Sunday, August 20, 2017

Delay hits gov't plan to fix runway in West Philippine Sea

From Rappler (Aug 20): Delay hits gov't plan to fix runway in West Philippine Sea

Construction has yet to start 4 months since Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the need to immediately repair the Philippine airstrip on Pag-asa Island

PAG-ASA ISLAND. About a hundred Filipinos live in one of the biggest islands in the Spratlys.

PAG-ASA ISLAND. About a hundred Filipinos live in one of the biggest islands in the Spratlys.

Philippine security officials are blaming "weather conditions" for failing to start the long-awaited repair of its dilapidated runway in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) 4 months since the plans were announced. (READ: PH plans for Pag-asa to test Duterte's friendship with China)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the runway in Pag-asa (Thitu) cannot be expected to be fixed within the year.

"Hindi natin magagawa ngayong taon na ito (We can't do it this year)," Lorenzana said during a budget hearing at the House of Representatives on Monday, August 14. (READ: PH allots P1.6B to fast-track construction on Pag-asa)

Lorenzana visited the island in April 2017 and committed to fast-track the repair of the runway on the second biggest naturally occuring island in the Spratlys, where about a hundred Filipinos are residing. (READ: The residents of Pag-asa: Life on a disputed island)

Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado said the construction company will do its best to start the construction soon.

"Weather conditions gave some limitation on the tranpsort of construction equipment to Pag-asa. The sea condition is a bit rough right now. But they have intimated to us they will do their best to start the construction of the beaching ramp," Mercado told lawmakers asking updates on the projects.

China protested Lorenzana's visit in April, pushing its claim over practically the entire South China Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously planned to visit the island and plant a Philippine flag there himself. He backed out after protests from China, but he maintained that it is his duty to repair the runway there.

Duterte warmed Philippine ties with China after tense relations with his predecessor President Aquino, who led and won an international arbitration case against China claims over the West Philippine Sea.

But China continues to develop reefs it reclaimed, raising alarm from observers despite continued assurances from the Philippine government that the situation is better. (READ: Photos show Cayetano, Wang wrong on China reclamation)

There are concerns, too, that China might be eyeing to occupy sandbars near Pag-asa island. Its ships are recently spotted too close to the Philippine-occupied island.

PH Navy gets radar system from U.S.

From Rappler (Aug 20): PH Navy gets radar system from U.S.

The Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) is a balloon-borne radar that will boost the country's capability to patrol its maritime territories
 Image result for tethered aerostat radar system, rappler

The United States donated a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) to the Philippine Navy to boost its capability to monitor maritime and air traffic amid continuing concerns in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Philippine Navy spokesman Commander Lued Lincuna said a formal turnover ceremony is scheduled on Tuesday, August 22, a month after the radar system arrived in the Philippines, based on photos that circulated online in July.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado and the US embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klescheski are expected to attend the ceremony at the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales.

TARS is a balloon-borne radar that uses Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) technology. It is widely used by the US to monitor its borders, mostly to prevent trafficking of drugs and people.

"It is expected to enhance the Philippine Navy's capability in maritime intelligence surveillance reconnaissance by effectively detecting maritime and air traffic within the country's coastal waters using sensors," said Lincuna.

The TARS also includes a weather station that transmits data on ambient temperature, pressure, wind speed, and other pertinent parameters in the operation of the system.

Lincuna said it can also be used in the conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) operations.

The donation follows the arrival of two surveillance aircraft also from the US – the Cessna C-208B Grand Caravan.

Security forces capture 13 ‘lawless elements’ in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 20): Security forces capture 13 ‘lawless elements’ in Southern Philippines

Government troops and policemen captured 13 gunmen, including a notorious Abu Sayyaf member involved in ransom kidnappings in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.

Officials said 7 armed men were arrested on Friday in Lugus town in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region; and the Abu Sayyaf member, Fahar Ishmael in the town of Indanan on Wednesday. Their capture was not immediately made public because of ongoing operations against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless groups.

Ishmael is being implicated by the military in the kidnappings of Marso Salinas and Evelyn Chan, and is also facing a string of murder charges. “Ishmael is now under custodial investigation,” said Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.

She said the other arrested “lawless elements” were also being interrogated separately after soldiers seized assorted rifles and ammunition from them. Petinglay did not say whether the 7 men were members of the Abu Sayyaf or private armed gang.

Petinglay said 5 other lawless elements were also arrested Thursday in the town of Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat province, but their leader Tenti Mangain managed to escape in the raid on the village of Ito Andong. She said security forces seized 5 automatic rifles, a pistol and a grenade, including military uniform and ammunition.

“Military and police operations continue against lawless elements in southern Philippines as part of government efforts to curb criminality and terrorism and protect the public from harm,” she said.

Retired military doc named new VMMC chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): Retired military doc named new VMMC chief

Retired Brig. Gen. Mariano A. Mejia, former head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center, was appointed as Chief of Medical Staff of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Department of National Defense said Mejia's oath-taking ceremony was presided by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last August 15.

Prior to his appointment, Mejia also served as AFP Surgeon General, Army Chief Surgeon and commander of various military hospitals and facilities such as the Fort Bonifacio General Hospital, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo Hospital, among others.

His numerous accomplishments, awards and decorations in the AFP was capped with his hosting of the 6th ASEAN Chiefs of Military Medicine Conference at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, Mandaluyong City in July 2016.

With the theme “Global Climate Change: Challenges to the ASEAN military medicine,” the successful conference was attended by delegates from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.

PH, Thailand ink TOR for joint committee on military cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): PH, Thailand ink TOR for joint committee on military cooperation

The Philippines and Thailand has signed the terms of reference (TOR) for the Joint Committee on Military Cooperation (JCMC) last August 17.

The TOR was signed by Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary Cardozo M. Luna and Thai Permanent Secretary for Defense General Chaichan Changmongkol.

DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Thai Ambassador to the Philippines Thanatip Upatising Signing witnessed the signing.

The defense chief said the endeavor completes the series of arrangements that have been previously inked at the level of the two countries’ major services, with that of the Philippine Navy being signed in 2012, Philippine Army in 2015 and Philippine Air Force in 2016.

With the TOR signed, the JCMC convened for the first time. co-chaired by DND Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop and Thai Deputy Permanent Secretary for Defense General Chatudom Titthasiri, the committee assessed the current state of Philippines-Thailand defense cooperation and identified ways forward for the partnership.

With both sides acknowledging the robustness of the two ministries’ defense engagements, there was a shared sense to explore cooperation in the areas of research and development as well as science and technology, in recognition of the increasing need to develop defense capabilities that are indigenous to the two neighbors.

The two delegations also exchanged views on current and emerging security issues such as violent extremism and terrorism, maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

Both sides expressed mutual support for each other’s advocacies and initiatives within the ambit of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) and the ADMM-Plus.

With Thailand’s assurance of continued support to the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ADMM this year, the Philippine delegation thanked Thailand for its tangible contributions to the ASEAN defense sector, to include the establishment of an ASEAN Center for Military Medicine.

CA upholds Pemberton's conviction on killing of Jennifer Laude

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): CA upholds Pemberton's conviction on killing of Jennifer Laude

The Court of Appeals (CA) junked the motion for reconsideration filed by United States Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was tagged in the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City in October 2014.
In a 12-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Marlenez Gonzales-Sison and concurred in by Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Henri Jean Paul Inting, the CA’s 16th Division has affirmed its decision last April 3, 2017 which found Pemberton guilty beyond reasonable doubt of homicide.
The Court also denied the Office of the Solicitor General’s partial motion for reconsideration insisting that Pemberton is not entitled to be given full credit of the time he spent under preventive imprisonment as he did not voluntarily agree in writing to abide by the same rules imposed upon convicted prisoners.
In denying both pleas, the CA held that the arguments presented were mere “rehash of the issues” already discussed in its April 3, 2017 decision.
“With respect to Pemberton’s motion, we maintain our ruling that his invocation of self-defense is an admission of the killing and of its authorship,” the CA explained.
“Pemberton’s contention that he was only raising complete and incomplete self-defense in the physical injuries he inflicted upon Jerry Serdoncillo y Laude alias ‘Jennifer’ (Laude) is bereft of rhyme or reason as the former was not charged for any physical injuries but of homicide, “ the CA ruled.
The CA noted that in justifying circumstance of self-defense, Pemberton was just trying to exonerate himself or reduce his penalty from the charge of homicide.
“Consequently, we reiterate that self-defense when invoked as a justifying circumstance implied the admission by the accused that he committed the criminal act,” it added.
But, the CA maintained that Pemberton’s claim of self-defense cannot be given weight due to his failure to prove that he was attacked by Laude and that his life was in peril on the night of the incident.
“The allegation of Pemberton that he was slapped by Laude could not even be corroborated by any medical findings. Worthy to note that according to Pemberton, the slap he allegedly received made his ear ring which if true should have promoted Pemberton to immediately seek medical attention,” it explained.
Furthermore, the CA said if Pemberton was only trying to defend himself, he should have sought medical assistance for Laude as soon as the latter was subdued and allegedly rendered unconscious.
“Indeed, a pelae of self-defense cannot be justifiably appreciated where it is not only uncorroborated by independent and competent evidence, but also extremely doubtful by itself. Self-defense, like alibi, is a defense which can easily be concocted as it is in this case,” the CA held.
The CA added that Pemberton’s immediate escape from Celzone Lodge where Laude was found dead is an indication of guilt.
“The bits of evidence, pieced together, point to Pemberton as the killer of Laude, Ostensibly, our rules make no distinction between direct evidence of a fact and evidence of circumstances from which the existence of a fact may be inferred. Pemberton’s criminal liability for homicide stands,” the CA ruled.
The CA also upheld the award of loss of earning capacity to the heirs of Laude amounting to PHP4.32 million
In its April 3, 2017 decision, CA affirmed the ruling of Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 which found Pemberton guilty of homicide and sentenced him to a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment as ordering him to indemnify the heirs of his victim Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, a Filipino transgender, on October 11, 2014.
Pemberton has been meted a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment after he was convicted of homicide. He was also ordered to pay PHP4.3 million for loss of earning capacity, PHP30,000 for exemplary damages, PHP50,000 each for civil indemnity and moral damages.
The CA said for an unlawful aggression to exist, there has to be an actual physical assault or at least a threat to inflict real imminent injury.
On Pemberton's claim that Laude fought like a man, slapped him that made his ear ring, the CA noted that a general physical examination conducted on Pemberton showed no sign of injury on his head and face.
The CA said there was no physical evidence that would suggest that Pemberton was first slapped by Laude or that he was in grave danger that prompted him defend himself.
“Indeed, a plea of self-defense cannot be justifiably appreciated where it is not only uncorroborated by independent and competent evidence, but also extremely doubtful by itself. Self-defense, like alibi, is a defense which can easily be concocted as it is in this case,” the CA ruled.
Likewise, the Court did not give weight to Pemberton’s plea that his voluntary surrender should have been appreciated in his favor as mitigating circumstance considering that he was detained in Camp Aguinaldo as early as December 2014 or before his warrant of arrest was issued on December 16, 2014 and that there was no intention on his part to commit such a crime.
The appellate court noted that the case was filed against Pemberton on December 15, 2014 or four days before Pemberton presented himself to the trial court.
It added that physical evidence also contradicts Pemberton’s claim that he had no intention to commit so grave wrong.
“As proven by the prosecution, Pemberton did not leave Laude merely unconscious, but ensured his death by submerging his head inside the toilet bowl. Clearly, Pemberton intended the natural consequence of his wrongful act,” it pointed out.
The CA, meanwhile increased the PHP100,000 (PHP50,000 each ) civil indemnity and moral damages to PHP150,000 (PHP75,000 each) because recent jurisprudence showed that the amount imposed should be the latter.
On the other hand, the actual damages of PHP155,250.00 was affirmed after Laude's family was able to produce receipts of expenses incurred for the autopsy, wake and burial.
The CA further said that Pemberton shall pay 6 percent interest per annum on all civil liability from the finality of the decision until fully paid.
In his MR, Pemberton through his lawyer Rowena Garcia Flores asked the CA’s 16 Division to reverse its decision dated April 3, 2017 and also reverse the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 decision dated Dec. 1, 2015 and the RTC order dated  March 29  2016, and declare Pemberton not guilty of the crime of homicide.
He maintained that the wounds he inflicted on Laude were in self-defense while they were fighting after he discovered that the victim was a transgender.
Pemberton lamented that the CA “cherry-picked the evidence presented in court in order to sustain his conviction and completely ignored the defense evidence.
Pemberton is the second US soldier to be involved in a criminal act in the country since 2005, when Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was charged and later on convicted for the rape of a Filipino woman.
Last Dec. 4, 2006, Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 139 Judge Benjamin Pozon convicted Smith and sentenced him to 40 years in prison for sexually assaulting the complainant at the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales last November 1, 2005.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Aug 18): SEASONED WARRIORS  |  MetroBank TOPS Awardees

CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – Three seasoned warriors who fought local terrorists in Mindanao were presented as this year’s “The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers” (TOPS) in a ceremony held Monday, 14 August 2017 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters Building.

Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Suderio, Lieutenant Colonel Ricky Bunayog, and Staff Sergeant Narding Pascual will be honored during Metrobank’s 55th Anniversary in September. They will each receive P1 Million cash incentive, a gold medallion, and a trophy from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

The three awardees were chosen for rendering service beyond the call of duty, and for inspiring and influencing their comrades and the people in their respective communities. All three members of the Philippine Army were selected from around 40 nominations from the Army, Air Force, and Navy. CRSAFP / MCAG