Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Another journalist killed...

This story was obtained from PCIJ website. This story is closed to our heart not only because Esperat is working for change in the Philippines but also because she is a scientist -- a chemist. Read on.

IT WAS hard to take Marlene Esperat seriously. Each time she came to our office to report yet another corrupt government deal, she wore mini skirts, stiletto heels and tight dresses with low necklines that revealed more than concealed. Every visit from her was a sartorial shock. You could say she was a colorful person, as each time she came, her hair was dyed a different shade (her preferred hues were light brown and red) and her eye shadow was inspired by the rainbow. Once, she even came in fishnet stockings.

We liked to call her “Erin Brockovich” after the tireless, gusty and sexy movie (and real-life) heroine who made a giant utility company in the US pay for its misdeeds. Although Marlene did not quite look like Julia Roberts, she had the attitude and the fearless, in-your-face style of the filmic heroine. Once, she appeared on our doorstep wearing glitter in her eyes. “I want to look pretty when the assassins come to get me,” she said.

On Maundy Thursday, the assassins did come. Marlene was killed in cold blood, in front of her children, with a single bullet fired by a gunman who casually walked into the living room of her home in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Copper, Gold and Nickel...

...in the Philippines

These three minerals which abound in our beloved motherland has the following uses. If only our government puts up industries that processes these minerals into usable things and not just export them abroad as raw materials.

Cu, 29 protons, 63.546 grams per mole, 1084.6 oC melting point, 2562 oC boiling point. These are some of the basic properties of the element named from the Latin word cuprum (from the islang Cyprus). [Source here:http://pearl1.lanl.gov/periodic/elements/29.html]. The same source lists down the following uses of copper: The electrical industry is one of the greatest users of copper. Iron's alloys -- brass and bronze -- are very important: all American coins are copper alloys and gun metals also contain copper... Copper has wide use as an agricultural poison and as an algaecide in water purification. Copper compounds, such as Fehling's solution, are widely used in analytical chemistry tests for sugar. Stored knowledge tells me that copper is the second most conductive among metals next to silver. I am thinking of electronics - the heart of high-tech.

Au, 79 protons, 196.9665 grams per mole, 1064.18 oC melting point, 2856 oC boiling point. These are some of the basic properties of the element whose atomic symbol is based from its Latin name aurum. [Source here:http://pearl1.lanl.gov/periodic/elements/79.html]. The same source lists down the following uses of copper: It is used in coinage and is a standard for monetary systems in many countries. It is also extensively used for jewelry, decoration, dental work, and for plating. It is used for coating certain space satellites, as it is a good reflector of infrared and is inert... The most common gold compounds are auric chloride and chlorauric acid, the latter being used in photography for toning the silver image. Gold has 18 isotopes; 198Au, with a half-life of 2.7 days, is used for treating cancer and other diseases. Disodium aurothiomalate is administered intramuscularly as a treatment for arthritis. A mixture of one part nitric acid with three of hydrochloric acid is called aqua regia (because it dissolved gold, the King of Metals). Paborito pang-prenda kung gipit na!

Ni, 28 protons, 58.70 grams per mole, 1455 oC melting point, 2913 oC boiling point. German Nickel for Satan and from kupfernickel for Old Nick's copper. Cronstedt discovered nickel in 1751 in kupfernickel (niccolite).. [Source here:http://pearl1.lanl.gov/periodic/elements/28.html]. It is extensively used for making stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys... Tubing made of copper-nickel alloy is extensively used in making desalination plants for converting sea water into fresh water... Nickel, used extensively to make coins and nickel steel for armor plates and burglar-proof vaults, and is also a component in Nichrome(R), Permalloy(R), and constantan... Nickel gives glass a greenish color. Nickel plating is often used to provide a protective coating for other metals, and finely divided nickel is a catalyst for hydrogenating vegetable oils. It is also used in ceramics, in the manufacture of Alnico magnets, and in the Edison(R) storage battery. I can only think of rechargeable NiCd batteries that are commonly used in heavy Nokia cellphones. (Lighter batteries uses Lithium instead of Nickel.) Warning: Exposure to nickel metal and soluble compounds (as Ni) should not exceed 0.05 mg/cm3 (8-hour time-weighted average per 40-hour work week). Nickel sulfide fume and dust is recognized as being potentially carcinogenic.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES | Monday, March 21, 2005

Gov't expects five major mining projects for 2005

The government expects five big mining projects worth an estimated $4.3 billion to begin this year and revive the minerals sector.

These are the Boyongan Copper Project in Surigao del Norte; a nickel project in Mindoro Oriental; the Far-Southeast Gold Project in Marokayan, Benguet; the Nonoc Nickel Project in Surigao del Norte; and the Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental, documents from the Department of Trade and Industry showed.

Potential investments for the Boyongan, Mindoro, and Pujada projects are estimated at $1 billion each, while the Benguet and Nonoc projects may cost about $500 million and $800 million, respectively.

The government is offering 23 current mining projects to potential investors. Mining roadshows recently raised $8.3 billion in investment pledges.

An additional 37 new areas are also being offered for exploration, which can raise as much as $555 million in new investments.

The Supreme Court's decision last December to reverse the ban on foreign ownership of large-scale mining operations has revived interest in the mining sector.

Within 2005 to 2009, potential investments are projected to reach $6 billion, Trade documents showed.

Last year, mining and quarrying investments registered with the Board of Investments (BoI) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) reached P1.512 billion -- down by 62% from P3.964 billion in 2003, government figures showed.

The government expects total investment pledges this year to reach P230 billion, 9% more than 2004's P211 billion, as a result of "increased business confidence" in the government.

BoI and PEZA are now pursuing investment "leads" worth P160 billion, officials have said. -- F. F. Salvosa II

Friday, March 18, 2005

Central Luzon killing continues

Another Central Luzon activist killed
Posted 10:05pm (Mla time) Mar 17, 2005
By Tonette Orejas
Inquirer News Service

ANGELES CITY---Assassins killed another militant leader here on Thursday night, the 13th victim felled in Central Luzon since January.

Ben Concepcion, secretary general of the farmers group Aguman da reng Maglalautang Capampangan and also the coordinator of the party-list group Anak Pawis, was gunned down at past 6 p.m. as he approached his home in Villa Angela here, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan reported.

Suffering four gunshot wounds, Concepcion, 67, died at past 9 p.m. in a hospital here, Bayan leaders said.

The killing of Concepcion came four days after Philippine Independent Church priest William Tadena was slain in La Paz, Tarlac last Sunday.

Like Tadena, Concepcion supported striking workers at the Luisita sugar mill.

Source: http://news.inq7.net/breaking/index.php?index=2&story_id=30830

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Another BM leader killed

Another Bayan Muna leader killed
Posted 11:04pm (Mla time) Mar 15, 2005
By Joey Gabieta
Inquirer News Service

TACLOBAN CITY-Lawyer Felidito Dacut, Bayan Muna regional coordinator, did not finish his meeting with members of the militant group on Monday night because he had to buy milk for his 2-year-old daughter.

But Dacut, 51, was not able to purchase the milk. He was shot dead on board a passenger jeepney along Arellano Street here, about a kilometer where the meeting was held.

His wife, Amelia, was devastated when told by a nephew about the killing of her husband.

"We are seeking justice for the brutal killing of my husband who was a good man, a good husband and father to our daughter," said Amelia, 47, and a nurse of Basey, Samar.

The Bayan Muna condemned the killing and pointed to the military as the possible culprit.

Nelson Nirza, Bayan Muna Eastern Visayas information officer, said they believed that Dacut's killing could be part of the "clearing operation" by the military against their group.

"There could be no other reason for his (Dacut) killing. He was a top official of the Bayan Muna in the region and our group was being identified by the military (as a front) of the insurgency movement (New People's Army)," he told the Inquirer.

Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, 8th Infantry Division commander, denied the allegation and assured that he would participate and assist in the investigation of the case.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casi¤o asked Palparan to stop any harassment directed at his group.

"I call on Major General Palparan to issue a public statement regarding the assassination of Attorney Dacut and for him to order his soldiers in the field to stop destroying Bayan Muna which is a legitimate political group," Casi¤o said over Radyo Diwa dyDW.

Casi¤o and fellow Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo authored a resolution urging an investigation of the killing of leftist activists.

"At the rate things are going, our party will have been wiped out by the next elections," Casi¤o said.

Casi¤o challenged members of Congress to talk to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the police in their respective districts and urge them to treat the party apart from armed revolutionary groups.

Nirza said Dacut was presiding over a meeting at their office in Old Road Sagkahan when at about 6:30 p.m., the lawyer asked to be excused because he had to buy milk for his daughter.

Dacut and a companion, identified only as Felix, boarded a jeepney. As the vehicle was cruising along Arellano Street at about 6:45 p.m., a motorcycle, with two men on board, drove near the victim.

One of the suspects shot Dacut at the back.

The victim was brought to the nearby Bethany Hospital but doctors declared him dead on arrival. The single bullet pierced Dacut's heart.

Amelia, 47, said her husband had been receiving death threats on his mobile phone, but chose to ignore them. "He had no personal enemy. He immediately gave help to those who asked," she said, sobbing.

Senior Insp. Felix Dacut, a younger brother who works at the Police Regional Headquarters in Palo town in Leyte, also expressed the family's wish for justice. With a report from Michael Ubac in Manila

Source: http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=1&story_id=30623

Monday, March 14, 2005

Priest gunned down

Mula sa Tanggapan ni Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran
News Release March 13, 2005

Another Hacienda Luisita sympathizer killed: Priest William Tadena gunned down in Lapaz Tarlac; Rep. Beltran denounces Govt for inaction on military's political killings

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran today said that that since January, 13 civilians, members of peasant organizations in Central Luzon have been killed since February 18 and the perpetrators are strongly suspected of being from the military, belonging to the 56th Infantry Battalion, 24th IB, 48th IB, 69th IB and elements of the Citizens Armed Forces Group or CAFGU.

Among those killed in Bulacan are Roger Viray, 42, vice-president of the fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA; Rodel Pelayo, 30 years old, and Joey Abraham, 28, both members of the Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA); Renato Espino, 40, a worker and Anakpawis Coordinator; Rodrigo Lampa, another Bayan Muna coordinator; Noel Garcia, 40 and his father Nicanor Garcia, 60, both members of peasant groups under the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Only recently, Tarlac councilor Abelardo Ladera was gunned down. He was a supporter of the HLI strike.

Just this afternoon, a priest actively supportive of the struggle of striking farmworkers and workers of Hacienda Luisita was gunned down. Fr. William Tadena was killed in Lapaz, Tarlac. According to initial reports, Fr. Tadena suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the head and the head. Two of his companions were also hurt in the shooting.

"The Macapagal-Arroyo administration should take full responsibility for these killings. By ignoring the reports of the mounting number of murders, it is abetting the cold-blooded assassination of civilians and activists. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CAFGU have brought hell on earth in Central Luzon, the same way they are wreaking havoc in the lives of civilians in other regions. The Macapagal-Arroyo administration's silence on this killings is contemptible," he said.

Beltran said that the administration keeps pushing the Philippine National Police and the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force (NAKTAF) to capture notorious kidnappers and crush kidnap-for-ransom groups, but it's not lifting a finger to stop the AFP from butchering civilians.

"The AFP is killing non-combatants, civilians and activists left and right because they think they're finding it hard to defeat the New People's Army. It's the brutal tactic of the AFP to slap the label "NPA" on civilians supporting activist ideals -worker and peasant rights, human rights advocacy, patriotism - and kill them to project the image that it is winning the war against the NPA whom it also libels as a terrorist group," he said.

The veteran labor leader said that the Malacanang continues to push for the passage of an anti-terrorism law and a national ID system as further means to crush political dissent. "There are blatant signs that the administration is stepping up its political repression campaign, and even developing into an outright fascist state. Using the catchphrase "anti-terrorism," the government is putting together a more efficient and comprehensive system of silencing its critics and opponents, particularly those who denounce the administration's economic policies and political compromises that attack the welfare of the poor and working people," he said.#

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

They killed a peacemaker

The Peacemaker
Councilor Abelardo R. Ladera
[January 24, 1960-March 4, 2005]

Tarlac City Councilor Abelardo R. Ladera, the ninth victim in the series of killings connected with the Hacienda Luisita labor dispute, was shot and killed at about 1 pm on March 4, 2005.

Ladera, 43, a former barangay chairman of Barangay Balite inside Hacienda Luisita, was on his way home from the Tarlac City Hall and was buying vehicle spare parts at a store along Mac Arthur Highway in Barangay Paraiso, Tarlac City when a single bullet fired by still unknown assailants entered his upper left breast and pierced his heart.

His driver, Edwin Arocena, and a companion rushed him to the Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

His death is the ninth in a series of killings since the November 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre.

Ladera, on his second term as a city councilor, is a leader of the BAYAN MUNA Tarlac provincial chapter. He is a well-respected and popular local legislator and was No. 2 councilor in the last local elections.

He grew up in an ordinary worker family in Barangay Balite, one of the ten barangays comprising Hacienda Luisita where he served as a former barangay council member and a barangay chairman. He also worked as warehouse man at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac.

He is survived by his wife, Elma, and their two children Maybelle and Juan Miguel, and by his parents Leonardo Ladera and Rosalina Rosal.

He consistently and courageously championed the rights and welfare of the people of Hacienda Luisita and the working people of Tarlac City. As chair of the city council committee on human rights, labor and employment, he was able to pass several resolutions among which are:

Support for the campaign for a P125 daily wage increase for workers in the private sector and a P3,000 across-the-board increase in the wages of government employees Strict implementation of all wage orders and labor standards in Tarlac City Sympathy and support for the 327 terminated plantation workers of Hacienda Luisita Numerous resolutions declaring the intention of the Tarlac City council to mediate in labor disputes, not only in Hacienda Luisita, but in other establishments in Tarlac City Support for House Resolution No. 155 which calls for a congressional inquiry on the implementation of the stock distribution option in Hacienda Luisita

Councilor Ladera was appointed to be an official delegate of the panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines [GRP], observer status, in the peace negotiations between the GRP and the National Democratic Front [NDF] in Oslo, Norway. He attended the last round of back door talks between the two panels held in Utrecht, The Netherlands on December 2004.

BAYAN-Tarlac condemns the treacherous killing of Councilor Abel in the strongest possible terms. We hold the US-Arroyo regime, the Northern Luzon Command and the Cojuangco family for his senseless and brutal death.

Only the Cojuangco family, the Northern Luzon Command and the US-Arroyo regime has the motive and the capacity to kill Councilor Abel Ladera. He has no personal enemies and is well loved by his constituents, not only in Hacienda Luisita, but in the entire Tarlac City.

To condition the public mind and justify the killing of Councilor Ladera, the Northern Luzon Command in a press briefing held last January 22 at NOLCOM headquarters in Camp Aquino, Tarlac City, declared Hacienda Luisita a “matter of national security” and falsely branded Councilor Abel as “the contact person of the CPP-NPA in Hacienda Luisita.”

In several pamphlets issued by NOLCOM, Councilor Ladera was falsely portrayed as a nephew of New People’s Army spokesperson Rogelio Rosal and directly accused him of involvement in NOLCOM’s fabricated story that members of the New People’s Army shot and killed the striking workers at the picket line in Hacienda Luisita in the afternoon of November 16, 2004.

This lie has been proven

After January 22, NOLCOM made the rounds of government offices in Tarlac, including a meeting of the Association of Barangay Captains in Tarlac City where the Power Point Presentation used during the NOLCOM press briefing was presented to barangay leaders of Tarlac City.

Among other bare-faced lies and shameless accusations contained in the presentation, Councilor Abel was among ten [10] persons branded as either NPAS or leaders of CPP/NPA front organizations.

Needless to say, those in the list, which included Rene Galang and Ildefonso Pingol, president and vice-president of the United Luisita Workers’ Union, respectively, KADAMAY chair Elmon David, Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Tarlac chair and concurrent BAYAN secretary general Pol Viuya , former International Wiring Systems Employes Union president Angie Ladera and four others, are potential targets of attack by government forces, as what NOLCOM would like to devilishly convey.

The NOLCOM presentation was even used among the ranks of the academic community like the Tarlac State University.

Like Hitler’s Goebbels, NOLCOM spokesperson Preme Monta abided by the dictum :”lies when repeated often enough will pass for truth.”

But the propaganda aspect is not what is really alarming about the NOLCOM tapestry of lies. The real weight of the presentation is that it is a prelude to cold-blooded murder as proven by the death of Councilor Abel Ladera.

The Cojuangco family have everything to gain by the death of Councilor Ladera. The fearless champion of the hacienda people will be put to rest. In their satanic dreams, the elimination of Councilor Abel Ladera will mean the success of their evil design to drive the hacienda people from the land, even at the cost of countless, precious lives.

What they failed to achieve through the deaths of the martyrs of the Hacienda Luisita massacre and the death of Ka Marcing Beltran on December 8, 2004, they hope to achieve through the death of Councilor Abel. But sure as the sun will rise each day over the fields of the sugar plantation, the enemies of the people will fail.

The US-Arroyo regime is no less innocent. At stake in the hacienda strike is, in a sense, the survival of her government. The multi-billion peso Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway [STEC] will traverse the hacienda. Along with it will rise the businesses of the foreign and local big comprador bourgeois—the project being one of the pillars of her 10—Point program. The hacienda strike has put all this at a dangerous risk for her government.

If the deaths of the Hacienda Luisita martyrs, the death of Ka Marcing and the death of Councilor Abel will insure her 10-Point program, then, the killings will simply be part of the cost of the project, and the viability of her government. Thus, she regularly unleashes her murderers and assassins against the brave people of Hacienda Luisita--the AFP and the PNP.

And who laughs loudest while all this is taking place? George Bush and his imperialist government. Once more, since the time when US imperialism slaughtered more than one million Filipinos during the Philippine_American War, the US government is using its most effective way of controlling a government and its people: the force of arms. The Arroyo government’s capability to do harm to its people comes from the US. This partnership was actually the gun that killed the nine martyrs of Hacienda Luisita.

At the height of the tension at the picket line resulting from the Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) issued by Patricia Sto. Tomas on Nov.10, 2004, Councilor Ladera was in the midst of opening negotiations between the striking workers and the Cojuangco family.

On the night of Nov.14, Councilor Ladera wrote and faxed letters to Peping Cojuangco and Noynoy Aquino offering his intention to act as mediator to open negotiations and avert another bloody dispersal. The letters were received on that same night but no encouraging reply was forthcoming.

In the afternoon of Nov. 15, right after the failure of the third attempt by the Cojuangco family and the Arroyo government to forcibly disperse the striking workers, their families and their supporters in gate 1, Councilor Ladera again wrote and faxed letters to the two members of the Cojuangco family which paved the way for a possible breakthrough in the negotiations.

On the morning of Nov. 16, the day of the infamous massacre, Councilor Ladera was at the gates of the residence of Peping Cojuangco in Dasmarinas, Village Makati along with union leaders, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and regional leaders of various people’s organizations for the first ever direct negotiations.

Hoping against all hope for a peaceful solution to the labor dispute, Councilor Ladera and the group practically knocked on the door of Peping Cojuangco to be let in and for the dialogue to commence. That sincere attempt on the part of the hacienda people was swept aside by Peping Cojuangco.

Councilor Ladera and the group hurriedly went home to the hacienda to report the bad news and help man the picket lines because the attempt at negotiations have failed. He has just arrived and was resting when screams of anguish awakened him. The people of Hacienda Luisita are being slaughtered by the AFP and the PNP.

But the massacre did not in any way dampen Councilor Ladera’s resolve to settle the labor dispute through negotiations. The following days and months will see him talking with people who might, in any way, help to amicably settle the dispute, visiting the picket lines and rendering any assistance at his disposal. He went on despite the smear campaign and veiled murder threat NOLCOM have foisted over him.

In the afternoon of March 4, 2005, on his way home to his beloved people of the hacienda, a single bullet pierced his heart. The enemies of the people killed a peacemaker.

Reference: Pol Viuya
Secretary General
Tel No. 0921-264-6814

Sunday, March 06, 2005

On Walden Bello

March 3, 2005

As a network of progressive Filipino organizations in Canada that are in solidarity with the Filipino people's quest for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines, we are concerned and outraged at the attacks and vilification campaign that Walden Bello is conducting against legitimate people's organizations in the Philippines.

Apparently, Bello is not only content with his diatribe against Prof. Jose Maria Sison who has been tagged a "terrorist" by the United States because of Prof. Sison's uncompromising stand against US domination of the Philippines. Bello deliberately puts at risk the lives of many Filipinos through his red-baiting by dropping names of legitimate organizations as "communist fronts." Bello is fully aware that in doing this, he is giving excuse to the Philippine military to persecute these organizations and their allied groups. In these last two years alone, the Philippine military has killed and massacred over 100 members of trade unions, peasant associations, women organizations, youth groups and other sectoral organizations. Last November, the Philippine military massacred more than 10 peasants and workers in the picket line of Hda. Luisita. This came in the wake of the murder of Mely Carvajal in August 2004, leader of GABRIELA Party List in Laguna.

It is not surprising that Bello is now turning for support to his international network of "left" intellectuals, academics, and "civil society" groups in his tirade against the national democratic movement and Prof. Sison under the cover of "plurarism","multiplicity of perspectives and strategies against globalization" and "non-armed struggle." The Filipino people had already rejected him, his ideas and his joining forces with an alleged criminal who has an outstanding warrant of arrest for the deaths of hundreds of mass activists and community organizers at the height of the anti-communist hysteria in the 1980s.

It must be noted that during the era of the Marcos dictatorship, Bello succeeded in inserting himself in the national democratic movement and became privy to the movement's inner activities and personnel. He started building his personal image as expert on the Philippine struggle on the shoulders of the national democratic movement and in his "uncanny" way of being ahead of everyone one in ferreting out confidential and top secret documents, first, from the World Bank about its neo-liberal program in the Philippines and, later on, from the National Security Council of the United States about its plan of getting rid of the Marcos dictatorship.

Since then, Bello has been developing his "international connection" among progressive circles and waiting for the day when he can once more pounce on the people's movement like he did in 1986. At that time, Bello started to openly attack the national democratic movement blaming it for the killing of hundreds of mass activists and leaders while conveniently glossing over the criminal liabilities of his current friends who were responsible for these crimes. Even his own political party, where he is chairman emeritus, has insisted that it will use the Philippine military as armed escort against the New People's Army when campaigning in guerrilla zones, thus, ignoring the reality of civil war in that country.

Now that the Filipino people has once again regained the momentum and is moving forward the struggle against US imperialism and the local exploiting elites, Bello is now orchestrating his malicious attacks and lies against the people's movement and Prof. Sison. This is concurrent with the US direct intervention in the long-running civil war in the Philippines and the Philippine government's hardline attitude towards the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that the Norwegian government is supporting as third party facilitator.

It is a mistake to have someone like Bello come in Vancouver to speak against war only to spread lies and disinformation about the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 1997 in Vancouver, Bello was among those "civil society" groups who wanted to "critically" reform APEC and tried but failed to marginalize community-based anti-APEC coalitions whose position was to dismantle APEC. His return to Vancouver is another attempt to pre-empt a surging anti-war and anti-imperialist movement in Vancouver and derail its support for national liberation movements against imperialism and reaction.

We, therefore, urge other communities, sincere anti-war and anti-imperialist invididuals and groups to rally around the struggle of the Filipino people for national and social liberation and reject the malicious lies that Bello is trying to foist upon the international community.

BC Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines =E2=80=93 Vancouver
SIKLAB (Filipino Migrants Organization) - Vancouver
Filipino Nurses Support Group - Vancouver
Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance - Vancouver
Philippine Women Centre of BC - Vancouver
Philippine Solidarity Group - Toronto
Philippine Network for Justice and Peace - Toronto
Philippine Women Centre of Ontario - Toronto
Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance - Toronto
Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines =E2=80=93 Ottawa
Kabataang Montreal - Montreal
Philippine Workers Support Committee - Montreal
Centre for Philippine Concerns - Montreal
PINAY - Montreal
Manitoba Center for Philippine Concerns - Winnipeg

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Strategic Support Branch

Philippines Is on New U.S. Spy List

Philippine News, News Report,
Rita Gerona-Adkins, Feb 28, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Philippines is one of five countries targeted for a new, clandestine U.S. espionage arm set up to uproot cells of international terrorism and to ensure homeland security.

This is according to a report obtained by theWashington Post, and written January 23 by staff writer Barton Gellman titled, "Secret Unit Expands Rumsfeld's Domain."

According to the Post, the organization, an intelligence initiative called "Strategic Support Branch," was disclosed in "an early planning memoradum" to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in which he described its focus on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia."

All the countries named, except for Somalia, have policies aligning themselves with the U.S., even if at different levels, against organizations the U.S. has classified as terrorist, such al Qaeda and its allies.

The Philippines, for instance, has declared a "partnership" with the U.S. against terrorism, and has been working with the U.S. in countering the Abu Sayyaf and in pursuing peace initiatives with the MILF, a separatist movement in Mindanao.

This broad reach to even friendly countries is said to indicate the extent of the Pentagon's new concept in developing a more efficient antiterrorist initiative.

The Post also cited a high-ranking official with direct responsibility for clandestine work.

This official, declining to speak on the record about espionage in friendly nations, said that the Defense Department sometimes has to work undetected inside "a country that we're not at war with, if you will, a country that maybe has ungoverned spaces, or a country that is tacitly allowing some kind of threatening activity to go on." The origin and mission of this previously undisclosed program, according to a defense department internal account, was to equip Rumsfeld, frustrated by the failure of the intelligence community in helping prevent the 9/11 attacks, with "independent tools for the full spectrum of humint [combined term for human intelligence] operations."

This program include "human intelligence operations," as opposed to such high-technology gathering as using "satellite photography," and range from "peacetime recruitment of foreign spies" to "interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime."

The Post also cited a recent Pentagon memo that statesthat recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be "embarrassing if disclosed."

The Defense Department's effort to shift the operation of conducting clandestine missions in friendly or unfriendly countries away from the Central Intelligence Agency's territory to this new organization, and especially the nonpublic disclosure of its nature, has apparently raised some hackles in the U.S. Congress.

The Post reported that "two longtime members of the House Intelligence Commitee, a Democrat and a Republican," had said that they were unaware of such a move before they were interviewed.

A top Republican lawmaker who declined to be identified was quoted to have remarked, "It sounds like there's an angle here of, 'Let's get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.' That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren't they telling us?"

Asked by the Philippine News for reaction, Philippine Embassy staffers, declining to be on record, however, professed no knowledge of such a new intelligence initiative being operated in the Philippines. They added efforts in curbing international terrorism including activities in Mindanao."

A Pentagon press briefing on January 24, following the Post's report, shed more details, if not exhaustive, on the strategic support branch program. Responding to the reporters' questions, a senior Pentagon official said the initiative was Rumsfeld\'s response to meet the demand for human intelligence in the various campaigns against terrorism:

"(H)e put together a proposal, which has come to be characterized as the Strategic Support Branch. That proposal was put forward as part of a broader proposal cosponsored by the secretary of Defense and DCI [Department of Central Intelligence] to increase the amount of funding that went to human intelligence capabilities both at the agency - CIA, and at DIA.

And that was initially put forward in the FY '05 budget, went forward as part of all of the standard materials that this department puts forward for that purpose, briefed staffs in the appropriations and intelligence oversight committees."

Having funding from the Fiscal Year 2005 budget, the program was started last October, although its operations, under the old system, have been operating in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It is designed to be implemented by small teams of about 10, mostly civilians.

Is it operating in countries other than Iraq and Afghanistan? "No," the spokesperson answered.

The much-debated challenge of establishing a well-coordinated, U.S. intelligence mechanism has lately been met with a significant development - the designation of a Director for Intelligence Services (DIS) whose task is to oversee 15 intelligence

John Dimitri Negroponte, 65, former U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines (1993-1996), former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has been appointed by President George W. Bush to head the umbrella agency. "John will make sure that those whose duty it is to defend America have the information we need to make the right decisions. We're going to stop the terrorists before they strike," Bush said at the White House, then added, "He understands the power centers in Washington."

As director of National Intelligence, Negroponte will be the principal adviser to the president and will coordinate the nation's spy agencies. The position will be above the CIA director.

One of its salient responsibilities is "to establish a National Counterterrorism Center for planning intelligence missions and coordinating information on terror threats and responses."

The nomination will have to go through the Senate Intelligence Committee for confirmation.

Specific details of how Rumsfeld\'s Strategic Support Branch organization would fall in place in the national intelligence machinery, or what could be publicly accounted for, will be discussed in Congress.