SLB Newsbriefs...daily news from different sources, truncated and compiled. updated daily.
Newsbriefs 13 December Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

PNP dismisses coup rumors as ‘all noise’

TROOPS LOYAL to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo uncovered an alleged plot by rogue soldiers to seize power over the weekend, a senior military official said yesterday. But other officials dismissed reports of a coup d’etat in the offing as mere rumors.

Fresh talk of action by some elements of the military, before Christmas or early in the New Year, began last week when allegations of cheating by Ms Arroyo in the 2004 elections were resurrected in public inquiries in Congress.

A senior general said disgruntled soldiers and police officers were plotting to take over key military bases in Manila and demand the resignation of the President, who left on Sunday for several summits of Southeast Asian leaders in Malaysia.

The rogue soldiers were expecting the bulk of the military to join them in withdrawing support from Ms Arroyo and handing power to a civilian-military junta, the general said, citing intelligence reports.

“We were waiting for them to strike but we’re prepared to hit back harder,” he told Reuters. “We can just speculate why they did not move. Perhaps they knew we were ready.”

The rumors spread through text messages over the weekend. One such message read: “From (a) responsible source. If you or any member of your family is outside, please return home as soon as possible, and be prepared for political events anytime now.”

The rumors had sent intelligence officers out of their beds to check any unusual troop movements. There were none, officials said.

“They were all noise. Upon verification, we found none,” Philippine National Police Deputy Director General Avelino Razon Jr. told the Inquirer.

2 bishops challenge Charter change (

TWO CATHOLIC bishops yesterday strongly opposed the plan to amend the 1987 Constitution based on the recommendations of a Malacañang-formed commission.

At the same time, about half of the respondents in Pulse Asia’s latest nationwide survey said now was not the time for Charter change, while 68 percent admitted they did not know enough about the Constitution.

The 55 percent opposed to amending the Constitution at this time was broken down into those who said they may be open to the idea in the future (35 percent) and those who were not in favor of it now or at any other time (20 percent).

Thirty-six percent approved of Charter change now while eight percent were undecided.

In Negros Occidental province, in a strongly worded joint statement representing their respective flocks, Bishops Vicente Navarra of Bacolod City and Jose Advincula of San Carlos City described Charter change as “very disturbing.”

“We strongly belie the claims of GMA’s (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s) allies in Congress, spearheaded by JdV (Speaker Jose de Venecia) and the GMA-appointed Constitutional Commission (Con-Com) that a clear consensus had emerged in favor of Charter change through a constituent assembly,” they said in the statement titled “Negrenses United Against Constituent Assembly.”

The statement was sent to the Senate and the bishops were awaiting a response.

‘Senators will all become our MPs’ (

The latest proposal of the Committee on Transitory Provisions of the Consultative Commission will automatically turn all senators into members of parliament.

Senators elected in May 2004 for six years and those elected in 2001 whose term will end in 2007 are proposed to become Members of the Parliament, Con-Com Chairman Jose Abueva said.

Abueva reported last week that discussions on transitory provisions were included in the Luzon consultations where majority of the members were in favor of having simultaneous elections for national and local leaders.

The proposal will allow a smooth and orderly transition from the presidential to the parliamentary system. All tenures are fixed for five years.

During the transition period, all tenures of national and local officials will be extended from 2007 to 2010.

Congress has final say on ’07 polls (

CONGRESS, not the President, has the final say on whether to scrap the 2007 elections as part of the transition to a parliamentary form of government, the Palace said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said, however, that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Vice President Noli de Castro should complete their six-year terms that end in 2010.

Ermita was reacting to a proposal from the 55-man Consultative Commission (ConCom) to scrap the mid-term elections and extend by three years the terms of incumbent senators and congressmen whose terms will end in 2007 in the run-up to the shift to a parliamentary system in 2010 under proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Ermita said that all amendments proposed by the ConCom — whether endorsed or not by the President — are recommendatory in nature, and may be adopted or rejected by Congress sitting as a constituent assembly (Consa).

“At this stage, there is no final recommendation yet from the ConCom,’’ Ermita said.

Most Pinoys have little or no knowledge of Charter — poll (

Despite the Arroyo administration’s campaign to explain the need to amend the Philippine Constitution, nearly seven out of every 10 Filipinos do not know enough about the Charter and only one out of two favor tinkering with it, according to an independent public opinion poll.

Over 52 percent of 1,200 Filipinos surveyed nationwide in Pulse Asia’s Oct. 15-27 poll reported having little knowledge of the Constitution while 16 percent said they have almost none or no knowledge at all.

Only eight percent claim to have a great deal of knowledge about the Charter and a quarter of the population said they had "sufficient" knowledge.

"Even in class ABC only 17 percent report knowing a great deal about the Charter," Pulse Asia said in a statement.

Asked if it is appropriate to amend the Constitution at this time, 35 percent said no but were open to amendments in the future while 20 percent were absolutely opposed. Only 36 percent favored amendments.

AFP: We’re doing probe on wiretapping scandal (

AFTER MONTHS of stonewalling, the Armed Forces turned around yesterday and claimed it had been investigating the “Hello Garci” wiretapping scandal since it broke out in June.

But Colonel Tristan Kison, the military spokesperson, could not give an update on the “internal investigation” being conducted by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

Kison also declined to answer questions on how Technical Sergeant Vidal Doble explained to his superiors in ISAFP his involvement with former National Bureau of Investigation deputy chief Samuel Ong, who said he obtained the master tape of the Hello Garci tapes from Doble.

“That’s precisely the focus of the investigation: To find out whether or not there was wiretapping. If ever there was, which unit did that?” Kison told reporters. He said the findings would not necessarily be made public “because this is an internal investigation.”

AFP brass to steer clear of Garci quiz (

TOP military officials led by chief of staff Gen. Generoso Senga are likely to stay away from the Senate hearings on the wiretapping controversy, but will be able to air their side when they appear for confirmation proceedings before the Commission on Appointments today and Wednesday, the Palace said yesterday.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Senga is presumed to know the rule laid down by Executive Order 464, which bars top Cabinet and military officials from testifying in Congress without written presidential clearance.

On the other hand, he said, confirmation hearings are not covered by the controversial executive order.

Ex-ISAFP chief’s silence baffles Arroyo supporters (

FORMER TOP military spy Tirso Danga’s intriguing silence yesterday bolstered the belief of sources in Congress that he may have a mouthful to say about who ordered the bugging of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ex-poll official Virgilio Garcillano.

Several administration and opposition sources in the House of Representatives noted that up to now, the Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J-2) had not said anything to clear up the wiretapping mystery despite his having been the head of the military’s chief intelligence unit.

Danga, a Navy rear admiral, was head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) when the supposed electronic bugging occurred in 2004.

“We received some raw reports that he could have ordered the clandestine operation to conduct the wiretapping,” the source in Congress told the Inquirer.

Asean OKs democracy charter (

KUALA LUMPUR (via PLDT) — Southeast Asia’s regional grouping approved yesterday the drafting of a constitution aimed at boosting democracy, human rights and good governance in the region and speeding up democratic reforms in Myanmar.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathered in the Malaysian capital for their annual summit and signed a document pledging to draft an ASEAN charter to serve as its "legal and institutional framework."

The agreement would promote "democracy, human rights and obligations, transparency and good governance and (strengthen) democratic institutions," according to a joint declaration to be signed by ASEAN leaders.

The document calls for setting up a panel of "eminent" citizens to make recommendations for the charter. Former President Fidel Ramos is the Philippine representative to this panel.

Bolante did not snub irate senators (

Senate President Franklin Drilon asked the Senate Committee on Agriculture Monday to cite former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante in contempt for leaving the country on the eve of a committee hearing on the use of the P728-million fertilizer fund in 2004 despite a subpoena.

A press statement from Bolante, however, shows that he had written the chairman and members of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture to apologize for his inability to attend Monday’s hearing because of "very urgent matters that transpired over the weekend -- matters over which I had no control."

Bolante also told the senators in his letter that since he was no longer a government official he would need time "to collate important documents and do the necessary paperwork the committee needs in its investigation."

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