Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ancient map won’t help RP in UN case, says China

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 10): Ancient map won’t help RP in UN case, says China

China doused cold water on the chances of the government’s plan to submit an almost 300-year-old map to the United Nations Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in The Hague which supposedly shows that Huangyan Island or the dispute Scarborough Shoal is part of Philippine territory, in helping the Philippines’ case in the arbitration case.

Scarborough Shoal is where China is undertaking a massive reclamation work as part of its efforts to solidify its claim on the disputed area.

The government is banking on the map, first published in 1734, to disprove the nine-dash-line claim of China in proving that almost the entire South China Sea is within its territory.

“The map cannot help the Philippines regarding its territorial claims,” Zhuang Guotu, a professor from the Research School for Southeast Asian Studies of Xiamen University, said as he emphasized the role that the 1898 Spanish-American War played in the dispute.

The US took over Spain’s colonies including the Philippine islands in 1898 but “did not take control of Huangyan Island according to Zhuang.”

“The island was not a part of the Philippines either after the country gained independence in 1946,” he added.

“It is common to depict surrounding areas on a map. It is for sure the map can not prove that the islands belong to the Philippines,” Global Times quoted Zhuang as saying.

“The tribunal has its own way to reach a judgment … Anyone who knows history or law will see that the map will not help the Philippines,” Zhuang argued.

China, however, maintained that The Hague tribunal’s decision has no binding effect on it.

According to China’s position paper on jurisdiction in South China Sea arbitration released last year by Chen Qinghong, a research ­fellow from the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies under the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, the tribunal “has no jurisdiction over this arbitration, unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.…

“[The arbitration] will not change the history and fact of China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and adjacent waters,” it added.

Senior Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said a definitive ruling from UN body on the border conflict with China will ease the tension in the region.

Speaking with a Spanish academic, Carpio underscored that a favorable ruling by the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines’ case against China may help reduce the tension over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea adding that if the tribunal declares China’s controversial nine-dash line as invalid, then Beijing cannot claim as sovereign territorial waters the entire South China Sea.

Carpio was interviewed with Mario Esteban of the Elcano Royal Institute in Madrid, Spain, as part of the former’s series of lectures on the West Philippine Sea in Europe where he spoke about the ongoing territorial dispute between Manila and Beijing.

Carpio said a ruling by the arbitral tribunal favorable to Manila will reduce the area of the conflict from the entire South China Sea to the islands, which he added, can be managed by claimant countries.

“If the Tribunal will declare the nine-dash line as void, therefore, China cannot claim as sovereign territorial waters the entire South China Sea. It will have to limit its claim to the islands and the 12-nautical mile territorial sea. So that will drastically reduce the area of conflict from the entire South China Sea to the islands and that kind of conflict over small islands can be managed,” Carpio said in the transcripts, copies of which are provided by the SC Public Information Office.

“Our problem now is China claims the entire South China Sea, and that is a problem for our fishermen because these are their traditional fishing grounds, and if they go there now they will be water cannoned. So if we have a favorable ruling, the area of the dispute will be reduced considerably and we can leave on that kind of dispute,” he added.

He explained that if the nine-dash line is allowed to stand by the Tribunal, then it will have far-reaching consequences since other countries may use it to claim entire seas in their region.

“If the Tribunal will allow the nine-dash line to stand, then the law of the sea, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, will not apply in the South China Sea. If it can’t apply in the South China Sea, it cannot apply in other seas or oceans because other naval powers will demand the same rights as China. We cannot create an exemption because naval powers will also demand an exemption. Why is China alone being given an entire sea? India will claim the Indian Ocean. I think we will go back to the 1200, the 1300, 1400 or the 1500 where nations tried to claim the oceans and seas as their own,” he said.

Carpio said nations claiming entire oceans and seas as their own were a thing of the past adding that this has been settled in the 1600 between two great scholars, Hugo Grotius and John Selden.
He said maritime territorial disputes are now governed by UNCLoS signed by 165 countries, including the Philippines and China.

“We are trying to get a ruling from the Tribunal that the nine-dash line has no basis under international law. China can claim the islands and territories, and we can discuss that over time, but in this time and age, no state can claim an entire sea anymore. That era long passed and settled a long time ago. We are now under the UNCLoS,” he said.

He added that the UNCLoS is very clear in that countries are only entitled to 12 nautical miles territorial sea and additional Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical and at most, 150 nautical miles of continental shelf.With this, he said “no one country can claim the entire sea.”

“That’s all over now, that idea in the 1600 that the world has rejected and China is reviving today,” he further said.

If the territorial dispute is allowed to fester and flares into military conflict, Carpio said “the world economy will be in danger because more than one half of the seaborne trade of the world passes through the South China Sea.

”He called on the European Union to support a ruling of the Tribunal. Once there is a ruling, we expect the EU to also support the ruling because this is a ruling of an international tribunal in which the EU is a member,” he said adding that the entire international community should also follow suit in supporting such ruling.

The Philippines took China to the arbitral tribunal in January 2013 as it challenged the legality of the latter’s nine dash line claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas included in the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The DFA said the country expects that it will finally resolve the territorial dispute in the South China Sea through peaceful means as well as clarify the country’s maritime entitlements.

China has refused to participate in the arbitral proceedings and insisted on bilateral negotiation with the Philippines to resolve the territorial dispute.

Its claims over the South China and its aggressive stance, including the reclamation activities in Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban Reefs as well as the building of artificial islets over Mabini, Burgos, Calderon and Kennar Reefs has rattled the nerves of other claimant countries, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.......


Army, police foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato, manhunt on vs. perpetrators

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): Army, police foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato, manhunt on vs. perpetrators

Police and military authorities here have conducted joint manhunt against two men who left components of a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) in a remote village here Monday.

This after military bomb experts prevented a bombing attempt in North Cotabato or elsewhere in the region with the recovery of components of improvised explosive device in Purok Lumboy, Barangay New Leon, Aleosan, North Cotabato.

Four live 60 mm mortars were found tucked in the “u-box” or compartment of a motorcycle left unattended in Purok at past 4 p.m. Monday, according to Senior Inspector Arnel Melocotones, Aleosan town police chief.

Melocotones said the Aleosan police office has received information at past 3 p.m. that two men were acting suspiciously in the village when they abandoned a motorbike.

Army bomb experts checked on the motorbike and were surprised to discover four 60 mortars, detonating cords, blasting caps, steel balls and other metals.

“It will not explode, the triggering device was not yet complete,” Melocotenes said in Filipino.

He theorized the two men left the motorbike in Barangay New Leon and other men will drive the vehicle to an unknown place where they will set off the IED.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing attempt but police and Army investigators said it has the "signatures" of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

An Army colonel said the recovered IED components were similar to those found and recovered by the military in BIFF camps and stronghold in Maguindanao last February when an all out offensive was launched to neutralize the BIFF.

Following the incident, Senior Supt. Danilo Peralta, North Cotabato police chief, has ordered all police units in the province to be on guard against peace saboteurs.

He also sought the help of civilians in preventing bombings and other terrorism in the province.

North Cotabato had been subjected to BIFF bombings in the past, the latest bloody attacks were in November and December last year where three bombings, one in Kabacan town and two in Mlang, both in North Cotabato, leaving at least six persons dead and about 60 civilians wounded.


10th ID launches Project 'Shoe Box'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): 10th ID launches Project 'Shoe Box'

In line with its efforts to gain rapport with the community it is serving, the Compostela Valley-based 10th Infantry Division together with its civilian stakeholders launched its Project "Shoe Box" Monday.

This took place at Task Force Davao headquarters, Sta. Ana Wharf, Davao City.

Project "Shoe Box" aims to provide school items to indigent children living in the 10th Infantry Division area-of-operations.

In Monday's ceremony, 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Eduardo M. Ano personally handed shoe boxes containing school items and other materials to Department of Education and National Commission of Indigenous People representatives.

Helping the 10th Infantry Division in this endeavor were non-government organizations Children’s Hour, Kiwanis International, Unifrutti Phils Inc., Davao Travel Agencies Association, Geodetic Engineers of the Philippines, Motor Riders Association, NCCC Mall Davao, Fraternal Order of Eagle, Davao City Chamber of Commerce and other private sectors and stakeholders that are committed to provide school materials.

Donated school items consists of 36,088 shoe boxes.

These consists of pencils, pad papers, crayons, slippers, school bags, uniforms, shoes and raincoats.

These will be given to 27,528 school children studying in 63 public schools in the 10th Infantry Division's area-of-operations.


Ex-NPA rebel gunned down by former comrades

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): Ex-NPA rebel gunned down by former comrades

A former member of the New People's Army (NPA) who turned a Citizens Armed Forces and Geographical Unit member was gunned down by his former comrades inside his house on Sunday night at Barangay San Sebastian, Sta. Magdalena, Sorsogon.

A police report identified the former rebel-turned-CAFGU man as Biyong Garais, married and a farmer.

The report said Garais was busy watching the television with his family inside his residence at about 7:30 p.m. when young-looking men armed with .45-caliber pistol barged in and shot him dead.

After their mission, the rebels casually walked away towards the direction of the mountain in the village.

The report said Garais became active in fighting against his former rebel-companions when he joined the CAFGU after leaving the dissident movement.


Rebel killed in Northern Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): Rebel killed in Northern Samar clash

A New People's Army (NPA) fighter was killed during a clash with 81st Division Reconnaissance Company troopers on "focus military operations" at Sitio Cabangahan, Barangay Mckinley, Catarman town, Northern Samar Monday afternoon.

The said unit is under the operational control of the 63rd Infantry Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Carmelito T. Pangatungan.

Pangatungan said that the firefight took place at 2:25 p.m.

He said that his men were conducting operations in the locality when they chanced upon a NPA team passing by, triggering a brief battle, killing one rebel and scattering the others without losses to the government side.

Aside from the slain NPA fighter, the government forces recovered an AK-47 automatic rifle and assorted ammunition at the scene of the encounter.

The slain rebel was handed to Barangay Mckinley officials for identification and burial.


PN to hold joint training with JMSDF

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): PN to hold joint training with JMSDF

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it will conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime search-and-rescue, and maritime situational awareness training and cooperation with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF).

This was disclosed by PN spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo Tuesday.

"This is part of the customary engagements that the PN does with navies sojourning the Philippines. These are the activities lined-up for the JMSDF country visit on June 22-26, 2015," he added.

The JMSDF will deploy a Lockheed P-3C "Orion" maritime patrol aircraft in the above-mentioned exercise.

Arevalo stressed that these confidence building activities aim to foster camaraderie, nurture established friendship, and promote interoperability of the two navies.

"This Navy-to-Navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations especially now that the Philippines is nearing the rainy season," he added.

"Finally, the ensuing staff-to-staff talks during the visit shall strengthen and institutionalize information-sharing between the PN and JMSDF to step-up maritime situational awareness," the PN spokesman said.


Japan aims to send patrol aircraft to PH for exercise

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jun 9): Japan aims to send patrol aircraft to PH for exercise

Japan aims to send a P3-C Orion patrol aircraft to the Philippines for a search-and-rescue exercise this month in a further sign of deepening security ties as Japan looks to extend its military presence to the South China Sea.

Tension in the South China Sea has been rising, particularly since China began land reclamation projects on disputed reefs, extending its influence in a region through which about $5 trillion of trade passes annually, much of it to and from Japan.

The United States wants its Asian allies to be more assertive against what it sees as Chinese expansionism.

The proposed two-day exercise from June 24 near the Philippine capital, Manila, comes after Philippine President Benigno Aquino visited Japan last week for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"We will announce the details such as the schedule and assets we will send as soon as the plan is fixed," Tomohisa Takei, chief of staff for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, told media in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Japan is considering joint maritime air patrols in the South China Sea with the United States as a counterweight to China's growing power, sources told Reuters in April.

Close U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines are negotiating a visiting forces agreement that, if concluded, would allow Japanese military aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin P3-C, to use bases in the Philippines for refueling.

Philippine navy spokesman Edgard Arevalo said the Philippine Navy and Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force were exploring areas of training and cooperation including humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Aquino and Abe also agreed to discuss transfers of defense technology and equipment that could help the Philippine's beef up patrols in areas of the South China Sea also claimed by China. With a much bigger navy, China is better able to push its claims.

Japan and the Philippines signed an agreement to forge closer defence ties in January and conducted their first joint naval drill in Philippine waters in May.


5 rebels killed, 1 captured in Pampanga clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): 5 rebels killed, 1 captured in Pampanga clash

Five members of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines-Rebolusyunaryong Hukbong Bayan, a breakaway group from the Communist Party of the Philippines, were killed while another one was captured during an encounter with the Central Luzon Regional policemen in Mexico, Pampanga early Tuesday morning.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Recomono, Pampanga Provincial Police director, said the encounter took place at 1:20 a.m. It stemmed from police operations against the rebel group who were reported to be engaged in robbery hold-up, carnapping and gun-for-hire rackets in Pampanga and other provinces of Central Luzon.

In the issuing firefight, four male rebels and one female were killed while another one, identified as Ryan Lising, 28, was wounded and captured.

Seized from the slain rebels were five pistol-type weapons, a hand grenade, two carbines, one M-16 automatic rifle. No losses were reported on the police side.

Lising is now undergoing treatment at the Mexico Community Hospital.


Army major buying food for sick child shot dead

From ABS-CBN (Jun 9): Army major buying food for sick child shot dead

An Army major, who used to be with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), was shot dead in Pagadian City late Monday.

Major Ibno Kalid Hassan had just gone out to buy food for his sick child confined in a hospital when he was shot dead.

His wife was with him, but was left unscathed.

Lt. Col. Audie Mongao, public affairs officer of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said Hassan was in civilian clothes when the incident happened.

“While at the hospital, his child asked for a chocolate drink so he and his wife went to a nearby store. He was shot at the back while (about to pay) at the counter,” said Mongao.

He said the suspect used a .45 pistol.

Hassan sustained gunshot wounds in his back, chest, and arms.

Hassan, one of hundreds of MNLF rebels integrated into the military and police after the MNLF peace agreement was signed in 1996, was assigned at the Headquarters Service Battalion in Labangan town in Zamboanga del Sur.

Mongao said they have yet to determine the motive behind the killing. The suspect supposedly fled on foot.

“He is a good man. He is a friend of mine. We are not aware of an enemy of his,” Mongao said.


'Express kidnappings' now target low-income earners

From ABS-CBN (Jun 9): 'Express kidnappings' now target low-income earners

Kidnappers demand P10K to P20K from families

A non-government organization has expressed alarm over the spate of kidnapping incidents in Sulu province and Zamboanga peninsula, which now targets even low-income earners.

Ershad Tawasil, the para-legal officer of Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, said the series of kidnapping incidents in Sulu have targeted not only businessmen and people belonging to the middle class, but also minimum-wage earners including government employees.

Tawasil said the groups behind the kidnappings have resorted to this activity as their source of daily income to feed their families.

The groups now target low-income earners, which they consider easy targets.

The groups demand around P10,000 to P20,000 from their captives' families in exchange for the freedom of the victims.

Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of Joint Task Force ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi), called this activity of the lawless groups in Sulu as "express kidnapping," citing the lower ransom demanded by the suspects.

Yoma said these lawless groups prefer not to hold their captives for a long period of time.

The official said these express kidnappers might be linked to the Abu Sayyaf groups operating in the jungles of Sulu, but they operate independently in the populated towns of the province, looking for possible targets.

Yoma said they have been exerting efforts to arrest these kidnap-for-ransom groups in Sulu, especially the lookouts or spotters who usually monitor the everyday activities of possible victims.

Military operations in the province are focused on rescuing the remaining kidnap victims in the hands of Abu Sayyaf members, which include Naga (Zamboanga Sibugay) Mayor Gemma Adana, and the two Philippine Coast Guard personnel and a barangay chairman who were snatched on an island barangay of Zamboanga del Norte.

On Saturday, a businesswoman foiled an attempt of Abu Sayyaf members to kidnap her in Jolo town, after she was able to run and seek the help of policemen.

Two Abu Sayyaf bandits were arrested following a hot pursuit operation in Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul town.

Tawasil said, if the spate of kidnapping incidents does not stop, this will have a domino effect on the local economy of Sulu province and the livelihood of the residents as well.

Tawasil said security in Sulu must be tightened and police visibility should be maintained.

Close coordination among the local government units in BaSulTa area including Zamboanga peninsula must be enforced to strengthen the maritime security in coastal areas.


China to PH: We can properly handle differences

From Rappler (Jun 9): China to PH: We can properly handle differences

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua hopes for 'a bright and prosperous future' for the two countries' relations as they mark 40 years of diplomacy

On the 40th anniversary of Philippine-China relations, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said the two countries can "properly handle" their differences as he acknowledged "positive remarks" from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

"We have taken note of President Aquino's positive remarks at Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry's Celebration of the 117th Anniversary of Independence of the Republic of the Philippines, and relevant statements by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on China-Philippines relations yesterday," Zhao said in a statement Tuesday, June 9.

He added: "We believe that our two countries can properly handle our differences. We look forward to working with the Philippines to further promote bilateral commerce, trade, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges so as to make sure our bilateral relations can enjoy a bright and prosperous future."

Zhao made this statement as the Philippines and China mark a historic milestone on Tuesday, in the face of a dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

It is the fourth decade after then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on June 9, 1975, signed a joint communiqué to establish Philippine-China relations. (READ: In Numbers: Philippines-China relations)

Chinese businessmen, however, cancelled a huge anniversary celebration on Monday evening, June 8, after Aquino – for the second time – compared China to Nazi Germany.

The event's organizers, instead, chose to celebrate only the Philippines' Independence Day – without the Chinese ambassador and with Aquino as the guest of honor.

ENVOY NOT THERE. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III attends the Independence Day celebration of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc on June 8, 2015. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua doesn't attend the event. Photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

ENVOY NOT THERE. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III attends the Independence Day celebration of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc on June 8, 2015. Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua doesn't attend the event. Photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

In his speech before Filipino-Chinese businessmen on Monday evening, Aquino diverted the audience's focus from the South China Sea dispute. Not once did he mention the issue.

He told an audience initially pegged at around 1,200, "Today, we gather as friends."

Aquino then urged the Philippines and China to strengthen their relationship with "mutual respect, the determination to maintain fairness and harmony, and a firm commitment to the rule of law."

"It is my hope that we all bear this in mind, as we commemorate the independence of the Philippines – an occasion that likewise underscores our interdependence with the world and, consequently, our desire, then as today, to be and to act as a responsible member of the community of nations," Aquino said.

Hours before this, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda capitalized on Aquino's Chinese roots as he downplayed Aquino's statements likening China, one of the Philippines' biggest trading partners, to Nazi Germany.

He said it is not difficult for Aquino to relate to the Filipino Chinese, "he himself being a descendant also of Chinese ancestry."

Lacierda said, "We have a multi-level relationship with China."


Philippines, Japan to hold fresh naval drills

From Rappler (Jun 9): Philippines, Japan to hold fresh naval drills

The June 22-26 joint maneuvers with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force would be only the second ever, after an unprecedented one-day exercise in the South China Sea last month

JOINT EXERCISES. Philippine coastguard personnel board a ship during a simulation of a sea jacking scenario as part of the combined Philippine-Japan maritime exercise off Manila bay, in the mouth of South China sea on May 6, 2015. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

JOINT EXERCISES. Philippine coastguard personnel board a ship during a simulation of a sea jacking scenario as part of the combined Philippine-Japan maritime exercise off Manila bay, in the mouth of South China sea on May 6, 2015. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

The Philippines and Japan will hold fresh joint naval drills this month, the Filipino military said Tuesday, June 9, as the World War II foes swiftly ramp up security ties while China develops islands in disputed waters.

The June 22-26 joint maneuvers with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force would be only the second ever, after an unprecedented one-day exercise in the flashpoint South China Sea last month, Philippine navy spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

He would not say where the new exercises would be held or which ships would take part.

But Japanese media, quoting unnmamed official sources, suggested the second maneuvers will also take place on the South China Sea.

On May 12, two Japanese destroyers and one of the Philippines' newest warships held historic maneuvers less than 300 kilometers (168 miles) from the Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal, which is now under Chinese control.

"This navy-to-navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations," Arevalo said, referring to the planned drills.

These will involve "maritime domain awareness," search and rescue, and disaster response, he said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in Tokyo last week that the two governments would start negotiations for the transfer of defense technology and equipment. (READ: PH, Japan to begin VFA talks)

The agreement may include the export of Japanese hardware to the Philippines, including anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology.

The two leaders also expressed "serious concern" over China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, which they said violated a 2002 regional agreement.

Aquino, who was making a state visit to Tokyo, also drew parallels between China's recent actions and Nazi Germany's creeping invasion of Europe just before World War II.

Aquino is one of China's most outspoken critics in the region. His government has asked a United Nations-backed tribunal to rule on its territorial disputes with China.

China's claim over almost the entire South China Sea overlaps with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.

China and Japan are separately embroiled in a longstanding dispute over a Japan-controlled island chain in the East China Sea.


Insider drags DND chief into 'anomalous' chopper deal

From Rappler (Jun 9): Insider drags DND chief into 'anomalous' chopper deal

A whistleblower tells senators that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was promised P84M in commission to give the chopper deal to Rice Aircraft Services

WHISTLEBLOWER. Former BIR employee Rhodora Alvarez gives a detailed narration of alleged corruption in the procurement of military assets. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

WHISTLEBLOWER. Former BIR employee Rhodora Alvarez gives a detailed narration of alleged corruption in the procurement of military assets. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Corruption in the defense department goes all the way to the top, according to a former agent of a United States-Canadian joint venture that won the allegedly anomalous P1.2-billion deal to supply the Philippine Air Force with 21 refurbished combat choppers.

Secretary of National Defense (SND) Voltaire Gazmin was allegedly promised a 7% kickback – about P84 million – while Defense Undersecretry for Finance Fernando Manalo got another 5% of the total project cost to cover his and his men's commissions, according to agent-turned-whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez in an affidavit submitted to the Senate blue ribbon committee last week.

On Tuesday, June 9, Gazmin did not attend the continuation of the Senate committee hearing, but sent a letter denying the allegations.

Both Gazmin and Manalo have denied before the investigating Senate body. Alvarez admitted she had not dealt with Gazmin himself but said she's confident that Manalo couldn't make those commitments without his knowledge.

Alvarez said she was also supposed to get 3% or about P36 million. This means a total of P180 million or 15% of the total project cost was meant to pay grease money to ensure that the joint venture of US-based Rice Aircraft Services Incorporated (RASI) and Canada-based Eagle Copters Ltd won the contract.
Gazmin's denial

FATHER FIGURE. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is the chief of the Presidential Security Group during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III's mother. Malacañang file photo

FATHER FIGURE. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is the chief of the Presidential Security Group during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III's mother. Malacañang file photo

In response, Gazmin submitted to the Senate committee a letter to deny the claims of Alvarez.

"I categorically state that I have given strict instructions to all Department of National Defense (DND) officials to avoid acts of impropriety in all their dealings. I have never issued any instructions to seek favors from any entity or manipulate transactions that would violate the public trust and result in a disadvantage to the government," said Gazmin, who did not attend the continuation of the Senate hearing on Tuesday, June 9.

Gazmin is a father figure to President Benigno Aquino III. As commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, he protected her administration from several coup attempts, including the bloodiest in December 1989 that wounded now President Aquino.

In the Senate hearing, Alvarez provided detailed narration of her supposed meetings with Manalo and Alvarez to make sure the only RASI could win the project.

 WINNING BIDDERS: Robert Rice (right) and Matthew Rice appear before the Senate hearing. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler
WINNING BIDDERS: Robert Rice (right) and Matthew Rice appear before the Senate hearing. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

Senators have raised red flags on the chopper deal – delayed delivery of choppers and engine defects in 4 of the only 7 choppers it was able to deliver.

Senator Francis Escudero also questioned why RASI, which failed the 3 public biddings for the project, still won the contract during the negotiated bid.

"To my mind, after two failed biddings, you should have learned your lesson already," Escudero said.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the defense department is now investigating the contract.

"We regret that we have not yet formed conclusions to the facts we received. We are collating everything to make a definitive conclusion on all of these matters," he said.

Air Force chief's concerns

Alvarez said RASI's choppers were only good as search and rescue choppers, not for combat mission. She said this is why the choppers were not used by the Philippine Air Force during the "all-out war" against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters earlier this year.

Senator Joseph Victor Estrada said that Air Force pilots he talked to admitted to him that they are afraid to fly those choppers.

It turned out Air Force chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado had refused to accept the choppers last year because RASI wanted to deliver them without the necessary gun mounts. But the DND supposedly amended the terms of the contract to allow separate delivery of the choppers and the gun mounts.

"I have a memorandum signed by commanding general Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado to Secretary of National Defense, saying that the request of Rice Aircraft is not acceptable," Alvarez told the Senate hearing.

Alvarez said the defense department repeatedly amended the contract to allow RASI's request.

AIR FORCE CHIEF. Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

AIR FORCE CHIEF. Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

Alvarez said the Air Force eventually received 21 gun mounts and most of them may be useless because the defense department has terminated the rest of the contract with RICE. The US firm is appealing the ruling, however.

The defense officials, military officers, and representatives of the winning bidders were encouraged to respond to allegations made by Alvarez in her affidavit.

Manalo earlier confirmed that Alvarez used to be an agent of the US firm RASI. He said she's only making up the allegations to extort money from the supplier. (READ: Insider tags Defense exec in 'anomalous' P1.2-B chopper deal)

The allegations of Alvarez, however, have mostly targetted at Gazmin, Manalo, and Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez and particular Air Force officers who were supposed to scrutinize the qualifications of the bidder and the inspected the choppers upon delivery.

She also accused Manalo, a former Air Force general, of being an former agent of RASI. She said this explains why he would supposedly favor the company.


PAF official refutes witness' account on alleged US visa bribe

From InterAksyon (Jun 9): PAF official refutes witness' account on alleged US visa bribe

A top official of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Tuesday denied the accusation by a lone witness that he asked for a US visa for his brother in exchange for the approval of the P1.2-B helicopter procurement project for the AFP Modernization Program.

During the last hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, Rhodora Alvarez, employee of Revenue District Office No. 33, revealed that top officials of the Department of National Defense (DND) asked for a 12-percent cut "for the boys" commission in connection with the P1.2 billion helicopter program from the supplier, Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI).

Aside from these kickbacks, which she narrated in her 27-page affidavit submitted to Guingona's panel, Alvarez said that PAF Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra Jr., chairman of the DND Technical Working Group (TWG) requested for a US visa to be issued to his brother in exchange for approval of the project.

However, when asked about this matter by Guingona during the hearing, Parra denied Alvarez' accusations, which was also supported by Robert Rice Jr., president of RASI.

Parra countered that his brother, named Glenn, has been in the US for 18 years and is now a permanent resident of the US.

Guingona turned to Rice to confirm the statement made by Parra, and received this response: "Absolutely not true. We are 3,000 miles apart. I never met his brother, never known his brother."

Guingona instructed all the officials involved, including Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, to submit their individual affidavits to confirm, deny or make a statement of the allegations made by Alvarez.

In her affidavit, Alvarez claimed that Rice agreed to give 7% commission to Gazmin and 5% "down the line."

In response, Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, DND Special Bids and Awards Committee Chairman, said he will submit to the committee a "point-by-point" affidavit to dispute the allegations made by Alvarez that they asked Rice for a 12% commission.


Suppliers sought for Navy’s ammunition, rockets

From the Business World (Jun 8): Suppliers sought for Navy’s ammunition, rockets

THE ARMED FORCES of the Philippines (AFP) through the Philippine Navy Bids and Awards Committee has published an invitation to bid for four separate contracts of ammunition and rockets.

The first contract is for the procurement of 1.43 million rounds of cartridge, 5.56-millimeter (mm) ball ammunition with an approved budget for the contract (ABC) of P32.77 million. The next is for the procurement of 4,000 cartridges for 25-mm high explosive ammunition with an ABC of P24 million.

The third is for the procurement of 101,640 rounds of cartridge for caliber 50 ammunition with an ABC of P20.33 million. The last is for the procurement of 360 rounds of 2.75 inches high explosive rockets and 288 rounds of 2.75 inches inert rockets with an ABC of P37.64 million.

Bidding documents are worth P25,000 and the method of payment needs to be “in the form of cash,” according to the invitation to bid. The fee for the bidding documents is “non-refundable.” The bidding documents should also be received “personally by the bidder or by his/her authorized representative.”

Issuance of bidding documents, which started on June 5, will end on June 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. It can be obtained from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Finance Center in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Pre-bid conference for the four contracts will be on June 10, 1 p.m.

Only interested bidders that have purchased the bidding documents can participate in the pre-bid conference. The submission and opening of bid envelopes will be on June 22, 9 a.m.

NPA instructor surrenders to military in Davao del Norte

From GMA News (Jun 9): NPA instructor surrenders to military in Davao del Norte

A member of the New People's Army surrendered to the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division in Davao del Norte on Saturday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command has said.

Alberto Egagamao, alias Abdul, allegedly a political instructor in the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of  the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front, surrendered in Barangay Cabadiangan in New Corella town on Saturday night.

Egagamao was reportedly responsible for the indoctrination and training of new recruits.

"I want to live in peace with my family. I am one of the victims of NPA’s deception," said Egagamao in a statement in Cebuano.

Egagamao also surrendered an M-60 machine gun with several rounds of ammunition.

The statement said local officials and relatives had assisted Egagamao in his desire to surrender.

He is now at the headquarters of the 60th Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to be interviewed by authorities.

As of June 9, at least 13 NPA members have surrendered to different EASTMINCOM units since June 1 while at least 109 rebels have surrendered since January 1.

Since the start of the year, at least 13 high-powered firearms and seven low-powered guns were surrendered to the military, it added.

On the other hand, 70 high-powered firearms and 17 low-powered firearms were recovered by soldiers during encounters with NPA rebels during the same time period.