Archive for April, 2010

Secretary of Defense Undermining the 2010 Elections and the Looming Victory of Certain Candidates

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The statement of DND Secretary Norberto Gonzales that cheating in the 2010 elections has already begun seems to have no other objective but to undermine the elections and the looming victory of certain candidates

Without naming names, Secretary Gonzales makes it appear that he has reliable information about alleged bribery and pay-offs between political parties and Comelec officials. His public disclosure during the Bishops-Ulama Conference is bereft of any credible reference, but is only backed up by his claim that his information came from Comelec officials themselves.

If his story is true, it is the height of irresponsibility to make such a casual statement with about 10 days left before the elections. He should have mobilized the intelligence resources at his disposal and gathered concrete evidence to support the statement and even publicly reveal the identities of those involved. If he is sincere in stopping election cheating, he should have made steps to bring the culprits out in the open and prosecution.

Instead, Sec. Gonzales is playing a guessing game, teasing the public with a controversy but withholding vital information that only tends to tarnish the credibility of the elections and the expected outcome. Coming from someone who proposed months ago a revolutionary government with President Arroyo at the helm instead of conducting the 2010 elections, it is consistent with his attempts to prevent a transition in the government.

The AFP Should Not Become a Party to Midnight Defense Contracts

Posted in Governance with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The Armed Forces of the Philippines should be careful not to become party to midnight deals that are being cooked up by the Defense Department in its rush to close contracts before the Arroyo Administration ends its term in June 30 of this year.

The military should keep in mind that any controversy or flaw in these deals will greatly affect the long-delayed AFP Modernization Program and further set back the military’s strategic and tactical targets in the performance of their duty.

It has been publicly stated by Secretary Norberto Gonzales that it is his desire to rush the AFP Modernization Program by entering into contracts before the end of President Arroyo’s term using the Multi-Year Obligational Authority (MYOA) granted by Congress under the 2010 General Appropriations Act.

This rush is widely believed to be supplier-driven with Secretary Gonzales admitting that he has already received offers from four governments, namely, Canada, Israel, France and  South Korea. For example, military sources reveal that Sec. Gonzales is favorably considering the acquisition of Cobra attack helicopters from Israel, even though they are just refurbished and are single-engine aircraft even though the Philippine Air Force prefer twin-engined helicopters.

But as the end-users, the AFP has a vital role to play in ensuring that the Modernization Program will not fall victim to shady midnight deals . The military should not subscribe to the rush being espoused by Sec. Gonzales who was quoted as saying, “Yes, we are rushing what we can still do under the AFP modernization program in our very limited time left. Aren’t we Filipinos known to be good in the last two minutes?”

The MYOA granted by Congress will expire on December 31, 2010, or six months beyond the term of President Arroyo. The next administration, which will serve from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2016, is in the best position to utilize the MYOA and proceed with the AFP Modernization Program without the need to rush into midnight deals.

The AFP itself should not give in to the desire of the Defense Secretary who will be out of office in several weeks to rush the military contracts . It would be to the best interest of the Armed Forces to proceed with the Modernization Program under a new administration. The Multi-Year Obligational Authority is a golden opportunity for the AFP to achieve honest to goodness modernization. As the principal sponsor of the DND Budget for 2010 and one of the sponsors of the MYOA, I do not want to see this opportunity squandered by the rush to deliver the goods before the administration steps down just so that it could be written down as one of its major accomplishments.

Aside from waiting for the new administration,  it will also do well to wait for the 15th Congress to assume office, since the AFP Modernization Law requires the DND/AFP to submit the contracts to Congress for scrutiny before the appropriation of funds. The current 14th Congress will not have time to scrutinize and appropriate funds for any midnight deal that the SND will enter into at this time.

There simply is no need and urgency to rush these military contracts before the expiration of President Arroyo’s term. It will only serve the desire of this administration to have something to brag about as it steps down, although it would be to the detriment of the AFP’s and the country’s interests.  This is one instance when it will be good for the military to delay action on the wish of the outgoing administration.

No Need for Martial Law in Basilan

Posted in Governance with tags , , , , , , , on April 16, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

A call by Basilan Catholic Bishop Martin Jumoad for the imposition of martial law in the aftermath of the deadly bombing which killed 15 persons should not even be considered since its declaration is not necessary in going after the culprits.

In the case of the Maguindanao massacre where members of the Ampatuan clan were apprehended, the declaration was made in order to facilitate the arrest of the suspects even without warrants. But eventually, it proved to be a faulty decision since the court dismissed the rebellion case for lack of evidence. It turned out that there was no basis for the declaration since there was no rebellion as defined under the law.

With regard to the Basilan bombing, the suspected culprit is the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a known terrorist organization which has been involved in terror activities like kidnappings and bombings. The Human Security Act, which provides for wiretap surveillance and warrantless arrests, makes it unnecessary to impose military rule because the declaration of martial law is only justified if rebellion or invasion is present.

In the case of the Basilan bombing, there is no invasion and the acts of the ASG should not be considered rebellion. It would negate their tag as a terrorist organization and considering them as rebels would only make them qualify for amnesty some time in the future. We should not fall into the temptation of copying the government’s response to the Maguindanao massacre declaring martial law just so that the suspects will be apprehended. As we have seen with the Ampatuans, their rebellion case was dismissed because it was found by the court that there was no rebellion.

Coming so close to the elections, declaration of martial for convenience will only cause unwanted anxiety among the people who will surely suspect that martial law will be used for the administration’s political advantage. It is disturbing to hear Secretary Norberto Gonzales say that they are studying the martial law option. Malacañang’s statement that it is not considering martial law is also not reassuring, since days before the declaration of martial law in Maguinanao was also preceded by statements from high government officials that military rule was not necessary.

Rather than declare martial law, the Human Security Act, also known as the Anti-Terror Law, should be used against the perpetrators of the bombing. It is a law that is specifically meant to address acts of terrorism by terrorists and terrorist organizations and it is a law that is already in force.

The Human Security Act will also be applicable to the situation if the government’s suspicion is true that the ASG is being used as a private armed group by politicians. Those who employ the ASG may be considered as an accomplice or accessory to terrorism and be charged accordingly using the HSA. The law even has provisions for probing the bank accounts of suspects so if there are politicians suspected to be involved in the actions of the ASG, their finances can even be looked into.

While I share the desire of the people of Basilan to bring the bombers to justice, I do not agree to the declaration of martial law as the solution. It will only further tarnish the image of the country in the international community; it is the inappropriate measure and will result in the failure to convict the suspects; it is untimely in the face of the coming elections and it is only a tool of last resort.