AFP men hail Bautista appointment as new chief of staff
By Frances Mangosing
7:31 pm | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines – The military on Tuesday welcomed the appointment of Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as the next Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The incoming chief of the Armed Forces is one of the originators behind the military’s current anti-insurgency strategy, the Internal Peace Security Peace Plan Oplan Bayanihan.
The IPSP campaign seeks to be “people-centered” rather than the traditional military approach.
“Lt Gen. Bautista’s appointment comes very timely as the implementation of the IPSP shifts to high gear on its third year of implementation. He was then the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in 2010 when he spearheaded the crafting of the IPSP Bayanihan in partnership with all the stakeholders,” military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said in a statement.
“We are also optimistic that with his leadership, our modernization and capability upgrade program will further take a momentous step forward in our intent to achieve a minimum credible defense posture,” he added.
Bautista is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981.
He will replace incumbent AFP chief General Jessie Dellosa in turnover rites on Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo. Dellosa is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Rumors circulating at Camp Aguinaldo earlier said that Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz was his closest rival for the top military post.
Other contenders were Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes and Southern Luzon Command chief Maj. Gen. Alan Luga.
Former US ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte, who co-chairs the US-Philippine Society think tank with businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, is coming to town to discuss with key policymakers and the business community recent local developments affecting economic, political and security ties between the two countries.
This includes issues on foreign ownership in partly nationalized companies like utilities and real estate, an offshoot of a recent Supreme Court ruling on PLDT’s foreign ownership. At present, this has become less of a concern given pronouncements from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would not impose the 60-40 percent local-foreign ownership cap on all classes of shares.
Another juicy topic that Negroponte’s visit will touch on is the West Philippine Sea conflict, which has been a hot issue in both the Philippines and China for several months now. He is also expected to discuss developments in the mining industry as well as the country’s major infrastructure programs.
Negroponte, who will lead an American delegation made up of top business and government officials, is set to meet with President Aquino Wednesday morning before the chief of state leaves for Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum (for the first time under his presidential term).—Doris C. Dumlao
Speaking of which…
After meeting with the President, the Negroponte-led delegation will also meet with Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for the American businessmen to get a feel of how legal issues will play out in the Philippines over the next few years (something foreign businessmen have always complained about in the past).
The kickoff dinner will be hosted by US-Philippine Society board member Washington Sycip, while dinner for the following evening will be hosted by MVP.
On the final day, Friday, the business delegation will be given a tour of the Clark special economic zone in Pampanga to highlight its prospects as an investment site and as an attractive alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Apart from Negroponte, other former US ambassadors to Manila will also be present, including Thomas Hubbard (the Philippines traditionally being a post given to rising stars in the US State Department).
Speaking of which, word on the street is that current US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas will be heading back to Washington, D.C., soon (slightly ahead of schedule) to make his presence felt in Foggy Bottom. No word yet on who will replace the capable, affable and Tagalog-speaking diplomat.—Daxim L. Lucas
Bias in defense contracts?
The drive to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has now been delayed by a year, no thanks to a Department of National Defense official and his vested interests, according to our source.
To recall, no less than Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in January of last year committed to “ensure the approval and signature of the contracts for all the 138 projects for the AFP modernization and capability upgrade program not later than July 31, 2012.”
Well, the last thing we heard is that in early December, the negotiation for the acquisition of 21 UH-1 helicopters failed. A separate deal for the purchase of 10 helicopters also failed to advance.
The military is supposed to acquire fighter jets, helicopters, support aircraft, radar and communications systems and modern equipment to monitor the country’s vast territorial waters and effectively coordinate defensive forces such as the navy and air force.
Our source says the delay is caused by a DND official who behaves more like a “commissioner.” The official’s preference for certain suppliers have caused delays and complications in the equipment procurement process, we’re told. Supposedly, this official is the brains behind the move to source defense equipment from non-traditional sources, despite the assistance for materiel readily being offered by the US. Tsk tsk.—Daxim L. Lucas
Positive mining news
When mining hits the news, it’s usually something negative. But Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. is trying to change all that.
On top of the TV ad campaign of its sister firm Taganito Mining Corp. that highlights the good that miners have done for the community, the subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. will launch a coffee table book on Thursday at the Ayala Museum in Greenbelt Park, Makati City.
The private event will be led by Rio Tuba’s chair, Manuel Zamora, and its president, Gerry Brimo.
The book is expected to showcase the good that mining can do, in contrast to the way the industry’s critics love to portray it.—Daxim L. Lucas
Gen Bautista, the new AFP Chief, should know a little something about this, being a "modernization specialist" over the last 10 years of his career...
PH at 'very high risk' of defense corruption
By Kim Arveen Patria | Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom – 13 hours ago..
The Philippine government may be deemed less corrupt when taken as a whole, but the country's national defense sector remains among those most prone to corruption globally.
The Philippines is at "very high risk" of defense corruption, the "Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index 2013" released by the UK arm of anti-corruption coalition Transparency International showed.
This, even as the group's earlier global Corruption Perception Index noted significant improvements for the Philippines--placing it 105th out of 176 countries in 2012 from 129th out of 183 countries previously.
The Philippines landed in the second worst category along with 17 other countries in the report, which noted that nearly 70 percent of the 82 countries assessed have poor transparency mechanisms in the defense sector.
"This disappointing result shows that defense risk in most countries is poorly controlled, with correspondingly high vulnerability to corruption," the report said.
For the Philippines, risks were found highest in terms of political defense corruption, pegged at 45 percent.
"[I]t has been asserted that some members of the government use their powers to influence defence policy as leverage to
secure personal benefits," the report said.
Also high risk areas for corruption are procurement (30 percent) and personnel integrity (27 percent).
"[E]vidence from recent cases indicates that corruption in the defense procurement process has not been adequately addressed," the report said.
In terms of finance corruption, the Philippines was given a 16 percent vulnerability score, and in the area of operations, 5 percent.
"The assessment finds that military personnel are commonly seconded from their official duties to provide private security services to politicians," the report said further.
The Philippines was in the same group in the report as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Cote d'Ivoire, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Tagged as "critical" countries, meanwhile, were Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
On the other hand, among the 82 countries assessed, only two--Australia and Germany--were considered to have "very low" defense corruption risk.
These two countries have both been found to have strong accountability and transparency levels, solid private sector standards, as well as military budget secrecy, the report said.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Wednesday received his fourth star, two weeks after he formally assumed the post from his predecessor, retired Gen. Jessie Dellosa.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin presided over Bautista’s donning of ranks held at the Department of National Defense.
“I am very honored and challenged to do my best in the performance of my duties and responsibilities as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This is my commitment to the Armed Forces and the Filipino people,” Bautista said.
Bautista, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’81, assumed his post last Jan. 17 in turnover ceremonies led by President Aquino as the Commander in Chief.
Bautista is largely credited for crafting the military’s counterinsurgency strategy called Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, which has become a de facto National Security Strategy of the Aquino administration.
Bautista defended the IPSP Bayanihan from claims of militant groups that it was no different from Oplan Bantay Laya, the counterinsurgency campaign of the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Open to public
“This is the only military campaign plan that is open to the public… It is the people that will judge us, not them (militants). Let us ask our countrymen if they have not seen any changes in the military,” Bautista said.
Also on Wednesday, Gazmin appointed Col. Hermenegildo Aquino as his new senior military assistant, replacing Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who has been appointed commander of the Army’s 503rd Brigade in Abra province.
Gazmin also said that retired Maj. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario is currently an “understudy” of outgoing Office of Civil Defense administrator Benito Ramos.
“He (Del Rosario) is one of the candidates to take over Usec Ramos. The approval of his designation has not been put into place. Even if it goes beyond Feb. 1, if the President has not signed (the appointment papers), then (Ramos) will not leave yet. As soldiers would say, ‘I will quit my post only when properly relieved.’ (Ramos) will be properly relieved when the orders are signed,” Gazmin said.
Ramos, regarded as one of the most hardworking defense officials and a “media darling,” has resigned from the OCD and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) effective Feb. 1 to take care of his ailing wife. Reports from Nikko Dizon, PDI and Frances Mangosing, INQUIRER.net
One can only hope the new Chief of Staff puts real closure to this and not merely say that this is now going through the legal process. He got his job through a Hail Mary from the Sec Def, hopefully he earns it.
Whatever happened to…?: Exposé on AFP’s ‘rampant irregularities’
1:09 am | Thursday, February 7th, 2013
The recommendation to file plunder charges against several former military officers for the misuse of P2.3 billion in public funds is still pending in the Office of the Ombudsman, which has jurisdiction over the prosecution of graft and plunder cases in the Sandiganbayan.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel made the recommendation in January 2012, based on the complaint filed by Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former military budget officer who hogged the headlines in 2011 for his revelations on the military practice of giving retiring senior officers with multimillion-peso “pabaon” (sendoff gift).
In a resolution, the panel recommended plunder charges against retired Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff Generals Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, and former AFP comptrollers Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot for allegedly pilfering military funds.
Included in the charges were retired Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, retired Colonels Cirilo Donato and Roy Devesa, retired Lt. Col. Ernesto Paranis, J-6 accounting division chief Generoso del Castillo and former state auditor Divina Cabrera.
‘Semblance of truth’
Rabusa’s “grandiose illustration of the ‘rampant irregularities in the AFP relative to the malversation, misuse and misappropriation of its funds appears to have a semblance of truth,” the DOJ panel said.
In his complaint filed in the DOJ in April 2011, Rabusa cited personal knowledge of irregularities by members of the so-called “comptrollership mafia.”
He served as budget officer of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff (ODCS) for Intelligence or J2 from 1994 to 1998, and of the ODCS for Comptrollership or J6 from 2000 to 2002.
Rabusa said key AFP officials colluded to carry out a scheme of converting commercial vouchers into cash for unofficial expenditures; incorporating discretionary funds into the military budget; and converting military funds through procurement offices.
Rabusa’s disclosure stemmed from his testimony in a January 2011 Senate blue ribbon inquiry into the controversial plea bargain deal between special prosecutors and ex-comptroller Garcia for the latter’s plunder case.
In the inquiry, Rabusa said that he had pocketed money and that he had helped his former boss, Garcia, “convert” almost P1 billion from 2001 to 2002 for distribution to ranking officers and other recipients outside the AFP.
Rabusa also claimed that when Gen. Angelo Reyes retired as AFP chief of staff in 2001, he received a total of P150 million in military funds.
Rabusa also claimed that by the time Villanueva and Cimatu retired the two took home a total of P227.4 million and P110 million, respectively. Former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Efren Abu also benefited from spurious transactions, according to Rabusa.
Reyes denied the allegations against him and filed graft charges against Rabusa in the Office of the Ombudsman.
Appearing before the Senate inquiry, Cimatu denied Rabusa’s claims, saying his only pabaon were the 40 medals and citations he received in his 37-year military career.
In a statement, Villanueva described Rabusa’s allegations as “mind-boggling,” adding that he only got a “modest retirement pay” when he stepped down from office.
At the height of the controversy, Reyes committed suicide on Feb. 8, 2011.
Ligots’ unexplained assets
In a succeeding hearing, Rabusa said senior officers had a slush fund of P20 million for their personal and operational use. The fund was replenished by allocations skimmed off the salaries and operational expenses of military units.
Also brought up in the inquiry were the unexplained assets of Ligot and his wife, Erlinda, in the country and in the United States.
The Senate hearings prompted the Bureau of Internal Revenue to file multimillion-peso tax evasion complaints against Garcia and Ligot, and their wives, in March 2011.
For his complaint, Rabusa named 22 respondents and presented to the DOJ over 20 folders containing pieces of evidence, such as receipts, checks and various documents to prove how military funds were misused. He described his case as “airtight.”
But for lack of sufficient evidence, the DOJ cleared 11 of the respondents: Abu, retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, retired Major Generals Epineto Logico and Ernesto Boac, Navy Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan, Col. Gilbert Gapay and Maj. Emerson Angulo.
Also absolved were Col. Robert Arevalo and former state auditors Arturo Besana, Crisanto Gabriel and Manuel Warren.
Challenging the panel’s recommendations, Cimatu’s camp said that Rabusa’s complaint was based mainly on spurious documents and that it was his cohorts and him who misused military funds.
Following his exoneration, Besana filed a plunder complaint against Rabusa in the Office of the Ombudsman, citing Rabusa’s own admission that he committed various offenses involving “billions of pesos.”—Inquirer Research
(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 11, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Two warships will be purchased for the Navy to boost maritime security.
In a phone interview yesterday, Peter Galvez, Department of National Defense spokesman, said the acquisition is being fast-tracked.
“We’re giving ourselves until the end of the first quarter to finalize bidding for the frigates,” he said. “We are confident that we can follow the timeline and we can do it within the first quarter.”
Earlier, defense officials said about P11.7 billion would be allotted for the warships.
Originally, the government had intended to acquire the vessels through government-to-government transactions. However, offers from different countries had prompted senior security officials to opt for public bidding.
A government-to-government transaction is usually faster than public bidding.
However, the DND is optimistic that the acquisition of the vessels would not be delayed.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said public bidding would ensure transparency and allow the comparison of the ships being offered.
DefenseUndersecretary Fernando Manalo earlier said about six countries have offered to provide frigates to the Navy. Among them are the US, South Korea, Spain, Israel, Croatia and Australia.
These countries are cognizant of the government’s determination to upgrade the military’s capabilities, Manalo said.
Previously, Italy offered two Maestrale-class missile-firing warships with anti-aircraft, anti-ship and anti-submarine capabilities.
The Philippines has acquired two warships from the US.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar arrived last year and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz is expected by April.
(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 18, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Air Force (PAF) took delivery of two brand new helicopters yesterday morning at Clark Air Base in Pampanga.
Col. Ernesto Okol, PAF spokesman, said the arrival of the two W-3A Sokol (Falcon series) helicopters at the Clark Air Base, which is adjacent to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, completed the multi-billion contract between the PAF and the Polish firm PZL-Swidnik that involved the purchase of eight helicopters.
“The delivery completes the contract for the government to purchase eight Sokol helicopters from PZL-Swidnik in the amount of P2,857,864,625.18,” Okol said.
PZL-Swidnik delivered to the PAF the first batch of four Sokol helicopters on Feb. 2, 2012. The next two aircraft were delivered in November last year.
The procurement deal is part of the military’s modernization program currently being pushed by the Aquino government.
Prior to the final delivery of the helicopters, a PAF team conducted a pre-delivery inspection of the two new aircraft at the PZL-Swidnik facility in Poland early this month to ensure that all the parts and the equipment to be delivered are in proper order.
“The two main fuselages and other equipment and parts of the two Sokols were transported into the country aboard an AN-124 transport plane yesterday.
After the inspection and inventory, maintenance personnel from PZL-Swidnik would assemble the two helicopters and PAF pilots would conduct test flights, Okol said.
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will buy five patrol boats from France for about 90 million euros ($116 million), partly to guard disputed areas in the South China Sea, the coastguard said Tuesday.
Rear Admiral Luis Tuason, the chief of the poorly equipped coastguard, said one 82-meter (271-foot) ship and four 24-meter (79-foot) patrol craft would be delivered by 2014.
Tuason cited the need for such ships to patrol the rough waters of the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
“When we patrol the West Philippine Sea, we encounter huge waves, turbulent waters so it will be better if we will use bigger ships,” Tuason said in a statement.
Coastguard spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said the larger ship was a “heavy endurance vessel that can be deployed even in bad weather.”
This is the first such ship to be acquired by the coastguard, he added.
The Philippines and China began a stand-off in April over the Scarborough Shoal, a group of islets in the South China Sea.
China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
Balilo denied that the new French ships were being acquired due to the territorial dispute and said the coastguard, which currently has only nine operating ships, needed new vessels to perform their duties.
He said the new vessels would be deployed throughout the archipelago and not concentrate just on the disputed areas.
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—Long before Jestony Lanaja decided that life meant a career in the military, he earned his keep as a teenager by gathering sugarcane in a plantation in his hometown of Hagonoy in Davao del Sur that earned him P1.25 for each bundle he collected.
That early taste of the hard life—compounded by the possibility that soldiers like him could soon be facing challenges arising from controversies such as the conflicts over Sabah and disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea—will shape the insights Lanaja plans to bring when he graduates from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on March 17.
Cadet First Class Lanaja topped this year’s PMA graduating class of 124 cadets, which was named “Pudang Kalis,” an acronym for “Puso’t dangal ng mga kawal ng lahing nagkakaisa (The heart and soul of soldiers of a united race).”
Pudang Kalis also means “sacred sword.”
Members of the graduating class will receive their commission as officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from President Aquino on March 17 at Borromeo Field here.
Four female cadets are among the top 10 graduates, the first in many years since the PMA allowed women to join the academy in 1997.
Cadet First Class Maryam Balais, a Kankanaey from La Trinidad, Benguet, ranked second in the class.
A Muslim, Balais belongs to a family of law enforcers. Her brother Benjamin graduated valedictorian of the Philippine National Police Academy in 2006, while another brother, Dimas, belonged to the PMA Mandala Class of 2006.
Other female cadets among the topnotchers are Cadets First Class Joselyn Advincula of Tagaytay City, who ranked fifth; Vanessa Factor of Antipolo City, eighth; and Maila Maniscan of South Cotabato, 10th.
Three more female cadets will receive special citations: Cadet First Class Mariz Jane Ibarde is receiving the Chief of Staff Saber and the Tactics Group Award; Cadet First Class Jomelyn Bagsang will be cited for achievement in sports; and Cadet First Class Arianne Mae Gonzales is getting this year’s Journalism Award for serving as editor-in-chief of The Corps magazine.
Rounding up the top 10 list are Cadets First Class Prolen Bonacua of Valenzuela City, third; Jesse Nestor Saludo of Cavite, fourth; Leode John Tulang of Agusan del Sur, sixth; Mark Ferdinand Villamin of Batangas, seventh; and Jhed Dumocloy of Cagayan, ninth.
Lanaja is joining the Philippine Army, along with 66 other cadets (11 of them female), said Lt. Gen. Irineo Espino, PMA superintendent.
He said 24 other cadets are joining the Philippine Air Force, including three female cadets, while 33 others are joining the Philippine Navy, including Balais and four other female cadets.
Asked why she preferred the Navy, Balais said the world’s attention has shifted to the seas, where marine boundary feuds could require the service of the soldier.
One Pugad Kalis member won’t be joining the graduation. Cadet First Class Alfonso Aviles, who was shot and wounded when he tried to prevent an August 2012 jeepney robbery, had not completed the requirements needed to graduate, Espino said.
Aviles may not even be allowed to join the ceremonies by his doctors while he undergoes therapy for his wounds, Espino said.
He said the graduating cadets were aware of the political conflicts that had made the headlines—from the maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea that began last year to the ongoing clashes in Sabah between Malaysian troops and armed men serving the sultanate of Sulu.
Last year, Espino said the PMA invited Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing to speak to the cadets.
“[The cadets raised] very interesting questions,” he said.
Pudang Kalis is also the first class to join a PMA stakeholders engagement program, which required them to live with communities in 16 villages of La Trinidad, Benguet, to understand their lives and the problems that they face each day, said Lt. Col. Jose Demar Pauly, PMA assistant chief of academy staff for civil military operations.
Espino said PMA training provided cadets the foundation for managing a crisis and they must learn to confront these problems at their own pace.
Balais said it was a task for which she was prepared. “My motivation comes from my mom. I would imagine myself wearing the uniform,” she said.
Cadets also learn to deal with problems they have confronted as children, Lanaja said.
“I stopped for one year [in high school]. Walang wala (We were broke). I would not force my family to keep me in school. I worked odd jobs instead,” he said.
“One of my first jobs was to harvest sugarcane [in a plantation owned by a company]… Working on the plantation meant we earned according to how many we were able to bundle. Each bundle, at least during my younger years, was P1.25. Older workers could collect up to a hundred bundles but since I was new in the game, all I could manage in a day was 50 bundles,” he said.
Lanaja said his parents, Antonio and Erlinda, were unemployed. But the hard life he experienced gave him the perspective he could use as a military officer, he said.
Because of scholarships, Lanaja finished high school and completed a full year enrolled in an electrical technology course when he took the PMA entrance examinations in 2008.
Aside from receiving the Presidential Saber, the PMA’s top academic award, he will also receive the Philippine Army Saber, the academic group award, plaques and citations for excellence in computing and information sciences and for the Army professional course, the Jusmag (Joint United States Military Assistance Group) Award, the General Antonio Luna Award and the Spanish Armed Forces Award.