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Big blackeye EDITORIAL 08/25/2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big blackeye

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Forget tourism in the country — not after the Philippines, more specifically, the nation’s capital, Manila, has earned a big blackeye not only in Hong Kong but in the world, after the bungling of police authorities of the hostage situation that left eight persons dead.
Maybe government can also forget foreign investments, with the perception strengthened that even Manila is a most dangerous place, not just for tourists and expats, but also for business.

Even worse is the portrait of a Philippine president who remained silent for hours on end, and long after the hostage situation ended in a carnage, along with the fact that Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang had openly complained that he had been unable to reach Noynoy Aquino all of yesterday, which was the time that the former policeman held the Hong Kong tourists hostage, and long after the carnage.
It was only early Tuesday morning, shortly after midnight hours after the carnage that word was heard from Noynoy, expressing his “sorrow.”

Why did it take that long for Noynoy Aquino, President of the Republic, to react? Why did he make himself unavailable to the Hong Kong leader at such a time when assurances from the highest Philippine official were essential?

He could have proved himself to be a competent leader, giving full attention and direction to his officials in ensuring that the hostages are the prime consideration, given the crisis situation.

Aquino claimed belatedly, that he did not come out immediately because he still waited for information from the ground. But he is President, and could have been informed every step of the way. The presidential explanation is lame... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com1.html

Blunders and more blunders FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 08/25/2010

Blunders and more blunders

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
One of the biggest diplomatic blunders made by Noynoy Aquino was his clear evasion of speaking with the Hong Kong leader, Donald Tsang, while the hostage taking incident where Hong Kong nationals were taken hostage by a sacked police officer in a bus, and even after the hostage crisis ended in a bloodbath.
Tsang, at a press conference in Hong Kong, let out publicly that he could not reach Noynoy Aquino, President of the Philippines all that time.

It is evident that Noynoy deliberately avoided speaking with Tsang, or for that matter, any high Chinese official, because it is de rigeur that in such incidents, the line, or Palace hotline, is always open between two government high officials in crisis situations where both countries or their citizens are involved.

In fact, protocol dictates that when such situation arises, and since this happened in the Philippines, Noynoy should have initiated the call to his counterpart, in this case, Tsang, as Hong Kong is a special autonomous region.

Was there no one in Malacañang — or even in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to advise Noynoy of this protocol?
Not only did Noynoy not get in touch with Tsang, but that he also clearly evaded the calls of Tsang..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com2.html

A day in the life of a Mogadishu ambulance driver FEATURE 08/25/2010

A day in the life of a Mogadishu ambulance driver


MOGADISHU — In a city where so much time and energy is spent on killing, few people have saved more lives this year than Hassan Mohamoud Mohamed, a taxi-turned-ambulance driver in war-torn Mogadishu.

When the muffled blast of a mortar round echoes in the distance or the thunder of artillery fire erupts, Hassan slurps up his tea and stares at his mobile phone.

He knows a fateful call is probably minutes away.

“The days I would wait for Western tourists at Mogadishu airport are long gone,” said the 51-year-old, propped against his beat-up Toyota minivan.

Three years of fighting between Islamist insurgents and pro-government forces have turned central Mogadishu into a death trap that kills and maims civilians almost daily.

“Now I pick up my clients from pools of blood in shattered homes. Needless to say they don’t pay the fare,” he said. His pay is $3 a day, barely enough to feed him and his family.

Blood is now what ties Hassan to what is left of his native city, a place once known for its cafes, Italian architecture and pleasant tree-shaded avenues.

Even when on standby he spends much of his time hosing blood from the back of his ambulance or scrubbing it off his rusty stretcher.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com3.html

Ex HE SAYS Aldrin Cardon 08/25/2010


Aldrin Cardon
It was only on May 8 when Italy (where the Vatican, home of the Pope, leader of the largest religion in the world, resides), held its first divorce fair, with the aim of providing life coaching, beauty tips, tips on getting rid of former spouses who turn to stalkers, and helping couples with legal proceedings to start afresh.
Punto e a capo (if my Italian is correct), that what “ex” means: to start afresh; to turn a new leaf, or a new page; or to make it ever simpler, period!

Each life deserves a second chance, and many chances even, and 130,000 couples in Italy took the route in 2007 when they either split up or divorced, a rather insignificant number for a county with approximately 60 million people.
Organizer of the fair told media Italians are “not very used to divorce,” as it was only made legal in 1970, with much opposition from the Catholic Church. But it was made into a law, anyway.

Only recently, an effort to re-introduce divorce in the Philippines was made by Gabriela, a party-list group championing women’s rights and welfare. Although there is no sense of urgency in Gabriela, its persistence remains in pushing divorce in the Philippines, which is the only country left in the world without a divorce law, the other being Malta, although we could say its devotion to the Catholic faith is not different from the Italians.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com4.html

Sticky issue SHE SAYS Dinah S. Ventura 08/25/2010

Sticky issue

Dinah S. Ventura
When one gets married, the premise is “forever.” Ideally, a man asks a woman to marry him because he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. She agrees because she feels the same way. This is why an engagement is often sealed with a diamond ring — diamonds being the strongest rock, and the circular band holding it signifying an endless union.

Symbolism aside, a marriage can fail just as it can succeed. The partnership between two persons is vulnerable to many factors, which can whip the relationship and sometimes tear it to shreds. Every couple has different experiences, but as the Catholic Church teaches us, man and wife must work on the marriage, through its ups and downs, through sickness and health, for richer and poorer, till death.

That is the vow we make before our God when we marry. This is why couples must reflect long and hard before taking the plunge — for a plunge it is, into unknown realms. For many, it blooms and prospers. Unfortunately, for some it fizzles and dies. In some cases, vows do get broken — promises to love and cherish are not kept, circumstances and people change, love fades. 

But is divorce the answer?... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com5.html

Taiwan’s Cold War spy pilots lift veil on secret missions focus 08/25/2010

Taiwan’s Cold War spy pilots lift veil on secret missions


HSINCHU — For weeks after narrowly escaping two Chinese missiles, Chuang Jen-liang would wake up at night bathed in sweat, but the Taiwanese spy pilot could talk to no one about his missions.
Only now, more than four decades later, is 73-year-old Chuang able to speak out about his harrowing experiences, as Taiwan is lifting the veil on one of its most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War.

This brings credit to Chuang and other veterans of the 35th “Black Cats” Squadron who flew at altitudes of more than 20,000 meters (65,000 feet) to gather intelligence about the Chinese, risking their lives each time.

“I doubt if I’d be so lucky if I had to go through all this again,” said Chuang, who now lives in an apartment in north Taiwan’s Hsinchu city.

The elite Black Cats, who were operational from 1961 until 1974, flew the legendary U-2 airplane, dubbed “Dragon Lady” and a crucial intelligence tool at the time.

That made the squadron a key element in the intelligence relationship between the US government and Taiwan’s Nationalist rulers, who had fled the mainland in 1949 after losing a civil war to the communists..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com6.html

Israeli guides rediscover Bethlehem after 10-year absence FEATURE 08/25/2010

Israeli guides rediscover Bethlehem after 10-year absence


BETHLEHEM — Israeli Moshe Gabai, 27, admits he has mixed feelings leading tour groups through Bethlehem. Until recently, he had only been to the occupied West Bank on military patrols.
“When you drive through the streets you see pictures of terrorists, of ‘martyrs’ who blew themselves up,” he says.

On the other hand, he also meets more and more Palestinians who are interested in closer ties with Israelis.
Since the start of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in 2000, the military has barred Israeli citizens from all parts of the West Bank that are controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

But following a long period of calm in the region, the army has now begun to relax some of the restrictions.

In July, some 50 Israeli guides and bus drivers were given permits to take tour groups to the biblical city of Bethlehem and to Jericho, which is known as the longest continuously inhabited city and the lowest on Earth.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20100825com7.html

Noy inaccessible throughout crisis — HK’s Tsang 08/25/2010

China demands answers on hostage murders

Noy inaccessible throughout crisis — HK’s Tsang

President Aquino committed a huge diplomatic blunder by making himself inaccessible and unavailable to Hong Kong’s chief executive Donald Tsang all throughout the 12-hour hostage crisis.

Aquino remained silent all throughout the crisis, even after it was known that eight Hong Kong tourists were killed by the lone gunman, a disgruntled and sacked bemedalled policeman.

Aquino finally made an appearance after midnight, or Tuesday early morning, when he called for a press conference and extended his condolences to the relatives of the victims.

Protocol demands that when such crisis occurs, the host country (Philippines) initiates a call to the other country, in this instance, Hong Kong’s special region, to keep an information flow on the crisis going.

Instead, Aquino made himself unavailable to Chinese leaders. “The way it is handled — particularly the outcome — is very disappointing,” Tsang told reporters late Monday as he bared it at a press conference in Hong Kong, while expressing his deep disappointment in the Philippine government’s handling of the hostage crisis.

China demanded answers Tuesday from the Philippines after a 12-hour hostage drama in the heart of Manila ended with eight... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed1.html

Show of police incompetence live on worldwide TV 08/25/2010

Show of police incompetence live on worldwide TV

Nearly everything was wrong with the way the police handled the hostage crisis last Monday, according to regional security experts who were baffled and angered by the show of incompetence live on worldwide television, including the lone gunman monitoring ill-coordinated police operations.

Rolando Mendoza, 55, a sacked police officer demanding to be cleared of corruption charges, was finally felled by a sniper’s bullet after chaotic scenes among security forces outside a tour bus he had commandeered.

Eight tourists from Hong Kong lay dead or were fatally shot by the time the police seized control of the bus after a 12-hour standoff, during which the hostage taker also spoke by mobile phone with local radio stations.

“The fact that there was essentially live video was mistake number one,” said assistant professor John Harrison, a homeland security analyst at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

He said there should have been a media blackout to deny the hijacker feedback on what was going on around him.
Instead, he was able to follow events, including frenzied speculation by serving and former police chiefs appearing on local broadcast networks, via the bus’s internal TV.

President Aquino, who took his oath of office on June 30 at the historic Rizal Park grandstand complex where the incident unfolded, has defended the police but ordered an investigation.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed2.html

Hijacker once model policeman 08/25/2010

Hijacker once model policeman

Rolando Mendoza’s crazed quest to restore his reputation as one of the Philippines’ best policemen came to a gory end with his bullet-riddled body slumping out of a tourist bus he had hijacked.

One of his sharp-shooting former colleagues shot him in the head on Monday night, ending a 12-hour ordeal that began when Mendoza took hostage a busload of Hong Kong tourists in a bid to exonerate himself from extortion charges.

Dressed in army fatigues, a pistol in his hand, a knife on his waistbelt and an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, Mendoza forced his way onto the bus in a desperate bid to raise awareness about his two-year personal campaign.

In conversations with radio and television stations during the standoff, 55-year-old Mendoza repeatedly claimed he was not given a fair hearing by his superiors when he was discharged from the force. But as the siege dragged on he apparently realized he was doomed.

“What is the use of living? I will just waste my life now,” Mendoza said, but even then he remained defiant, warning he would kill his hostages one by one if his demands were not met.

Mendoza was last photographed alive on the open bus door with his receding hairline framing a grave face, a blue shirt underneath his unbuttoned army shirt and a long knife hanging off his belt.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed3.html

GMA whistle-blowers to spill more beans; SC sets orals on truth body By Benjamin B. Pulta 08/25/2010

GMA whistle-blowers to spill more beans; SC sets orals on truth body

By Benjamin B. Pulta
Forgotten whistle-blowers who braved the ire of the Arroyo administration have formally asked for admission into the Department of Justice (DoJ)’s witness protection program as they offered their services to the truth commission formed by Malacañang to look into the excesses of the previous administration.

At an impromptu press briefing at the DoJ press office, the Whistle-blower’s Association led by Sandra Cam who ealier exposed Arroyo’s alleged “jueteng links” urged President Aquino to honor his campaign promise to protect those who will spill the beans on Arroyo’s alleged criminal past.

Aquino reiterated his promise to pass legislation to protect whistleblowers during his state of the nation address.
Cam, who stands as the group’s leader, pointed out that while she personally would not want any assistance from government, other whistleblowers who came out to denounce such scandals as the multi-billion peso fertilizer scam and the Hello Garci wiretap scandal are now financially bankrupt after they were practically cashiered in their respective careers.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed4.html

NPAs kill 5 Army troopers, wound 1 By Mario J. Mallari 08/25/2010

NPAs kill 5 Army troopers, wound 1

By Mario J. Mallari
Five Army troopers were killed while another one was wounded after communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels assaulted a military outpost in Agusan del Sur province early morning yesterday.

The attack came as a baptism of fire to newly installed Army 4th Infantry Division (ID) chief Maj. Gen. Victor Felix who has jurisdiction over the NPA-infested Agusan del Sur.

Quoting reports from the field, Felix said that more or less 30 fully-armed communist rebels from the Guerrilla
Front-3 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee started harassing the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion’s (IB) security outpost in Barangay La Fortuna, Veruela town at around 1:45 a.m.

Reports showed the NPA rebels managed to close in on the Army outpost, which is just 100 meters away from the main command post of the 26th IB.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed5.html

Neri, SSS execs received P127-M perks over 3 yrs By Angie M. Rosales 08/25/2010

Neri, SSS execs received P127-M perks over 3 yrs

By Angie M. Rosales
Former Social Security System (SSS) president Romulo Neri, along with some top executives of the agency allegedly appropriated for themselves bonuses and other incentives totaling more than P127 million over three years based on data provided the Senate in relation to its current probe into excessive compensations given to officials of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Of the amount, one SSS executive, outgoing chairman Thelmo Cunanan got an estimated P85 million in bonuses and allowances during the same period, Sen. Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Senate probers cited the likelihood that these officials will face criminal liability for the apparent abuse they committed in managing the workers’ trust funds.

It was the turn of SSS officials to be grilled by the finance committee chaired by Drilon as the panel resumed its inquiry on the reported fat salaries and excessive perks of executives in some GOCCs.

The bulk of the amount came as compensation for sitting in the board of Philex Mining Corp., representing the state fund which has investments in the mining firm.

Neri, who appeared in the hearing was found to have received almost P12 million for exercising stock options in Philex while he sat in the board of the firm from 2007 to March this year. Neri insisted, however, that he and the other SSS officials in Philex are entitled to the compensation adding that there is no law that required them to remit it to the agency “and is declared as our personal (income).”... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20100825hed6.html

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