The Inbox
  • Balikatan exercises in Capas, Tarlac April 2013. Reuters in Yahoo

    By Lauro Baja, Jr., VERA Files

    The proposal for “increased” access to facilities in Subic and other places to US forces and those of other “allies” is a byproduct of US desire to upgrade their pivot in Asia and of the Philippines necessity to arrest the rampaging actions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

    The plan could either be a blessing or a curse for the Philippines.

    The decision to implement the plan should be guided first and foremost, and only, by a determination that it would be in our national interest. It would be a political judgment call by the leadership of the country. It should be operationalized within a strategic framework which will maximize security, economic and diplomatic benefits for the Philippines. As far as possible, the country must unite behind the plan if adopted. The first step is to lower the decibels about it.

    Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin put it in a simple, frank and direct manner why we need the increased access. We are helpless in the midst

    Read More »from The perils of pivot
  • China offers to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin shoal


    BRP Sierra Madre

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    Chinese Foreign Secretary Wang Yi made an offer yesterday during the Asean Regional Forum in Brunei that rendered the articulate Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario speechless.

    Del Rosario told reporters that Wang said "Scarborough and Ayungin were theirs, historically, and we were the ones sending ships, interdicting their fishermen, and the grounded ship has been there for so long.”

    Wang was referring to BRP Sierra Madre which ran aground at Ayungin Shoal also known as Second Thomas shoal (Ren’ai Reef to the Chinese) in May 1999.

    Ayungin Reef is 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan. It is about 21 nautical miles from Mischief Reef, which was occupied by China in 1995.

    Del Rosario said he told Wang: “We don't have money to move it.”

    Wang, del Rosario said offered “ to do it themselves.”

    Asked what was his reply to Wang, del Rosario said: “Nothing.”

    Asked what was the reaction of other participants, del Rosario said, “Nothing.”

    Founded in

    Read More »from China offers to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin shoal
  • By Reyan L. Arinto, VERA Files

    Tacloban City — It was a worthy last act.

    Leyte Ordinance creating PDAO

    Before the 15th Leyte Sangguniang Panlalawigan ended its term last June 30, the provincial board approved an ordinance creating the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO).

    Considered one of the major laws passed by the legislative body, the creation of the PDAO authored by Leyte first district Board Member Ryan Lawrence P. Tiu will help the province properly handle all matters pertaining to the affairs and welfare of all persons with disability in accordance with Republic Act 10070 or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability.

    “The ordinance is also in compliance with the mandate of the Department of the Interior and Local Government promoting the establishment of PDAO in every province, city and municipality,” Tiu said.

    The priority now is the appointment of a PWD with experience in providing services to fellow PWDs to head the body, he added. Among the duties of the PDAO head is to formulate and

    Read More »from Leyte creates disability affairs office
  • By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    The book is in Sr. Myrna's favorite color of lilac with an image of her favorite flower, lily of the valleyTo deeply know Myrna H. Francia is to love her like God to whom she gave a feminine and compassionate face and Jesus Christ who she considered her bridegroom.

    One emerges from the book The Party's Over: A Nun for Modern Times quite humbled by how she chose to carry out her vocation or her "thirst for perfect love" while not losing her essential pluck and spirited nature.

    She was, her brother Joseph writes , "a normal party-going woman who worked in the corporate world and was wooed by suitors before she decided to join the religious life."

    She didn't live in prayerful isolation from the world. Surprising friends and family, who knew her as not as a santa-santita but a fun-loving girl who wasn't above doing a mischief or two, she "disturbed the peace of martial law, joining picket lines and protest marches in the company of sweaty laborers."

    A true-life Sister Stella L, the activist nun Vilma Santos played in a Mike de Leon film, Sister Myrna was a more

    Read More »from A real Sister Stella L
  • Gazmin makes the Philippines look pathetic


    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    Never have I felt so  kawawa reading the statements of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin justifying his plan to allow American and Japanese military access to military facilities in the Philippines to deter China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea .

    Newspaper reports quoted Gazmin as saying: “We cannot stand alone. We need allies. If we do not (seek allies), we will be bullied by bigger forces and that is what is happening now. China is already there, staying in our territory.”

    Gazmin must be referring to the situation in Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal or Panatag,  off Zambales which is no longer accessible to  Filipino fishermen since April 2012 and Mischief Reef in the Spratlys , which  was China occupied in 1995.

    It is feared that China would take over Ayungin Shoal, some 25 miles away from Mischief Reef.

    Gazmin further said: “What will we do? We cannot attack. We are just going after them in court. But in spite of that,

    Read More »from Gazmin makes the Philippines look pathetic
  • Licad in action. By Eric Louie Bolante.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz (Dance of Death) are obviously not the ideal ingredients for surefire box office success of any classical concert.

    Whether we like it or not, Filipinos love Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky (not exactly in that order) but Liszt’s Dance of Death for a finale? Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 (the Funeral Sonata) at least has melodic lines enough to wipe out its association with the agony of death.

    Add to that Typhoon Signal No. 2 raised by the weather bureau you have a perfect formula for a concert not likely to be patronized on this rainy night.

    But last night, the country’s leading pianist, Cecile Licad, once again showed her almost hair-raising interpretative power by making something supremely beautiful and profound about Liszt’s intimation of death.

    After a suspenseful fifteen minutes of an unfamiliar but powerful reading of the Liszt Totentanz, Licad and the ABS CBN Philharmonic under Gerard Salonga got a rousing

    Read More »from Cecile Licad triumphs over typhoon Gorio
  • Boats parked in Pamilacan shore

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    Pamilacan Island looks like a mound of green dumped in the middle of the Bohol sea.

    Fine white sand line one side of the island while jagged cliffs the other. The serenity is broken only by waves lapping the shore and the bleating of goats.

    Beneath the air of bliss that impresses the visitor, however, the island is under stress as the residents confront the hard reality that the days of whale shark hunting is over while still in search of a viable livelihood alternative.

    An online search gives the impression of an Eden capitalizing on the boom of eco-tourism that made Bohol one of the top tourist attractions in the country. But the reality is that tourism supports only a small fraction of the local economy and poverty is very much part of Pamilacan’s landscape like its fine white sand and crystal blue waters.

    The residents’ main source of livelihood used to be whale sharks hunting. “(We) are traditional fishermen of mantas and whales,” says

    Read More »from Pamilacan: searching for a solution between survival and conservation
  • What happened to the truckloads of money from Ampatuans’ houses in 2009?

    Ampatuan mansion by Mindanews

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    The aborted P50 million each settlement with the relatives of 14 (of the 58) victims of the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre with a certain Jun Chan raised the question, "Where was that huge sum of money supposed to come from?”

    There is no chance to ask Chan the identity of his principal because Mylah Reyes-Roque, in an article for VERA Files, said the settlement was signed third week of February and Chan was killed when his vehicle was ambushed on his way to his farm in General Santos City last March 25.

    Although the relatives of the victims met only with Chan accompanied by someone introduced only to them as “Prof”, they were sure that the principal of the two were the former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr and members of his family who are the primary suspects in the massacre because the deal involved their signing an affidavit of desistance.

    The deal would involve P700 million at P50 million each in exchange for their signing a quit claim and for them

    Read More »from What happened to the truckloads of money from Ampatuans’ houses in 2009?
  • Commentary

    USS Guardian in Okinawa, Janpan in January 2013. Photo by U.S. Navy.

    By Rex Robles, VERA Files

    Last week, the US Navy released the result of its investigation on the Jan. 17, 2013 grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, pinning the blame on “lack of leadership” but praising the "heroic efforts of the crew to save their ship."

    One reason why the report seems superficial and incomplete is that it failed to attach true copies of essential navigational documents.

    As a rule, whenever a Navy ship leaves port for any destination, the path or course it is to take to reach its destination is set down beforehand on a maritime map, commonly referred to as a chart. This is required for those navigating over water and all Navy vessels, except small boats on short trips along a coastline or a river, must perform this basic task.

    The charted course is an official record of a ship’s movement and, together with the Quartermaster’s logbook that records the actual position, heading and speed of the ship at any time, will form an important

    Read More »from USS Guardian probe report evades key issues, raises more question
  • Mindboggling, troubling offers for Maguindanao massacre victims

    massacre photo with backhoe

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    There are a number of disturbing things in the aborted settlement between the Ampatuans and the relatives of the 14 victims of the Nov 23, 2009 massacre that was considered the deadliest day for journalists (32 of the 58 victims were members of media.

    It was aborted because the negotiator, identified in the article of Mylah Reyes-Roque for VERA Files a Jun Chan was killed in an ambush in General Santos city last March 25. The death of Chan underscores the chilling reality that four years after massacre, the killing has not stopped.

    A month before, Chan met with relatives of the victims at least twice in a mosque in General Santos with a mindboggling offer: P50 million for each of the victim in exchange for their withdrawing the case against the Ampatuans. The offer raises another troubling aspect: the Ampatuans are still in possession of huge amount of money not covered by the government freeze on their assets.(The Court of Appeals has ordered a freeze on

    Read More »from Mindboggling, troubling offers for Maguindanao massacre victims


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