GMA can extend term of AFP chief – Palace

MANILA, Philippines – Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita yesterday said the President can extend the term of generals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and even the chief of staff.

Ermita said nothing would prevent President Arroyo from extending the term of outgoing AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado but she has not given any thought on the issue.

“In general and in principle, the President can extend the term of general officers and for that matter even the chief of staff. There’s nothing wrong when a president extends the term of a general officer or for that matter, the chief of staff,” he said.

Ermita, in a telephone interview, stressed that the issue on whether Ibrado’s term should be extended or not remains speculative.

“For one thing, I have no idea of the plans of the President. She has not discussed this matter with us,” Ermita said.

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Senior AFP officials back Ibrado extension

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Senior military officials have expressed support for the term extension of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, who is due to retire in less than two months.

The senior military officials denied that their support for Ibrado was aimed at preventing any move to appoint Army chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)’s class 1978 of which President Arroyo is an adopted member, as chief of staff.

Bangit, perceived to be fiercely loyal to the President, is being groomed to succeed Ibrado, who will turn 56 and retire on March 10. The President is barred from making new appointments two months before the elections and until the end of her term on June 30.

If appointed, Bangit will bypass senior military officers of PMA class 1977, several of whom are strong contenders for the highest military position.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said that extending the term of Ibrado will give the next president a free hand to appoint a new AFP chief.

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Comelec exempts militias from gun ban

MANILA, Philippines – Amid efforts to eliminate private armies and the controversies surrounding the involvement of the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday exempted the Civilian Active Auxiliaries (CAA) from the total gun ban.

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said the CAA, which used to be known as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit or CAFGU, are allowed to carry firearms as they are considered units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“When we issued the certificate of authority to AFP, it says ‘all units,’ and CAFGU is a unit of the AFP. It’s now up to the AFP to police their ranks,” said Tagle, chairman of the Committee on the Ban of Firearms and Security Personnel.

Government militia forces earlier expressed apprehension over the Joint Letter Directives (JLD) between the Comelec, the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), which directs the implementation of the firearms ban and the dismantling of partisan armed groups.

That was put to test after the police questioned the CAA and the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA), which were trained and provided firearms by the military. The CAA operates alongside government forces while private business and local government units tap the SCAA to secure their respective areas.

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Gonzales seeks more active AFP role in polls

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of National Defense (DND) is working on an agreement with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that will provide the military a more active role in the 2010 elections.

Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said the new memorandum of agreement (MOA) would allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to meet the challenge “head on” instead of “shying away” from its responsibility during elections.

“We will show that the AFP is the true protector of democracy and our people’s will. We will prove the detractors of our soldiers wrong,” Gonzales said in a statement.


AFP gives self till yearend to crush ASG but…

Following the deadly clash in Basilan last August 12, the military in Mindanao is giving itself until yearend to comply with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s orders to crush the Abu Sayyaf – if it can find them.

Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino said Monday the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which he said now numbers only 40 to 50 in Basilan, is now mobile and its members have mixed with local folk.

“Identified natin ang kanilang areas dito sa Basilan. Ganun pa man highly mobile, there are times [nakikisalamuha] sila sa ibang grupo sa Basilan kaya napakahirap [nilang] habulin. It would require a lot of intelligence effort ma-determine saan sila bago kami maka-conduct ng operation,” Dolorfino said in an interview over dzXL radio.

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AFP lacks bullets vs. bandits

Sen. Francis Escudero said Thursday that lack of ammunition would hamper the military’s campaign against the Abu Sayyaf that had been ordered by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

“I pity the soldiers because they do not have enough bullets to defend the country and even themselves against separatists and terrorist groups,” he added.

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AFP told: Stop talk, get bombers

Teodoro alarmed by info on terrorists.

MANILA, Philippines — Shut up and just catch them.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. Thursday gave this stern order to the Armed Forces after the military commander for Metro Manila divulged ostensibly raw information about the presence of al-Qaida-linked terrorists in the metropolis.

Teodoro told reporters he had ordered the military high command to look into the basis of Maj. Gen. Jogy Leo Fojas’ statements to the media that three or four bombers linked to Islamist terror groups may have slipped into the capital.

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13 Killed In Clash With Muslim Rebels – Philippines Military

COTABATO, Philippines (AFP)–Twelve Muslim separatists and a soldier were killed in clashes in the southern Philippines when government forces foiled a rebel attack on a town, the military said Wednesday.

Army Scout Rangers backed by helicopter gunships Tuesday ambushed a Moro Islamic Liberation Front unit on the outskirts of Alamada town, regional military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Ponce said.

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Ex-AFP comptroller convicted for lying

A retired Army general suspected of illegally amassing millions of pesos when he was still the military’s comptroller was sentenced by the Sandiganbayan yesterday to a maximum of two years in prison for perjury in declaring his assets.

The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division said the prosecution was able to prove how retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia made a “willful and deliberate assertion of a factual falsehood” in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

The anti-graft court said the retired general failed to declare his multimillion-peso investment account in a military fund and misdeclared the value of his three vehicles.

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Troops can’t back off: AFP

The military said Monday that it cannot unilaterally decide to stop its rescue operations to recover the three Red Cross workers abducted in the island province of Sulu last week.

The reaction came after Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), announced that the victims made a fourth call to their colleagues Monday, saying they were together and in good health but their abductors want the military to stop pursuing them.

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