PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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POPE's SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR RECALLS A DIVIDED CHURCH - AND A DIRTY WAR


JULY 8 ---Pope Francis waves as he rides in the popemobile through the Ecuadorean capital, Quito. Photograph: Juan Cevallos/AFP/Getty Images
QUITO, ECUADOR, JULY 13, 2015 (THEGUARDIAN.COM) Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires Wed 8 July 2015 11.00 BST - HISTORY FILES: Argentina’s church apologised for ‘silence’ amid the 1976-83 dictatorship – now an activist wants the Vatican to shed light on the people who disappeared. Angela “Lita” Boitano was standing about 50 meters away from her daughter Adriana when a car pulled up carrying a group of men who she later learned were Argentinian military policemen dressed as civilians. They grabbed 24-year-old Adriana and bundled her into the car before speeding away. Lita never saw her daughter again. It was the second time tragedy had befallen Boitano: a year earlier, in 1976, her 20-year old son, Michelangelo, had disappeared on his way home. As many as 30,000 people are thought to have joined the ranks of Argentina’s desaparecidos, the term used for political opponents of Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship who were kidnapped, tortured for information and then made to vanish. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pan Am Games put Toronto in international spotlight


JULY 9 --Toronto skyline The Toronto skyline as seen from the CTV News chopper on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.
Toronto has long lived under the shadow of its bigger, cooler American cousin south of the border, New York. True to character, however, the Canadian metropolis has never kicked up a fuss or thrown an attention-seeking tantrum, content to exist quietly on its own. But in recent years, the world has started to take notice of the cool wallflower, with everyone from Vogue magazine, BBC Travel and Lonely Planet and stopping to give Toronto a second glance. And with the Pan Am Games set to cast the international spotlight on the city this month, interest in Toronto as a tourism destination has also been on the rise. Last year, for example, the city recorded its highest visitor numbers on record, attracting 14.3 million overnight tourists to the city. A BBC travel piece published last year that asked “When did Toronto get so cool?" describes the city as the sum of its parts, a microcosm of relaxing coffee houses, arty hotels, eclectic shops and quiet bars. READ MORE...plus Related..

ALSO: Pacquiao, Jinky visit Mary Jane in Indonesia jail, join appeal for clemency


JULY 9 --COMPOSITE PHOTO: Many and Jinky on way to Indonesia, Mary Jane Veloso imprisoned in Indonesia jail 
Boxing champion and Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao visited Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who is on the death row in Indonesia on drug charges, as he added his support to the appeal that Veloso, a human trafficking victim, be granted clemency and be brought back home to the Philippines. Describing Pacquiao as truly the “People’s Champ,” global human rights group Migrante International said his visit, together with his wife Jinky showed the couple’s golden heart and their desire to leave no stone unturned until Veloso is granted clemency and is reunited with her family. Migrante International said that the couple’s visit will hopefully help step up the slow pace of the human trafficking case against those who victimized Veloso. Sol Pillas, Migrante secretary-general, said that the Veloso family and #SaveMaryJane supporters called on the Aquino administration to ensure that proper legal support is being provided with transparency and without delay, in light of news that the appeal for clemency for a French death convict, Serge Atlaoui, has recently been rejected by the Indonesian government. READ MORE...

ALSO: Veloso gives gift, Pacquiao gives cash during meeting in Indonesia


JULY 10 --Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao (R) listens to Mary Jane Veloso (L), a Philippine death row inmate, during his visit to Wirogunan prison in Yogyakarta on July 10, 2015. Veloso was set to face the firing squad in April with several other foreign drug convicts but was granted an 11th hour reprieve by Indonesian President Joko Widodo after a woman suspected of recruiting her was arrested in the Philippines. Veloso was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase and was sentenced to death. AFP PHOTO / SURYO WIBOWO
Boxing icon and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao finally met Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia on Friday. “I just came to encourage and support her,” Pacquiao told reporters after meeting Veloso, who is currently on a temporary reprieve after being convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to death. She is detained at the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta.
Edre Olalia, one of Veloso’s lawyers, said the visit lasted for an hour, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (Indonesia time). “MJ reportedly gave him a craft she made which he wore at once,” Olalia said in a text message to INQUIRER.net. The Jakarta Post said Veloso gave Pacquiao a blue scarf and a ring with a gemstone. Pacquiao, on the other hand, gave her $3,000. Olalia, who is based in the Philippines, said he was not told about the cash gift. He said an Indonesian group affiliated with Migrante gave Pacquiao “batik” fabric as a “thank you gift.” Pacquiao was with his wife Jinkee and Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen Isletta, other embassy officials, Indonesian lawyers and prosecutors. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Superman’ is new AFP chief Aquino orders Iriberri to ensure clean, peaceful 2016 polls


JULY 11 --Army commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri yesterday assumed as the 46th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Iriberri, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1983, took over the helm of the 125,000-strong military organization from Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. who retires today after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56. The new military chief, known for his codename “Superman,” faces tough challenges ahead, especially after President Aquino ordered him to help ensure peaceful and credible elections next year. “Let’s remember, the elections are near. It is part of your duty to ensure the election of new leaders will be peaceful and clean,” the President told Iriberri during the change of command ceremony yesterday in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. “You can repay the support and care given by the Filipino people, your bosses, this way,” Aquino added. Iriberri thanked President Aquino for trusting his competence to lead the armed forces, vowing to “follow the path that is straight and true.” “Today, I am given the greatest responsibility in my military career, and with all humility and steadfastness, I accept this charge to serve our nation by leading the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Iriberri said. In his speech, the President recognized Iriberri’ “very good” track record, crediting him for the orderly midterm elections in Abra, a traditional election hotspot, in 2013. READ MORE...

ALSO: New AFP chief Iriberri told to ensure peaceful polls


JULY 11 --NEW CHIEF: Outgoing Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (left) turns over his command to Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as President Aquino looks on during a ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday. BOY SANTOS
 The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a new chief of staff, and his marching order from the commander-in-chief is to ensure that the 2016 elections will be peaceful.
President Aquino named yesterday Lt. Gen. Hernando Delfin Carmelo Iriberri as the new AFP chief. Iriberri, however, will retire on April 22 or less than a month before the elections on May 9, 2016 when Filipinos choose the next president. In a speech during the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Aquino also told Iriberri to continue what his predecessor, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., had started in the military, which the President described as a culture of “mission accomplished” from “mission impossible.” “Under a leadership that puts the needs of the uniformed forces instead of themselves, with the participation of the non-commissioned officers and cooperation between civilians and the military, we can give the next generations the opportunity to fulfill bigger dreams in a society more peaceful, more safe and capable of defending itself,” Aquino said. The President, who announced his choice for next military chief only during the ceremony itself, welcomed Iriberri to his new post. READ MORE...

ALSO: 'Durian' candies poison hundreds of students in Surigao del Sur


JULY 10 --Cops carry a student who reportedly took a durian candy during snack break in a school in Cagwait town in Surigao del Sur on Friday, July 20, 2015. Cagwait PIO
Six municipalities in Surigao del Sur reported hundreds of cases of alleged poisoning of students who ingested "durian candy" given away in several schools.
The public information office of Cagwait town confirmed that more than 200 students, from primary school to college, felt weakness and had nausea on Friday morning and were rushed to hospitals, while an undetermined number have died. Cagwait information officer Rogen Tabugoc told Philstar.com that cases were also reported in the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, Tandag City and Tago. Tabugoc said hospitals have already started rejecting patients who were being brought in at the same time. "Puno na po ang mga ospital, 'di na rin tumatanggap ang iba," he said in a phone interview. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Pope's South American tour recalls a divided church – and a dirty war


Pope Francis waves as he rides in the popemobile through the Ecuadorean capital, Quito. Photograph: Juan Cevallos/AFP/Getty Images

QUITO, ECUADOR, JULY 13, 2015 (THEGUARDIAN.COM) Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires Wednesday 8 July 2015 11.00 BST Last modified on Wednesday 8 July 2015 14.06 BST Share - HISTORY FILES: Argentina’s church apologised for ‘silence’ amid the 1976-83 dictatorship – now an activist wants the Vatican to shed light on the people who disappeared.

Angela “Lita” Boitano was standing about 50 meters away from her daughter Adriana when a car pulled up carrying a group of men who she later learned were Argentinian military policemen dressed as civilians.

They grabbed 24-year-old Adriana and bundled her into the car before speeding away. Lita never saw her daughter again. It was the second time tragedy had befallen Boitano: a year earlier, in 1976, her 20-year old son, Michelangelo, had disappeared on his way home.

As many as 30,000 people are thought to have joined the ranks of Argentina’s desaparecidos, the term used for political opponents of Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship who were kidnapped, tortured for information and then made to vanish.

READ MORE...

For Boitano, the loss of her two children not long after she was widowed in 1968 transformed her into an activist, a role she still plays today, at the age of 83.

“The strength to live came from our children – to search for them in the hope that they would be alive. Because I was left with nobody,” she told the Guardian.

That search has taken her all the way inside the halls of the Vatican, where, she believes, meticulous files have been kept about the people who disappeared.

These files were principally collected through the papal nuncio’s office in Buenos Aires at the time, where victims’ families would file written complaints about the disappearances.


Angela “Lita” Boitano wants the Vatican to open its files on Argentina’s dirty war. Photograph: Stephanie Kirchgaessner

South America’s bloody history with military dictatorship will return to the spotlight on Wednesday when Pope Francis touches down in Bolivia, where he is expected to pray at the site where the body of a Jesuit priest, Father Luís Espinal, was found in 1980 after he was kidnapped, tortured and killed by paramilitaries.

The murder was met with outrage and marked a turning point from the country’s history of dictatorships to democracy. “It was the beginning of the democracy that we continue having in Bolivia,” Father Xavier Albo told the Catholic news site The Pilot, “with all the ups and downs that democracies have.”

Pope Francis’s recognition of Espinal amid his South American tour – where he has urged the faithful to be wary of “all totalitarian, ideological or sectarian schemes” – highlights the role some clergy played in trying to speak out against dictatorships during the politically tumultuous 1970s and 80s.

But it also returns the focus to a period when other Catholic leaders – in Argentina and elsewhere – actively supported the military’s crusade against leftwing activists and guerrilla groups.

In Argentina, where Francis was long known as Father Bergoglio before his 2013 election to the papacy, the church’s role was divided. A few members of the clergy played a part in the regime’s killing. Father Christian von Wernich is currently serving a life sentence for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture and murder in which he was involved at death camps run by the police force back then.

Others became martyrs. Bishop Enrique Angelelli of the northern province of La Rioja was killed by the dictatorship for publicly opposing its killing methods in August 1976.

Although the role of Pope Francis, then head of the Jesuit order in Argentina, has been called into doubt in the past, he has always made it clear he had no sympathies for the military regime.


PHOTO PUBLISHED MARCH 14, 2013: The new Pope, Francis the Humble, as he perhaps would like to be known, is an Argentine with a cloudy past. This in itself is not an offense but, rather, is in keeping with a religious institution that has long been marked by secrecy. Some of the cloudiness in Francis’s past has to do with his relative obscurity during the years when he was still known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and with the way that the Church operates in even the calmest times. But much of it also has to do with questions about his real role during the country’s anti-Communist terror three decades ago. Officially called the Process of National Reorganization by the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, the Dirty War, as it is more commonly known, was a comprehensive campaign aimed at the elimination of Communists and others seen as “subversives.” The purge claimed the lives of at least nine thousand people and as many as thirty thousand people, many of them killed in the most gruesome circumstances imaginable. NEWYORKER.COOM

In 2006, on the 30th anniversary of Angelelli’s murder, then Cardinal Bergoglio said the bishop “was stoned for spreading the Gospel and paid for it with his blood”.

Argentina’s church itself recognised its failure to condemn the dictatorship.

In a statement it issued in September 2000, Argentina’s bishops apologised for their “silence” and the “effective participation” of some clergymen in “torture, delation, political persecution” during the regime.

But Boitano, the Argentine activist who lost her two children, is still waiting for a more meaningful recognition by the Vatican of the role some clergy played during the dirty war.

She recalls the story of the late Argentine poet Juan Gelman, whose son and daughter-in-law, who was seven months pregnant, were “disappeared”.

Boitano said that while he was in political exile in 1978, Gelman went to the Vatican to hunt for clues about whether his grandchild had survived. There, an official confirmed that his daughter-in-law had indeed given birth while she was in a detention camp.

Years later, in 1990, Gelman’s son’s remains were found in a cement-filled barrel. His daughter-in-law, Maria Claudia, who was Uruguayan, had been flown to Uruguay and given birth before her presumed death. In 2000, Gelman discovered his granddaughter and the two eventually met.

Boitano believes the church knew many of these critical details as early as 1978, but did nothing to help victims’ families. Nuns were also sometimes on hand for the birth of children born by pregnant victims.

“The nuns went out to buy the first clothes for the kids,” she said. Babies of the disappeared were handed on to be brought up by families of servicemen or regime supporters, and have often grown up unaware of their own histories.

Boitano believes that Vatican records could help pin down the exact death toll, and possibly shed new light on where people were last seen before they vanished.

“Opening the archives completely might mean finding data that neither the relatives nor the judges know. Imagine that I disappeared from one day to the next and no one knows what happened, and the Vatican in its archive has four or five different complaints, from different people asking where I am,” she said. “A judge can connect all the complaints and perhaps he/she could find a link between them and could find where the military could have brought me.”

The fate of her own children has never emerged, though some claimed that Michelangelo was seen at a “concentration camp” at the Mechanical School of the Navy in Buenos Aires.

Boitano – who says an official once told her that the church kept two books, listing the names of the living, and of the dead – says she has been told by Francis himself that the archive would soon be open to anyone who sought access to it.

“[Now] we have to wait. I hope that he will abide by his promises,” she said.

She is also seeking a statement of “self-criticism” from the church – an acknowledgement that it “stayed silent when it needed to speak” – and was told one was forthcoming.

The Vatican declined to comment on whether it was indeed preparing such a statement.

“I would say Pope Francis was part of the complicity of silence,” said Boitano.

This article was amended on 8 July 2015 to change ‘Mechanical School of the Army’ to ‘Mechanical School of the Navy’.

PHOTOS


Pope Francis receives a typical sombrero from Bolivian President Evo Morales during a World Meeting of Popular Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, July 9, 2015. The word "Tahuichi" is from the Tupi-Guarani and means "Big Bird." ALESSANDRO BIANCHI / Reuters: HEADLINE NEWS: In Bolivia, Pope Francis Makes Plea for Man and Nature by CLAUDIO LAVANGA NBCN.COM


Pope celebrates Mass at Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador. Pope's 'homecoming' tour moves from Ecuador to Bolivia


Bolivian president Evo Morales presented pontiff with crucifix depicting Jesus nailed to hammer and sickle, which pope returned after a brief examination Pope Francis Bolivia Bolivian president Evo Morales presents a hammer and sickle-shaped crucifix to Pope Francis during the exchange of presents in La Paz. Photograph: Agencia Boliviana de Informacio/EPA Headline News from Jonathan Watts Latin America correspondent Thursday 9 July 2015 22.25 BST Vatican officials appear to have been flummoxed after Pope Francis was presented with a communist crucifix depicting Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle by Bolivia’s president Evo Morales. The gift from the leftwing leader caused an immediate stir among conservative Catholics who said the pontiff was being manipulated for ideological reasons. The response of the pope was less clear. After being handed the wooden crucifix during a formal ceremony, he examined it for a few seconds before returning it to a Bolivian presidential aide. His comments were largely drowned out by a flurry of camera clicks, prompting a flood of speculation. While some have claimed he expressed irritation, muttering the words “eso no está bien” (“this is not right”), Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the pope was more likely to have uttered “no sabía eso” (“I didn’t know that”) in bemusement at the origins of the present. The Bolivian government insisted there was no political motive behind the gift. Communications minister Marianela Paco said Morales had thought the “pope of the poor” would appreciate the gesture.


CTV NEWS TORONTO

Pan Am Games put Toronto in international spotlight Relaxnews Published Thursday, July 9, 2015 6:56AM EDT


Toronto skyline The Toronto skyline as seen from the CTV News chopper on Wednesday, May 27, 2015.


Toronto has long lived under the shadow of its bigger, cooler American cousin south of the border, New York.
True to character, however, the Canadian metropolis has never kicked up a fuss or thrown an attention-seeking tantrum, content to exist quietly on its own.

But in recent years, the world has started to take notice of the cool wallflower, with everyone from Vogue magazine, BBC Travel and Lonely Planet and stopping to give Toronto a second glance.

And with the Pan Am Games set to cast the international spotlight on the city this month, interest in Toronto as a tourism destination has also been on the rise.

Last year, for example, the city recorded its highest visitor numbers on record, attracting 14.3 million overnight tourists to the city.

A BBC travel piece published last year that asked “When did Toronto get so cool?" describes the city as the sum of its parts, a microcosm of relaxing coffee houses, arty hotels, eclectic shops and quiet bars.

READ MORE...

“Vogue” magazine gave the city’s West Queen Street West the second spot on its list of 15 coolest neighbourhoods in the world last year after Shimokitazawa, Japa for its "artery of indie patisseries, homegrown labels, and hidden-from-view galleries."

Toronto also cracked Lonely Planet’s list of top cities in the world for 2015, not just for hosting the Pan Am Games, but also for its buzzing nightlife and vibrant dining scene.

And finally, The Economist named Toronto the world’s most liveable city in its latest 2015 index.

Here are a few fun facts about Toronto ahead of the Pan Am Games, which runs July 10 to July 26.

Toronto could be the world’s most global city, with 50 per cent of the population born outside Canada.

About 130 languages and dialects are spoken.

Toronto’s most famous one-time residents include Keanu Reeves, Drake, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Will Arnett, Eugene Levy, Kiefer Sutherland, Christopher Plummer, Neil Young and Frank Gehry.

Currently, big budget films and TV shows that are being shot in the city include “Suicide Squad” starring Cara Delevingne, NBC TV series “Heroes: Reborn” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.”

Over half of the city’s labor force has a university degree or college diploma.

Toronto is home to the world’s largest underground shopping complex, as recognized by Guinness. The PATH system spans 28 km and connects 1,200 stores and restaurants.

Toronto is North America’s fourth largest city after Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles with a population of 2.8 million; the Greater Toronto Area has a regional population of about six million.

The Pan Am Games will attract 250,000 visitors and 7,500 athletes from 41 countries. The Parapan Am Games runs August 7 to 15.


THE TORONTO UNDERGROUND: Toronto is a fantastic, cosmopolitan city. It’s known as a city with unique shopping, diverse ethnic neighborhoods and a theater scene to rival Broadway. What you might not know is that there is almost an entire other city below the surface…enter the PATH. PATH comprises 27 km under the streets of Toronto. Accessible by PATH are retail establishments and food markets, services such as salons and dry cleaners, restaurants both sit-down and fast-food, the subway and train system, hotels and office buildings. It truly is a maze. The underground hallways don’t mimic the sidewalks above ground, and it’s very easy to get turned around

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RELATED

Pan Am Games kicking off in Toronto The Canadian Press
Published Friday, July 10, 2015 4:58AM EDT


PAN AM: Workers erect giant letters spelling out Toronto in Nathan Phillips Square as they prepare for the Pan Am Games, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP / Rebecca Blackwell)

TORONTO - The Pan Am Games are set to kick off today with a sold-out opening ceremony in Toronto.

Roughly 45,000 spectators are expected at the Rogers Centre - called the Pan Am Ceremonies Venue for the duration of the Games - for the performance tonight.

Cirque du Soleil has guarded details of the 150-minute presentation carefully, noting that 625 performers representing 25 nationalities will take part.

Officials have also promised that the show will include surprise appearances from several Canadian sports legends, and that current Pan Am athletes will be part of the show's "set design."

Cirque du Soleil creative director Jean Guibert said the show would feature audience participation and a clear story that has a "beginning and an end."

He also pledged that the opening ceremony would appeal to younger audiences.

"We decided to blend many new disciplines ... (including) extreme sports, dance, hip hop, acrobatics together, to do a show that is young and fresh."

The ceremony will also include the lighting of the cauldron, which sits at the base of the CN Tower, and the Parade of Nations celebrating the event's 41 participating countries.

The Pan Am Games run through July 26.


MANILA BULLETIN

Pacquiao, Jinky visit Mary Jane in prison, join appeal for clemency by Chito A. Chavez July 9, 2015 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share4


COMPOSITE PHOTO: Many and Jinky on way to Indonesia, Mary Jane Veloso imprisoned in Indonesia jail

Boxing champion and Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao visited Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who is on the death row in Indonesia on drug charges, as he added his support to the appeal that Veloso, a human trafficking victim, be granted clemency and be brought back home to the Philippines.

Describing Pacquiao as truly the “People’s Champ,” global human rights group Migrante International said his visit, together with his wife Jinky showed the couple’s golden heart and their desire to leave no stone unturned until Veloso is granted clemency and is reunited with her family.

Migrante International said that the couple’s visit will hopefully help step up the slow pace of the human trafficking case against those who victimized Veloso.

Sol Pillas, Migrante secretary-general, said that the Veloso family and #SaveMaryJane supporters called on the Aquino administration to ensure that proper legal support is being provided with transparency and without delay, in light of news that the appeal for clemency for a French death convict, Serge Atlaoui, has recently been rejected by the Indonesian government.

READ MORE...

Like Veloso, Atlaoui was given a temporary reprieve by the Indonesian government and saved from the April 29 executions that killed eight other drug convicts via firing squad.

News reports from Indonesia state that the Indonesian government has announced that Atlaoui’s execution will be carried out after Ramadan, together with the execution of some other convicts.

On July 10, the Velosos and the #SaveMaryJane alliance will hold a dialogue with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to inquire about developments on the pending criminal cases as other supporters will stage a liturgical gathering outside the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“Mary Jane remains on the brink of death for as long as the death sentence is not lifted. It is incumbent upon the DOJ and the Philippine government to act with considerable haste and urgency, and to regularly update its counterpart, the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office (AGO), and the Veloso family, on the developments of the cases filed against Sergio, et al,” Pillas said.

Pillas said news from their Indonesian colleagues is that the AGO has reiterated that Mary Jane’s reprieve is “but temporary and they are yet to be updated on the legal developments here in the Philippines’’.

“It has been more than two months and they are still waiting for updates. Please, let us not abuse the Indonesian government’s patience and tolerance. Every minute still counts,” Pillas said.


(MANILA BULLETIN PHOTO) TEARFUL PRAYERS WITH VISIT: Morale booster Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao hugs Mary Jane Veloso during his visit to Wirogunan prison in Yogyakarta on Friday. AFP PHOTO


PHILSTAR

Veloso gives gift, Pacquiao gives cash during meeting in Indonesia SHARES: 3176 VIEW COMMENTS By: Bambang Muryanto, Kristine Angeli Sabillo @inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net, The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network 04:16 PM July 10th, 2015


Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao (R) listens to Mary Jane Veloso (L), a Philippine death row inmate, during his visit to Wirogunan prison in Yogyakarta on July 10, 2015. Veloso was set to face the firing squad in April with several other foreign drug convicts but was granted an 11th hour reprieve by Indonesian President Joko Widodo after a woman suspected of recruiting her was arrested in the Philippines. Veloso was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase and was sentenced to death. AFP PHOTO / SURYO WIBOWO

Boxing icon and Sarangani Representative Manny Pacquiao finally met Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia on Friday.

“I just came to encourage and support her,” Pacquiao told reporters after meeting Veloso, who is currently on a temporary reprieve after being convicted for drug trafficking and sentenced to death. She is detained at the Wirogunan Penitentiary in Yogyakarta.

Edre Olalia, one of Veloso’s lawyers, said the visit lasted for an hour, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (Indonesia time). “MJ reportedly gave him a craft she made which he wore at once,” Olalia said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.

The Jakarta Post said Veloso gave Pacquiao a blue scarf and a ring with a gemstone. Pacquiao, on the other hand, gave her $3,000. Olalia, who is based in the Philippines, said he was not told about the cash gift.

He said an Indonesian group affiliated with Migrante gave Pacquiao “batik” fabric as a “thank you gift.” Pacquiao was with his wife Jinkee and Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Maria Lumen Isletta, other embassy officials, Indonesian lawyers and prosecutors.

READ MORE...

The group numbered around 20, including officials of the herbal medicine company that brought Pacquiao in Indonesia to shoot a commercial.


INSTAGRAM PHOTO

In an Instagram post, Pacquiao was seen praying with Jinkee and Veloso “We are hoping for the Indonesian government to save her life and grant our request,” he told Indonesian reporters.

Pacquiao, said that the Philippine government was still investigating the role of a woman who confessed to having recruited Veloso to become a drug courier.

He believed that Veloso was innocent in the case. “She is the victim of human trafficking,” he said.

Olalia said the scheduled press briefing was cancelled because of the “mayhem” caused by the press and the spectators.

Pacquiao previously told INQUIRER.net that he would visit Veloso between July 8 and 10. He said he would also arrange a meeting with Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo.

READ: Pacquiao thanks Jokowi on maiden Indonesia visit

Pacquiao is in Indonesia to shoot a commercial for an energy drink firm PT Sido Muncul.

Veloso was among nine death row inmates scheduled to be executed in April this year for drug trafficking charges. She was arrested with 2.6 kilograms of heroin at Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta in 2010.

The Indonesian government decided to grant her a temporary reprieve from execution after a woman who allegedly recruited Veloso to act as a drug courier gave herself up to police in the Philippines. (Originally posted at 11:03 a.m.)


MANILA BULLETIN

‘Superman’ is new AFP chief Aquino orders Iriberri to ensure clean, peaceful 2016 polls July 11, 2015 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share4


Army commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri yesterday assumed as the 46th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Iriberri, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1983, took over the helm of the 125,000-strong military organization from Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. who retires today after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

The new military chief, known for his codename “Superman,” faces tough challenges ahead, especially after President Aquino ordered him to help ensure peaceful and credible elections next year.

“Let’s remember, the elections are near. It is part of your duty to ensure the election of new leaders will be peaceful and clean,” the President told Iriberri during the change of command ceremony yesterday in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“You can repay the support and care given by the Filipino people, your bosses, this way,” Aquino added.

Iriberri thanked President Aquino for trusting his competence to lead the armed forces, vowing to “follow the path that is straight and true.”

“Today, I am given the greatest responsibility in my military career, and with all humility and steadfastness, I accept this charge to serve our nation by leading the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Iriberri said.

In his speech, the President recognized Iriberri’ “very good” track record, crediting him for the orderly midterm elections in Abra, a traditional election hotspot, in 2013.

READ MORE...

Aquino said there were no failure of elections and election-related violence recorded in Abra under the watch of Iriberri, who was then the commander of the 503rd Infantry Brigade based in Abra.

MILITARY ABUSES

While President Aquino was all praises of Iriberri, human rights group Karapatan assailed the new AFP chief for abuses of the military.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said that during his stint as chief of the 503rd Infantry Battalion assigned in Abra, communities were bombed. In one of the bombings, for instance, two girls were almost hit in the villages of Umnap, Buanao, and Lat-ey in the municipality of Malibcong in 2013.

“As Army chief, he even praised his men who ‘won’ battles against members of the New People’s Army despite violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Such is the case of the firefight in Lacub, Abra, in September, 2014 where eight NPA fighters killed bore torture marks and civilians were killed. Gen. Iriberri even awarded the soldiers with medals of valor,” Palabay said

IRIBERRI’S PRIORITIES

Despite criticisms, Iriberri laid down five priorities which the AFP will address under his watch. These are: Winning the peace in the countryside, AFP transformation, military capabilities upgrade, and ensuring peaceful and credible elections in 2016.

On the matter of winning the peace, Iriberri noted that in the last seven years, 58 conflict-affected provinces have been declared either as insurgency-free of peaceful and ready for further development.

By year-end 2015, he said more provinces are expected to join this number, and by end of 2016, “the goal is for peace to reign in all provinces in our country.”

Second priority, he said, is the urgency of transforming the AFP. “We shall continue to be staunch advocates of transformation and relentlessly implement the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan. We will sustain the push for peace and spread the seeds of transformation within our ranks,” he said.

This drew an adverse comment from Karapatan. “It’s the same dog, only with a different tag. In fact, all candidates for the position (of Chief of Staff) are certified implementers of the IPSP Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted in the killing, disappearance, and displacement of innocent civilians,” Palabay said.

On the duty to implement national policy, Iriberri said the AFP “shall implement or execute national policies to the best of our ability. That is our duty… Thus, in confronting the many and varied issues and security challenges that come our way, we must ensure that our actions are aligned with such policies.”

And in the conduct of their current security operations, Iriberri said that the AFP “should not lose sight on starting to pave the way for a peaceful and credible elections.”

Lastly, Iriberri said that for the AFP to perform effectively in fulfilling its mandate, it must sustain the moves to upgrade its capabilities, from systems to materiel to manpower.

CATAPANG RETIRES

After 38 years in military service, Catapang, a member of the PMA Class of 1981, formally bid goodbye to the AFP.

Catapang assumed as the AFP Chief of Staff on July 18, 2014, leading the organization through several trailblazing developments.

HONOR

In recognition of his leadership and service to the country, Catapang was conferred with the Philippine Legion of Honor by His Excellency President Aquino during yesterday’s change of command ceremony.

The Philippine Legion of Honor is the oldest of the three Senior Honors of the Republic. It is the Order of Defense Merit of the Philippines. It is the highest honor that the President of the Philippines may grant an individual without the concurrence of Congress.

The award is granted to the awardee in recognition for his eminently meritorious and valuable service rendered in a position of major responsibility.

LEADERSHIP

Under the circumstances that the military have been facing, the overall goal of the AFP under Catapang’s leadership is grounded through the institution’s internal security campaign which is to “claim the peace, progress, and prosperity that our country needs in order to achieve further development.”

Having been inspired by his predecessor and former AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, one of the major objectives of Catapang was the improvement in the professionalism of Armed Forces, upgrade of their trainings and exercises, and the modernization of their assets. Under his leadership, the military was urged to strictly adhere to the AFP’s slogan of “Kawal Disiplinado, Bawal Abusado, Dapat Asintado.”

AFP ACHIEVEMENTS

While under Catapang’s leadership, the AFP recorded many positive developments in most of its pursuits, particularly in internal security operations and its war against insurgency.

The AFP was also able to ensure that peace is no longer a dream but an attainable reality for the people of Mindanao with efforts against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), rogue members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Due to his effective leadership, the AFP is now focusing on modernization which includes expansion of maritime industry; advancement of aerospace industry; infrastructure development; production of firearms and ammunition, manufacturing of quality combat and military uniforms; and expansion of peacekeeping forces to play its role better in territorial and maritime defense in the future.


PHILSTAR

New AFP chief Iriberri told to ensure peaceful polls (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 11, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 1


NEW CHIEF: Outgoing Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (left) turns over his command to Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as President Aquino looks on during a ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a new chief of staff, and his marching order from the commander-in-chief is to ensure that the 2016 elections will be peaceful.

President Aquino named yesterday Lt. Gen. Hernando Delfin Carmelo Iriberri as the new AFP chief.

Iriberri, however, will retire on April 22 or less than a month before the elections on May 9, 2016 when Filipinos choose the next president.

In a speech during the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Aquino also told Iriberri to continue what his predecessor, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., had started in the military, which the President described as a culture of “mission accomplished” from “mission impossible.”

“Under a leadership that puts the needs of the uniformed forces instead of themselves, with the participation of the non-commissioned officers and cooperation between civilians and the military, we can give the next generations the opportunity to fulfill bigger dreams in a society more peaceful, more safe and capable of defending itself,” Aquino said.

The President, who announced his choice for next military chief only during the ceremony itself, welcomed Iriberri to his new post.

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Aquino said based on his information, Iriberri would get “very good” marks from whoever he worked with in missions, training and exercises.

Since Iriberri was a platoon leader, the President said, there were no casualties among members of his troops.

During the 2013 elections in Abra where Iriberri was assigned, Aquino said the province recorded no failure of elections or any election-related violent incident for the first time.

“Lt. Gen. Iriberri, this is the challenge to you now: continue the good things that Gen. Catapang started and those who came before him, and even improve the quality of service of our soldiers. Let us remember: elections are near again. Part of your duties is to ensure that the exercise where our fellowmen will choose their next leaders will be peaceful and clean,” the President said.

“This will be the way to repay the support and care that the Filipino people, our bosses, gave you,” he said.

Prior to his appointment as Armed Force chief, Iriberri served as the 56th commanding general of the Philippine Army since Feb. 7, 2014.

Iriberri also commanded the 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija and the 503rd Infantry Brigade based in Abra, a traditional election hotspot.

Aside from Iriberri, those who were eyed as possible successors of Catapang were Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Lopez and Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar.

Delgado, Lopez and Vivar are members of Philippine Military Academy Class 1982 while Visaya, like Iriberri, is a member of class 1983.

All of them will retire next year – Delgado on March 20, Lopez on May 5, Vivar on Aug. 12 and Visaya on Dec. 8.

Iriberri is a protégé of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, something that his critics believe gave him an advantage over other contenders to the post.

He served as Army spokesman when Gazmin was appointed as Army commanding general in 2000.

Iriberri worked as senior military adviser of Gazmin when the latter was appointed defense secretary in 2010.

The new AFP chief, however, was unfazed by criticisms and is even proud to be a protégé of Gazmin.

“My record can speak for itself,” the newly installed military chief told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.

“I am proud to be identified with the secretary because I learned a lot from him. A lot of officers, even former chiefs of staff, have also served under him,” he added.

Iriberri said he would rather do his best as armed forces chief than mind his critics.

“If I listen to all criticisms, I may not be able to do anything right,” he added.

In his assumption speech, Iriberri thanked Gazmin “for his vote of confidence and fine examples in leadership.”

Five priorities of AFP chief Iriberri said he would have five priorities as chief of the country’s armed forces.

His first priority is to win the peace by putting an end to insurgency.

“In the last seven years, 58 conflict-affected provinces have been declared either as insurgency-free or peaceful and ready for further development,” the military chief said.

“By year-end 2015, more provinces are expected to join this number, and by end of 2016, the goal is for peace to reign in all the provinces in our country,” he added.

Iriberri said winning the peace is the beginning of another chapter in internal security operations.

“We will not only win the peace, but we will secure the peace as well,” he said.

Iriberri’s second priority is transformation towards what he described as the “straight and true” path.

“We will stay committed to continuing the programs that have shaped who we are today. We will stay committed to being consistent in performing our duties,” he added.

His third priority is to implement national policy.

“We, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall implement or execute national policies to the best of our ability. That is our duty, and we will continue to do so with all our hearts and with all our might,” Iriberri said.

Iriberri also vowed to ensure peaceful elections in 2016, his fourth priority.

“In the conduct of our current security operations, we should not lose sight of starting to pave the way for peaceful and credible 2016 national elections,” the military chief said.

“It is noteworthy that, together with the Philippine National Police, we have achieved the unthinkable in the province of Abra last 2013 elections, that of having the most peaceful elections the Abreños ever had,” he added.

Despite his commitment to ensure orderly elections, Iriberri clarified that he was not referring to an extension of his stint as military chief since he will retire before the May 2016 polls.

“What I said is we must, as early as now, pave the way for credible and peaceful elections. As early as now, we should consider that in our operations,” he said.

“I am not insinuating that I will be extended. My marching order was… let us now start paving the way for peaceful and credible elections.”

Iriberri’s fifth priority is capability upgrade which, he said, must be sustained to enable the military to perform its mandate.

“Between and among our major services, improvement in joint and combined operational capabilities and readiness must be fast-tracked to upgrade our capacity to resolve crises and respond to natural or man-made calamities,” he said.

While his colleagues regard him as a brilliant tactician and a professional officer, Iriberri has his own share of controversies.

He was charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the shelving of three ammunition projects worth P97.7 million. Complainants accused Iriberri of failing to issue documents that would have facilitated the delivery of ammunition.

Iriberri’s inaction was said to have led to the shelving of contracts bagged by supplier Joavi Philippines.

Interestingly, the complaint was mentioned in various news reports days before Iriberri assumed as AFP chief.

“I am ready to answer all the accusations in the right forum,” Iriberri said.

He was also accused of lobbying for the realignment of funds of a shore-based missile system project in favor of Army equipment like helmets, rifles, radios and body armor.

Critics said the shelved missile system project was supposed to boost the country’s territorial defense capabilities amid China’s aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea.

Iriberri clarified that the missile system was not scrapped but moved to a later date. He also defended the decision to buy new equipment for ground troops, saying this would improve the soldiers’ chances of survival.

“I learned that from 2014 up to this time, the number of killed in action reached 280 and the number of wounded totaled 908,” Iriberri said.

“I want to give attention to the giving of protection to soldiers,” he added.

The sacrifices of soldiers did not go unnoticed in Iriberri’s assumption speech.

“Some of us have given the ultimate sacrifice, and we remember them every day, not only for their bravery, but for their humanity. And the rest of us take heart and gain strength from their courage and their patriotism,” Iriberri said.

“We are better for their sacrifice. We are stronger for their service.”

P-Noy appeals to soldiers The President appealed to the soldiers to continue to tread the straight path, noting the gains of the administration in the last five years.

Aquino said the government had plugged loopholes in the system and institutions and made accountable even high officials accused of corruption.

“We were able to grow the economy, we were able to expand social services and we were able to open more opportunities for our fellowmen. We were able to reclaim our national pride. Think about what more we can achieve if we continue to choose what is right,” the President said.

Aquino paid tribute to Catapang and thanked him for serving the people with all his heart and mind as well as his contributions in modernizing the Armed Forces.

“Under the straight path, soldiers are disciplined, the abusive are not allowed, they must be on target,” the President said.

Aquino said he met Catapang as one of those soldiers who refused to defend the Marcos regime during the 1986 EDSA revolution for the sake of the people.

In the course of his career, Aquino said Catapang carried the spirit of EDSA with him – whether he was assigned in Mindanao as chief of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and Northern Luzon Command or as vice chief of staff of the AFP.

“It is clear to him: our soldiers should serve no one but our flag and the people,” the President said.

Aquino said Catapang’s intensive experience as a soldier earned him his position as military chief in July last year.

The President noted Catapang did not fail his country and the people – from the enforcement of the internal peace and security plan Bayanihan to the defense of the territory – he fulfilled his duties with total hard work.

Since Catapang was assigned in areas that were always flooded, Aquino said the former military chief was able to improve the disaster preparedness skills of the soldiers.

When the Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights were put at risk, Aquino cited Catapang’s quick decision-making that led to “The Greatest Escape” and that when the 44 Special Action Forces were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25, he was one of those who made sure that coordination between the AFP and the Philippine National Police would remain smooth.

The President said a number of high-value targets were also neutralized with the help of the police, among them the high-ranking officials of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters Basit Usman, Mohamad Ali Tambako and Abdulgani Esmael Pagao and even the top commander of the New People’s Army, Leoncio Pitao.

Aquino emphasized Catapang would leave behind a military that was stronger, more modern and with integrity intact.

Last May, the President said the Institute for Solidarity in Asia accorded Catapang the Silver Trailblazer Award for successfully implementing the performance governance system.

He said this would prove that Catapang was carrying out reforms not only in words but also in deeds.

The President said a clear plan for the AFP Transformation Roadmap had been laid down and the soldiers were provided ample training and equipment under the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program.

Aquino said all rules and regulations were being followed and that judicious use of funds allowed the military to procure the Navy ships BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, along with the BRP Tagbanua that was the first landing-craft utility made in the Philippines; three AW-109 naval helicopters, 60 field ambulances; and “1 1/4- and 2 1/2-ton troop carrier trucks.”

There are also 36 projects amounting to P90.46 billion that are set to be procured, including 12 fighter/surface attack/lead-in fighter trainer aircraft (FA-50) and basing support; six close air support aircraft; eight combat utility helicopters; two long range patrol aircraft and basing support; two C-130 aircraft, and two frigates, Aquino said. – With Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero


PHILSTAR

'Durian' candies poison hundreds of students in Surigao del Sur By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated July 10, 2015 - 2:38pm 48 1429 googleplus0 2


Cops carry a student who reportedly took a durian candy during snack break in a school in Cagwait town in Surigao del Sur on Friday, July 20, 2015. Cagwait PIO

MANILA, Philippines — Six municipalities in Surigao del Sur reported hundreds of cases of alleged poisoning of students who ingested "durian candy" given away in several schools.

The public information office of Cagwait town confirmed that more than 200 students, from primary school to college, felt weakness and had nausea on Friday morning and were rushed to hospitals, while an undetermined number have died.

Cagwait information officer Rogen Tabugoc told Philstar.com that cases were also reported in the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, Tandag City and Tago.

Tabugoc said hospitals have already started rejecting patients who were being brought in at the same time.

"Puno na po ang mga ospital, 'di na rin tumatanggap ang iba," he said in a phone interview.

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123 Students are rushed to nearby hospitals in Cagwait, Surigao del Sur after consuming allegedly poisonous durian candy. (Cagwait PIO photo)

Candies were either sold or given away to students by unidentified men during their snack breaks, Tabugoc said.

Cagwait authorities have yet to determine possible motives for the incident, which they described as "similar to a terrorist attack."

In a statement, the Cagwait government warned the public to be wary of accepting or buying candies from strangers.

"Maraming eskwelahan at mga estudyante na ang namatay at dinala sa mga malapit na ospital. Halos po puno na mga ospital," the municipality said on its Facebook account.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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