Friday, September 16, 2011

A Repost From Alexis Romero of Philippine Star

Ex-AFP comptroller Garcia jailed at NBP
By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated September 17, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (97) View comments

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Lt. Col. Edwin Machica of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (right) and Col. Herbert Yambing read to former AFP comptroller retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia his sentence as confirmed by President Aquino.
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MANILA, Philippines - Six years after a guilty verdict for misdeclaring his assets and hiding his status as permanent US resident while still in active service, former military comptroller and accused plunderer Carlos Garcia was arrested yesterday at his home in Quezon City to begin a two-year prison term at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

His arrest came after President Aquino approved a guilty verdict on Garcia by a court-martial in December 2005. The case against Garcia in the military court is distinct from the plunder case he, his wife Clarita and three sons are facing before the Sandiganbayan.

Malacañang defended his arrest, saying it was long overdue and should have been ordered by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The court-martial ruled that Garcia violated Articles of War 96, or conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; and 97, or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline when he misstated the value of his assets in 2002 and 2003 and withheld information on his status as permanent US resident while in active duty.

Garcia retired in November 2004. The court-martial also ordered Garcia dishonorably discharged from the service and his benefits forfeited.

A court-martial ruling can be carried out only after approval by the President. Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said Aquino affirmed Garcia’s sentence last Sept. 9.

“The AFP implemented the sentence imposed by the General Court Martial to dismissed AFP Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, Friday. The sentence was approved by the reviewing authority, the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said.

Policemen and members of the Armed Forces Provost Marshal General arrested Garcia in his house in Project 6, Quezon City at around 7 a.m. The former general did not resist arrest. He was brought to the detention center of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Camp Aguinaldo at about 9 a.m. He was escorted out of the ISAFP detention center at 2 p.m. for the trip to the NBP.

“The sentence of Maj. Gen. Garcia, which shall be effective this day (Sept. 16) will not be remitted or mitigated by any previous confinement,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

He said Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, when she was still president, was shown the court-martial ruling but ignored it.

“The court-martial had a decision (on Garcia’s case) and was forwarded to the President (Arroyo) for confirmation of the sentence. It was never confirmed,” Gazmin said.

Former military comptroller Carlos Garcia is accompanied by his lawyer Maricel Capa (right) upon his arrival at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City yesterday. JOVEN CAGANDE

“The papers (on the ruling) were shown to President Aquino. It (ruling) has not been served. And this is what we are implementing now because the President has confirmed it,” he added.

Asked if Mrs. Arroyo had sat on the verdict, Gazmin said “we need to investigate thoroughly to determine what really happened.”

Armed Forces Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen. Gilberto Roa said that in court-martial decisions, the President is empowered to credit the period of a convict’s preventive suspension to his prison sentence.

“The President has the discretion to credit his (Garcia) preventive suspension but in this case, the President did not exercise that discretion. So therefore it is not credited. He has to serve the full length of the two years,” he said.

Roa said they expect Garcia’s camp to question his arrest before the courts.

“There is no law preventing him from going to court but we are ready to face it,” he said.

Arrest defended, lauded

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said President Aquino only affirmed what the military had ruled.

“The decision of the military court-martial is recommendatory… it becomes effective only upon the confirmation of the President of the Republic as commander-in-chief,” Lacierda said in a press briefing.

“Former president Arroyo did not act on the recommendation or decision of the court-martial. So it will only be implemented now because President Aquino confirmed it. And after the confirmation, the sentence is immediately executed,” he said.

“The decision has not yet lapsed until confirmed so once jurisdiction is acquired, it continues until the case is terminated,” Lacierda said.

He stressed that the court-martial case for which Garcia was to begin his two-year prison sentence was different from the plunder case with the Sandiganbayan in which he was allowed to post bail under a plea bargain agreement

“This is based on the decision of the court-martial, again, insofar as the case in the Sandiganbayan is concerned, that is still being disputed, and as I understand, the new Ombudsman, Justice (Conchita) Carpio-Morales is asking for more time to question the compromise agreement,” Lacierda said.

In the plea bargain deal approved by the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan in December last year, Garcia offered to return barely half of the P300 million he allegedly stole in exchange for the downgrading of his plunder case to direct bribery and money laundering. The deal also allowed Garcia to walk out of his detention cell in Camp Crame on Dec. 18 after posting P60,000 bail.

Lawmakers welcomed Garcia’s arrest saying it was a big step forward for the President’s anti-corruption campaign.

AThe higher the official punished, the better!T Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, whose committee investigated the controversial plea bargain agreement, said. He said that by ordering Garcia s arrest, Aquino wanted sto send a clear message of his anti-corruption campaign.t

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco said the arrest meant that “at last, something concrete happened in the pursuit of accountability for bad people in government.”

“This (arrest) sends a powerful message and somehow inspires Filipinos that there is hope for the country,” Haresco said.

“Maybe we will become a little less cynical and a little more hopeful. This would also help encourage investors turned off by reports of corruption in government, to pursue their plans to put up business in the country,” he said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, for his part, praised leaders of the AFP “for their courageous ruling against a high ranking colleague that will serve notice to all men in uniform that no one is above law.

“We hope the new leadership of the Ombudsman will do the same on erring public officials consistent with the personal crusade of PNoy, that is, to curtail corruption and eliminate poverty,” Castelo said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said the arrest has proven that the Aquino administration is serious in its campaign against graft and corruption.

“I hope that there will be no ‘plea bargain arrangement’ that will set free again General Garcia,” Evardone said.

Equal treatment

Bureau of Corrections chief Gaudencio Pangilinan yesterday guaranteed no special treatment for Garcia.

“We are all the same here. Every inmate will be treated equally,” Pangilinan said. “Everybody will be treated equally and fairly.”

He said even his former comrades in the military, including a classmate Maj. Rolando Maclang of Philippine Military Academy class of 1979, don’t get special accommodations at the NBP.

As part of protocol, Garcia will be quarantined for five days at the NBP hospital, during which only his lawyers will be allowed to visit him.

It is also in the hospital where Garcia will undergo physical examination, finger printing, and have his mug shot taken.

After five days, Garcia will be made to stay at the Reception and Diagnostic Center for 55 days, where he will undergo, among others, psychological and psychiatric tests. The RDC will also determine the cell Garcia will occupy.

NBP Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf said Garcia will be temporarily considered a maximum security prisoner until the RDC completes its evaluation.

Security was tight when Garcia’s four-vehicle convoy arrived at the NBP at past 2 p.m. He was with his lawyers and escorted by more than a dozen soldiers and policemen.

Garcia was generally quiet while on his way to the NBP. “He did not show any emotions, anger, or aggressiveness. He was very calm,” Provo Marshal General Col. Herbert Yambing said. But he said the former general told him of his plan to question his arrest before the courts. He also asked permission to talk to his lawyers and to Pangilinan.

“He wanted to file a petition for bail but the court- martial does not allow bail. That’s the difference,” Yambing said.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division’s approval of the plea bargain sparked public outrage as well as calls for the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and of the justices of the anti-graft court. In approving the deal, the Sandiganbayan said evidence against Garcia was weak to convict him of plunder.

The military said that as the aggrieved party, it should have been consulted by the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman when Garcia’s plea offer was being evaluated.

Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz, in a 124-page consolidated motion for reconsideration, said the plea bargain agreement “suffers from fatally grave infirmities.”

The immensity of Garcia’s wealth first came to light in 2003 when airport authorities in San Francisco held one of his sons for trying to smuggle $100,000. In a written confession, his wife Clarita justified their son’s possession of such large amount saying her husband had amassed a fortune as military comptroller.

Reposted From Alexis Romero of Philippine Star

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Repost From Philippine Daily Inquirer

Angolan stuns; Shamcey Supsup shines

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AND THE WINNER IS… Miss Philippines 2011 Shamcey Supsup (C) is selected for the top five during the 60th annual Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Credicard Hall in Sao Paulo on September 12, 2011. Angola's Leila Lopes has become the new Miss Universe, edging out beauties from Ukraine, Brazil, the Philippines and China as the pageant marked its 60th anniversary. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Sao Paulo, Brazil—The newly crowned Miss Universe hopes her victory will allow her to assist her native country further escape its history of war and poverty, and believes that “racists need to seek help” for they are “not normal in the 21st century.”

Angola’s Leila Lopes on Monday night (Tuesday morning in Manila) became the new Miss Universe, edging out beauties from Ukraine, Brazil, the Philippines and China as the pageant marked its 60th anniversary.

The Philippine candidate, 25-year-old Shamcey Supsup, an architecture magna cum laude and native of General Santos City, finished third runner-up in the contest among 89 young women and watched by an estimated one billion people around the world.

Lopes, 25, wearing a glittery strapless gown with feathery fringe, accepted the crown from last year’s winner, Mexico’s Ximena Navarrete, after upsetting a lineup of Latin American beauties who had been favored to win.

Asked in the final round by a Filipino judge, Broadway star Lea Salonga, what physical trait about herself she would change if given the opportunity, Lopes replied: “Nothing, I am satisfied with what God gave me,” and added that it was important to have “inner beauty.”

Murmurs of wonder

Lopes wore a light-colored dress that contrasted well with her dark skin, and pinned her voluminous hair up in a bun that sent murmurs of wonder through the local press corps.

“Now I have work to do, and I want to try to keep my feet on the ground,” Lopes later told reporters as she struggled to hold back tears after receiving a standing ovation at São Paulo’s Credicard Hall.

She will go on to serve as a world ambassador of sorts, with a full calendar of public appearances to raise awareness about the fight against AIDS and other serious diseases.

Speaking in a timid voice shortly after taking the crown in South America’s largest city, Lopes said that “as Miss Angola I’ve already done a lot to help my people.”

“I’ve worked with various social causes. I work with poor kids, I work in the fight against HIV. I work to protect the elderly and I have to do everything that my country needs,” she said. “I think now as Miss Universe I will be able to do much more.”

No cosmetic surgery

Responding to questions, Lopes said that she had never had cosmetic surgery of any kind and that her three tips for beauty were to get a lot of sleep, use sunblock even when it’s not sunny and to drink lots of water. She said her smile was her best weapon in the competition.

Asked about racism in light of the fact that she’s one of the few blacks ever crowned Miss Universe, Lopes said that “any racist needs to seek help. It’s not normal in the 21st century to think in that way.”

Angola’s first winner, Lopes deftly handled the interview question that is asked of the remaining top five contestants. “Thank God I’m very satisfied with the way God created me and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Lopes said.

“I consider myself a woman endowed with inner beauty. I have acquired many wonderful principles from my family and I intend to follow these for the rest of my life,” she added.

The first runner-up was 23-year-old Olesia Stefanko of Ukraine and the second runner-up was the hometown favorite, Priscila Machado of Brazil. The third was the Philippines’ Supsup and the fourth was China’s Luo Zilin.

MOST BEAUTIFUL. Miss Angola 2011 Leila Lopes reacts after winning the 60th annual Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Credicard Hall in Sao Paulo on September 12, 2011. AFP PHOTO/YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Contestants spent the past three weeks in São Paulo, trying to learn samba dance steps, visiting impoverished children and kicking a football around for cameras as the Miss Universe pageant came to Brazil for the first time.

She knew what to say

Despite battling against a home country favorite, Lopes won over the audience, speaking in the shared language of Portuguese. Angola, like Brazil, is a former Portuguese colony.

“She captivated the crowd and we were all behind her,” said Brazilian Natalie Bursztyn, 20, who was in the crowd inside Credicard Hall.

“It was great that the judges also saw what the fans saw and gave her the crown. Her dress was beautiful and she knew exactly what to say when they asked her the question about her looks,” Bursztyn added.

Another fan in the audience, Carolina Rocha, said Lopes’ win was “well deserved, we were cheering for her all along. Her smile and her friendliness was what set her apart from the others. She also answered her question very well, that likely helped her a lot.”

US broadcast journalist Connie Chung was one of the celebrity judges, and said before the competition that she was taking the contest seriously.

“I know my job and I’ll be tough, but fair,” Chung said. “You have to keep in mind that these women are not objects just to be looked at. They’re to be taken seriously. I want to choose somebody I take seriously and the world takes seriously, too.”

Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organization, was hyped for the night.

“It’s our 60th anniversary, it’s a very big show,” she said. “We’re anticipating close to a billion viewers from around the world.”

Brazil is the place

Shugart said it was fitting the globe’s biggest beauty pageant be held in Brazil amid the country’s preparations to host some major events in the coming years.

“I don’t think there is any doubt in the rest of the world’s mind that Brazil is the place, between hosting the Olympics and hosting the World Cup,” she said. “I love the fact we’re going to kick it off. I always say we’re the ‘World Cup’ of beauty.”

The contestants must never have been married or had children and must be at least 18 years of age and under 27 years of age by Feb. 1 of the competition year.

The pageant, hosted by NBC “Today” anchor Natalie Morales and the Bravo network’s Andy Cohen, was broadcast live on NBC and distributed to about 170 countries.

The contest is coowned by Donald Trump and NBC, and the celebrity judges included Chung and two prominent Brazilians, supermodel Isabeli Fontana and Indy race car driver Helio Castroneves.

Sharply dressed women and men jostled for chances to have their photos taken with stars on the red carpet. Some traveled from across the globe to support contestants.

Jehona Dreshaj, 17, arrived from Kosovo to cheer on her sister, Aferdita Dreshaj, who is representing the European country.

“It doesn’t really matter the outcome, she is already a winner in our eye and we are so proud of her,” Dreshaj said. “This has been an incredible experience for her and for all of us. It’s great for her to be representing our country in an event like this”

Barely there bikinis

There have been no headline-grabbing gaffes going into this year’s competition, as opposed to past years that have seen controversies of various stripes. The show itself went off without a hitch.

Some of the contestants have complained to the local news media about the size of bikinis used in some photo shoots, with Miss Mexico Karin Ontiveros saying they were “very small.”

That was enough to draw chuckles in Brazil, where women from all walks of life, not just beauty queens, sport barely there swimwear on beaches throughout the country.

Miss USA Alyssa Campanella failed to end a long losing spell for her country in the competition. An American has not been named Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997.

The pageant started as a local bathing suit revue in Long Beach, California, organized by a swimwear company.

It was the ninth time the competition was held in Latin America but the first time it was hosted by Brazil.

Latin American women were the favorites this year after winning the crown in seven of the last 10 competitions, and all eyes were on the slender Vanessa Goncalves of Venezuela, which has a highly competitive beauty pageant circuit.

Venezuela won back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009—a first in the competition—and with a total of six wins falls just one short of the United States, which has more than 10 times its population.

But Goncalves and another favorite, Miss Kosovo, were eliminated after the swimsuit competition and did not make it into the group of finalists. Reports from AFP and AP

Reposted From Philippine Daily Inquirer (Reports From AFP and AP)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Repost From AP (The Philippine Star)

World remembers 9/11
By AP (The Philippine Star) Updated September 12, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (3) View comments

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NEVER FORGET: Photo shows US flags being carried into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York during a ceremony to honor city firefighters killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. AP
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MANILA, Philippines - A mother in Malaysia greeted her dead son. People in Manila left roses for the victim who helped give them homes. And mourners in Tokyo stood before a piece of steel from Ground Zero, remembering the 23 bank employees who never made it out alive.

A decade after 9/11, the day that changed so much for so many people, the world’s leaders and citizens paused to reflect yesterday.

From Sydney to Paris, formal ceremonies paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 who perished from more than 90 countries. And, in a reminder that threats remain, Swedish police said four people were arrested yesterday on suspicion of preparing a terror attack as authorities in Washington and New York beefed up security in response to intelligence about possible plans for a car bomb attack.

For some people, the pain never stops. In Malaysia, Pathmawathy Navaratnam woke up yesterday in her suburban Kuala Lumpur home and did what she’s done every day for the past decade: wish her son “Good morning.” Vijayashanker Paramsothy, a 23-year-old financial analyst, was killed in the attacks on New York.

“He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can’t accept that he is not here anymore,” said Navaratnam. “I am still living, but I am dead inside.”

In Manila, dozens of former shanty dwellers offered roses, balloons and prayers for another 9/11 victim, American citizen Marie Rose Abad. The neighborhood used to be a shantytown that reeked of garbage. But in 2004, Abad’s Filipino-American husband Rudy built 50 brightly colored homes, fulfilling his late wife’s wish to help impoverished Filipinos.

The village has since been named after her.

“It’s like a new life sprang from the death of Marie Rose and so many others,” said villager Nancy Waminal.

Among the Sept. 11 victims was Indian Jupiter Yambem, who was manager at the “Roof of the World” restaurant in the World Trade Center.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visiting Section 60, for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. AP

About 100 family members and close friends gathered at his ancestral home in the northeastern state of Manipur for prayers Sunday.

“Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, my brother’s soul will finally rest in peace,” Jupiter’s older brother, Yambem Laba, said. “Osama is dead but the threat from al-Qaeda has not ended.”

Players from the American Eagles rugby team were among the first to mark the anniversary at a memorial service in the town of New Plymouth in New Zealand. The players, who are participating in the Rugby World Cup tournament, listened to a speech by US ambassador David Huebner, whose brother Rick survived the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“We watched live on television the brutal murder of 3,000 individuals,” Huebner said. “We reacted with near unanimous horror and sadness.”

“As we mark the 10th anniversary of that day, we commemorate the triumph of human kindness, and the humanity and self-abrogation which sets us apart from every other species on this planet Earth.”

In Japan, families gathered in Tokyo to pay their respects to the 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. A dozen of the workers who died were Japanese.

One by one, family members laid flowers in front of an enclosed glass case containing a small section of steel retrieved from Ground Zero. They clasped their hands and bowed their heads. Some took pictures. Others simply stood in solemn silence. There were no tears, just reflection.

Kunitake Nomura, 76, a former Fuji Bank employee who mourns losing his younger co-workers, attended a subsequent memorial service.

“We need to try to understand each other,” Nomura said. “We need to overcome differences in race and religion and learn to live in peace. We are all brothers after all. We must remind ourselves of this today.”

Sydney resident Rae Tompsett, 81, said she’s never felt angry over the murder of her son Stephen Tompsett, 39, a computer engineer who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane.

“No, not anger,” she said. “Sorrow. Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good.”

The retired school teacher and her husband Jack, 92, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney’s Roman Catholic cathedral St. Marys for a special multi-faith service.

“It’s incredible that it is 10 years - it feels a bit like yesterday,” Tompsett said.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to US President Barack Obama, conveying his “deepest condolences” to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, their bereaved families and the American public. Lee, whose country is one of the strongest allies of the United States, called the attacks “unpardonable” and praised decade-long US efforts to fight terrorism.

And leaders in Pakistan, which has been a victim of al-Qaeda terrorism but is also accused of not doing enough to crack down on militants, said they joined the people of the US in honoring the memory of those killed 10 years ago.

“As a country that has been severely affected by terrorism, we reaffirm our national resolve to strengthening international cooperation for the elimination of terrorism,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, authorities in New York and Washington are increasing security for their 9/11 memorial services after intelligence agents got a tip that three al-Qaeda members could be planning to set off a car bomb in one of the cities. Officials have found no evidence any terrorists have sneaked into the country.

The Sept. 11 attacks “could easily have happened in Paris, it could easily have happened in Sydney and it could still happen which is why the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said after laying a wreath at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Taliban marked the anniversary by vowing to keep fighting against US forces in Afghanistan and saying they had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Each year, 9/11 reminds the Afghans of an event in which they had no role whatsoever,” a statement e-mailed to news organizations said. “American colonialism shed the blood of tens of thousands of miserable and innocent Afghans.”

Hours later, a Taliban suicide bomber in a large truck blew it up at the gate of a NATO combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan, killing two civilians and injuring others.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, after the Taliban who then ruled the country refused to hand over Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaeda leader was at the time living in Afghanistan, where the terror network retained training camps and planned attacks against the US and other countries. Bin Laden was killed four months ago at his Pakistan hideout by US forces.

Reposted From AP (The Philippine Star)


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