Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Repost From Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pressure on Palace mounts to indict, prosecute Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

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The pressure on the Palace is going full blast to prosecute former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Catholic Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said it would be a “big thing” if the Aquino administration made its predecessor liable for offenses.

“It will become a landmark decision in President Aquino’s campaign against corruption,” Bacani said over Church-run Radio Veritas.

“I do not prejudge the former President for being guilty but since accusations have been raised against her, it is best if she defends herself … and it is also very good for the country to know the truth,” he said.

A militant farmers’ group that was among the early complainants against Arroyo in connection with the fertilizer fund scam on Tuesday said all the evidence against her was there for everyone to see.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the Office of the Ombudsman, which had ordered a fact-finding inquiry into Arroyo’s culpability in the P728-million scam, should immediately indict her for plunder.

“If the Aquino administration is really serious in prosecuting Arroyo, the so-called probe by the Ombudsman should not be like a political telenovela,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said in a statement.

Ramos said the investigation ordered by acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro should not take long because “a protracted probe will only provide Arroyo all the leeway for political maneuvers.”

He pointed out that various investigations of the fund scam that purportedly benefited Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004 had established the reasons for filing charges against the latter, now a representative of Pampanga’s second district.

Ramos expressed hope that the case would not be subjected to another whitewash, saying this would be a double injustice to farmers.

Two Senate committees recommended in 2006 that Arroyo be held accountable for the mismanagement of the fertilizer funds.

Casimiro had overturned an earlier ruling by the Office of the Ombudsman dismissing the case against Arroyo for lack of evidence, and formed a fact-finding board to look into her role in the fertilizer fund scam.

Political will

Former agriculture officials Luis Lorenzo, Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante and Ibarra Poliquit have also been charged with plunder along with a number of private fertilizer suppliers for their alleged role in the scheme.

In Malacañang, President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued a statement saying the reopening of the fertilizer fund scam “demonstrates both the need for closure for controversies that weakened public confidence in our institutions and how constitutional offices can operate once political favoritism is out of the picture.”

But while various Church groups welcomed the government move to make the previous administration accountable for certain cases, they said they would continue to doubt Mr. Aquino’s political will until Arroyo and her allies had been prosecuted.

All talk

Fr. Joe Dizon of Solidarity Philippines said filing cases against Arroyo was a “long overdue task” of the Aquino administration.

“President Aquino has not shown any strong political will to really prosecute [Arroyo] in his first year in office,” Dizon told reporters in a text message.

He said Mr. Aquino was “all talk” and that he suspected that Malacañang’s announcement on Monday that new cases were being built up against Arroyo was merely to earn “brownie points” for the latter’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 25.

Prosecute, convict, jail

Activist priest Robert Reyes issued similar remarks.

“To see people prosecuted, convicted, jailed, is to believe,” Reyes said.

He said Malacañang’s recent disclosure would be “mere politics” unless Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and others “will be jailed.”

“I am happy [that they are acting on the allegations against Arroyo] but I hope something will come out of it, and we should all watch closely what will happen,” Reyes said.

Slow to move

Nardy Sabino, secretary general of the ecumenical group Promotion for Church People’s Response, said other groups had already made the first move to make Arroyo accountable for wrongdoing because the incumbent administration was “slow to take legal action.”

Sabino was referring to the case the United Church of Christ in the Philippines filed last month against Arroyo for alleged human-rights abuses committed against six of its leaders and pastors.

“We challenge the administration to file charges against [Arroyo] instead of making media announcements, which are being used to hide its inefficiency to address the people’s concerns and to have a good image as the Sona nears,” he said.

Sabino said he and his group would continue to be skeptical of Malacañang’s move “until they file charges against her (Arroyo).”

Based on facts

In his statement, Lacierda said the Department of Justice was looking into “allegations of wrongdoing by others, including former officials.”

“These are cases based on the merits, where processes are followed diligently, cases built up conscientiously, and by doing so, culpability for crimes carefully considered,” he said.

Lacierda said this was “what true justice is all about”—that the state “brings to trial cases based not on rumor or innuendo but facts.”

Abigail Valte, the President’s deputy spokesperson, told reporters that it was about time the fertilizer fund scam was investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“What we are saying is that the fertilizer fund scam was exposed in 2004. Many are questioning and are apprehensive why this year the case has not yet been filed. So we are reiterating what we said: It’s about time the case was filed,” she said.

Valte also said the Palace was making sure the cases being built up against Arroyo would be airtight.

“We won’t file a case that has no strong basis,” she said, adding that the Palace was not going to file cases just “for the sake of” doing so.

“It will be doing our people disservice if we file a case for PR (public relations), and not justice,” Valte said.

Watch list

At a news briefing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she would exercise her plenary power to put Bolante and his coaccused in the Bureau of Immigration’s “watch list.”

De Lima said she would also ask Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras to check if the Sandiganbayan had issued a hold-departure order on those charged.

At press time, they were put on the hold-departure list.

She said the Office of the Ombudsman could also ask the Sandiganbayan to prohibit the accused from leaving the Philippines.

Bolante, a close associate of Mike Arroyo, fled the country in 2005 shortly before the Senate opened an inquiry into the alleged misuse of funds intended for the purchase of fertilizers for farmers.

Since Bolante’s return in 2008, he has repeatedly denied having orchestrated the alleged misuse of funds to boost Arroyo’s presidential campaign.

On Monday, Bolante and Poliquit petitioned the Supreme Court to annul the plunder case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Jocelyn R. Uy, Christine O. Avendaño and Marlon Ramos

Reposted From Philippine Daily Inquirer

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Repost From Sid Ventura of Sportsaholic

Azkals blast Brave Reds, 4-0

By Sid Ventura | SportsaholicSun, Jul 3, 2011

Scenes from Azkals vs. Sri Lanka

Azkals coach Michael Weiss hugs Chieffy Caligdong, who scored the first goal in the 19th minute of the first half of the Azkals vs. Sri Lanka Brave Reds second leg match, Round 1, of the 2014 World Cup Asia playoffs held in Rizal Stadium in Manila. (Mike Alquinto/NPPA Images)

The Philippine Azkals made history today when they pounded the Sri Lanka Brave Reds, 4-0, in the second leg of their Round 1 World Cup qualifier at the packed Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.

With the convincing victory, fashioned out before a crowd of 12,000 that didn't move an inch even when half of them were drenched by a heavy downpour that struck the pitch early in the first half, the Azkals clinched the tie on an aggregate of 5-1 and made history on several counts.

First off, it was the Philippines' first-ever victory in World Cup qualifying matches. It's also the first time the country scored more than one goal in a WC qualifying match. Finally and most importantly, it's the first time the Philippines will advance to the second round of the WC qualifiers.

Chieffy Caligdong of the Philippine Air Force broke the ice in the 19th minute by eluding two defenders in the box before striking home a shot that just clipped the inside of the goal post. Phil Younghusband made it 2-nil two minutes before halftime when he beat the Sri Lankan defense and found himself unmarked in the box for an easy goal.

There was some confusion after Younghusband's goal after the linesman initially signalled a foul on the Fil-British striker, thus nullifying the goal. But after consulting with the linesman, the lead referee overruled the nullification and let the goal stand to give the Azkals a comfortable lead heading into the halftime break.

Scenes from Azkals vs. Sri Lanka

The Azkals in full force. (Mike Alquinto/NPPA Images)

There was no let-up in the second half as Angel Guirado just beat the offside trap and fielded a perfect pass from James Younghusband to rush unmarked towards the goal. With only the keeper to beat, Guirado deftly maneuvered away from the keeper to the right and found the back of the net to make it 3-0 in the 51st minute. Five minutes later, midfielder Stephan Shrock was taken down in the penalty box by Sri Lanka's Chathura Gunaratne to give the Philippines a penalty kick. Phil Younghusband stepped up to take the shot and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to make it 4-nil.

Sri Lanka had its chances in the first half but just couldn't get a clear shot. The Brave Reds' best chance came in the 33rd minute when they were rewarded a free kick just outside the left side of the penalty box. A chance was created when the Philippine defense failed to clear and Neil Etheridge was caught out of position, but a header sailed harmlessly above the crossbar.

Glad to be home and to be playing on a better pitch, the Azkals employed more short passing and created several chances by going behind the defense and beating the offside trap. This was a big turnaround from their 1-1 draw in Colombo, where the poorly maintained pitch, which coach Michael Weiss described as "used for planting tomatoes and potatoes", forced his side to resort to long passes.

"I almost called them irregular conditions," Weiss said of the Sir Lankan pitch. "Stony and with bumps and is very difficult to play. We had to change our tactics and play long ball."

Coming home after being away for several weeks training in Germany, Weiss added, was a welcome relief for the players, and provided them with an added boost.

"Today was a totally different environment. We were away from home for a long time, and it was physically and mentally different. The players had a different comfort level."

In contrast, the Brave Reds attacked almost exclusively on the right flank, and were met with good defending by left back Paul Mulders and center defenders Aly Borromeo and Rob Gier.

"The Philippines was the better team today," said Sri Lankan coach Jang Jung.

Scenes from Azkals vs. Sri Lanka

James Younghusband (#7) of the Philippine Football Team Azkals goes after the ball against a Sri Lanka Brave Reds player. (Mike Alquinto/NPPA Images)

Next up for the Azkals is a training camp in Bahrain in preparation for their second-round two-leg tie against Kuwait, a country ranked 103 in the world and considered a very tough opponent for the national side. The first leg will be played in Kuwait on July 23 and the second in Manila on July 28. The Azkals might miss Borromeo and Shrock in the first leg after both players picked up their second yellow cards of the qualifiers. Weiss, though, is hopeful his team captain and top midfielder can play, noting that FIFA is more lenient about such infractions during World Cup qualifiers.

The coach, though, minced no words about the level of competition they will face, and cautioned the public against expecting a similar attacking style that they unleashed on Sri Lanka.

"We will have to enhance our level of play, especially considering who we will be up against. I don't think we will be able to compare both opponents (Sri Lanka and Kuwait) because it's like you play Crystal Palace and Manchester United. It's totally different football. We will not be able to be as offensive-minded as we were today against Kuwait. Otherwise we will get hammered like we have never seen before.

"So we have to change our tactics, but nevertheless, if we stand compact we will have a chance. The first match will be played under incredible hot weather and we have to play smart and not waste our energy against an opponent who moves the ball very fast and technically superior.

"We have to analyze them carefully. I have all their tapes and I am looking forward to the challenge."

Reposted From Sid Ventura of Sportaholic


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