Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Visiting Forces Agreement with US beneficial to Philippines: official


MANILA, Jan. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo Monday defended the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States as still beneficial to the Philippines despite calls to abrogate it after the American government refused to turn over four US marines charged with raping a Filipino woman to the Philippines.

"The VFA is mutually beneficial and strengthens the Philippine-US security relationship through military assistance, advice and training," Romulo said in a statement.

He said that while the DFA respects the views of the members of the Senate and the House, which recently approved a concurrent resolution terminating the VFA, the agreement is still vital to the interests of the country.

The VFA is a bilateral defense pact between Manila and Washington that allows regular joint military exercises in the country.

It will be submitted first to both chambers of Congress for concurrence before it could be transmitted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for approval.

Once approved by the president, the VFA will remain in force until the expiration of 180 days or six months from the date on which Manila gives Washington notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement, he disclosed.

"I wish to reiterate the importance the Philippines gives to the VFA, particularly to the capacity-building efforts of our armed forces," Romulo said, adding, "we respect the position of Congress on this issue. And we will pursue the diplomatic track inaddressing this issue as other countries have done in similar situations."

On the issue of custody, Romulo said that dialogue and diplomacy will continue to address the case, in which the four US marines were accused of raping the 22-year-old Filipina on Nov. 1 in Subic Bay.

However, the US government has officially rejected the Philippines' request to transfer the accused to the Philippine authorities citing the VFA provision that primary custody resides with the United States.

"There are valuable lessons to be learned not only on how strongly other countries feel on the issue of custody, but also onhow they addressed this issue. Through dialogue and diplomacy, they negotiated common understandings on definitions, concepts andprocedures relating to their agreements with the United States," Romulo said. Enditem

Irate workers rap contractors, BCDA over delayed wages

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project may suffer delay as workers in the project filed a suit against the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and its contractors for alleged non-payment and underpayment of their wages.

In two separate suits filed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Region 3, several workers of William Tan Construction claimed that the company has not paid their wages since December.

Named respondents were the BCDA, Obayashi Corp., and William Tan Construction.

Enrico Lainez, lawyer for the complainants, said that the malpractices of the contractor should not be allowed to jeopardize the priority project of the administration.

"After the efforts of various government agencies to put together a project that will jumpstart the economic development in the area, it is unfortunate that unscrupulous contractors should endanger its completion because of their failure to pay what is due the workers," Lainez noted.

He said some workers have raised the wisdom of farming out or subcontacting to companies whose capitalization, as shown by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) records, is grossly disproportionate to the value of the multibillion project.

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, a four-lane 94-km highway connecting the two former US bases, is a priority project of the Arroyo administration.

It will run from Subic Bay in Zambales all the way to the 6,400-hectare Hacienta Luisita in Tarlac.

This expressway will serve as the major artery uniting the provinces of Central Luzon into a single economic entity, pooling its various resources and transforming the region into an international transshipment center.

This integrated developmental program is expected to create a competitive environment for Philippine business, attract investments and develop infrastructure and services that will generate sustained economic activity in Region 3.

Principal funding for the R20 billion project is provided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). Only Japanese lead contractors participated in the bidding for the construction. Obayashi Corp. was awarded the bid for the construction of the SubicClark section. Manila Bulletin

Town wants 70% share in Clark zone earnings

By Dante M. Fabian

CLARK ECOZONE -- Mabalacat town officials are now working to raise revenues through the collection of a higher percentage share on the gross incomes of locators in Sacobia Valley.

Mayor Marino Morales said the move to collect a bigger share from earnings of Clark locators is in accordance with resolutions passed recently by the Municipal Council.

He said Task Force Sacobia will be finalized soon to represent the local government in discussions with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and locators on matters related to the town's collections.

Through Resolutions 42 and 42A, the Municipal Council has expressed its intent to collect 70 percent, instead of the original 1 percent, on gross incomes earned (GIE) of Clark locators.

Over 5,600 hectares of raw lands in Sacobia Hills were included in the Clark economic zone through an executive order issued by former President Fidel V. Ramos. The lands came under the management of CDC in 1997.

Morales said that in agreeing to have the raw lands in the town used, Mabalacat officials asserted conditions to protect the rights and interests of the residents of Mabalacat and the local government.

He said town officials, after consultations with the populace, agreed to have Mabalacat lands placed under the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) upon certain conditions.

These included the right of the town to collect revenues from locators in the Sacobia Hills area, which falls within the town's jurisdiction.

Morales earlier pressed collection of taxes and fees from locators in the Clark ecozone in light of the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) last year.

However, protests raised by CDC president Antonio R. Ng prevented Mabalacat officials from pursuing their intention.

Ruperto Cruz, Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement (PGKM) chairman, earlier said they were apprehensive over what Mabalacat officials were planning to do. He said they feared that locators in the Mabalacat area would close shop and this would result in the loss of employment of 8,888 Mabalaqueño workers.

Morales said he and other town officials agreed to defer the planned collection of taxes from locators but is now supporting bills in Congress to institute tax and duty free privileges of Clark ecozone locators. (Sun.Star Pampanga/Sunnex)

Prosecutors ask court to arraign 4 US marines

By Rey E. Requejo, Manila Standaard Today

GOVERNMENT prosecutors are set to ask the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court to set the arraignment of the four American soldiers who were charged with raping a 22-year old Filipina in Nov. 1 last year.

Olongapo City Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni yesterday said he will file a motion asking Judge Renato Dilag to reverse his decision suspending the arraignment of US S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, L/Cpls. Daniel Smith, Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis until Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has resolved the motions for review submitted by the defense.

Jalandoni said Dilag has to reconsider his decision because the DoJ secretary has 60 days to resolve the motions for review, while the court has only 30 days within which to set the arraignment from the time the case is filed.

He said this situation could lead to a dangerous predicament since the prescribed period for the court to set the arraignment is running out.

Under the rules, the court has 30 days within which to set the arraignment from the time the case is filed. Arraignment allows the accused to face the complainant and to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty for the crime allegedly committed.

“The court did not fix a limit. We will try to convince the court and ask an affirmative relief that he set the arraignment even if the DoJ has not yet resolved the motions for review of the US Marines,” Jalandoni said.

“We have to follow the law. They (accused) have not filed yet a motion to defer, but the court has already decided to defer the arraignment,” Jalandoni said.

According to him, the court’s action deferring the arraignment is inconsistent with the provision of the Rules of Court calling for a speedy trial of cases.

“It is very clear that upon filing of the information in court, the court must issue an order setting the case for arraignment. It seemed that the court issued the order and did not provide for the period for the arraignment. Because of this, the case would stop already and there would be no movement,” he lamented.

He said the prosecution is coordinating with the US Naval Criminal Investigation Services and added that there was no pressure from the US to prevent the arraignment of the four accused Marines.

“What they want in this case is a fair and just hearing and to ensure justice to the victim. They don’t care whether (the accused) would all be found guilty later on. And they will be placed under the custody of the court,” Jalandoni said

DFA takes control of VFA commish — Ermita

THE new agency that will assume the role of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement will be placed under the Department of Foreign Affairs to avoid conflicting statements being issued on the treaty, Malacañang said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Executive Order abolishing the VFACom and creating a new body will be signed by the President soon. “I suppose it will be organized by the DFA, and will become another desk, like the Asean desk in the DFA.”

The VFACom is currently cochaired by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr.

However, VFACom Executive Director Zosimo Paredes, who was branded as a “loose canon” by a Malacañang official for issuing statements that contradicts those of Romulo, reports directly to the President.

Ermita said the new body will report directly to the DFA to avoid different interpretations of the controversial bilateral accord.

“Malacañang shares the sentiment that a new body has to be created. The EO will be released soon. There’s a time for everything.” Ermita said.

Earlier, Paredes told Standard Today that the abolition of his office is part of the government’s plan to abrogate from the treaty after several lawmakers asked Malacañang to issue a notice of termination to United States authorities in Manila.

Paredes said the bilateral accord, which has been put to the test with the ongoing trial of four US marines accused of raping a 22-year old Filipina in Subic on Nov. 1, is next to go.

Because of a provision in the VFA, the arrest warrants for the four accused rapists were preempted by the US embassy by issuing a note verbale reiterating their custody over the Marines. Joyce Pangco Pañares - Manila Standard

Former Acer to invest additional P43.4M in Subic

By Marianne V. Go, The Philippine Star

Wistron Infocomm (Phils.) Corp. (formerly Acer) is investing an additional P43.356 million to establish a new testing and service facility in Subic.

Wistron already manufactures computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and computer motherboards in Subic.

It has sought and gotten approval from the Board of Investments (BOI) to register on a pioneer status its new testing and service facility for the electronics industry.

The new testing and service facility will be located in Wistron’s existing plant at the Subic Bay Industrial Park Phase 1 at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales.

The new activity will hire 158 additonal employees.

Wistron’s new testing and service facility will do repairs, refurbishment, remanufacture of defective company and non-company made products.

Under the 2005 Investments Priorities Plan (IPP), the establishment and operation of centers of excellence, test and other service facilities catering to the elctronics industry is classified as a preferred activity.

Wistron is a 100 percent Taiwanese-owned electronics firm that has been operating in Subic since 1995.

In fact Winstron is one of the Subic Bay Freeport’s biggest investor and export earner.

Prosecutor wants judge to reconsider order

The Manila Times Reporter
Olongapo Chief Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni will ask Judge Renato Dilag of the Olongapo Regional Trial Court to reconsider an earlier order deferring the arraignment of the four US Marines charged with raping a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic.
Jalandoni said he will appeal the ruling on Wednesday because it might cause confusion on what would be the reckoning period under the Visiting Forces Agreement of the one-year prescription of the prosecution of accused Americans.
Jalandoni sees no need to wait for the resolution of the petition for review filed by Keith Silkwood, Dominic Duplantis, Daniel Smith and Chad Carpentier before they are arraigned. He fears that the country may not meet the one-year deadline if the arraignment is deferred to give time for the petitions’ outcomes.
"We know that the counting will start on the arraignment, but what if the US government has another interpretation, such as that the countdown will start once the case is filed in court?" Jalandoni pointed out.
He said that it could cause a debate if the one-year period shall start from the filing of the case in court or from the time of arraignment. Justice Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez has opined that it shall start from the time of arraignment.
Judge Dilag, in an order issued last week, said he would wait until the Department of Justice resolved the petition for review filed by the four Marines. The justice department has 60 days to resolve the petition by which the arraignment will remain suspended.
On the other hand, if the 60-day period has lapsed and the Marines haven’t been arraigned, Dilag said he would go ahead with the arraignment.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Subik! Subik! Festival

On February 11, 2006, thousands of merrymakers will come to Olongapo City and Subic Bay Freeport to experience the first ever staging of the annual Subik! Subik! Festival.

The Subik! Subik! Festival is a celebration spearheaded by the Greater Subic Bay Tourism Bureau (GSBTB). It marks the symbolic union of Bataan, Olongapo City, Subic Bay Freeport, and Zambales for the purpose of keeping true to its promise of being “your vacation haven next door” and uplifting the state of tourism in the four areas. The parade, which will commence at 4pm on Feb 11, 2006, will start at the Marikit Park in Olongapo City and will finish at the Subic Boardwalk, where a grand party that will last all night long will be held.

Your participation in the Subik! So Big! Grand Parade is crucial to the success of the Subik! Subik! Festival. If we show the travel trade and the international tourism community just how big Subik is, everyone will reap the benefits of a bigger tourism industry in Subik. The celebration – and the benefits - can only get bigger and bigger every year!

We invite you to be part of the success of Subik! and use your creativity and imagination in creating additional marketing impact. Major tri-media companies will be covering this event.

Be a part of the parade and show everyone how your presence makes Subik! the biggest thing to happen in the Philippine tourism industry!


Please contact the following area representatives to confirm your participation on or before January 31, 2006:
Subic Bay - Patrick Escusa 252-4829 0917-5122502
Olongapo City - Diane Marty 222-8432 0917-9771474
Bataan - Cesar Cuayson 237-4785 0906-3600345
Zambales - Kay Salumbides 811-7216 0918-9341380

Gordon: Modern polls first before Charter change

By PATRICIA ESTEVES The Manila Times Reporter

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, on Sunday urged the government to modernize the Commission on Elections as a priority before starting the debate on Charter change.

Gordon said the present political crisis in the country stems from problems in the electoral system.

"A number of elections that we’ve had have been punctuated with allegations of cheating. Some of these charges even went to court and we have seen how some went as far as demanding for the recount of votes that took years to finish. It is high time we resolve this concern," Gordon said.

The second Senate hearing on the discussion of Charter change is scheduled for Monday. In the previous hearing, senators asserted their authority to vote separately on Charter change.

Gordon was hopeful that the heads of government agencies who will attend the discussion would see the urgent need to modernize election in time for the 2007 national polls.

"There are numerous attempts to push for Charter change which they perceive as the solution for the various political issues that we are confronting, but the truth is that this does not and will not fix the problem," Gordon said.

"Reforming the COMELEC and the electoral system is a key condition to Charter change."

He said the country could learn its lesson from India and the US, which have automated systems in tabulating votes.

He noted that India’s recent election, where 600 million cast their votes, was finished in two days.

The US, on the other hand, has used a machine that employs a touch-screen for those who cannot write, and which shuts down at the end of the day.

"There is no reason why we cannot adopt these technologies. With minimal human intervention in counting and canvassing and speedy transmission of election results, we can eliminate the doubt that always hangs over every election exercise in this country," Gordon said.

Clarkfield is booming

CLARKFIELD, Pampanga — Heavy arrivals of foreign tourists here since last month has caught Clark Development Corporation (CDC) officials by surprise.

Victor Jose I. Luciano, CDC executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) said "since the start of this year international arrivals, mostly casino players, nature trippers to Mt. Pinatubo and golfers dominated by Koreans, has continued without letup, creating shortage of hotel accommodations."

He said the CDC, a quasi-government agency mandated by law to manage this former huge US military airbase now converted into special economic and tourist zone, "is expediting the completion of two new hotels in Clark with a total of new 500 rooms. Slated to be inaugurated this March is the Ruffles Hotel with 300 rooms, while the other one, the Fort Stotsenberg Hotel with 200 rooms, will be opened this coming June."

He said right now the Holiday Inn Clark has 303 rooms and 32 villas, while Mimosa has 99 villas, or a total of 700 rooms inside Clark.

Luciano said to meet the strong demand for hotel rooms, the CDC is planning to refurbish old airbase buildings to be converted into dormitories for rent at R500 to R700 per night for domestic tourists.

Luciano said as of December 2004, Clark has only five international flights a week. But in January this year it increased to 42 flights a week, including UPS which has 10 flights nightly.

Foreign airlines flying to Clark today are: Asiana Airlines from Incheon, Korea; Air Asia Berhad from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia; Tiger Airways from Singapore to Clark; China Rich Airways from Hong Kong to Clark. All flies both ways.

Domestic airlines that fly to Clark include: Seair flies from Clark to Manila, to Cebu, and Asian Spirit from Clark to Caticlan/Boracay. Air Asia and Tiger Airways recently petitioned for more flights..

Luciano said CDC’s target this year is 72 to 75 flights per week with an average of 145 to 180 passengers per flight.

CDC chairperson Roy Navarro who joined the economic mission headed by former President Fidel V. Ramos to India invited its tourist planes like the Jet Airways to fly to Clarkfield.

According to his estimate, passengers passing through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) is now averaging 30,000 per month. "Our target for 2006 is 50,000 passengers a month or 60 percent increase," he added.

In another development, CDC recently signed an agreement for the establishment very soon of pilot training school in Clark. The school is expected to remedy the shortage of pilots not only in the Philippines but also in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, all is set for the 10th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta to be held on Feb. 9-12 at Clarkfield with 30 participants from around the globe specially from Japan and Malaysia and other foreign guests around 1,000.

Christopher P. Chuidian, marketing assistant of the CDC Marketing Department said entrance is R100. He said activities start at 5 a.m. where visitors can witness how the hot air balloons are inflated using the propane gas.

Noemi B. Garcia, officer-in-charge, CDC Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office said the RP International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is actually a competition among hot air balloon hobbyists. Competitors take off from the launching pad at Clarkfield and then they land on a target area usually in the vicinity of Porac town and the nearest to land to that target area shall be declared winner. She said the winner last year was a woman.

She said members of the audience may ride in balloon basket by paying 0 to 0 or may even get it for free if the pilot so desires.

Garcia said there will also be other aero-competitions among helicopter and light plane pilots.

Meanwhile, Lycia Marzan, CDC Tourism Officer and head of Concessionaires section invite the public to rent a booth inside Clark where they can sell their wares to an estimated 20,000 fiesta visitors.

Readers may interest to know that a big balloon soars up into the sky for a very simple reason: It is filled with a gas that is lighter than air.

Air itself is made of gases, the chief ones being oxygen and nitrogen. Certain other gases are lighter than air. One of these is helium, and that is why a balloon filled with helium rises. Hot air will also make a balloon rise because it is lighter than cold air.

You have probably heard people say that hot air rises, and so it does. In a room, the air is usually hotter near the ceiling than near the floor. Hot air rises because its gas particles are less dense. That is, they spread out; there are fewer of them in a cubic foot of space than there would be if the air were cold. This means that hot air is lighter than cold air. Manila Bulletin

North expressway is safe: tollways corporation

By Marna H. Dagumboy, Sun Star

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Officials of the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) yesterday assured the general public that the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) was built according to world-class standards, giving utmost priority to public safety.

MNTC president and chief executive officer (CEO) Jose "Ping" de Jesus issued this assurance in light of deaths resulting from three vehicular accidents that occurred on the Nlex last Wednesday at the height of a heavy downpour spawned by tropical depression Agaton.

"We offer our sympathies to the bereaved families of the fatalities knowing that life lost is irreplaceable. For this reason, we make sure that the Nlex is safe, but at the same time, we advise all motorists to be aware of the hazards of speeding beyond limits," de Jesus said.

He said most road accidents were principally caused by driver error, adding that some drivers have a tendency to maintain high speed despite the rain that drastically reduces tire traction.

"No road, no matter how perfectly built, could guarantee zero accident if the drivers themselves are not careful," de Jesus said.

He also noted that thorough investigations are being conducted regarding unfortunate incidents that killed three and 16 others were injured in a collision.

The MNTC consulting engineers and traffic enforcers launched an inquiry as Nlex traffic crews heightened patrols to alert motorists to observe safe driving and speed limits that are prominently displayed on Nlex signs.

Last Wednesday, three people died while 16 others were injured in accidents in various portions of the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex).

The fatalities were identified as Elmo dela Cruz, driver of a Genesis bus; Josephine "Josie" Congjun, wife of Subic town mayor Jeffrey Congjun; and one Jocelyn Reyes, believed to be Congjun's aide.

The MNTC reported that multiple collisions transpired along the southbound lane of the expressway on Wednesday because of slippery road conditions due to heavy rains.

The first of the smash-ups, which transpired at 2 p.m. between the exit points of Pulilan and Sta. Rita in Bulacan, triggered a chain reaction where oncoming vehicles were not able to stop in time to avoid the accident.

The accident involved a Toyota Hi-Ace van, which skidded and fell on its side as it was approaching Nlex Kilometer 39. Witnesses said the van skidded and hit the road barrier before turning turtle thrice.

A 10-wheeler truck behind the van stopped abruptly causing a Genesis bus behind it to ram into its rear followed by four other vehicles including an Isuzu Trooper and a six-wheeler truck.

Pulso ng tao ikunsidera vs VFA

Iginiit kahapon ni Sen. Manny Villar, vice chairman ng Senate committee on foreign relations, na dapat ikonsidera ang opinyon at damdamin ng taumbayan kung dapat o hindi na patuloy na kilalanin ng Pilipinas ang Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) na pinasok nito kasama ang Estados Unidos.

"Kung pagbabatayan ang resulta ng isang survey kamakailan, mukhang pabor ang taumbayan sa pagbasura sa VFA," ani Villar, pangulo ng Nationalista Party (NP), at isa sa pumapabor sa paglusaw sa VFA.

Nauna nang pinagtibay ng Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA (LOVFA) ang resolusyong inihain ni Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago na naglalayong tapusin o lusawin na ang VFA para bigyan-daan ang isang renegosasyon kung saan magiging ‘patas’ para sa Pilipinas ang mga probisyon. ABANTE

RP’s only high school with ICT curriculum gets ‘smart’

By MELVIN G. CALIMAG, Manila Bulletin

Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS), the only secondary institution in the country that has a special ICT curriculum, took a step farther in strengthening the ICT skills of its students when it formally joined last January 25 the list of beneficiaries of the Smart Schools Program.

The initiative, sponsored by Smart Communications, provides selected public high schools with a computer laboratory connected to the Internet. The PCs are donated by Smart but the Internet connection is provided for free for only a year.

OCNHS, situated in the heart of Olongapo City, has been cited for formulating an ICT curriculum that is unique throughout the country. Aside from the basic education class and special science class, the school has an ICT class that enjoys extra computer subjects not taught in the other classes.

The special program was first implemented in 2002 with an initial 40 computer units used by 65 students divided into two classes. It was then named Special Program for Computer Education but was later changed to ICT Curriculum in 2004.

The first ICT batch is now on its fourth year and is set to graduate this year, while the first year batch has grown to three classes with 40 students comprising each class, said school’s principal, Helen Aggabao.

Aggabao said she picked up the idea of creating an ICT class after undergoing training in Singapore where she was exposed to students being given extensive training in ICT-related subjects.

"When I proposed this, the regional office of DepEd (Department of Education) did not object. They just told us that as long as we don’t lessen the basic education subjects, we’re free to add special subjects for special classes," she said.

Under the program, first year ICT class are given with the additional subject on how to use productivity applications such as MS Office. On their second year, they are taught basic Web developments tools. Upon reaching third year, they are given lessons on programming such as Visual Basic. Finally, on their last year, they are taught basic networking and PC assembly.

But Aggabao said the facilities that the ICT students had to use were very limited. "The PCs would conk out and we don’t have money to replace them. The students also have to share the cable connection we had to the Internet."

The school’s inclusion in the Smart Schools Program was indeed a "blessing," Aggabao said. Now¸ the school is poised to reach greater heights with its Internet connection through Smart WiFi, the carrier’s wireless broadband service.

OCNHS joins 32 other schools nationwide that are now part of the Smart Schools Program. These include schools from as far north in Basco, Batanes (Basco National High School), and down south in Bonggao, Tawi-Tawi (Tawi-Tawi School of Arts and Trade.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Senator Richard Gordon reiterated today his call for the urgent modernization of the country’s electoral system before starting discussions on Charter Change as he emphasized that the present political crisis facing the country today “is rooted in our electoral system.”

“A number of electoral exercises that we've had have been punctuated with allegations of cheating. People always doubt the results perhaps because of colonial, presidential, and other human intervention involved in the whole electoral process Some of these charges even went up to court and we have seen how some went as far as demanding for the recount of votes which took years to finish. It is high time that we seriously and genuinely address and resolve this concern lest people will continue to question and challenge the integrity and credibility of our electoral system,” he said.

Gordon, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws which has jurisdiction on election laws, said that the second Senate hearing aimed at discussing the Philippine electoral system is scheduled tomorrow, 30 January. He expressed hope that the heads of the various government agencies who will attend the discussion will unanimously agree in the urgent need for election modernization in time for the 2007 local and national polls.

“There are numerous attempts to push for Charter Change which they perceive as the solution for the various political issues that we are confronting but the truth is that this does not and will not fix the problem,” pronounced Gordon adding that, “the electoral system is the basic foundation of a functional democracy. Reforming COMELEC and the electoral system is a condition sine qua non to charter change.”

Since after his visit to India late last year to speak at the World Economic Forum in New Delhi, Gordon has repeatedly pronounced that the Philippines should seriously look into the electoral system of the said South Asian country which he praised for having fast and efficient counting of electoral ballots.

Gordon said India’s elections, participated in by more than 600 million voters, are known and finalized within just about two days. He also cited the voting system in the United States which utilizes a machine that employs a touch-screen, for those who cannot write, and which automatically shuts down at the end of the day.

“There is no reason why we cannot adopt these technologies. With minimal human intervention in counting and canvassing, and speedy transmission of election results, we can eliminate the doubt that always hangs over every election exercise in this country,” Gordon said adding, “our goal is simple: fast, clean, and honest elections. For that we need a modernized electoral system that guarantees and secures the choice of the people.”

RP gov't mum over 4 U.S. Marines

THE Philippine Government has no plans yet to bring the issues surrounding the four U.S. Marines who were charged for raping a Filipina to a higher level.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis said so far, informal dialogues between the Philippines and the U.S Embassy authorities are "clear and settled."

"We have been successful in addressing issues on lower level. That's enough for us," Seguis said during a press conference.

He reiterated the U.S. authorities agreed that if found guilty, the U.S. servicemen will be surrendered to Philippine authorities and will serve their sentences in Philippine jail.

However, Seguis stressed despite the local court's order to recall of the warrant of arrest against the four soldiers, the DFA will still continue to hold talks with U.S. authorities regarding the custody of the Marines.

"As we have threshed out these issues through diplomacy and dialogue, the remaining important issue, that of the custody of the servicemen during trial, should also be settled in the spirit of mutual interest and dialogue," a statement by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo that was read by Seguis said.
Cristina Lee-Pisco JOURNAL.COM
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Reader has left a new comment on your post "RP gov't mum over 4 U.S. Marines":

I'm pretty sure nothing good (for the victim) will come out of this case. Like all the other cases involving the US military men, this will be forgotten, especially now that there's another controversy...the deadly stampede. Filipino people easily forget, esp those on top.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Judge junks plea to inhibit self from Subic rape case

By Tetch Torres, INQ7.net

OLONGAPO City Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Dilag has refused to inhibit himself from the Subic rape case following a complaint from one of the accused American soldiers that he has prejudged the case.

Dilag on Thursday denied the motion filed by the Filipino lawyer of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith “for lack of merit."

Smith was charged before the Olongapo court with raping a 22-year-old Filipino woman on November 1 inside a van at Subic Bay, as three fellow US soldiers cheered him on.

In his motion, Smith said Dilag had prejudged the case based on the media statements the judge made immediately after the case was raffled off to his courtroom.?

This prompted the defense lawyer to seek to stop Dilag from making further statements to the press, which the judge also denied.

Dilag said some media reports misquoted him or took him out of context.

Smith, together with Lance Corporal Keith Silkwood, Lance Corporal Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier, joined last year’s counterterrorism exercises in Subic, a former American naval base northwest of Mania.

Dilag earlier issued arrest warrants against the four soldiers, only to withdraw them Thursday following US government’s continued refusal to hand over the accused soldiers to Philippine custody.

The rape case is seen as a black mark on US military exercises that have been credited with helping to weaken Al-Qaeda-linked extremists in the southern Philippines.??The Marines were on liberty after the joint maneuvers with Filipino troops when the alleged rape took place. With The Associated Press

Subic Freeport Remits US$64 MLN in Revenue Collections

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Jan 25 Asia Pulse - Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) remitted to the national treasury, a total of P3.4 billion (US$64.3 million) in revenues derived from tax collections in 2005.

Year-end reports of the two collection agencies here have indicated that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected P951 million, while the Bureau of Customs (BoC) raised P2.5 billion in cash collections.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)chairman Feliciano G. Salonga said the P3.4 billion revenues collected were 12 per cent higher than last year's collection.

"This is really an indication that business activities here are indeed starting to roll again, and as we expect more investments to come in this year. Hopefully we could contribute more than that to the national government," Salonga said .

SBMA administrator Armand C. Arreza said SBMA is very keen on attracting more investors to locate in Subic freeport to be able to generate more revenues to support the governments various development programs as well as create more employment opportunities for residents of nearby communities.

From January to December of 2005, BIR in Subic posted total collections of P951 million, 27 per cent higher than 2004 level. ADVERTISEMENT

Subic Bay Revenue District Officer Edgar Tolentino explained that amount includes P903-million worth of income tax remittances of about 59,764 Freeport workers and 5,000 employees of the SBMA and its subsidiary Freeport Service Corporation (FSC), and the five per cent tax on gross income, as well as the withholding taxes from Freeport enterprises.

Meanwhile, Port of Subic Customs Collector Andres Salvacion reported that the BOC posted revenues amounting to P2.5 billion, which is seven per cent more than 2004s P2.3 billion. The collection came from domestic and foreign ship calls, transshipment operations and the taxes and duties paid for by the Freeport investors including importation of oil, motor vehicles, and other general merchandise, and operational taxes and duties collected from courier giant, Federal Express (FedEx).

Aside from the cash collections, some P1.9-billion worth of non-cash collection was recorded from the importations of National Food Authority (NFA) products, and the construction equipment and materials imported by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). (PNA)

Palace: VFA agency boss a loose cannon

PALACE sources yesterday portrayed Executive Director Zosimo Paredes of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement as a loose cannon who embarrassed the government and misled the media.

“Paredes never should have held himself out as the spokesman of the VFACom or Malacañang regarding the VFA,” a Palace official told Standard Today. “His statements have caused a lot of embarrassment to the Palace and to the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

During budget hearings last Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told the Senate he has ordered Paredes to stop issuing statements about VFA or the case in which four US servicemen are accused of raping a Filipina in Subic.

Romulo has also advised the US embassy in Manila to ignore Paredes and his statements.

“Paredes’ acts were unauthorized,” the Palace insider said. “He deliberately misled the media to believe that his statements were binding on the VFACom or on Malacañang.”

The Palace’s remarks disowning Paredes came as anger mounted over Judge Renato Dilag’s decision to recall warrants of arrest issued to the four US marines.

Dilag withdrew the warrants after Washington refused to turn the suspects over to Philippine authorities, saying they had a right to do so under the terms of VFA.

Dilag defended his action by saying VFA is “part of the law of the land” that had been signed by the government and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the case, the North Cotabato provincial board yesterday withdrew its invitation to a small group of US troops taking part in the ongoing joint military exercises with the Armed Forces in Mindanao.

North Cotabato Gov. Manuel Piñol and his provincial board urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to immediately suspend the one-month exercise that began in the province in mid-January unless the four accused were placed in Philippine custody.

Earlier, the legislative oversight committee on VFA approved a concurrent resolution urging the President to terminate the treaty and renegotiate its terms.

Romulo, however, rejected this call, saying that VFA is “mutually beneficial” and that it strengthens the security relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

Administration officials, he said, “understand and respect the intensity of the sentiments of some members of Philippine society on this issue.” But he said he also respected the judge’s ruling and insisted that “the wheels of Philippine justice are turning, in full compliance with the law.”

A DFA official said the department is continuing to negotiate with the US embassy in Manila over custody, but rejected a proposal from an administration senator that the President take the case to US President George W. Bush.

“We’ve been successful in addressing the issue so there’s no reason why we should do that as of now,” said Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis.

Seguis, who heads the DFA panel negotiating with the US embassy, did not say how his team has been successful.

The four suspects — Daniel Smith, Chad Carpentier, Dominic Duplantis and Keith Silkwood — continue to be in American custody in the US embassy.

Prosecutors in Olongapo City, meanwhile, appealed a decision by Dilag to throw out the complaint against the driver of the van in which the rape was alleged to have occurred.

Prosecutors wanted Timoteo Soriano Jr. charged as a coconspirator after he recanted on his earlier testimony that the four marines had raped the woman inside the van.

Dilag, however, said his inclusion in the case appeared to be an afterthought and dropped him from the case.

City Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni, however, said the judge had arrogated upon himself the power that rightfully belongs to the prosecution. “We believe, your honor, that in so doing, the court has abused its discretion to the extent that the court lacks jurisdiction in discharging the accused Timoteo Soriano.”

In an interview, Dilag said he would schedule the arraignment of the rape case after the 60-day maximum period in which the justice department has to resolve petitions for review filed by the accused. Malou Dungog, Ferdinand Fabella, Manila Standard with AFP

Rape case to go ahead–Romulo

By Jonathan Vicente, Manila Times Reporter

The case against the four United States Marines charged with raping a Filipina will continue despite the impending abolition of the commission overseeing the Visiting Forces Agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said Friday.

Romulo said the rape is an extraordinary criminal case and is not connected with the proposed abolition of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement.

At a Senate hearing on the budget for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Romulo said President Arroyo issued an order to scrap the commission because it failed to assert the country’s interests in the case.

The commission is headed by Executive Director Zosimo Paredes. The VFA has become a contentious issue because the US has refused to turn over the four Marines to Philippine authorities. Under the agreement, the Philippines can ask for custody of any US servicemen facing charges in local courts.

The abrogation of the VFA was the cry of the left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pama­lakaya).

In a statement the group also called for the disbarment of Olongapo City Judge Renato Dilag, who is hearing the case.

The leaders of Pamalakaya urged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to disbar Dilag, who on Thursday recalled the warrants for the arrest of Staff Sgt. Chad Brian Carpentier, Lance Corporals Daniel Smith, Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis.

The four are charged with raping a 22-year-old Filipina inside the Subic Bay Freeport on All Saints’ Day.

Calling Dilag a modern-day Judas and a traitor to national sovereignty and public interest, Pamalakaya said the IBP should disown him for paving the way of the “walk-in-the-park” escape of the four Marines.

Dilag “does not deserve the respect of any decent thinking people in this country,” Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in the statement.

He said Dilag could also be held liable for violating the rule of law, the jurisprudence on criminal law, the revised code, the antigraft law and the Constitution for recalling a legitimate and sovereign act against the four US Marines implicated in the rape case.

Carpentier, Smith, Silkwood and Duplantis, who have denied the rape, have been in US custody since November 2. They took part in the VFA-sanctioned joint exercises between the US and Philippine soldiers

C. Luzon bloc supports bills on Clark ecozone tax perks

By Dante M. Fabian, SunStar

CLARK ECOZONE -- About 20 congressmen from the Central Luzon bloc are supporting the passage of two bills now pending in the House of Representatives, which grants tax amnesty and duty free incentives and privileges to locators and investors in Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) and Camp John Hay.

Sponsored by Tarlac Third District congressman Jesli Lapus, House Bill (HB) 4900 and 4901 gained the support of the 20 Central Luzon congressmen in support of the economic agenda of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for Clark ecozone, which is now being promoted as the primary growth engine in the region.

Lapus, as chairman of the Congress ways and means committee, sponsored the bills in order to protect more than 36,000 employees in Clark that may be displaced due to investors' pullout.

HB 4900 calls for the declaration of a one-time amnesty on tax and duty free liabilities, including fines, penalties and interests incurred by locators inside special economic zones and freeports, while HB 4901 calls for the amendments to Republic Act (RA) 7227 or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992.

Clark Development Corporation (CDC) president Antonio R. Ng expressed optimism that more congressmen will join the CL bloc in approving the ecozone tax incentives and amnesty bills to manifest their concern for the fate of employees in Clark who will lose their jobs, should government fail to honor tax incentives and duty free privileges of the investors inside the economic zone here.

"With the approval of the two House Bills, the locators and investors in Clark will be assured that the incentives being provided to them will be honored and this will prevent them from scouting other areas for their continued operations," Ng said.

A couple of weeks ago, Ng succeeded in dousing efforts of Mabalacat local government officials led by Mayor Marino "Boking" Morales and Vice Mayor Crisostomo Garbo from collecting local government taxes from investors in the Clark ecozone.

Ng said the move was premature as the Clark Investors and Locators Association (Cila) filed a motion for reconsideration, which is still pending, against the Supreme Court (SC) decision.

The explanatory note of the Lapus bill states: "As a curative legislative measure, this bill seeks to amend RA 7227, as amended, to clearly provide for incentives to investors in Clark and other special economic zones created or to be created under this law."

Lapus stressed that HB 4901 intends to extend the incentives provided for in RA 7916 to provide uniformity of perks to investors.

The SC, on July 29, ruled that RA 7227 expressly provides for the grant of incentives only to companies located inside the Subic Bay Freeport and not in Clark Ecozone, Poro Point in La Union and Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

Lapus' bill noted that the high tribunal's ruling has steered uncertainty among big investors, and expressed fear that development of special ecozones created under the RA 7227 would come to a halt as investors would locate elsewhere.

"Because this unexpected development has been perceived as suddenly changing the rules in the middle of the game, some investors have threatened to shut down operations and lay off workers, with some already contemplating to leave the country." Lapus said.

CDC public relations manager Angelo C. Lopez, Jr. said in Clark alone, there are more than 350 investors which include American firms such as giant courier United Parcel Service, Japanese tire maker Yokohama, British-owned Rolls Royce, among others. Lopez said most of the firms have expressed apprehension on the lifting of tax incentives and duty free privileges and even expressed intention to pull out and invest elsewhere should there be no remedial measures on the ruling of the SC.

The revocation of the incentives would require Clark locators to pay the normal corporate income tax rate of 32 percent instead of the preferential rate of 5 percent on gross income, and would be assessed back taxes for the number of years they have been operating in the Clark Ecozone or in Poro Point in La Union.

The House move came as a relief after American and other foreign investors called on Congress to expedite the passage of the bills to prevent firms inside Clark from transferring their operations elsewhere.

"The removal of the tax incentive under which they located and any determination of tax liability for prior periods would have serious negative consequences," American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) executive director Robert Sears said in a statement.

"It could cause these firms to reconsider their decision to invest in the Philippines, possibly leading to decisions not to expand operations or even to withdraw and relocate to other locations or depart from the Philippines."

"Not only would operations of existing investor-locators be in jeopardy, but future investors would also be deterred because of the unpredictability of fiscal incentives. The loss of real jobs and spending would be considerable, but this would be much less than the loss of the potential creation of jobs and spending."

Judge withdraws arrest warrants for 4 US Marines

MANILA (AP) – Arrest warrants against four U.S. Marines accused of raping a Filipino woman have been withdrawn because the men are now in American custody under a bilateral accord, a judge said.

The U.S. Embassy last week rejected Manila's request to take custody of the Marines, invoking a provision of the Visiting Forces Agreement giving the embassy the right to hold any American military personnel facing charges in the Philippines.

The rejection angered Philippine politicians and prompted a congressional committee to issue a resolution seeking the abrogation of the agreement, which also allows large-scale American military exercises in the country.

But Judge Renato Dilag of the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City said the Marines being held by the U.S. Embassy equated to them being held by the Philippines, noting that neither the Justice Department nor the Department of Foreign Affairs tried to serve the arrest warrants after the embassy took them into custody.

``The accused are supposed to be already under the custody of the court when they surrendered to the proper authorities - the U.S. Embassy - as called for in the VFA,'' Dilag said. ``The VFA is a treaty which is now part of the law of the land.''

Dilag also said he will set a hearing date for the four men once the Justice Department has ruled on their petition to review the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith raped a 22-year-old woman Nov. 1 inside a van at Subic Bay, a former U.S. Naval base adjacent to Olongapo, as fellow Marines cheered him on. Smith claims he only had consensual sex.

Also charged were Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier, part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

The rape case is seen as a black mark on U.S. military exercises that have been credited with helping to weaken al-Qaida-linked extremists in the southern Philippines - TEMPO

Friday, January 27, 2006

Judge kowtows to VFA

Olongapo judge recalls warrants

By Jomar Canlas, Manila Times Reporter

The judge hearing the rape charges against four US Marines on Thursday recalled the warrants for their arrest after the US Embassy in Manila invoked the Visiting Forces Agreement allowing it to keep custody of the accused.

Judge Renato Dilag of Olongapo City recalled the warrants for Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Chad Carpentier and Dominic Duplantis after the Department of Justice informed him that the embassy had issued a note verbale invoking the VFA.

“This court takes judicial notice of the fact that the VFA, as a treaty, is now part of the law of the land. Its constitutionality has been upheld by the Supreme Court in several cases,” Dilag said in his ruling.

He also deferred the petition for review filed by the four US Marines before the Department of Justice. Dilag had asked the department to act on the petition within 60 days, else he would arraign the accused.

He denied the Americans’ motion for him to recuse himself because he had allegedly prejudged the case.

The four Marines are in the custody of the US Embassy.

Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni of Olongapo said he will not contest the recalling of the warrants.

“We will not appeal. We will even make it as our basis in our motion to set the case for arraignment. The case will proceed faster that way and we’ll see if the Americans will keep their word,” Jalandoni said.

The embassy has vowed to cooperate with local authorities and said the accused would be presented to the court once the actual hearing starts.

But it stressed that “the US government shall continue to exercise custody until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

It invoked Article 5, paragraph 6 of the VFA, which provides that the US shall keep custody of servicemen charged in Philippine courts.

Jalandoni has appealed Dilag’s decision dismissing the case against Timoteo Soriano, the Filipino driver of the van where the four Marines allegedly raped a 22-year-old Filipina on All Saints’ Day.

Jalandoni said the court should have acted on Soriano’s motion to defer the issuance of the warrant of arrest and determine if there is probable cause to have him arrested.

The four accused were on shore leave in Subic after taking part in joint exercises with Philippine troops.

Arraignment of the four would begin as soon as the justice department resolves within 60 days the motions for review filed by the Americans’ lawyers, Dilag said.

They have denied the crime, but one of them admitted to having had consensual sex with the alleged victim, court records show.

The case has claimed widespread interest in this former US colony, and on Thursday a small group of protesters burned an American flag outside the US Embassy to protest Washington’s refusal to turn over the suspects.

But US Embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop said his government was cooperating fully with local authorities “so that the facts would come out and justice is served.”

He said the controversy should not affect bilateral ties between the allies, which next month are due to hold large-scale joint counterterrorism exercises on the southern island of Jolo, where al-Qaeda-linked militants operate.

“I don’t think it will have a negative effect,” Lussenshop said on ANC Television. --With AFP

Reckless driving caused smash-ups, says MNTC

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Blame it on reckless driving.

Citing the results of their initial investigation, Rod Sicatore, traffic control specialist of the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), said a van driver driving too fast despite the heavy rains triggered the 16-vehicle smash-ups on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Wednesday afternoon that left three people dead and 16 others injured.

Police said Josephine Konghun, wife of Subic, Zambales Mayor Jeffrey Konghun, was among the fatalities. The two others were identified as Jocelyn Reyes and Elino de la Cruz, driver of a Genesis Liner bus.

Sicatore said the driver of a Hi-Ace van lost control of the wheel, sending his vehicle turning turtle near the Sta. Rita exit in Guiguinto, Bulacan.

A 10-wheeler truck behind the van slowed down, sending the Genesis Liner bus crashing into it at Kilometer 39, "escalating the mishap up to Kilometer 41," he said.

Sicatore said motorists at Kilometer 40 apparently saw the accident and slowed down, too, causing vehicles to smash into each other’s rear.

"Our initial investigation showed that reckless driving was to blame for the accident, but we will still continue to investigate and announce the results as soon as it finished," said Marlene Ochoa, MNTC vice president for corporate communications.

Ochoa said the MNTC’s British consulting firm and its NLEX operator, Tollways Management Corp., are separately probing the incident.

"We would like to assure the public that the entire length of the expressway is safe," she said.

Those injured in the smash-ups have been discharged from the Bulacan provincial hospital in Malolos City. — Ding Cervantes, James Mananghaya and Ric Sapnu - The Philippine Star

Paredes: VFA next to go

By Joyce Pangco Pañares and Ferdinand Fabella, Manila Standard

THE executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement said yesterday the organization’s impending abolition is a sign that Manila is ready to terminate its treaty with the United States.

Facing the ax, VFACom Executive Director Zosimo Paredes also told Standard Today that an executive order is already being drafted to create a new body to oversee the agreement, which has been severely tested by the case in which four US servicemen have been accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, emphasized yesterday the abolition of VFACom had no direct bearing on the Subic rape case, VFA itself or the country’s ties with the United States.

After Washington refused to turn over the four marines to local authorities, angry lawmakers have called on the administration to abrogate the executive agreement.

On Jan. 19, the legislative oversight committee on VFA recommended that the government issue a notice of termination to the United States and renegotiations for a more equitable agreement.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said he is ready to carry out any foreign policy adopted by Congress on the treaty, which has allowed the US embassy in Manila to keep custody of the rape suspects.

At a budget hearing at the Senate on Wednesday, Romulo said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had already issued an order abolishing VFACom for its failure to assert Philippine interests in the case.

Paredes, however, said the Philippines stands to lose much if VFA is terminated.

“I am against it. We should not allow one case to cause the abrogation of this treaty, which is very important to the life of the country in terms of security,” he said.

Earlier this month, the US embassy in Manila also issued a lengthy statement detailing the benefits the Philippines gets from VFA.

In a statement yesterday, embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop said Washington would continue to abide by the provisions of VFA.

“We intend to continue working with the Philippine authorities under the VFA,” he said.

The DFA, for its part, played down the importance of VFACom’s abolition.

“The Subic case is already in court and we’re only waiting for the judge’s decision,” said DFA spokesman Gilbert Asuque. “We would like to emphasize that our national interests will be protected in this case.”

Asuque confirmed that another body will be crated to monitor VFA activities, including joint military exercises.

He said the body would work closely with the legislative oversight committee.

Asuque added that even without VFACom, the military exercises would continue.

NLEX collisions blamed on ‘driver’s error’


MALOLOS CITY — Some motorists asked yesterday the operator of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to ensure safety on the tollway in the wake of last Wednesday’s collisions that killed three persons and injured 23 others.

The operator, Manila North Tollway Corp. (MNTC), said, however, that the expressway has built-in world-class safety standards and that driver’s error was the main cause of the accidents.

MNTC President and CEO Jose "Ping" de Jesus assured the general public that the NLEX was built according to world-class standards which give utmost priority to public safety.

"We offer our sympathies to the bereaved families of the fatalities, knowing that a life lost is irreplaceable," he said.

"For this reason, we make sure that the NLEX is safe, but at the same time, we advise all motorists to be aware of the hazards of speeding beyond limits," De Jesus said.

He said most road accidents were principally caused by driver’s error, adding some drivers have the tendency to maintain high speed despite the rain that drastically reduces tire traction.

"No road, no matter how perfectly built, could guarantee zero accident if the drivers are not careful," De Jesus said.

Nevertheless, the MNTC executive said a thorough investigation is being conducted on these unfortunate incidents.

MNTC consulting engineers and traffic enforcers launched the probe as NLEX traffic crews intensified patrol to alert motorists to observe safe driving and the speed limits that are prominently displayed on NLEX signs.

However, some motorists said that it is the duty of the operator of NLEX to ensure road safety because they are collecting "exorbitant toll fees" from them.

Some of the motorists said that accidents, like what happened last Wednesday, would have been avoided if the operator of the tollway dispatched patrol teams that would have enforced precautionary measures.

"Dapat me nag-tra-traffic o me mga warning signs silang inilalagay kapag me nasisiraan or umuulan ng malakas. Alam na nilang me zero visibility e dapat nagawan nila iyon ng paraan. Sa laki ng sinisingil nila dapat lang na masiguro nila na ligtas ang pagbiyahe sa expressway," said a motorist identified as Jo dela Cruz.

The accidents, which involved 18 vehicles, happened at the Sta. Rita-Pulilan portion of the NLEX Wednesday afternoon.

The three fatalities who were declared dead on arrival at the Bulacan Polymedic Hospital were identified as Josephine Kohjun, wife of Subic (Zambales) Mayor Jeffrey Kohjun; Jocelyn Reyes; and Elmo dela Cruz, driver of the Genesis bus that also figured in the mishap.

Treated for injuries at the same hospital were Roger Batunga of Subic, Zambales; Myrna Santos, 47, Jon Jon Valeta, 27, both of Marilao, Bulacan; Francisco Placido, 30, of Silang, Cavite; Leticia Palad of Pampanga; and Noel Santiago of Bataan.

The other injured victims were brought to the Bulacan Provincial Hospital.

The freak accident happened as intermittent rains pounded many parts of Bulacan.

Motorists said that aside from near-zero visibility on NLEX, the road was slippery due to the rains which also caused flashfloods in low-lying areas.

Reports said the accident occurred when a Toyota Hi-Ace van turned turtle at a slippery portion of the expressway near the Sta. Rita exit.

In a span of few minutes, several other vehicles figured in the mishaps. These include the ill-fated Genesis bus which rammed several vehicles before skidding and ramming a parked truck that stopped on the outer lane of the expressway due to engine trouble.

The freak mishap created a mammoth traffic jam on the expressway, stranding hundreds of vehicles and thousands of commuters and motorists.

The congestion lasted until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Court takes back arrest orders v. 4 US Marines

Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Renato Dilag ordered Thursday the recall of the warrants of arrests against four American soldiers charged with the rape of a 22-year-old Filipino woman in Subic Bay Freeport last November 1.

In a telephone interview, Dilag said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) failed to serve the warrants on principal accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith and co-accused Staff Sergeant Chad Brian Carpentier, Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood, and Dominic Duplantis.

Dilag said there is no point in insisting on the court's physical custody of the four US servicemen since the country has recognized the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as a treaty.

"Therefore, the VFA is also considered the law of the land. There is no need for actual custody of the accused since they are considered still under detention, even if they are at the US embassy," he said.

He said he will wait for Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. to resolve the pending motions for review filed by the four US servicemen.

Under the Rules of Court, the secretary of justice has 60 days to resolve the motions for review.

Once Gonzalez has issued his resolution, Dilag said he would set the immediate arraignment of the four US Marines.

In a separate interview, Gonzalez said the recent abolition of the VFA commission should not be misconstrued as an indication that Malacañang has recognized certain flaws in the treaty.

"I think Malacañang simply thinks that the existence of that body is actually a surplus. It will always be the DFA anyway that will carry the ball. I think it was simply created because it was thought that it was a necessary part of the implementation of the VFA. Wala naman talagang trabaho (There is no job) that will affect its implementation. In normal times, siguro (maybe) it would be a sort of a conduit," he said.

Gonzalez said the US should be able to show it respects the treaty by presenting the four accused on the date of their arraignment set by the court.

"To me, what is important is we can start the trial. We can test the US if they are sincere. That is written in the stone of the VFA that they will cooperate all the way. If the court sets the date for arraignment and trial, dyan mo makikita (that's when you'll see it). You cannot see their cooperation if they will not appear. I think what they are afraid of is when they appear they will be arrested. Then that will traverse the issue again," he said. (ECV/Sunnex) SunStar

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Angeles folk worry about low-flying US military planes

By Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star

ANGELES CITY — Saying that low-flying US military aircraft have been causing "unnecessary panic, apprehension and inconvenience" among local folk, the Angeles City council has approved a resolution calling for an amendment to the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to address this concern.

City councilor Jay Sangil, who authored the resolution, said they are also worried about the safety of residents amid airborne drills currently ongoing as part of the "Balance Piston" joint military exercise at the Clark special economic zone. The war games last up to Feb. 7.

The resolution cited "accidents" involving Philippine and US military aircraft, including the 1999 crash of an F-5 Freedom Fighter of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) that was taking part in the Balikatan joint military exercise.

It also cited an incident in 2000 when an F/A 18 Hornet of the US Marine Corps was forced to make an emergency landing after hitting a flock of birds immediately after taking off from the Clark airport.

"The people of Angeles City recognize the importance of our security alliance with the United States through the conduct of regular military exercises and other related activities under the VFA," the resolution stated.

But it added that city residents are now concerned about "the conduct of low-level and night-time flights" by US military aircraft over populated areas of the city during Balance Piston.

"These low-level flights by US military aircraft have caused unnecessary panic, apprehension and inconvenience among residents," it stated.

The resolution asked Philippine and US officials "to take into account this legitimate concern of the host city of the former Clark Air Base by ensuring that military aircraft avoid low-level and night-time flights over populated areas of Angeles."

Copies of the resolution were submitted to Malacañang, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US embassy.

The city councilors are now studying whether they could pass an ordinance prohibiting such low-level and night-time flights over the city’s populated areas not only by military aircraft but also by commercial planes taking off from and landing at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark.

Even residents of neighboring Mabalacat town have complained about "deafening" aircraft noise from US military aircraft.

The other day, residents of Barangay Lakandula said they were awakened by tremors and loud noise at about 12 midnight when a C-130 cargo plane of the US military flew low over their community.

In an interview with The STAR, Emil Ollado of the Air Transportation Office at Clark, said the VFA is not clear on the ATO’s authority to impose altitude and other air space limitations on US military aircraft taking part in joint military exercises in the country.

"It is not clear. Such exercises are military in nature but there seems to be lack of coordination with the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) and ATO," said Ollado, who referred the queries on air space regulations to the PAF.

But Maj. Allan Ballesteros, spokesman of the PAF Special Operations Wing here, said the ATO issued the air space clearance for US military aircraft participating in the joint exercise here last December.

He said the clearance was supposed to specify altitude and other air space limitations for US military aircraft.

Sangil cited US studies showing that "the most significant health problem caused by noise pollution is hearing loss."

"The initial damage to the cochlea may be temporary, but with repeated exposure, the damage becomes permanent," he added

GMA orders abolition of maligned VFACom

By Roy Pelovello, Manila Standard

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the abolition of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, which has come under increasing criticism for its failure to assert Philippine interests.

At a Senate hearing yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said President Arroyo agreed to abolish the commission after the Senate threatened to cut its budget to P1 a year for failing to protect the dignity of the country in the case against four US servicemen accused of raping a Filipina.

“I understand that there is a move to abolish that office by denying it a budget and I understand also that the President has agreed to this,” Romulo told the Senate during budget hearings yesterday.

In agreeing to abolish VFACom, the Palace seemed to be distancing itself from the commission’s executive director, Zosimo Paredes, who earned the ire of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairman of the legislative oversight committee on VFA.

Santiago pointed out that VFA was supposed to be chaired by the foreign affairs secretary and the defense secretary but was never convened.

Paredes, as executive director, was supposed to take directions from the commission and carry these out, Santiago said.

“Instead, this director has arrogated the authority to speak for the VFACom so it sounds as if he is the head of the commission instead of acting as the secretary or secretariat,” Santiago said.

“This director has deluded the media into the belief that he has the authority to speak for a group of Cabinet members of which he is not a member. In other words, he is a minor functionary of the VFACom but he struts around the media circles as if he heads the VFA,” Santiago added.

Even the US embassy believed Paredes’ “propaganda” and allowed him to see the accused US soldiers ahead of the legislative oversight committee.

Romulo, for his part, urged journalists not to refer to Paredes as DFA undersecretary because he isn’t a foreign affairs officer.

Santiago said she was at the Palace when President Arroyo instructed Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to draft an executive order abolishing VFACom. This should not prejudice the country’s interests, because the foreign affairs and defense departments can coordinate on VFA-related concerns, she added.

Earlier, the legislative oversight committee recommended the termination of VFA and cancellation of joint military exercises with the United States over Washington’s refusal to turn over the four accused marines.

The US embassy has used VFA to keep custody of the accused as they go to trial.

Asked to comment, Paredes said he was “saddened, surprised and disappointed” and that he knew of no reason for abolishing the commission. “I believe we are doing our job,” he said.

He said he had met with Ermita Monday but was not told of the plan to abolish VFACom.

Sources in DFA said Paredes had been “too careless” in talking about the Subic rape case, issuing statements to the press that made diplomatic negotiations between DFA and the US embassy in Manila more difficult. With Ferdinand Fabella

Mrs. Konghun at 2 pa nasawi, 16 sugatan sa mga banggaan sa NLEX

Tatlo katao ang patay habang 16 iba pa ang sugatan sa mga banggaan ng mga sasakyan sa North Luzon Expressway nitong Miyerkoles ng hapon.

Nakilala ang isa sa mga nasawi na si Elmo dela Cruz, driver ng Genesis Bus, Mrs. Josephine Konghun, maybahay ng mayor ng Subic, Zambales at isa pa nakinilala bilang kanyang sekretarya.

Samantala, patuloy na kinikilala ang mga sugatan na isinugod naman sa Bulacan Provincial Hospital.

Ayon sa mga ulat, bandang 2 p.m. nagsimula ang mga banggaan sa pagitan ng Pulilan at Sta. Rita exits ng NLEX.

Unang tumimbuwang ang isang Toyota Hi-Ace van na minamaneho ng isang Gilbert Misa nang dumulas ang gulong nito dahil sa basang kalsada.

Bunga ng aksidente, napilitang magpreno nang biglaan ang nasa likuran ng van na isang 10-wheeler truck. Sumalpok sa trak ang bus na minamaneho ni de la Cruz.

Apat pang sasakyan ang nasangkot sa mga banggaan kabilang ang isang Isuzu Trooper at isang six-wheeler truck.

Ayon sa mga ulat, karamihan sa mga sugatan ay mga pasahero ng bus

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Arroyo agrees to abolish commission on VFA -- Romulo

By Veronica Uy, INQ7.net

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has agreed to abolish the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo told a Senate budget hearing on Wednesday.

“There is a plan to abolish the VFACom and I believe the President has agreed to this,” Romulo told a Senate committee.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago confirmed the plan, saying she was present when Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was instructed to draft the executive order that would do so.

Santiago suggested the formulation of a mechanism that would continue to monitor the implementation or non-implementation of the VFA once the commission was abolished.

Romulo said he was meeting with Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz this Friday to discuss the matter.

The VFA is the treaty that allows the entry of US military troops into the Philippines and governs the conduct of joint military exercises between the United States and the Philippines.

Last week, the Legislative Oversight Committee on VFA voted to abrogate the treaty after the US rejected the Philippines' request for custody of four US Marines accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina last November 1.

Impluwensiya ni Diaz ginamit daw, Anna Leah dismayado

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NAGHINALA si Viva Hot Babe Anna Leah Javier na naimpluwensiyahan umano ni Zambales Rep. Antonio Diaz ang Department of Justice (DoJ) kaya ibinasura ang kanyang sexual harassment at oral defamation cases laban dito.

Sa panayam ng Taliba, sinabi ni Javier na hindi malayong nama-yagpag umano ang pagiging kongresista ni Diaz para tiya-king maibabasura ang mga reklamo.

"With the system that we have and the congressman is in the position, it is expected" ani Javier na umaming sa mamamahayag na ito lamang niya nalaman ang naging desisyon ng DoJ.

Magugunitang inireklamo noon ni Javier at Remedios 'Baby Bueno' Coady si Diaz ng pangmo-molestiya umano matapos imbitahan sa birthday bash ni Zambales Gov. Vic Magsaysay noong Enero 20, 2005.

Bilang buwelta
“With the system that we have and the congressman is in the position, it is expected.”

kay Javier, sinabi naman ni Diaz sa hiwalay na panayam na walang basehan ang panibagong akusasyon ng miyembro ng Viva Hot Babe na ginamit nito ang posisyon para maibasura ang reklamo.

Sinabi ni Diaz na inaasahan ang desisyon ng DoJ dahil talaga namang walang katotohanan ang mga paratang laban sa kanya at nais lamang si-yang kuwartahan.

Nanindigan si Diaz na panahon na para harapin naman ni Javier ang kanyang isinumiteng libel case sa korte sa Iba, Zambales at perjury sa korte sa Quezon City dahil nakinabang na ito sa biglaang pagsikat sa showbiz.

"I am expecting such a decision, kinukuwartahan lamang ako ng mga iyan. Harapin naman nila ngayon ang aking mga ikinaso. Tumigil na siya sa walang basehang akusasyon dahil kumita na siya (Javier) at sumikat pa," ani Diaz.

Pinag-aaralan naman ni Javier kung iaapela ang desisyon dahil hindi pa nito nakakausap ang kanyang mga abogadong sina Attys. Allan Amazona at Rey Dinsay habang isinusulat ang balitang ito kahapon.

Salute to the Champ!

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One brief shining moment

The Manny Pacquiao experience

It was not just winning the fight, exacting his revenge on Morales,
redeeming himself after losing their first encounter, or earning the purse
of $3 million dollars. Overshadowing all of those elements was Pacquiao's
ability to lift the spirit of the already defeated nation and people.

By Simeon G. Silverio, Jr.
Publisher & Editor
San Diego Asian Journal

Manila, Philippines
January 25, 2006

One shining moment. For one brief, shining moment last Sunday, the Filipino
people stood proud and mighty when favorite son Manny Pacquiao defeated
legendary Mexican boxer Erik Morales in the tenth round of their non-title,
but crucial fight, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Like the Camelot days of yore, the Philippines and its people all over the
globe were on top of the world, basking in the glory of Pacquiao's sweet
revenge and victory. It was a much-needed win and redemption. For more than
a year, the Philippines had languished in a quagmire of political
controversy. Political bickering has ruled the land while almost seventy
percent of the Filipinos continue to suffer in poverty, forcing many,
including professionals, to take meager jobs, like being domestic helps,
abroad. It was as if there was no light at the end of the tunnel as
countries much poorer than the Philippines before, had surpassed the "Pearl
of the Orient seas" in terms of development and are now employing the
Filipinos as maids. Then, in one brief shining moment, Manny Pacquiao, who
has had his own share of disappointments, lifted the Filipino spirit. The
Filipinos stood proud once again and put aside divisions and difficulties,
albeit, for one brief shining moment.


My family and I were lucky to savor the sweet taste of Pacquiao's victory
in our home country, the Philippines. We were visiting when we were invited
to spend the day in beautiful Tagaytay. The sight of the breathtaking Taal
Volcano and feeling the cool breeze rise up to the ridge made the pending
fight distant in our minds, although it was the talk of the town during the
previous week. But as luck would have it, our host brought us to the
famous Taal Vista Lodge, now known as the Taal Vista Hotel, for lunch.
Unbeknownst to us, she reserved two tables situated right in front of a
giant projection screen and television set. The restaurant was filled with
sports fans, many of whom were caught by the Pacquiao fervor. There were
some foreigners and tourists ready to root for Pacquiao.

As if everything was falling into place, we came in with perfect timing for
the fight. The preliminary fight was going on, giving us enough time to
feast on the sumptuous Filipino food, such as prawns, menudo, ensaladang
kangkong, crispy pata, kare-kare, tawilis, lapu-lapu and fresh fruit for
dessert. Some members of our party had a bottle of ice cold San Miguel beer
while the others preferred green mango shakes as we waited nervously for
the fight to begin.

Pin drop

As if on cue, the fight started right after we finished our lunch. One
could hardly hear a pin drop when singer Jennifer Bautista, said to be a
niece of former Senator and movie actor Ramon Revilla, sang the Philippine
National Anthem. She changed the marching tune of the song, which met with
disapproval from the Filipino crowd. For the Mexican and American national
anthems, Emmy Award winning singer John Secada, a Mexican, did the honors.

Everyone was on the edge of his seat during the fight. It was obvious whom
our crowd was rooting for. Whenever Pacquiao got hit, the audience was
quiet. But when Pacquiao connected, no matter if his glove only grazed the
face of Morales, people would respond with thunderous uproar.

I was watching quietly, keeping my fingers crossed. I have had my
disappointments before. There were times when I believed a boxer
convincingly defeated his opponent, only to watch him be declared the loser
by the judges, as though the judges witnessed a different fight. I thought
that the only way Pacquiao could win was for him to knock out his opponent.
It would be a difficult feat since Morales had never been floored before.
If the judges had to decide the winner of the fight, there was less of a
chance Pacquiao would win. The judges, I thought, tended to favor Mexican
boxers, since the Mexican people are one of the most ardent fans of the
sport and their financial clout in terms of gate and television receipts is

Tenth round

Then the end came in the tenth round. Although Pacquiao was leading from
the eyes of the biased Filipino announcers, our small contingent in
Tagaytay was still not sure who would win until the last few seconds of the
fight. After a tremendous exchange in which Pacquiao got his own share of
the Mexican's punches, he hit Morales with a tremendous right cross on the
temple. It was said later that when one is hit on that part of the face,
one would lose his sense of balance. Indeed, Morales staggered and fell
onto the canvas. He stood up on the count of nine, and the referee gave him
the mandatory eight counts. Sensing victory, Pacquiao was relentless. He
hit Morales with a series of shots and the brave Mexican fighter fell
again. This time, the referee stopped the fight.

While all agreed that Pacquiao was the decisive winner, nobody complained
that the referee's call to stop the fight was premature. Someone in our
group commented later, during our own post mortem analysis of the fight,
that the referee had three boxers die in the past after failing to stop the
fights in time. Refusing to take the same risks, the referee did not
hesitate sparing Morales from further harm and the punishing fists of his
It was like everyone had won the lottery in the huge hall of the restaurant
at the Taal Vista Hotel. People were jumping and shouting with joy, waiters
and patrons alike. The nationalistic fervor building up before and during
the fight suddenly burst. I was filled with emotion as tears of joy filled
my eyes. My daughters and wife, who watched the fight at my side, were
screaming. In one instant, I saw my American-born and raised daughters
suddenly become full-fledged Filipinos. It was as if they shed their
Americanism and showed their true colors, which were as brown as their skin.

Among the crowd, exchanges of high fives were scarce. It was too American.
Instead, the members of the crowd embraced, in a more Filipino manner.
Even the appearance of First Gentlemen Mike Arroyo and controversial Ilocos
Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson in the ring did not spoil the fun.
Nonetheless, local newspapers reported the following day that the sight of
the two was received with jeers from the crowds watching the fight at the
Plaza Miranda, Roxas Blvd., Shoemart Malls, and other public places all
over the country.
Despite the fact that cameras showed the Pacquiao camp celebrating and
Morales being treated on the bench, viewers at the lodge refused to leave
until Manny Pacquiao was officially declared the winner.

"Let us make sure his hands are raised in victory by the referee," a
companion insisted. Maybe he thought that the moment he witnessed was just
too good to be true. He wanted to assure himself that he was not dreaming.

With a large part of casino staff comprised of Mexicans and Filipinos,
jokes circulated that Las Vegas closed shop that day. Most of their
bellhops, maids, waiters and dishwashers called in sick because they wanted
to see their favorite fighters and respective compatriots fight. With the
Pacquiao win, it is the Filipinos' turn to have bragging rights.

The whole day during our trip back to Manila all the talk was about
Pacquiao. Everybody marveled at the significance of the event and even more
so at the courage of the Filipino fighter. The pressure on him was
tremendous. It was not just winning the fight, exacting his revenge on
Morales, redeeming himself after losing their first encounter, or earning
the purse of $3 million dollars. Overshadowing all of those elements was
Paquiao's ability to lift the spirit of the already defeated nation and
people. Hours before the fight, the Philippines and its' people searched
for a light at the end of the tunnel. Pacquiao's victory was the one brief,
shining moment that gave the Filipino people respite from political
troubles and for a moment to proclaim victory as a nation.

In the days that followed, my daughters became die-hard Pacquiao fans
overnight. They watched the replays of the fight the following evenings in
our hotel room at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Makati. After reading
that Pacquiao would be welcomed home to the Philippines with a huge parade
when he arrived on Friday, they wanted to postpone our flight to the U.S.
to be able to witness the event. They even brought a CD of Pacquiao's songs
and T-shirts as souvenirs. They hummed Pacquiao's song, "Para sa Bayan," in
Tagalog, even though they did not understand it.

When we attended the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan two Sundays ago,
we were lucky to have shaken the hands of Philippine President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo. It was sheer luck and coincidence, as she arrived at the
airport at the same time our plane landed. Upon our arrival at the Los
Angeles International Airport last Wednesday, we were told that Manny
Pacquiao and his party were already at the VIP lounge preparing for their
departure for the Philippines.

If my daughters became lucky enough to meet him and shake his hands, it
would in fact be Divine Providence. And as I often believed, God, with His
omni-presence and omni-power, would not waste His time dispensing such
trivial favors. I am grateful enough that my daughters found a new idol,
one that shares the color of their skin. Now I am convinced that they are
indeed proud of being a Filipino. Just like their parents, ancestors, and
hopefully, the future generations of our family. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! - AJ

Kustodya sa 4 GI’s hawak ng gobyerno

Ang Pilipino STAR Ngayon 01/24/2006

Naniniwala si Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. na nasa kamay pa rin ng gobyerno partikular na ang Department of Justice (DOJ) at Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) nakasalalay kung mapupunta sa custody ng bansa ang apat na Amerikanong sundalo na inakusahang nanggahasa sa isang 22-anyos na Pinay.

Ayon kay Pimentel, may hawak na alas ang gobyerno para makuha ang custody ng apat na sundalo, at ito ay ang paggiit ng prosecutors na ilipat sa custody ng Olongapo City Regional Trial Court sakaling humarap na sa arraignment ang apat na akusado.

Aniya, pwede itong gawin ng gobyero at hindi naman ito makakahadlang sa mga alituntunin ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Sinabi pa ni Pimentel, hindi din daw napapanahon ang pagrebisa ng VFA sa pagitan ng US at ng Pilipinas dahil malaki ang posibilidad na masakripisyo ang kaso ng apat na Amerikano.

Bagama’t pabor ang Senate Minority Leader sa pagrebisa, sa isyu ng criminal jurisdictions sa mga Amerikanong sundalo, naniniwala ito na isa sa mga tumutol ng VFA noong 1999 na maapektuhan nito ang kaso ng apat na sundalo.

Ibinasura din ni Pimentel ang panukala na tawagan ni Pang. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo si US Pres. George W. Bush para pagbigyan ang pabor ng bansa na ilipat sa custody natin ang akusado. (Rudy Andal)

Justice dept clears Rep. Diaz of harassment

By JOMAR CANLAS, The Manila Times Reporter

The Department of Justice on Monday acquitted Rep. Antonio Diaz of Zambales of sexual harassment and oral-defamation charges filed by starlet Ana Lea Javier.

A member of the popular Viva Hot Babes, Javier accused the lawmaker of molesting her after doing a show in his hometown of Iba, Zambales, on January 20, 2005.

She also claimed that Diaz had "propositioned" her after she got only half of her expected P100,000 talent fee.

"It is rather incredible . . . to do such sexual advances in the presence of many visitors since he [Diaz] himself would be exposed to such risk," the justice department said in its decision.

Given the "hostile atmosphere" between Diaz and Javier’s group, "it is unclear how to sustain the starlet’s allegation that she was sexually harassed," the department added.

The department noted that in separate TV interviews on January 30 and 31, 2005, Javier and her manager Remedios Coady failed to mention any sexual harassment by the congressman.

"While witnesses for the respondent admitted having heard him utter heated words to Coady, they denied having heard him the words ‘prostitute’ and ‘ugly,’" the decision said.

"They may be political allies of the respondent, but this does not give rise to any presumption of bias or ulterior motive," it added.

It was found that Coady had withdrawn her case after Diaz issued a public apology.

As evidence, Diaz presented video clips of the interview where Javier did not say the congressman invited her into his room and offered her P50,000 "provided that she [Javier] would give in to my sexual desire."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Hinay-hinay sa VFA – solons

Umapela ang mga kongresista sa mga kasamahan sa Kongreso na maghinay-hinay sa pagpapasya sa kahihinatnan ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) kasunod ng ginawang desisyon ng Legislative Oversight on the VFA na kanselahin na ang nasabing tratado.

Naniniwala rin sina House Deputy Majority Leader Antonio Cerilles at Leyte Rep. Eduardo Veloso na posibleng magresulta sa mas malaking problema para sa bansa sakaling ibasura ng Pilipinas ang nasabing kasunduan. (Malou Escudero PHILSTAR)

4 US Marines litisin na sa korte — DOJ

Ipatutuloy na ng Department of Justice (DOJ) ang paglilitis sa apat na Amerikanong sundalo na sangkot sa Subic rape case.

Ayon kay Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, hihilingin na ng prosecution sa korte na masimulan na ang paglilitis laban sa apat na US Marines na kinabibilangan nina Chad Carpentier, Daniel Smith, Keith Silkwood at Dominic Duplantis.

Ipinaliwanag ni Gonzalez na maaari namang isailalim sa paglilitis ang mga nabanggit na Amerikano kahit pa wala sa gobyerno ang kustodiya nito o ang tinatawag na "trial in absencia".

Gayunman, tiniyak pa rin ng Kalihim na matatapos ang paglilitis sa loob ng isang taon kaya inaasahan na maipalalabas ang desisyon bago November 2006.

Binigyang-diin pa ni Gonzalez na makikipag-ugnayan din sila sa mga awtoridad ng US Embassy para magkaroon ng panibagong daan upang maresolba ang issue sa kustodiya ng mga akusado.

Inamin naman nito na walang magagawa ang gobyerno sa ngayon kundi ang sundin ang isinasaad sa probisyon ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Magugunita na inisnab ng US Embassy ang arrest warrant na ipinalabas ni Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Renato Dilag makaraang magpadala na lamang ang una ng note verbale na nagsasaad na mananatili sa kustodiya ng embahada ang mga nabanggit na Amerikano.

Naghain na rin ng petition for review ang mga akusadong Amerikano kung saan hiniling ng mga ito na baliktarin ang unang desisyon ng Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office. (Grace dela Cruz PHILSTAR)

5 armed men rob Victory Liner bus

DINALUPIHAN, Bataan: Five unidentified men armed with caliber .9 mm pistol and a handgrenade held up an air-conditioned Victory Liner bus bound for Zambales in Barangay Roosevelt at about 1:45 a.m. Friday.

This was the second robbery by armed men, pretending to be passengers, involving a Victory Liner this month.

Bus conductor Mamerto Trinidad, 38, of Hagonoy, Bulacan, and passenger Apollo Palanca, 44, were shot and wounded while trying to resist the robbers.

The suspects carted away an undetermined amount of money and valuables from 21 passengers. One of the passengers, Rosasana Bundang, reported having lost P140,000 in cash and jewelry, the police said.

Senior Supt. Hernando Zafra, Bataan police director, said the bus came from Caloocan City bound for Zambales. Rene Afable of Catanga, Zambales, was the bus driver.

Zafra said two of the suspects boarded in San Fernando City, two in Lubao, Pampanga, and the last in Hermosa, Bataan. They declared the holdup when the bus reached Roosevelt, a few kilometers away from Olongapo City.

On January 4, three men armed robbed the conductor and passengers of another Victory Liner bus in the evening. The suspects boarded the bus at Bonifacio, Dinalupihan, and commanded the bus driver to proceed to Balanga City.

In December five unidentified armed men robbed another Victory Liner bus in Saguing, Dinalupihan. They traded shots with a police officer, who was a passenger. Six passengers were wounded in the shootout.

Zafra has ordered a tight watch on the Bataan highway.--Ernie B. Esconde - Manila Times

Lusaw-VFA naka-first base na

Nina Boyet Jadulco, Nonnie Ferriol at Michelle Arroyo - ABANTE

Naka-first base na ang planong paglusaw sa Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) na isinusulong ng Senado sa pamamagitan ng inihaing resolusyon ni Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago nang aprubahan ito kahapon ng Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA).

Sa pulong kahapon ng mga senador at kongresistang bumubuo ng LOVFA, inaprubahan ng mga ito ang resolusyong inihain ni Santiago kung saan tanging si Sen. Alfredo Lim lamang ang tumutol.

Bukod sa paglusaw sa VFA, nakapaloob din sa resolusyon ang agarang pagpapahinto sa Balikatan Exercises, isang joint military exercise ng Amerika at Pilipinas.

Sa proseso ng paglusaw sa VFA, kailangang maihain at maaprubahan ang magkahiwalay na resolusyon ng treaty termination sa Kamara at Senado. Matapos ito ay bibilang ng anim na buwan mula sa araw na maihain ang ‘notice’ sa US government bago magkabisa ang paglusaw.

"The US will have no choice but to renegotiate with us if we serve them the notice of termination," ani Santiago.

Si Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile naman ang nagrekomenda sa naturang pulong na kanselahin na rin ang Balikatan Exercises sa buong panahong dinidinig ang rape case laban sa apat na marinong Kano.

Samantala, nakiisa na rin ang samahang Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) na buwagin na at ibasura ang VFA dahil na rin sa pagkabigo ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan na makuha ang kustodya ng mga akusadong dayuhan sa Olongapo rape case.

Tinawag din ni Amira Lidasan, secretary general ng MCPA, ang VFA na isa umanong ‘economic blackmail’ sa Pilipinas dahil sinasamantala nito ang kahirapan ng bansa para patuloy na madiktahan.

Kasabay ng pagpapanatag sa kalooban ng sambayanan na tutupad ang bansang Amerika na ibigay sa kustodya ng Pilipinas para tuluyang maikulong ang apat na kababayan kung sakaling mahatulang guilty sa kinakaharap na kaso, nangako naman si Foreign Affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo na kanila pa ring ipupursige na mapasakamay ang mga akusado sa panahon ng paglilitis


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