Friday, September 15, 2006


MANILA, February 12, 2004 (STAR)

BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - For weeks there’s been a buzz, from interesting sources as well as our usual "underground" contacts (Alikabok included), about a plan to assassinate one of the leading Presidential candidates.

I don’t want to sow alarmist talk, but one contender – the one at whom the conspiracy seems directed – has taken these "tips" seriously enough to take evasive action. One time he was scheduled to make an appearance, but his staff and handlers, aghast that his specific schedule had been aired on the radio and TV and in two newspapers, had to adopt "squid tactics". They spread the word that he wouldn’t be able to make that appointment, since he was stuck down south and had to meet some "very important people".

As it happened, he arrived right on the dot. His plane landed at the Manila airport, he changed right in the hangar, and beat the traffic to his promised rendezvous.

It would be easy to blame his rivals, including the Administration, for anything violent happening to this popular contender, but the indications are that the New People’s Army (the Communist NPA) is the malign group fielding the hit-men – or the Amazons. Joma, Louie, Ka Roger, can this be true? Who would be "blamed" if anything as bizarre as that happened? Not Jolly Roger, or "Peace Talking" Joma (waltzing with Government Peacenik Silvestre "Bebot" Bello in the snows of Oslo), or, heavens to Betsy, the former cleric Father Louie "The Dutchman" Jalandoni.

What if this dastardly deed provokes an explosion of fury and . . . yep, "revolution" by an angry masa and the disgusted, disheartened populace in general? Voila, the "People’s Army", dyed in the Red, gallops, fully armed, to the "rescue". Riding the tide of people’s uprising to power is a Leninist-Maoist (dare I say Jomaist?) specialty.

Beware the Ides of March, as the old soothsayer warned Julius Caesar – reminding him of that prophecy as Caesar strode, toga-a-tilt, confidently towards the Senate where the knives of Brutus, Cassius, and their confederates (noble Senators all) awaited him.

* * *

I recall that when Maj. General Victor Corpus, now Malacañang Civil Relations Chief in charge of the Palace "war room", came to see me in my home in 1976, just before he went in to "surrender" to one of his Philippine Military Academy classmates (he was ordered "arrested" instead and slapped into military prison), Corpus revealed that it had been Joma Sison who had ordered the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1970 – not the Marcos government.

Mind you, Corpus had fought alongside Joma as an NPA Commander for almost six years, following his raid on the PMA armory in Baguio in 1970, when he (1st Lt. Corpus) defected to the Communist rebels, bringing PMA Browning automatic rifles, machineguns, and other weapons with him. Corpus told me he was heartsick and disillusioned with the movement, and the "executions" ordered of high-ranking and loyal NPAs by their own leadership, including Joma himself.

When I met Corpus (before his "political prostitute" statement against a lady Senator) at the National Defense College of the Philippines "Roundtable Discussion", last January 27, I asked Vic – in the presence of Commodore Carlos L. Agustin, AFP (retired), President of the Defense College; Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Rodolfo Diaz, Commodore Mariano S. Sontillanosa, AFP (ret.); Rear Admiral Ariston V. de los Reyes, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and dozens of officers and Defense College participants, whether he stood by his charge that Joma Sison had dispatched the cadre who attacked the Liberal Party’s miting de avance with hand-grenade.

General Corpus replied: "I do."

Corpus – mind you, still an NPA Commander at the time – had asserted that Joma believed an attack on the opposition rally – which resulted in some killed including our Manila Times cameraman, and others like Senator Jovito Salonga, Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr., Senator Sergio Osmeña Jr., Manila Mayoral candidate (subsequently Mayor) Ramon D. Bagatsing, grievously wounded, indeed, some like Jovy maimed for life and near to death – would be blamed on then President Ferdinand Marcos and the Government. Hence, Corpus disclosed, that bold attack. Fortunately, one of the grenades thrown that night proved a dud and failed to explode, otherwise the carnage would have been inestimable.

True enough, Marcos was blamed. And even then Senator Ninoy Aquino who hadn’t arrived at the Plaza Miranda entablado because he was attending a party as ninong (godfather) in the Jai Alai "Keg Room" on Taft Avenue.

After Corpus "came in from the cold", a heroic movie had been made about him – which, by the way, I tho-roughly enjoyed – starring "Daboy", Rudy Fernandez.

At that January 27th meeting in Camp Aguinaldo, after Victor reaffirmed his accusation – which I believe is true – I read aloud the unpublished transcript of a lengthy interview by our Chief European Correspondent and Paris Bureau Chief Vi Gomez Massart with Joma Sison in Utrecht last January 12.

SISON: "I formally deny that I had a hand in the bombing of Plaza Miranda!"

Joma told Massart: "That was done by Marcos. In 1994, the Manila Prosecutor’s Office made a resolution clearing me, that allegations against me were based on speculations. Ariel Armendral, a classmate of Senator Salonga’s son, fed him all these rumors and Senator Salonga ‘bought’ it". (Meaning, Senate President Salonga had believed these allegedly false rumors.)

Sison also cited "a 1998 Department of Justice certification that there are no more pending criminal cases against me."

C’mon, Joma.

In any event, it wasn’t Armendral who first told Jovy Salonga. It was Corpus. What happened was that when Victor came to my home and told me Sison had sent those hit-men to attack the Plaza Miranda rally, I telephoned Jovy and informed him he had, for years, been "wrongly" accusing Marcos. I had no love for Macoy, remember, but truth is truth. After all, I had been arrested along with Ninoy Aquino and hundreds of others and imprisoned in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Crame, when Marcos declared martial law.

I put Corpus on the line to explain Joma’s role to Salonga.

Jovy, when I got back the line, had said he was still a bit skeptical about the Sison angle, but he would inquire into the matter more closely.

A few days ago, former Senator Salonga rang me up on another matter. I told him of the Sison denial and the fact that in the course of his interview with Massart, Sison had even called him names. Jovy just laughed and quipped: "I still say it was Joma Sison. And you were the first to convince me!" Salonga had suffered most among the injured – with his two hands half-crippled and scores of metal shrapnel embedded in his body.

Could the NPAs have hatched a similar plot today – so widespread anger and even an uprising could be enkindled? What do you think?

Incidentally, Sison also denies he’s still Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. However, he jestingly told Massart that the CPP Chairman is "Armando Liwanag". If you’ll recall, "Armando Liwanag" was Joma’s nom de guerre (guerrilla code name).

"Are you formally denying that you are Armando Liwanag?" Our STAR correspondent asked him.

"Yes," replied Joma, "and we say so in court. I was long in prison (nine years) and have been out of the country too long." He uttered these words "grinning" as Massart recorded. Sison remarked he had been in jail from his capture in 1977 to his release by former President Corazon Aquino in 1986. He left the Philippines in 1986, after working in the University of the Philippines "for only six months".

He’s been in Holland most of his foreign "exile".

Last week, Massart – almost a phone pal by this time, it seems – rang up Sison again. This time Joma declared (February 6) that "Corpus is really crazy labeling Loren a political prostitute".

* * *

Today, seven members of the Commission on Elections are GMA appointees.

In the Supreme Court, with the designation of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, eight of the High Court’s Justices are GMA appointees. This is more than half of the Court’s membership. Out of the 15 Justices, only seven are not the incumbent President’s appointed.

Interesting. Abangan the High Court’s decision to come.

* * *

THE ROVING EYE . . . Driving around Manila, I notice the worst offender against the ban on sticking handbills on walls and hanging large posters from telephone and electric posts is the President’s K-4 party – with that huge portrait of La Presidenta herself dominating the posters and dikit-bills. Also, to our surprise, the handbills of candidate Senator Panfilo Lacson are on many walls. Who obeys the law these days? . . . I also drove past the US Embassy with my digital camera, but I saw the same PNP or military Humvee, armored, with its .50 caliber gun pointed at me and oncoming traffic right on Roxas boulevard, like a roadblock restricting us to one lane of the road. Why does the US Embassy need a police Tagaligtas armored car to guard it? Shouldn’t our cops be protecting the citizenry elsewhere? And why block a public highway like Roxas boulevard, one of the country’s most traffic congested thoroughfares? If we deign to "lend" them that armored Humvee and our SWAT cops in full battle-gear for their protection, let the Americans get it off our road and put the damn thing either in their driveway, or behind those black iron Embassy gates. Susmariosep. Don’t they know there’s a war on? A war against local crime, and against traffic congestion.

Reported by:
Sol Jose Vanzi
All rights reserved

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rally greets GMA in Brussels

Human rights advocates hold a rally in the middle of the European neighborhood in Brussels, Belgium to call for decisive action against the political killings in the Philippines during President Arroyo’s visit to that country last Sept. 12. - Photo By ISABEL MASSART
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Rally greets GMA in Brussels
By Vi Massart Chief Europe Correspondent
The Philippine Star 09/15/2006

BRUSSELS — A street rally protesting the spate of killings of left-leaning activists and journalists in the Philippines greeted President Arroyo upon her arrival in Belgium last Monday on the second leg of her European visit.

About 50 Filipino, Belgian, Dutch and German protesters denounced the killings and accused Mrs. Arroyo of doing little to stop them and bring the killers to justice.

Belgian socialist lawmaker Inga Verheart joined the rally, organized by Belgian non-government organization INTAL, outside the European Commission during Mrs. Arroyo’s talks with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

"We believe that if the spate of killings do not stop, the European Union should impose limited economic sanctions on the Philippines," rally organizer Wim de Ceukelaire said.

The protesters displayed a banner that said "Stop the killings in the Philippines."

Verheart, a member of the Federal Parliament of Belgium, challenged Mrs. Arroyo’s administration "to be transparent" in dealing with the killings.

"We addressed questions to Mrs. Arroyo’s government about the treatment of members of Congress this year and we still have to hear from her government," she told The STAR.

Verheart was referring to Mrs. Arroyo’s crackdown on left-leaning lawmakers, street protests and critical media organizations when she declared a weeklong declaration of national emergency in February to quell a reported coup attempt by renegade military officers in league with communist rebels and their civilian backers.

"We hear of these incidents of killings and we are saddened to hear that Mrs. Arroyo does not believe it’s worth her while to answer questions by members of the Belgian parliament concerning the situation in the Philippines," Verheart said.

The Arroyo administration has come under criticism from leftist and human rights groups following several disappearances of left-leaning activists that they blame on security forces.

Mrs. Arroyo has been criticized for the series of killings, for which she has been blamed for either condoning the attacks or not doing enough to stop them.

She denied that her administration has been cracking down on dissidents and had pledged to bring the killers to justice.

"I believe that such a spate of killings has no room in our democracy or in our government so I have escalated the response of the government," Mrs. Arroyo told The STAR.

She formed an independent commission last month to investigate the killings. Retired Supreme Court justice Jose Melo heads the panel.

A number of Filipino, Belgian and Dutch human rights activists staged a protest rally outside St. Michael Cathedral where Mrs. Arroyo attended Mass and was welcomed warmly by the local Filipino community later in the day but they were dispersed by police.

Mrs. Arroyo also had talks with Belgian Prime Minister Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in his official residence but there were no street protests because the vicinity was a no-rally zone.

She then paid a visit to Belgian lawmakers and discussed her initiative to amend the Philippine Constitution and replace the country’s present form of government with a parliamentary system with a federal setup.

Mrs. Arroyo told The STAR that it was "very important for the Philippines to engage Europe" as much as Manila does with main ally the United States, China, Japan and other Asian neighbors.

"After all, Europe is our third largest trading partner and second largest investor in the Philippines. And I’m proud to hear that I’m the first incumbent president to actually visit the European Union officially," she said. "So that’s bringing the Philippines a step higher in our relationship with Europe."

After criticizing the administration of creating "a climate of impunity" that led to the deaths of hundreds of journalists and political activists since President Arroyo assumed office in 2001, Amnesty International agreed yesterday to help the government investigate and put an end to the alarming spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo met Amnesty International secretary-general Irene Khan shortly after her arrival in London yesterday on the third leg of her trip. They spoke for nearly an hour about the spate of killings in the Philippines.

"Just this morning I asked for a meeting with AI and I’m very happy they will help us to find experienced investigators who will help the independent commission in its investigations," Mrs. Arroyo told a gathering of British and European businessmen in a forum organized by Asia House with Shell Corp. on business process outsourcing (BPO) at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel.

"I’m saying all these in a BPO conference because a European businessman would look at the entire cultural environment in which he or she is doing business," she said.

"I would like to point out to you that not only are we familiar with Western business processes, we are also very much in synch with you as far as the universal values of democracy and therefore free enterprise are concerned."

Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her condemnation of the killings saying such violence has no place in a democratic society.

After sending monitors on the human rights situation in the Philippines, AI criticized the Arroyo administration for the continued killings.

It said the "methodology of attacks, including prior death threats and surveillance of persons reportedly linked to the security forces, the leftist profile of victims and the climate of impunity, which in practice, shields the perpetrators from retribution."

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo’s meeting with Amnesty International "reveals her deep concern for human rights and underscores the determination and political will to stop the legacy of this type of retribution once and for all."

"The President sought out AI out of respect for their work and their shared concern for human rights," Bunye said. "She listened intently to their comments and welcomes their recommendation," he said.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo also took the opportunity to brief Amnesty International on the abolition of the death penalty and the impending passage of a law compensating human rights victims of the Marcos dictatorship.

Earlier, the European Union commended the Arroyo administration for taking steps to put an end to the killings, including the creation of the Melo commission, but also called for greater transparency in the investigation process.

European Commission president Barroso said the EU would extend assistance to the Philippines on the issue, including grants to strengthen the judiciary.

Spain and Finland have also committed to help in putting together a team of experts to monitor the work of Philippine authorities. — With Paolo Romero

Monday, September 11, 2006

Arroyo Brussels visit to be marked by stop killings protest


President Gloria Macapagal leaves Helsinki and flies to Brussels for the next leg of her European working visit tonight.

The Filipino community will be on hand to welcome President Arroyo at a mass to be held at the St Michael Cathedral in Brussels. More than 500 Filipino expatriates and OFWs are expected to attend the mass celebration which. A choir composed of more than 50 singers had organized to sing for the occasion.

Ambassador Ortega, Philippine envoy to Belgium and the European Union met with some 50 Filipino community leaders in Brussels who have agreed to perform a certain task each for the welcome celebration. President Gloria Macapagal seems to be very popular among Filipino residents in Belgium, many of whom will be coming from as Antwerp and Louven to meet with President Arroyo.

Mrs Carina Lansang, one of the Filipino community leaders residing in Brussels said, she and members of her group are "quite excited to meet the President."

However, the President's trip will be marked by a demonstration organized by INTAL, a Belgian NGO under the banner of Stop the Killings in the Philippines, Belgium Chapter.

Mr Wim de Ceukelaire, coordinator of the protest said, the demonstration will be held in front of the European Parliament at mid-day while Mrs Arroyo is meeting with Belgium's Prime Minister Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in his residence near Place Schuman, in Brussels .

"We are expecting Filipinos, Belgians, Duthc and Germans to attend the rally as well as members of the local Belgian media to protest the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines", said Mr de Ceukelaire.

Some 100 Filipinos, Belgians, Dutchs and Germans are expected to join the rally and will include Mrs Inga Verheart, member of the Federal Parliament of Belgium and Mr Eloi Glorieux, member of the Regional Parliament of Flanders. Mr de Ceukelaire said that their group invited local Belgian media to cover the protest as well as members of Philippine media travelling with the president.

According to the organizer of the rally, they will not demonstrate in front of the St Michael Cathedral where the mass-reception ceremony will be held in order not to put off Filipino OFWs or the Filipino community members who prefer to welcome the president warmly. They also cannot demonstrate in front of the residence of the Belgian Prime Minister while Mrs Arroyo is holding a meeting with Prime Minister Verhofstadt because the prime minister's residence is a no rally zone.

Their main objective is to call the attention of European parliamentarians to the spate of killings happening in the Philippines under the Arroyo government.

"We believe that if the spate of killings do not stop, the European Union should impose limited economic sanctions on the Philippines," Mr Wim de Ceukelaire said.

Pres Arroyo's call on Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt at mid-day, will be followed by a meeting with members of the Senate at the Belgian Parliament to discuss federalism, parliamentary mode of government.

Arroyo will meet with Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission later in the afternoon. Human rights and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines are issues expected to be raised during the meeting with Mr Barroso.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Interview with Pres Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Brussels set

septvisit06-main.jpg (145325 bytes)

Press Secretary Bunye rang me today, Sunday to confirm my interview with Pres GMA in Brussels when she visits on 11 - 12 September for The Philippine Star.

President Arroyo who is currently attending the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM6) in Helsinki will be leaving the Finnish capital tomorrow at 17hoo and is slated to arrive in Brussels the same day. The Philippine delegation will be billeted at the Conrad Hotel in the Belgian capital.

In Brussels, the Philippine chief executive will be meeting with Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and President José Manuel Barroso of the EU Commission.

The meeting with President Barroso will take place on 12 September at 16h30 at the EU headquarters on Place Schuman in Brussels.

According to Ambassador Cristina Ortega, Philippine envoy to Belgium, PGMA, who is on a working visit, will not be meeting with His Majesty, King Albert II because the Belgian Sovereign is still away on holiday and will not be back until 23 September.

Press Secretary Toting Bunye rang me today following a message by Max Soliven, President and Chairman of the Board, Philippines Star which was coursed through Foreign Affairs Secretary Bert Romulo that I would like to cover PGMA's visit to Brussels as well as have an exclusive interview for the Star.

Max Soliven rang me this afternoon at around 16h00 Brussels time to tell me that Secretary Bunye had been trying to reach me to confirm the interview.

Secretary Bunye said that the Philippine delegation is likely to be billeted at the Conrad Hotel but will call me or leave an SMS message on my mobile phone to tell where the interview will be held and the time of the meeting.

The Press Secretary, whom I have known for some 10 years when I was still working as advisor to the Conseil Regionale Ile de France for Mr Christian Cambon, VP for International Affairs and who know my children cracked that the children should be big now to which I gave him a brief summary of how old and where they are.

We spoke a wee bit on the phone and promised to remain in contact for the meeting in Brussels.

I expect to ask the President for her impressions, expectations and future developments resulting from her meetings with European heads of states at the ASEM summit, as well as the one dark cloud that Philippine critics back home deem should dampen the spirit of what should be a successful Philippine PR tour, namely, human rights violations and extra-judicial killings committed in the Philippines which, frankly, Europeans don't look quite kindly on.

I will also ask her about her future plans as far as boosting cultural, trade and other ties with the rest of Europe is concerned, and the advantages she sees for the Philippines in pursuing continuing and regular ties with Europe.

Of course, I'll make sure that there are photos taken during the interview-meeting with the President from which Tony Katigbak, Managing Editor of the Philippine Star may pick out one for publication just as Max asked me to.

President Arroyo will leave Brussels for London where she will be meeting with the business sector and will proceed to Cuba and Hawaii before flying back to Manila on 17 September.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the EC
12/09/2006 at 16:30 REF : P-012386
José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC, receives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Philippines