Newsbriefs 24 January Morning
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan
AFP: Military plot vs Arroyo exists
The Armed Forces leadership on Monday confirmed the existence of a plot to overthrow the Arroyo administration being hatched by disaffected members of the military.
The AFP chief, Gen. Generoso Senga, disclosed that military operatives have seen "some indications" to show that rumors of this plot are true.
"There are some indications of intentions on the ground and we are verifying their extent," Senga told reporters at an early-morning press conference at Camp Aguinaldo.
He was flanked by the Army chief, Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the Air Force chief, Lt. Gen. Jose Reyes, and the Navy chief, Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga. It was a virtual show of force and unity of the AFP services.
"There is a threat. This is the object of our intelligence effort. At this point I cannot say that the threat is that serious. This is something we should take seriously and for our operatives to determine," Senga added.
He said AFP intelligence is verifying if the coup threat is originating from within or outside the ranks of the military.
Pressed by reporters, he declined to elaborate on the "indications" of the military-coup plot.
"We have some leads. We know some of them. We are verifying these. But intentions are different from capabilities. I think we should not discuss them now," Senga said.
An additional set of "hotline" numbers was announced on Monday for informants to use.
These are 0916-2637245 and 0921-2275670. The old number is 0915-2546579.Mindanao EU visitors get MILF peace vow
ZAMBOANGA CITY - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Monday assured the European Union of its commitment to sign a peace agreement with the Philippine government and end more than three decades of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines.
Muhammad Ameen, secretary of the MILF Central Committee, said his group is optimistic that it will soon finally seal an agreement with the government. The agreement will be just, lasting, he said, and it will comprehensively address the root cause of the conflict in Mindanao.
"We are really optimistic and we hope the MILF and the Philippines will be able to sign a peace agreement soon," he said after a group of European Union ambassadors, led by Jan De Kok, inspected EU-funded projects in the Muslim autonomous region last week.
The MILF has repeatedly appealed for aid from donor countries to help develop war-torn areas and provide basic health services to Muslims in Mindanao.Even admin senators cool to Council
Only two pro-administration senators favor Malacañang’s move to convene the Council of State today, while three of their colleagues doubt it will produce substantial results.
Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said he would attend the meeting, set for 10 a.m. at Malacañang.
"I may have differences with the current leadership but whether we like it or not, GMA is still the President and as such, out of respect for the office, I will attend the Council of State meeting," he said.
Pangilinan is a member of a Liberal Party faction that withdrew support from President Arroyo at the early stage of the political crisis last year.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who heads the LP as president and head of the party faction, is not attending the meeting.
Sen. Manuel Roxas II is not a member of the council but nevertheless agrees that a meeting is in order.
Sen. Manuel Villar, meanwhile, has not yet decided if he will attend. Villar heads the Nacionalista Party.
"I have not consulted with members of the party," he said. Council of State meets without opposition
The Council of State meeting opens Tuesday in Malacañan as scheduled by the President with her critics continuing to call it a "no-account event" that is less important than the Ledac (Legislative-Executive Development Council).
Sen. Joker Arroyo, quoting the President and her key people, said Monday in a press statement, "Attendance is desired but not required, so the Council of State is no big deal."
In the House of Representatives the opposition bloc reiterated its stand to boycott the meeting.
"No one from our ranks will attend the Council of State meeting," said Rep. Francis Escudero, leader of the House opposition and spokesman for the United Opposition.Joker: Is the money for HR victims intact?
SENATOR Joker Arroyo yesterday asked the Department of Budget and Management to reveal if the P10 billion share of human rights victims in the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos regime is still intact and available for disbursement.
Arroyo said the P10 billion is part of the $718,764,000, or over P35 billion, that the government has recovered from the Marcos regime.
The senator made the call after DBM officials failed to assure senators yesterday that the government is not dipping its hands in the funds for its own purposes.
During the hearing on the DBM’s proposed 2006 budget, Secretary Romulo Neri told the senators that the government has already set aside P8 billion from the recovered Marcos money for the human rights victims.
But Arroyo noted that pending measures in both the Senate and the House of Representatives call for the allocation of P10 billion from the recovered wealth for the compensation of the human rights victims.
“They cannot make a categorical statement that the P10 billion earmarked for human rights victims is really intact and won’t be touched in case of emergency. They cannot give us an assurance that the government won’t touch it,” Arroyo said. P27B of seized Marcos funds gone, Senate told
THE P27 BILLION for land reform drawn from the P35 billion in Swiss bank deposits of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, which the government got hold of in 2004, is now “practically gone,” a budget official told the Senate yesterday.
Nora C. Oliveros, a director at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), said only P5 billion remained of the confiscated Marcos wealth after P8 billion was set aside to compensate the human rights victims of martial law.
However, the remaining P5 billion will be used by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) this year.
“(It’s) practically gone, your Honor,” Oliveros said during the Senate hearing on the DBM budget.
Senate President Franklin Drilon ordered DBM officials to explain why and how the Marcos funds were used, including P4.9 billion that was released right before the May 2004 elections.
He surmised that part of it went to the P728-million fertilizer fund that the Department of Agriculture (DA) released just before the elections allegedly to help finance the campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“So, the Marcos wealth is all finished. The P35 billion is all spent because you need P16 billion this year (for CARP) and you have only P5 billion left. So, the P35 billion is all spent,” Drilon said.Meter keeps running on Marcoses
WHILE the Marcoses have stubbornly defied the United States Ninth District Court’s final judgment to indemnify the 9,539 victims of human rights violations 20 years after the class suit against the Marcos Estate has been filed and won, the meter keeps on running.
The Marcoses now owe the victims of torture, disappearances and summary executions and their heirs some $392,817 each or P20.82 million, for a total of $3.8 billion.
According to American lawyer Robert Swift, lead counsel of the plaintiffs, the sum awarded has grown from $2 billion to $3,747,087,686.77 due to compounded interest.
The original $2 billion was awarded on Feb. 3, 1995, when the US District Court in Hawaii rendered its final judgment in the case of Hilao vs Estate of Ferdinand Marcos Multi-District Litigation 840 ordering the Marcos Estate to pay the victims compensatory and exemplary damages.
Thus, from only $204,000 per victim when the $2 billion was first awarded, the Marcoses will now have to shell out $392,817 to “satisfy the final judgment.”
According to Swift, a federal statute in the US governs the interest rate that is due on an unpaid judgment. DFA ordered to save Filipina sentenced to die in Kuwait
PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to do everything they can to save a Filipina teacher set to hang in Kuwait for killing her boss there.
“The President has instructed the DFA to look into the plight of Marilou Ranario, and to exhaust all diplomatic and legal means to save her life,” Malacañang spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.
The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait was negotiating with the family of the victim to accept blood money in return for Ranario’s life, while a separate appeal before the court was being pursued by her two Kuwaiti defense lawyers hired by the mission, the DFA said yesterday.
Ranario, 33, a native of Surigao del Sur, was found guilty on September 28 last year of stabbing her employer to death. The DFA did not provide details of the stabbing incident, but reports said she retaliated for the “insults” hurled on “her people.”
The court has yet to set a date of execution by hanging (not beheading, as earlier reported in a local paper).Hero’s welcome awaits Pacquiao
The House of Representatives is set to give the highest commendation to Manny Pacquiao even as the nation prepares a hero’s welcome for the Filipino boxing champion.
The gesture was prompted by three resolutions filed separately yesterday by Representatives Eduardo Gullas of Cebu, Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon and Darlene Antonino-Custodio of South Cotabato, which is bounded in the south by General Santos City, hometown of the fighter also known as "Pacman."
Pacquiao stopped Erik Morales in the 10th round over the weekend, vindicating himself in the grudge match in Las Vegas, Nevada after a heartbreaking loss to the Mexican in March last year.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bong Revilla asked Malacañang to declare Pacquiao’s arrival date in Manila a non-working holiday, saying the boxing sensation "deserves a hero’s welcome after he gave every Filipino "a much-needed respite from talk of disunity and instability."
"Especially over the weekend when talks of a pending coup d’état went around," Revilla said in a statement. US troops arrive in Sulu
US troops have started arriving in Sulu for Exercise Balikatan (BK) 2006, which will run from Feb. 20 to March 5 and focus on humanitarian and engineering activities to help residents of the province.
Aside from Sulu, the joint military exercise will also be held simultaneously in Cebu and certain parts of Luzon.
"The exercise demonstrates US resolve, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, to train, advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)," read a fact sheet released by the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).
The joint exercise "will inject thousands of US dollars into the Sulu economy in the purchase of local supplies, contracted services and other exercise-related expenditures," the fact sheet read.
Some 5,500 US military personnel and 2,800 Filipino soldiers are to take part in the joint exercises all over the country, with the aim of improving "inter-operability" between the allies.
Approximately 150 Filipino soldiers and 250 American troops will conduct multiple medical, dental, veterinary and engineering civic action projects in Sulu under the Project Bayanihan, an agreement under the Mutual Defense Treaty that provides the framework for humanitarian and civic action programs in Mindanao.