Friday, July 28, 2006



MANILA, JULY 27, 2006 (STAR) By Jaime Laude - Is the "Medal of Valor" an immunity for mutineers?

The question was raised by military prosecutors over the possible outcome of the trial of two decorated officers implicated in the Feb. 24 failed coup attempt.

This early, military and civilian lawyers apparently realized the prosecution of Marine Col. Ariel Querubin and Lt. Col. Custodio Parcon could be a litmus test for the government in trying the two Medal of Valor awardees for their alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt.

Military and civilian lawyers conceded the two officers enjoy some protection and privilege since they have received the highest award the military can give to any deserving soldier.

Having the highest military combat award, Medal of Valor awardees, under existing laws enjoy enormous protection and privileges offered by the state, which include a P20,000 additional allowance on top of his salary and other benefits.

Also known as Medal of Honor, the Medal of Valor awardees, by law and military tradition are accorded the highest respect in the land that even the President and other elected officials of the land are required to salute them first.

"Granting if these officers are convicted of the crimes now attributed to them, how can the court possibly dishonorably discharge them as the honor awarded to them by the President is very specific... and that the award and the honors that go with it is for life…" a senior military lawyer said.

Querubin and Parcon, along with 38 other officers from the Marine Corps and the Army’s elite First Scout Ranger Regiment, have been implicated in the alleged power grab that forced President Arroyo to place the entire country under a state of emergency.

A total of 165 officers and soldiers have been named in the coup plot and were recommended to face a pre-trial investigation that could possibly put them under court-martial proceedings.

While agreeing that being a Medal of Valor awardee is not a guarantee against administrative and criminal suits, the lawyer said the end result of these legal proceedings remains to be seen.

"A Valor awardee could be charged. Pero, malabo mag-prosper ang mga ordinaryong kaso kasi sa pre-trial pa lang siguradong laglag na yan," he said.

Seeing a stalemate scenario, the military lawyer said Valor awardees on trial could even dictate the tempo of the proceedings against them.

"What happens when a Medal of Valor awardee enters a military courtroom wearing his medal. Of course, members of the military tribunal are required to salute him and offer him all the courtesy due him and his medal," the lawyer said.

He said the scenario can be made possible since the Valor awardee can always invoke to his advantage all the privileges accorded to him by law, either inside the courtroom or any of his activities.

"When this privilege is invoked at the pre-trial stage, the case filed against a Valor awardee is as good as dead," he stressed.

The lawyer cited the case of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos who was never disowned of his medals and citations even after he was disgraced from power in 1986.

Marcos earned the Medal of Valor while serving as an intelligence officer during World War II in Bataan against the overwhelming Japanese imperial troops.

Surviving awardees like Lt. Col. Arturo Ortiz and Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, echoed the same observation. They said the Valor award has lifetime privileges.

"Hindi na pwede itong bawiin dahil ibinigay ito dahil sa mga ginagawa mo," said Bacarro, who earned his Valor award after he repelled a large force of New People’s Army (NPA) communist insurgents in Cagayan Valley while he was still a young lieutenant.

Ortiz also agreed the award carries a lifetime privilege. But he conceded the award is not a shield against prosecution in committing any offense. — With Cecille Suerte Felipe

News Here..

Monday, July 17, 2006

Getting worst or something to look forward to?


MANILA, JULY 16, 2006
(STAR) By Sandy Araneta - A huge lack of medical personnel to regularly treat students nationwide was reported yesterday by the Department of Education (DepEd).

In a statement, the DepEd said based on recent data, the doctor-to-student ratio was placed at one doctor for every 70,500 students; nurse-to-student ratio, one nurse per 4,830 students; and dentist-to-student ratio, one per 18,000 students.

The DepEd said health problems are among the leading causes of poor learning outcomes and dropouts among pupils.

Common ailments found among Grades 1 to 3 pupils examined last year included dental caries (82 percent), acute upper respiratory infections (20 percent), pediculosis (17 percent), under-nutrition (14 percent), iron deficiency anemia (seven percent), impacted cerumen (six percent), among other ailments.

The DepEd is working with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and various health groups and associations to mobilize communities, health service providers and medical practitioners to volunteer their services for DepEd’s Universal Medical/Dental Check-up (UMDC).

Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo, DepEd officer-in-charge, stressed the importance of community participation in basic education.

"This is what our Schools First Initiative is all about," she said.

"Our UMDC is just one of the many programs we have that showcases what community involvement can do to improve the lives of our people.

"Our UMDC therefore represents the success of DepEd’s unprecedented efforts in attracting the various education stakeholders to actively contribute to the improvement of our schools and to the delivery of basic education in our country."

Director Thelma Santos of the DepEd Health and Nutrition Center said the agency is tapping the support of their partners in the private sector by coordinating with various health organizations.

"For UMDC this year, we hope that with the leadership and concern of all school officials and with the support of provincial, city, municipal and barangay officials, we shall be able to reach our goal of providing health care to all of our Grades 1 to 3 pupils," she said.

The two-month health examination will be undertaken by private and public health professionals, in partnership with DepEd school health personnel, she added.

The UMDC is aimed at highlighting the DepEd’s national schools health maintenance drive.

When the school year opened, school health professionals began examining primary school children across the country.

The UMDC aims to examine Grades 1 to 3 pupils to determine their health and nutrition status.

Each child is provided a medical and dental card that serves as his or her health record.

The health and nutrition data gathered under the UMDC will identify children whose health is at risk, guiding DepEd in planning school feeding programs and other health interventions for the rest of the school year.

Past efforts to administer health examinations in public schools have been largely inadequate because of the lack of DepEd health personnel.

The UMDC was launched by President Arroyo at the Alabang Elementary School in Muntinlupa City on June 27, 2005.

The DepEd has signed a memorandum of agreement with various groups, including the DOH, Philippine Dental Association, Philippine Nurses Association, Philippine Pediatric Society, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians, Philippine Academy of Physicians for School Health, Philippine Association of Military Surgeons, Armed Forces of the Philippines Dental Society, Philippine Women Dental Foundation, National League of Government Nurses, Fil-Chinese Dental Foundation, Philippine Society of Nephrology, Pediatric Nephrology Society of the Philippines, Centro Escolar University College of Dentistry, CIVITAN Philippines, Integrated Philippine Association of Optometrists, and the Eye Health and Safety Foundation.

A total of 1,841 non-DepEd dentists and 3,948 doctors and public health nurses volunteered their services for UMDC, resulting in a success rate of 71 percent for medical and 50 percent for dental check-up.

Philippines Headline News


MANILA, JULY 16, 2006
(STAR) The government will allocate a measly P30.05 for each Filipino a year if the P2.5-billion budget being proposed for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under the national outlay this year is passed.

"Of course that is not enough," Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral admitted. "But President Arroyo has her own social funds and then there are certain projects that she initiates that we help her with."

"The budget for these projects does not come from our approved budget," she said.

Cabral noted that half of the DSWD budget is earmarked for its Kalahi-CIDSS projects, a flagship poverty alleviation project of the government.

The rest is spent for the salary of employees, operation and maintenance expenses of the DSWD and other projects.

The DSWD also gets financial support from local and foreign donors for disaster relief operations.

"There was already a proposed budget for DSWD for 2006 when I came in. But for 2007, I’ll propose P3.5 billion," Cabral said.

Meanwhile, the DSWD is asking business establishments and individuals to donate tarpaulins that will be used as makeshift tents for evacuees in the war-torn town of Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao.

The DSWD said gunfights in Shariff Aguak have displaced residents there as fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been ravaging the town for days now.

The conflict erupted after police tried to arrest MILF leaders accused of involvement in the bombing of an Army post in the village of Koloy.

The firefight has since then spread to four other villages, forcing civilians to leave their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire.

The DSWD said tarpaulins to be donated can be brought to the National Relief Operation Center along Chapel Road near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, or a DSWD truck could be arranged to pick up the donation.

Interested donors may call Rey Martija of the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) at 951-7119 after office hours or Elma Pille of the Program Management Bureau at 951-7438 during office hours. — Sheila Crisostomo

Philippines Headline News

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