GMA VOWS 'GREATER DISCIPLINE' AT PNP; MACEDA: BIG FARCE

MANILA, October 9, 2003  (MALAYA) By Marichu Villanueva  - President Arroyo vowed yesterday to institute "greater discipline and proactive measures" following last Tuesday’s hostage drama where three policemen were killed and three others wounded against a lone Abu Sayyaf gunman inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters at Camp Crame. "I have already ordered a summary probe on the incident and I shall decide on its results once they are in," Mrs. Arroyo said. "Greater discipline and proactive measures are in order."

In a statement, Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her instructions to PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina to speed up the completion of the new maximum security detention facility at Camp Crame "to forestall the escape of high profile detainees and obviate these untoward incidents," referring to Tuesday morning’s three-hour hostage drama. In a brief interview with the Philippine media delegation in Bali, Indonesia Tuesday night, Mrs. Arroyo declined to comment on the fate of Ebdane.

The President is attending the ninth informal leaders summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bali, Indonesia. Malacañang floated the possibility of relieving Ebdane from his post following the hostage-taking incident.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo had said a possible PNP revamp looms in the wake of the latest security foul-up at Camp Crame. "I would attend to that as soon as I get back to Manila," Mrs. Arroyo said. "This incident is really very saddening, indeed very sad. If only our police authorities have been stricter, this could not have happened," she said.

In an interview over radio dzBB, Saludo said yesterday the possible PNP revamp because of Tuesday’s incident, is a matter to be decided by Mrs. Arroyo. "The President, of course, as soon as she comes back (said) she would look at all these things, who are responsible for this latest incident," Saludo said. Saludo said "there is no limit" for the President’s decision including the possibility of a revamp in the PNP. He said it would be expected for Mrs. Arroyo upon her return from Bali to act decisively on the results of the investigation over the incident.

In a bid to escape detention, Buyungan Bungkak, a suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit held for the bombing of a pubhouse that left several people including a US serviceman dead last year, reportedly grabbed an M-16 rifle from a guard he took hostage. The police hostage was shot in the head while two officers who came to his aid were killed as a rescue team stormed the building in the compound inside Camp Crame where Bungkak was detained. – with Bong Fabe

COLUMN: BIG FARCE by ERNESTO MACEDA (MALAYA)

THE Lakas National Directorate meeting was a big farce. One congressman told us many of them attended because they were promised a release of P3 million pork barrel if they attended. Many registered and left after a few minutes. The talk at several tables was how difficult it would be to make GMA win in their province. Quite a few whispered to Negros Oriental Rep. Jing Paras that they would be for Danding if he finally decides to run.
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The imminent arrest of LDP Sen. Ping Lacson puts into serious doubt his winnability in 2004. Unlike a small district like that of Romy Jalosjos in Zamboanga del Norte, a presidential campaign requires personal appearance in all major provinces and cities. But not to worry. With GMA running and the issue focused mainly on her poor performance and corruption, any united opposition candidate could win handily. My sources indicate that in just about two weeks the unified opposition will come out with a good presidential team.
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The corruption index for the Philippines continues to deteriorate. From number 85, it has slid down to 92 out of 133 countries studied in the latest Transparency International survey. Unfortunately, it has invaded the judiciary too. It is the height of impropriety for Chief Justice Hilario Davide to divert a large portion of the Judicial Development Fund (JDF), intended in part as allowances for Court employees. to build retirement houses for justices in Baguio. It would certainly be improper for the AFP to build retirement houses for generals in the PMA grounds or in any other military camp. Or for retiring Cabinet members at Cabinet Hill. By the same standard, it is unacceptable to build retirement condo units for retiring senators at the big Senate President's residence area in Baguio. Talo si Chief Justice Davide on this decision. Worse, he appointed his son to co-chair the committee in charge of building the Baguio mansions. In fact, Rep. Wimpy Fuentebella insists it is an impeachable offense. Watch for further developments.
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At the King Crab restaurant in San Juan yesterday, customers saw a car come in with a No. 6 license plate, the number reserved for Cabinet members. We asked the security guard who was riding the car. The answer: "Apo po ni Lucio Tan and his girlfriend." Yes, we have noticed so many cars with No. 6 and No. 8 plates, probably to avoid the color coding scheme. But this is again not right. It never happened before, only under GMA.
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Once again, the second batch of counting machines tested by the Comelec yielded different results and brought out other problems. A citizens watchdog group, May Pag-asa Movement who observed the testing immediately issued a statement recommending postponement of the use of counting machines to 2007. They emphasized that the Comelec is courting disaster because the machines delivered are not new and have not been used for the last five years. We concur with these observations.
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California, with 35 million votes is the biggest and probably the most progressive state in the United States. It is safe to say that the level of education of its voters is much higher than that of the Philippines. And yet, it gave a landslide win to movie action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. It looks like you cannot hold the tide of voters for movie and TV personalities. This strengthens the option for many people to push Fernando Poe, Jr. or Noli de Castro to run for president in 2004.
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The DOJ has formed a nine-man team to handle the prosecution of Ping Lacson in the re-opened Kuratong Baleleng case. With hundreds of cases pending before every court, why are so many prosecutors assigned to one criminal case? For the last 10 years, DOJ has been claiming shortage of prosecutors. With the assignment of nine prosecutors to the Lacson case, it is clear that going after opposition leaders has become a high priority of the Department of Justice. But the prejudicial question everyone is asking: Will Ping Lacson allow himself to be arrested?
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The exodus from the Lakas continues. At a meeting of top leaders of Reforma recently, one of the parties composing the People's Power Coalition (PPC), the party leadership decided to withdraw from the PPC. Among those who attended were former DA Secretary Ricardo Sebastian, Batangas Gov. Hermenigildo Mandanas, Cong. Ernie Clarete (Mis. Occ.) Vicky Reyes (Batangas) Samuel Dangwa (Benguet) for DA Usec . Jose Gerochi and Comm. Buenaventura. Cong. Rolando Andaya (Cam. Sur) also reiterated yesterday that even with GMA's candidacy, he is sticking with his decision to support Raul Roco and is ready to leave Lakas together with eight other Lakas congressmen, including three Bicolanos.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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