Thursday, February 28, 2008

“Failure of Leadership, Failure of Command”

Privilege Speech delivered by Cong. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III

of the 2nd District of Bukidnon on February 27, 2008

Jason and Fe Aquino have been happily married for 14 years now. Jason Aquino is a Major of the Philippine Army, assigned at Fort Bonifacio. He is no ordinary soldier, for he is the class baron of Philippine Military Academy Class ’91 and former Operations Chief of the elite Scout Rangers. His wife, Fe, is a housewife who hails from Cagayan de Oro. They are blessed with four daughters; Chen, who is 13 years old, a first year high school student; Chel who is 12 years old, a grade six student; and Chez who is 8 months old. All of them study at the Holy Spirit School at New Manila, Quezon City. Last year, the couple was blessed with another baby girl.

It was a bright, sunny day last February 27, 2006. Jason had already eaten his breakfast; drank his cup of coffee and had finished his Marlboro. He kissed his wife Fe goodbye and off he went to work at Fort Bonifacio. Little did they know that that was the last time they would see each other in a long, long time.

February 24, 2006 was the day that GMA declared a state of emergency. On February 27, Jason did not come home. The next day, Fe was worried sick. She called his office. She called almost everyone whom she thought could help her. Nobody knew where Jason was. She was frantic. She even confronted Col. Bacarro, the AFP spokesman, who said that he did not know the whereabouts of Jason.

My friends, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the experience and agony of having a family member not coming home. The experience is traumatic and the mental anguish is terrible. Your heart beats at the pace of a racehorse, your mind is numb with uncertainty – as if it had been injected with dental anesthesia, your throat dries with tension – like sandpaper, and your chest tightens with anxiety. Can you imagine? Ms. Fe Aquino, all alone in their house, with four daughters? Everyone she calls tells her: I don’t know where your husband is! After three sleepless nights, through the help of Jason’s Mistahs, Fe was finally informed that Jason was imprisoned at the Maximum Security Detention cell at the Intelligence Service Group or ISG compound. She was not allowed to see Jason.

Fe wondered why her husband was at the ISG. The ISG is not a custodial facility. It is a facility for interrogation and torture. In fact, this is where the members of the Abu Sayaff group are incarcerated. Jason was put in solitary confinement – in a cell that is hot, dark, and isolated. Jason was arrested and put in solitary confinement without notice to his family, without notice to his lawyers. Worst of all, Major Jason Aquino, a distinguished officer and gentleman, class baron of the Philippine Military Academy Class ’91, was made to suffer solitary confinement without any charge for five months. He was treated worse than a hardened criminal.

It took a whole week before Fe and her daughters could see Jason. They were made to wait an hour before they could actually see him. Upon seeing him, his daughters broke down in tears. He was very thin and haggard. There were deep markings on his face. Chen and Chel broke down in tears. They could not understand what was happening. Fe was warned by an officer that if she filed a case against them, they would not allow her to visit Jason anymore. As this was not enough, her house inside the heavily guarded Camp Aguinaldo was ransacked three (3) times and up to now, the Military Police and CIDG, despite their resources, have yet to arrest a single suspect.

After five months of solitary confinement, Jason Aquino was charged with attempted mutiny in connection with the alleged plan of the Scout Rangers under Bgen. Danilo Lim and the Marines under MGen. Renato Miranda. This was with regard to their alleged withdrawal of support from the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Today, I speak to you not only about the plight of Major Jason Aquino, but of the plight of the 28 distinguished Officers of our Armed Forces who are now facing a court martial for their alleged withdrawal of support last February 2006. If you will recall, that was when the people came out in EDSA to protest the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration brought about by the “Hello Garci” scandal. GMA declared a State of Emergency. These distinguished Officers are now being subjected to countless indignities and their constitutional rights have been trampled upon by the Arroyo administration. Let me read some of their names:

Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, Col. Ariel Querubin, Col. Orlando de Leon, Col. Januario Caringal, Col. Armando BaƱez, Lt. Col. Custodio Parcon, Lt. Col. Achilles Segumalian, Lt. Col. Nestor Flordeliza, Lt. Col. Edmundo Malabanjot, Maj.Francisco Domingo Fernandez, Maj. Jason Laureano Aquino, Maj. Jose Leomar Doctolero, Capt. James Sabadan, Capt. Montano Almodovar, Capt. Joey Fontiveros, Capt. Ruben Guinolbay, Capt. Isagani Criste, Capt. William Upano, Capt. Dante Langkit, Capt. Allan C. Aurino, Capt. Frederick Sales, Lt. Belinda Ferrer, Lt. Ervin Divinagracia, Lt. Jacon Cordero, Lt. Homer Estolas, Lt. Sandro Sereno, and Lt. Richiemel Caballes.

Let’s take some indignities. Last February 1, Col. Ariel Querubin, a recipient of the Medal of Valor1, the highest award given by the AFP for gallantry in combat, was forced to attend the court martial proceedings despite having a high fever and dizziness. Ariel was suffering from a combination of bronchitis and urinary tract infection. A military medical doctor who examined him found his fever to be at 38.5 C°. Instead of trying to minister to Ariel’s high fever, the doctor just filled up a medical certificate stating that Ariel was “fit to travel with medical team”. When confronted by Mrs. Pong Querubin, the doctor just replied that he was just following orders.

Another example was the way they manhandled the officers and ridiculed their families when they were transferred from Camp Capinpin in Tanay to the ISAFP Compound in Camp Aguinaldo. On the morning of that day there was a gentleman’s agreement, that the officers would be furnished a written order for their transfer and that they would not be handcuffed. At around 4:30 pm a commotion started. In breach of the previous gentleman’s agreement, the officers were being handcuffed in front of their wives and children. No written order was ever produced. Lt. Col. Custodio Parcon, another Medal of Valor Awardee2, was forcibly handcuffed and carried by eight-men: “parang baboy na binuhat” ang sabi ng isang asawa. The officers were brought to the ISAFP compound at Camp Aguinaldo at 9 in the evening. ISAFP is not a custodial facility. It is a facility for interrogation. Their transfer to ISAFP was for no other purpose but to break their spirit. The cells are very hot, dark, and devoid of ventilation. Their beds are located right beside their waterless toilet bowls. Their families were not informed where they would be transferred. When the wives went to the high steel gates of the ISAFP compound to verify, the guards just mocked them, laughed at them and ridiculed them. Exhausted, hungry, cold, and traumatized by the day’s events, the officers’ wives and their children could only cry in desperation. As Jun Lozada said: “I have seen the ugly side of the state!”

General Esperon has persecuted these Officers and their families. They are not asking for mercy. All they want is justice, to be treated fairly and decently befitting an officer and a gentleman.

They are being forced to face an illegitimate court martial without any proper charges. The basis of the charges are two documents. Ironically, the first document, called the pre-trial investigation report (PTIR), recommended the dismissal of the mutiny charges against all of the accused. This was the result of an investigation by a three-man panel headed by Colonel Al Perreras. The second document, called the Pre-Trial advice, which reverses the PTIR, recommends the filing of charges. This was not signed by Esperon. Had Esperon signed this document, there would be no doubt about the legitimacy of the court martial. It is like a civilian being made to undergo a trial based on an unsigned criminal information sheet. To this date, Esperon has not signed3. The result is an illegitimately constituted court martial. In the absence of a signed pre-trial advice, there is no basis to detain these officers. This is a blatant display of abuse of authority without responsibility. This is a failure of leadership that further divides an already divided Armed Forces.

That is how our present Arroyo administration regards our military. To GMA, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the protector of the people. They are being used as tools. Tools to perpetuate her illegitimate and immoral hold on the Office of the President. Tools to suppress and intimidate legitimate opposition and dissent. Tools to extra-judicially kill our countrymen, just because they have progressive ideas. The Arroyo administration will do anything to stay in power. At first they will plead with you, and if you do not agree, then they will try to bribe you. If you do not agree to be bribed, they will threaten you and your family. Professor Randy David, in his column4 eloquently described the Arroyo administration in four phrases – “No Qualms, No Shame, No Conscience, No Limit!”

Aside from the question of legitimacy of the Arroyo administration, there is an apparent failure of leadership in the AFP. As Columnist, Ramon Farolan, a former General and PMA’er puts it5: “The AFP is not the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is the Armed Forces of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (AFGMA). Every officer who makes it to star rank and who aspires for high position in the military organization must, first and foremost, indicate a sense of personal loyalty to her over and above loyalty to country and people. …what matters most is personal loyalty to her more than efficiency, honesty or even honor.”

As the Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial states6:

“Esperon has shown his Commander-in-Chief utmost fidelity, ……… But overriding loyalty to the Commander- in-Chief is the quality one looks for in a commander of the presidential guard. The AFP Chief of Staff; however, must place both the national interest and the interest of the military as the protector of democracy above that of the President. This is exactly the thing that Esperon has failed to do.

He has not risen above his formative experience as commanding officer of the Palace guard. He has failed……. to de-politicize the military.

In a word, he has acted as a partisan.

Under his term, Esperon has also failed to stop the spree of politically motivated killings that will forever haunt his… legacy.

Consider the legal or political battles over the Mayuga report, over the Jonas Burgos case, over the Peninsula Manila incident -- indeed, over the damaging disclosures in the Hello Garci tapes.”

The track record of Mr. Esperon sends a spine-chilling effect on all of us. If asked by the President to do an illegitimate and non-democratic act, we doubt very much if he will stand up for the nation’s true interest.

Mr. Speaker, I therefore move to refer this speech to the Committee on Human Rights so as to inquire into the conditions of detention and the violation of the constitutional rights of the 28 officers detained at ISAFP compound at Camp Aguinaldo, as well as those detained at the CIDG compound at Camp Crame.

Secondly, I renew my call on Gloria Arroyo, to vacate the Office of the President. She never had any legitimate right to be President. She stole that office in 2004, as revealed by the “Hello Garci” tapes. Having stolen that Office, she is nothing but a usurper. I therefore call upon the usurper, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to stop the lying, stop the stealing, stop the kidnapping, stop the killing, and vacate the Office of the President of the Philippines!

Lastly, I call on General Hermogenes Esperon to immediately step down for failure of leadership. For failure to institute a credible military justice system. For oppression and persecution. For failure to fulfill the Constitutional mandate that makes the Armed Forces of the Philippines the protector of the people. For using the Armed Forces as a tool for perpetuating a corrupt and illegitimate administration.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The new Noah's ark: Doomsday seed vault

Photo is taken from Svalbard News

The science community's buzz is the doomsday vault or the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This is good and bad news at the same time. Good - because such technologies assures the world of food security in times of extreme climate and natural occurrence. Bad - because why do we have it now? Is something bound to happen?

Funded by Global Crop Diversity, the doomsday vault aimed to provide mankind with food in the event of a global catastrophe. It is built in the mountainside near Longyearbyen, in the remote Svalbard islands between Norway and the North Pole.

According to the National Geographic website:
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault or "doomsday" seed bank will store backup copies of as many as three million different crop varieties in case of a worldwide catastrophe.

The high-tech vault opens for storage in February 2008. It is going to "put an end to extinction [of] agricultural crops," said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome, Italy, which is the leading force behind the project.

The mission is crucial, Fowler noted, because the stored seeds provide researchers with the raw genetic materials needed to adapt the global food supply to survive climate change as well as water and energy shortages.

Here are other articles related to the doomsday vault. Just click on the links provided.

Svalbard News
National Geographic News

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations & Integrated Communications

I've come across an online gold mine. Its entitled The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations & Integrated Communications.

As the media grows more ruthless, the role of public relations has become increasingly complex and critical. Savvy businesspeople know that how a company conveys and maintains its image has never been more important­­ or...Read More

I enjoin everyone to read on.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Transcript of Lozada's Press Conference This morning at La Salle Greenhills

I’d like to start by thanking a lot of people who expressed their sincere sympathy for the family. I’d like to thank them first, so many of them. And in Tagalog, nagpapasalamt po ako sa lahat ng nagpahayag ng pag-aalala sa akin at sa sampu ng aking pamilya.

Ako po’y nagtawag sa pagpupulong na ito upang mabigayan ng liwanag. Madami kasing mga katanungan ang bayan ukol sa proyekto ng NBN-ZTE na ito.

At upang huwag na sanang mapilitan pa yung iba, marami nang mabubuting taong napilitan pang magsinungaling dahil sa akin. Hindi naman sila kasama rito, napipilitan pa silang magsinungaling. Ayokong maging dahilan na magkasala sa Diyos at sa bayan kahit sinoman. Ayoko ho iyon.

Mabigat po sa aking damdamin ito at isipan, ang aking gagawin. Ngunit kailangan kong gawin ito para sa kaunawaan, para maliwanag na ang isipan ng bayan, tungkol sa mga bayan na ito na lubhang makaka-apekto doon sa kinabukasan nila.

Ang aking ilalahad na mga salaysay ngayon tungkol sa ZTE-NBN ay yung mga bagay na ako’y may personal na ginampanan, the things that I’m involved with. And I’m going to say this with malice to no one.

Wala ho akong malisya kahit kanino man. Ang sasabihin ko ay kung ano lang ginawa namin, at kung ano ang nangyari.

To my recollection of events, I’ll start off the first time I was introduced to this project by Secretary Neri, monitored action to Chairman Ben Abalos. I guess if it was not late September, early October I was introduced by Secretary Neri to Chairman Ben Abalos in Wack-Wack together with his entourage sina Ruben Reyes…and the ZTE president Yu Yong and Fan Yang. We had lunch in Wack-Wack wherein we talked about the NBN-ZTE.

I remember that the Secretary told Chairman Abalos to course his project proposal to the proper channel. NEDA received the first copy sometime in October…prepared by…All questions were referred back to Asec Formoso.

When the Secretary gave me a copy for me to review, the first three that really caught my attention, when I was reviewing the financial cost, the financial projection were based on… September 20, 2006 issue wherein they were quoting how much government was spending for telecom expenses…

…So, I told the Abalos group, through their guy Leo San Miguel, that they should revise their proposal. They should fix it and try to avoid the education part of it, because there’s already a cyber-education project.

Sometime in November, that was the time that I also met Joey de Venecia, to see the presentation on a similar project but on a BOT basis. And at that time, the Secretary asked me if the project was appropriate for NBN.

Until we presented the project proposal for the NBN, And the Secretary asked If I think it was appropriate and I said yes, so he encouraged Joey to push through the project development further.

And when the Secretary asked me if there was a synergy between the two projects I said, yes. But both of them were pitching for the same project. The Secretary told me to reconcile the two proponents. And at that point, it was really a good project.

At that point, when the Secretary told me to reconcile the two proponents, I immediately went to work and proposed one tool for the two proponents wherein both of them can achieve both of their objectives. Joey’s objective was to do a BOT with government, which was completely above board, and then Chairman Abalos’s objective was to do a loan, a project on a loan basis.

So the project structure that I proposed was that Joey becomes the lead contracting party to the government, it’s on a BOT basis anyway. And that Abalos, to achieve his objective of supplying, becomes supplier to Joey’s project.

I thought at that point it was already a win-win situation for everyone involved. The government gets its NBN project, Joey gets his BOT project, and then Abalos gets his supply comes up.

So, at one point I got them already to do their own thing. It’s finished. But I guess the trouble started when Chairman Abalos wanted to protect his $130-million… how shall I put this…commission on the project. So dapat daw proteksyonan ‘yong $130 million, (before) we agree that Joey become the main proponent.

At that point, I just felt that…it might be a little too big, in the vernacular sabi ko bubukol po ito, sabi ko siguro kalahati pupuwede. But nonetheless I relayed the information to Joey, because it’s going to be Joey’s project anyway.

And Joey’s reaction was really like ballistic, parang he was worried, saan n’ya kukunin itong $130 million na ‘to, because the project cost is $262 million, and Abalos wanted $130 million na komisyon. So sabi ko sa kanila, hindi ko problema ‘yan, that’s your problem.

So at that point, I don’t know if the listener can realize how much money all of these are na pinag-uusapan…$130 million…At that point, I was telling them na problema n’yo na ito basta you make sure you’ll get this thing together because we don’t want another Atong Ang or Chavit Singson scandal to rock this country. I also made it very basta maayos lang.

Sometime in December, the ZTE rep, si Yu Yong at saka si Fan Yang, who get quite close to me, along the progress of the work, were already getting frantic and talking to me about developments in the project, because they’d already gave enough advances daw to Chairman Abalos. So, sabi ko sa kanila, the project is moving along, they should not be alarmed.

So, it was also at this point because of Joey’s hesitance to agree on the $130-million commission, that Chairman Abalos started considering doing the project on his own, derecho na siya.

Ang sabi ko ho sa kanya na hindi ho puwedeng de-deretcho kayo, kasi ang kabilin-bilinan ni Secretray Neri, na yun din ata ang utos ng Presidente, na this project can only be done through a BOT basis, hindi puwedeng utang.

So I was standing firm on that, na hindi talaga pupuwede. At that point, that was the time that Chairman Abalos said, halika, tawagan natin si FG. So, sabi niya, nung tinawagan niya, pare nandito yung taga NEDA sa tabi ko, hindi raw puwedeng i-utang yung project ko.

I cannot hear the voice from the other end, pero sabi n’ya, kung ganyan kayong kausap, and the Chairman continues, kung ganyan kayong kausap, ang hirap n’yo palang kausap, kalimutan n’yo na lang ang usapan natin.

I don’t know what that meant. But the following day, totoo nga, a letter from the Chinese ambassador came addressed to the government, and… with Mike, stating that this is already December.

You can check this with the records. I’m just doing this through my own recollection. But if you can check sometime December, a letter addressed to Mike yata, came in from the Chinese ambassador saying that there is now money available for a loan, for the NBN project, independent of the cyber-education project.

Kasi yung cyber-education yun ang napag-agree-han na ilo-loan na. Ngayon there’s another loan na naman na puwede na rin yung NBN i-loan, it was sometime early December.

So, I told the Secretary about it, Secretary Neri. And his instruction to me was very clear, sabi nya, Jun, you moderate their greed. I was naive to accept that order. I do not know what moderating greed means, but I followed Secretary Neri.

And due to the insistence naman nitong mga taga ZTE that the project gets going, Chairman Abalos invited us sometime on the third week of December, I’m pretty sure of the timing, over dinner in Makati Shang-rila. He asked to invite Joey as well, kasi si FG will be there with us.

Actually the First Gentlemen did not say much, except that Chairman Abalos told him na pare okay na kami nina Joey, ok na kami sa NEDA. (and the FG answered) Ah, ganon, mabuti naman, okay na , okay na.

So, I’m just narrating to you with no malice intended. Whatever that means, kayo na po ang bahalang umano.

And on their trip to China, I did not join them anymore, and I guess Joey can speak omn what happened in China.

Sometime in early January naman, Secretray Neri again invited us for lunch with Abalos in Edsa, in Makati-Shangrila in a Chinese restaurant together with Yu Yong and Fan Yang, the ZTE, and the Chinese commercial councilor. At that point, the Chairman again was making the impression that the project is already a go. May be there was parallel trust…because…(but) it was not yet a go.

So there was some negative reaction from the ZTE person, and the Secretary noticed some awkward moments there, and then he immediately ask a leave, and said that he had to go, and asked me to stay behind.

Chairman Abalos and the ZTE guy were in curious exchange of words, because the ZTE people were like demanding from Chairman Abalos that he promised that the ZTE deal will be done on a loan project under the North Rail. I don’t know why they speak about the North Rail. I don’t know why they speak about the North Rail. They keep on mentioning ala North Rail terms loan agreement.

So, that was last meeting I had with the Chairman. And on January 18, I remember the date very well. This is the only date that I can remember because this was the date I said bye to the project.

I was then in Dumaguete in Negros, together with Henry Teves, when Chairman Abalos called me up, to some like early evening, and asked me questions like, “Alam ba ni Neri yung ginagawa mo, (I said) Opo. Alam ba ni Neri yung ginawa mo. Opo. Alam mo bang malapit ako sa military. Opo. Alam mong malapit ako sa intelligence. Opo. Alam mo namang malapit ako…

And then he started cursing. Mura siya nang mura in Tagalog, lahat-lahat. At ang sabi niya, nandito sa akin yung CD lahat ng phone conversations ninyo nina Joey, mga hayop kayo, tina-traydor n’yo ko.

I don’t know what gave him that impression..but the fact, that they said I know the week 17 in ISAPF can do that, which Chairman Abalos and Ruben Reyes are …close to, I was not surprised.

So, I just took with a grain, and then Chairman Abalos ended up…his words with, “Huwag kang magpapakita sa aking hayop ka sa Wack –Wack o sa Mandaluyong at ipapapatay kita."

That’s when all my troubles started. So, I quit the project. I told the Secretary that I don;lt think this project is worth risking my life for. All I did was trying to help the Secretary understand it.

So on February 2007, the executive order was issued. So this is now my personal participation ended and where it ended for the project concept.

In February 2007, an EO was issued by the Office of the President, transferring the telos, the implementing agency to DOTC. And on April, the project… the NBN was approved…at $329 million.

When I quit the project, the project cost was $262 million. So it was approved. I don’t know what happened then. I’m not imputing anything now. But when it was approved, it was already approved at $329 million. And the day after it was approved, the President together with PagCor officials, went to China to witness the signing of the agreement.

This project for me is one transactional example of a dysfunctional government procurement, a systemic dysfunction on how we procure projects. There are other more that have escaped scrutiny, but ganun din ang sistema. And I have agonized over this decision...

Ang dasal ko lang sana maintindihan n’yo yung dusang dinananas ng pamilya ko ngayon. Ang dasal ko lang sana matutunan na natin after nito na ang salitang Pilpino ay hindi lang tumutkoy sa isang pamilya. Ang salitang Pilipino ay tumutukoy sa isang bansa, ang bansang Pilipino. And sometimes, it’s worth taking a risk for this country.

Lozada at Senate Video

Please click link to see video...

Lozada at Senate

PASAY CITY, Philippines--ZTE witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. at the Senate. Here he is shown inside the office of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano with the nuns who protected him. Video taken by Cayetano staff member Girly Brillantes at the Senate on February 7, 2008.