader of the notorious kidnappers with links to Al-Qaeda was suspected to have been wounded in the gunfight.

The bloody encountry was sparked by armed Abu Sayyaf bandits who tried to cross the cordon set in the area by government forces.

Airing concern that the hostages— Swiss Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni must not be harmed, the head of ICRC Southeast Asia-Pacific operations Alain Aeschlimann said, “”Their safety is paramount. We repeat our call that no action should be taken that could put (their lives) in danger,”—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/17/09, Gomez, J)

The kidnapped victims have been held since January 2009 by the Islamic extremists who seek the withdrawal of government troops from the area and insinuate on a payment of P50 million ransom. =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Abu Sayyaf kidnappers asks for P50 milllion ransom for ICRC workers” Posted by mesiamd at 3/12/2009

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Fighting between government troops versus Abu Sayyaf kidnappers brings 6 dead

March 17, 2009

After unsuccessful negotiations to free the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC,) humanitarian workers who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, Philippines, a firefight erupted between the rebels and government forces bringing death to at least 3 kidnappers and 3 military men and hurting at least 19 soldiers. Albader Parad, the leader of the notorious kidnappers with links to Al-Qaeda was suspected to have been wounded in the gunfight.

The bloody encountry was sparked by armed Abu Sayyaf bandits who tried to cross the cordon set in the area by government forces.

Airing concern that the hostages— Swiss Andreas Notter, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni must not be harmed, the head of ICRC Southeast Asia-Pacific operations Alain Aeschlimann said, “”Their safety is paramount. We repeat our call that no action should be taken that could put (their lives) in danger,”—-Yahoo News/ AP (03/17/09, Gomez, J)

The kidnapped victims have been held since January 2009 by the Islamic extremists who seek the withdrawal of government troops from the area and insinuate on a payment of P50 million ransom. =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Abu Sayyaf kidnappers asks for P50 milllion ransom for ICRC workers” Posted by mesiamd at 3/12/2009

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After a protracted news blackout, an announcement that the Army is ready to storm the kidnappers’ lair?

March 2, 2009

Since the three (3) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) humanitarian workers where snatched in Jolo, Sulu by Muslim extremists, the Philippine military was clear in saying they were keeping a news black out to ensure that the kidnapped victims would not be harmed. Government officials thought of the safety of the abducted workers on the hands of their captors.

They made the people understand the delicate balance they had to do in securing the freedom of the abducted civilians. Undoubtedly, the victims’ families and the ICRC officials understood the wisdom of keeping quiet. Giving ransom wasn’t part of the plan.

The ICRC staff — Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Filipina Mary-Jean Lacaba — were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf extremists on January 15… Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres on Monday said the kidnappers had not made any “clear demands” although previous Abu Sayyaf kidnappings involved millions of dollars in ransom. “We are keeping the pressure in the area but we have not yet conducted an actual rescue,” Torres told reporters. “Our troops are there but there has not been any assault. They are on standby.”—-Inquirer/AFP (03/02/09)

After more than a month of silent negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, Agence France-Presse (03/02/09) reported that the military is surrounding the positions of the Islamic militants in preparation for a rescue as told by Pres. spokesman Cerge Remonde in Malacanang. Troops are said to be getting ready to confront the kidnappers who are believed to have ties with the notorious Jemaah Islamiya (JI), a Moslem terrorist group operating in neighboring Indonesia.

Perhaps, exasperated by the kidnappers’ demand that the military must pull out of the area, Malacanang and the army have a change of mind. The captives have sent word of their suffering in the hinterlands of Mindanao. But why will the government and its military announce to the whole world that they are planning an attack? Are they planting confusing leads? Is it the most logical thing to do? Are they sure they have learned from the lessons of the past where a forcible rescue and too much talk led to the deaths of the kidnapped victims? Go figure. Announcing plans to the terrorists may not the best thing to do. (Photo Credit: Alvin Chan)=0=

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Abu Sayyaf kidnapped victims appeal for help; their fates still in limbo

February 5, 2009

Three weeks after the three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were abducted while doing humanitarian work for Sulu prisoners in Southern Philippines, they sent an appeal to the world, particularly the local authorities to work on their release. The Abu Sayyaf Islamic group with Al Qaeda ties had been holding them in an undisclosed forested location while demanding that the military with a force of about 1,000 soldiers pull out from the area.

“Please try to… deal with them, try to find a way to pull us out,” Eugenio Vagni, the 62-year-old engineer, said in an interview aired by a local radio. “We call on concerned authorities to choose to negotiate with the group, to negotiate and we hope that they will take this effort seriously,” said Swiss Andreas Notter, 38, the head of ICRC team abducted in Jolo island on Jan. 15 after a prison sanitation project inspection.—-GMA News.tv / Xinhua (02/05/09)

The initial maneuvers to secure their freedom have not worked. Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba are reportedly treated “well,” but this doesn’t guarantee that this situation will hold until a happy end.

The public reception of the abduction is tepid; there’s practically no outrage from Filipinos and people abroad who have been numbed by banditry in this location. Military officers pin on secrecy and news black out “to protect the safety” of the abducted victims. Behind the scene however, there are those who question the competency of the government in handling the hostage situation. The US embassy in Manila has offered their help and ICRC officials mulls on how the three victims could be rescued.

The longer the abducted workers are held, the public sees clearly the brutality and evil terrorism inflicts on the world. The Abu Sayyaf militants speak of “guest treatment,” on their victims, but it won’t be long when their real motivation comes to light. Nobody will be surprised if ransom, intimidation, and physical harm become the center piece of their familiar modus operandi. (Photo Credit: JezICRCGeneva; Charlie Salceda)=0=

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90% of RP crimes are solved in less than 1 year: a lie that can make you cry?

December 19, 2008

When I read that Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Versoza on Thursday announced that about 90% of crimes in the country had been solved in less than year, I thought it was a typo error. But I made sure I was not reading it wrong.

In a press conference after a closed door command conference with key PNP officials, Verzosa said that of the 62,148 crime incidents reported in 11 months, 89.43 percent have been solved.”—-Inquirer, (12/17/08, Kwok, A)

I was convinced that this is inconsistent to the crime profile of the country that I know. What does “solving a crime” mean to the PNP director? What are the “crime incidents” is he referring to? In my book solving a crime means investigating a case, recognizing the criminal, ascertaining his complicity, bringing him to court, having him serve jail time if guilty, and rehabilitating him to be a responsible citizen before he is released from jail. The process definitely takes longer than a year.

The PNP director is probably lying. I couldn’t comprehend how a top government official has that gall to misinform the public at the expense of himself, the military, and the country. The motto of the police is service, honor and justice. Is he the corruption that has run wild in the military service?

HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES IN THE PHILIPPINES

One can discern the hard reality from personal experience or by doing a little reading. Many crimes go unreported. I know there are many journalists being killed without resolution of their cases. They are part of a large group of crime victims that range from a gamut of circumstances—from simple robbery to mass murder. The US State Department report on the human rights record of the Philippines in 2006, had the following was reported:

“During the year there were a number of arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors. Many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases.

Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed and procedures were prolonged. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions.

Corruption was a problem in all the institutions making up the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutorial, and judicial organs. During a brief “state of emergency” in February, there was some attempted interference in freedom of the press and in the right of assembly.

In addition to the killings mentioned above, leftwing and human rights activists were often subject to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women and abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common.” http://www.state.gov/ (US State Department) Philippines: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2006 Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (03/06/07)

77% OF PRISONERS ARE VICTIMS OF JUDICIAL ERROR

The report about prisoners in the Philippines is telling. Raymond Narag, a law student served 7 years in detention for murder which he never committed. He later worked as consultant on prison reform in the Philippine Supreme Court (SC.) According to him, 3 out of 4 prisoners (77%) in the Philippines are victims of judicial error. The average pre-sentencing detention is 3.2 years. Jailbirds are forced to plead guilty to escape hardships in detention in favor of being in the National Penitentiary where the conditions are better.

“Inmates are dying in our city jails at an alarming rate. They are suffering from boils, tuberculosis, chicken pox and other simple but highly communicable diseases. In the Quezon City Jail alone, there are two to five deaths per month. The sad fact is that they are dying before being sentenced.” —Raymond Narag

Quezon City Jail was built for only 815 detainees. Now, it houses about 3,400 inmates. This means that each prisoner has 0.28 sq2 m of living space which is way below the 3 sq2 m per person the United Nations considers the minimum standard for the treatment of prisoners.” —PIME; http://www.asia.news.it (10/22/04, Evangelista, S)

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I have no reason to believe that the data above have drastically changed for the better this year. I haven’t heard of any evidence to the contrary. Instead, I recall my dead brother Henry who died from vehicular injuries without retribution on those who sold fake drugs that caused his demise. He was left in Naga City jail for hours without medical attention on a wrong assumption that his stupor was due to drunkenness, not from the brain damage from his injury. At least one doctor in Bicol Medical Center was complicit in peddling the counterfeit medicine.

I remember my friend’s mom, a widow who was stabbed by a robber while walking home after a day’s work in a Quezon City bakery. The sole witness of her slay was himself a victim of unsolved political disappearance, a case unrelated to the murder. My first cousin Orly was killed in a traffic accident in Manila by a hit-and-run driver. No one went to jail for these crimes. They were among at least 10 people I knew who died; their cases remained cold for more than a decade. I don’t know of a single heinous crime in the Philippines that had been solved. So can you see why I don’t believe General Versoza? How about you?(Photo Credits: http://www.bardu.net; ronaldhackson; http://www.bardu.net; planetradio; planetradio; ace_kupal)

RELATED BLOGS: “Journalist killings continue” Posted by mesiamd at 12/09/08; ” Another gruesome journalist’s slay” Posted by mesiamd at 11/17/2008; “When they start telling us we’re unworthy of help” Posted by mesiamd at 12/16/2008; ” On Philippine Corruption And Our Being Inure To It” Posted by myty555 at 12/16/2008; “Rising Road Accidents” Posted by mesiamd at 10/27/2008

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For 45,000 Euros, a Fabulous Watch for a Fabulous Filipino in the "Euro Generals Scandal"

November 15, 2008

I laughed away my incredulity when Tyrone Ng Arejola, 35, a rich friend of retired Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Gen. Eliseo de la Paz testified in the senate hearing on the “Euro General Scandal.” Arejola explained that of the 105,000 euros (6.9 million pesos) confiscated by Russian authorities from Gen. de la Paz last month, 45,000 euros was his. The high-flying wealthy Filipino businessman with unusual liking for gem time pieces said the money was his payment for a watch worth P2.9 million to be bought in Europe— something Filipinos (myself included) find incredible.

I’m bewildered by Arejola’s exquisite interest for jewelry watches. As a long-time resident in America, it’s the first time I hear of such fabulous chronometers like “Roger Dubuis Bi Retro” or an “IWC Portuguese Chronowatch,” the time pieces Arejola loves.

I live close to the jewelry district of New York and I have often walked passed jewelry watches on glass displays. In the last 20 years, I never owned a wristwatch or dream of owning one. But I understand its necessiy—not the costly time pieces which one needs to cover with an insurance or guard against theft with dear life. For checking time, I only rely on my simple cell phone which works just as well.

My ignorance about luxury time pieces is magnified knowing I learn about them from kababayans in Manila who’re at the center of a hideous money-laundering scandal. Life can really be paradoxical sometimes, says my doctor-friend-colleague who learned about Arejola who lives in affluence within a society beset with grinding poverty.

Arejola, an avowed “born-again Christian” like de la Paz, can possibly afford such expensive European watches whose names twist my tongue. Yet, I wonder why he asked the PNP officer to illegally carry his money in a foreign travel to pay for them. It’s the 21st century. Why can’t he use modernity’s regular perks like a money transfer, a credit card, or a bank remittance?

(Noveau?) rich Filipinos like Arejola make me forget the country is poor. At that price of 45,000 euros, the watch is surely tops at the end of the price scale. Who can fault humility and hubris coming together? It’s the same thought that may have crossed Sen. Manuel Roxas’ mind when he directed his quizzical comment to Arejola in the senate meeting:

So 45,000 euros…Parang ang bigat suotin po nyan eh. Parang bahay na po yan. Yung akin Timex ah, $30. Personal na pera niyo yan kaya wala akong masabi (That would be quite heavy to wear. That’s like a house. My watch is a Timex, worth $30. In any case, that’s your personal money so I cannot say much),” Inquirer, (11/15/08, Kwok, A)

A question to ask Gen. de la Paz: “How can you, a law officer put your integrity in line and that of the country by agreeing to be a courier of Arejola’s money?”

In accordance to the law, every traveler has to declare money beyond $10,000 dollars, why didn’t de la Paz do it as he passed the customs? Even Filipino maids traveling for the first time in the airport know this rule by heart.

If Arejola is telling the truth, he should be decidedly affluent, but nonetheless awkwardly dirt cheap and stupid to put Gen. de la Paz and the country in hot water. He admitted that Enviroair, one of his companies, get juicy contracts from the PNP.

From here, I can only ask the reader to think and make your own theories and conclusions. I think investigators have uncovered some raunchy details of this scandal rocking the military, but they aren’t focusing on the right questions hard enough—the what, how, where and when of the 105,000 euros in the PNP officer’s possession.

It’s not so important that the Russian customs authorities have “absolved” him through some dubious diplomatic channels. The PNP officer has yet to explain, among others, why he has that huge money brought in the Interpol conference in St. Petersburg with his wife. He has to explain the illegal huge amount of money he carried abroad against conventions of international travel.

The “zarzuelas” and inanities of corrupt citizens go on in the Philippines. The people can only sigh in angst and anger thinking how many more rapacious scandals they have to endure in their lifetime. In Manila, one hears the poor street protesters yelling,“Tama na! Sobra Na!” while the PNP officers with their guns look on. =0=

PNP Gen. Eliseo de la Paz

Photo Credit: ABSNews; AP; Bullit Marquez

RELATED BLOG: “Euro Generals” from Moscow and the “zarzuela” that awaits them in Manila Posted by mesiamd at 10/21/2008

“Euro Generals” from Moscow and the “zarzuela” that awaits them in Manila

October 20, 2008


After being caught and held for illegal possession of travel money in Moscow, Russia, during the 77th Interpol Meeting in St. Petersburg, retired Gen. Eliseo de la Paz, his wife Maria Fe, and Philippine National Police (PNP) officers and their respective wives, are eagerly awaited to return home. They need to shed light to the humiliating detention they suffered stemming from the undeclared amount of P6.9 million (105,000 euros.) Airing the befuddled mind of the public, the Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago angrily declared:

I-subpoena decus tecum ko silang lahat. Ibigay nila ang mga papeles nila. Sino ang nag-authorize niyan? Ngayon kung hindi iyan duly authorized, saan nila kinuha ang pera? Saan nila kinuha ang pera para gumastos lahat ng asawa nila? Magkano ba mga sweldo nila?” Santiago told radio dzBB’s Nimfa Ravelo in an interview. GMANewsTV (10/19/08, See, AB)

The flamboyant Sen. Santiago, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, sounds funny again, but the truth of this incident rests on the questions she raises. It is a shame the PNP officers wear “service, honor & justice” on their badges not unlike the military pins of the disgraced Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia who stole incredible amounts of money from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP.)

Some of de la Paz’ defenders are saying there is nothing irregular with bringing 105,000 euros as though it is OK to carry them without customs approval. They speak of “contingency funds” that make them look more suspicious. Where did they get that much money?

If justice works well in the Philippines and corruption isn’t as rampant, this case of illegally transporting huge money abroad has all the tell-tale signs of a crime(s). Ironically, they went to that interpol conference to learn more ways of upholding laws, not of violating them. (see my related blogs entitled “Truth, not only travel briefing, is the answer versus money laundering”(10/17/2008) and “Malabong paliwanag sa bayong-bayong na pera sa airport” (10/16/2008.)

But as usual, one wonders if investigations that probe the PNP officers will just be another side diversion—a dizzying “zarzuela,” displaying the corruptive influence of money on those tasked to serve the people. There surely will be layers of alibis, legalese, and lame defenses to dodge accountability. The kid-glove treatment of erring government men in power often mocks the sensibility of the public and painfully deepens the despair of the nation. That’s why many frustrated Filipinos are cynical with regards to the outcome of cases of this nature. (Photo Credits: Ignacio Guerra; http://www.bardu.net) =0=“

Truth, not only travel briefing, is the answer versus money laundering

October 16, 2008

With the deterioration of the economy, we have learned to be frugal—- traveling abroad simply. The clothes we wear and the money we bring are scaled in terms of affordability and status. Yet there are Filipinos who insist to be flashy like the “ritzy” PNP officer who carried a “bayong” of cash to an Interpol conference in Russia.

Eliseo de la Paz, a former director and comptroller of the Philippine National Police (PNP,) traveled in style with a group of Filipino law enforcement officers in the 77th General Interpol Assemby in St. Petersburg, Russia. We didn’t know if he dressed appropriately, but he was caught bringing P6.9 million of “contingency” funds, a shameful violation of smuggling and the international money laundering law.

It was disgusting that the senior PNP law enforcer and his defenders take the incident lightly. PNP Chief Supt Nicanor Bartolome, perhaps in an attempt to dampen the corruption implications of de la Paz’ action, announced all police officers traveling abroad must undergo mandatory briefing. Did Bartolome mean de la Paz and his group didn’t have one? Wouldn’t it be routine to have pre-departure orientations for Filipinos representing the Philippines abroad?

If Bartolome’s travel orientation’s goal is to educate us about the money laundering law which allows less than $10,000 of undeclared cash during travel, his plan is practically useless. It is a duplication of what is routinely done in international airports, airplanes, and customs offices.

Everybody knows, before reaching the port of entry, flight attendants bring in forms to make sure passengers don’t commit the error of breaking the law. In the customs, passports and money declaration documents are rechecked. There is absolutely no chance that de la Paz wouldn’t know this simple travel procedure, especially if it regards to concealing huge sums of money.

De la Paz brought P6.9 million in cash way beyond what was legally allowed. A retiree from PNP service, he and his wife must not even be part of the Interpol meeting in the first place. But they were there for a reason the public must know, held by Russian authorities that their counterparts in Manila wanted to pass like a fart.

If Bartolome wants to conceal this ignominious incident under the rug as most military men do for their comrades, why doesn’t he dig into the truth about de la Paz’ P4.5 million. The PNP officer claims he brings “personal” money in a conference. What will he do with that mind-boggling sum and how did he acquire it?

Bartolome asks why the Russian authorities didn’t catch de la Paz early on. But aren’t foreign delegates of meetings accorded respect and nothing like this is imagined to happen in St. Petersburg?

There goes the rub. Another Filipino official has disgraced himself and put the name of the nation in the sewers. Alibis, cheating, and corruption have been so entrenched among our officials. Who then will believe us if we are like this? (Photo Credits: Christian Science Monitor/Bennett; Banyuhay)=0=

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Parallels in the US and Philippine Presidential Elections

“If some think we have reached the pits in our standard for electing national leaders, they better observe what is happening in the US elections. We may be “shallow” and immature as an electorate but the current US electoral pool won’t have the right to sneer at us come 2010 (if ever elections are held at all).”—MyTy (10/17/08) (Photo Credit: MarkBerry)

Mindanao War: "humanity hanging on the cross of iron"

September 2, 2008




Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”—Dwight Eisenhower (April 16, 1953.) Photo Credit: Joe Galvez.