Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boring Through A Wreck, Tearing Our Hearts


The agony simply continues for the bedraggled and weary relatives of the hundreds of dead and missing from the what Sulpicio Lines insists was "an act of God": - the sinking of the ferry boat Princess of the Stars in the waters off Sibuyan and Romblon islands while en route to Cebu at the height of typhoon Frank.

For a full week now the bodies of many of the dead have remained entombed in the overturned hull of the 23,000-ton vessel with authorities taking their sweet time in removing the toxic chemical cargo in the bowels of the death ship - all 10 metric tons of endosulfan, a pesticide shipment of Del Monte Philippines intended, they say, to make sure pineapples are safe for exoort.
Quite a queer coincidence, one of the 'highlights' of the presidential 'working visit' to the United States was Pres. Arroyo standing witness at the signing of a $500-M contract for the export of Philippine pineapples!
What a cruel unintended trade-off, indeed.
In fairness, we are sure Mrs. Arroyo and her entourage of 50-plus congressmen will want to hurry back to Manila.
In time to witness the retrieval of the dead from Princess of the Stars or to celebrate the homecoming from Las Vegas of newly drowned world lighweight boxing king Manny Pacquiao?
To his credit, the Pacman yesterday announced he was making a gnerous donation to help the ty[hon victims while we have not heard nary a peep from the junketeers in the preidential party, many of whom battled to get $600 ringside seats at Mandalay Bay --- the better to get within TV camera range and get theIr mugs beamed via satellite live on pay-per-view and delayed free TV.
I am sure many did not miss seeing former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson among those atop the ring looking as if he himself knocked out David Diaz. Magpa-balato ka nga, sir.
But what really tears our heart out is news that commercial divers are finally en route to the scene of the Sibuyan Sea tragedy to bore a hole into the wreck and get at the 40 foot container van loaded with the pesticide and allow rescue drivers to resume their grim task of recovering the other cadavers which by now are surely more bloated and unrecognizable because of decomposition.
This while Sulpicio Lines, feigning compassion, is declaring that it is "waiving legal documentary requirements for victims' relatives to avail of P200,00 in bereavement assistance.
As noted by Nick (who has lost a cousin in the tragedy) and Rom over at FilipinoVoices.com, the Sulpcio offer is nothing but a bribe, an obvious attempt, may we add, to stave off a class action suit Thank you to Sen. Mar Roxas that Sulpicio only has LIMITED insurance coverage for its death ship. Note down the insurer firm: Oriental.
The goal has been further exposed by their caveat that the claimants need to submit original documents!
Heartless, this shipping company really is!

Manny Pacquiao Unites Us Again



Manny Pacquiao again erased the political and social divide that separates Filipinos by knocking out Mexican David Diaz and capturing the World Boxing Council lightweight crown, the only Asian and only Filipino to win a world title in four weight classes.

Pacquiao displayed blinding speed and explosive punching power as he beat Diaz into a pulp yesterday through all 9 rounds of their scheduled 12-round fight in Laz Vegas, sending his rival the canvass with a left cross smack into the jaw of the outclassed Mexican.

This ended the fight with 36 seconds left in the 9th round, giving the fighter from General Santos City his fourth world title.

With his feat, Pacquiao joins the pantheon of Filipino boxing greats where the memories of Pancho 'The Mighty Mite' Villa and Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde are enshrined.

With this tribute goes our hope that Manny will continue to further sharpen his pugilistic arsenal while keeping his humility and prayerful character intact and his well-earned wealth conserved and nurtured so that he and his family will be properly provided for when the time comes to hang up those boxing gloves.

Mabuhay ka, Manny!

Postscript:

We rejoice over the Pacman's victory but cringe at thw all to familiar mugs we saw on the TV screens trying shoving their faces into the camera frames. The gall of some incorrigible people, indeed! video

Cross-posted at http://midfield.wordpress.com/

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Killing The Dead, Poisoning TheLiving

If this were a boxing match with the referees still tallying their scores, we would already be punch-drunk, ready to throw in the towel, and maybe even burn down the gym for good measure.

There is a revelation from the Philippine Coast Guard that several years ago a multi million peso project to install a sophisticated emergency maritime communication system complete with global positioning satellite links. But, the Coast Guard says, the project "became a white elephant due to project billing problems" with the supplier delivering the hardware but not the software to run the gadgetry!

The agency claims the ferry sinking could have been prevented of the project had not failed.

Meanwhile, five days after MV Princess of the Stars capsized off Romblon and Sibuyan islands, we are now belatedly being told that the ’ship of death’ also has in its bowels ten metric tons of the pesticide endosulfan with the solid crystalline poison packed not in sealed airtight containers but in plastic bags, inside ordinary carton boxes stacked in a 40-foot container van.
With this startling confession by the owners of the vessel during the Marine Board of Inquiry, authorities have hurriedly suspended the efforts to retrieve the remains of the dead still trapped in the ship’s overturned hull.
All the Navy frogmen and volunteer divers have been brought back to the surface lest the endusulfan packs burst, unless they already have, and rapidly contaminate the waters.
The Department of Health and the fisheries bureau have withdrawn, posthaste, their safety assurances about eating fish from the site of the tragedy to prevent possible poisonings.
These developments bear the signature of a corrupted system pockmarked by chronic neglect and utter disregard for the public welfare.
This truly compounds the public uproar and magnifies the apparent criminal negligence of Sulpicio Lines plus the massive regulatory incompetence of government.
Those already dead are being killed still while the living are seemingly lying prostrate, at the mercy of the powers that be!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tragedy's Fine Print

Sulpicio Lines is eager to immediately stave off any potential class action suit in the aftermath of its latest killer incident: the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars which had been billed as the rown jewel of the tragedy-ridden shipping company.

Even as prayers continue for Navy frogmen to still find any more survivors among the more than 650 still missing, Sulpicio is already announcing that it will pay 200,000 pesos as 'bereavement assistance' for each death.

This as the owners are asserting that the incident "was an act of God."

But ask any lawyer worth his salt: the relatives of the dead, to qualify for the pay-out must have proof: the body of the deceased or at the very least a certification of presumed death ,which under the law can only be issued by the civil registrars, at the earliest, 2 years after tha person goes missing under unusual circumstance such as a plane crash or the sinking of a sea-goig vessel. If the circumstances of one's disappearance are considered 'normal', the waiting period is 7 years with the other party, in this Sulpicio Lines, having the 'right' to contest each and every claim.

So there you are. Sulpicio knows the game only too well, having a record of one vessel sinking every five years these past two decades.

The Possible Untold Story In The Abduction of Ces Drilon

Was popular broadcast journalist Ces Oreña-Drilon abducted in Sulu by suspected members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group as part of a “political fund-raising effort” by the former negotiators and now tagged principal suspects: Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and son Haider? (The Isnajis, police say, pocketed up to 60 percent of the supposed initial P5M ransom paid by the Drion family.)
Was Drilon simply ‘betrayed’ by their group’s guide who was supposed to bring them to their intended interviewee, top ASG commander Radulan Sahiron? (Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales claims Sahiron had “communicated his intention to surrender” two weeks before the Drilon abduction.
The easiest way would be to answer these questions in the affirmative, taking at face value all of the pronouncements of police investigating and considering the incident closed.
However, information reaching this writer from sources in the uniformed services and accounts of recent events point to the disturbing possibility that Drilon and company (which included Mindanao peace advocate Octavio Dinampo) were “used as bait” for at least one high-value target in the war against terror: Indonesian national Dulmatin, the Jemaah Islamiya electronics expert tagged as one of two bomb-makers in the deadly bombings in Bali Indonesia in 2002.
Dulmatin , who has a $10M bounty on his head, was last thought to have been injured, and possibly killed in a raid against the ASG IN 2007. The suspected remains of Dulmatin were even exhumed from a grave in Tawi-tawi and subjected to DNA tests which results were inconclusive.)
Fears that Dulmatin (or elements who trained under him) was still active were revived several weeks ago on May 29 when a bomb exploded just outside the military’s Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City, killing two people and injured 23 others, including four engineers working on a project of the US Agency for International Development.
Investigators found evidence with the JI bomb expert’s ‘signature’ in the incident. Colonel Darwin Guerra, a senior counter-terrorist officer told reporters, "the bomb was hidden in a bag and was detonated by remote control using a cell phone," he said.
U.S. embassy officials would not say if they thought the USAID project was specifically targeted, but ambassador Kristie Kelly was described in news reports as “horrified” as she called the bombing a “terrible incident.”
One stark detail in the Drilon abduction which persists is that the man who initially acted as their guide, and then left them for reasons unknown was indeed a regular military intelligence asset, leading even Ces to comment hours after their release that “they were betrayed by people we trusted.”
Our sources tell us the sequence of events in the way Drilon and her group were “guided all through to Maimbung town and then literally handed over to 8 armed men indicate their interception was not coincidental.”
His writer’s sources reveal, “the movement was intended to test whether the presence of the television news crew would be able to draw out either Rahilon, at the very least, even the slippery Dulmatin if he is alive and operating in the jungles of Jolo.”
News accounts also show that at the height of the search operations for the kidnap victims, the US military deployed their unmanned Predator spy planes equipped with highly-sensitive remote imaging capability to support Philippine operations led by Western Command’s anti-terrorist Task Force Comet.
Professor Dinampo has, in the meantime, revealed in an interview of MindaNews editor Carol Arguilas that Drilon and her group were actually first brought to Bud (Mount) Daho, a long dormant volcano in Sulu. (http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4612&Itemid=50)
The MindaNews report says professor Dinampo, when he was allowed to make a phone call to his non-government organization, the Citizen’s Peace Watch, had given a coded message about where they were being captive. The message, however, was left “undecoded” until their release.
It was only later when negotiations for their release progressed that the captives were brought from Bud Daho to the lowland tri-boundary area of Patikul, Indanan, and Talipao towns. (Bud Daho is a choice hiding place of Tausugs given its secure location, and historical importance being the site of a 1906 incident where an estimated 1,000 Moros were massacred by American troops on orders of Major General Leonard Wood. The centennial of the carnage was marked last March 13.)
Against this backdrop, with the public interest having shifted to the tragic sinking of the inter-island ferry Princess of the Stars, this possible untold story in the abduction of Ces Oreña-Drilon may actually be more than tangent to the continuing Philippine component of the United States’ war on terror and the ‘negative result’ of the intensified hunt for Dulmatin and ASG militants the previous two weeks.
This is because the second tranche of up to $4M in anti-terrorist funding support committed by the outgoing Bush administration has remained unreleased, with American authorities reported to be quietly “auditing how, and why, the earlier first $4M installment had been used by the Philippine police to purchase computer facilities.”
In fact no such ‘anticipated announcement’ of the additional anti-terrorist fund came despite President Bush having congratulated his Filipino counterpart “on her strong stand on counter-terrorism -- more than strong stand -- effective stand on counter-terrorism.”
Will the truth about the Sulu abduction ever be revealed? This is the question that awaits an answer before another major story breaks in Sulu.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paying For Lost Lives

How much does a human life cost?

Apparently Sulpicio Lines, with its record of sinking ships every five years on the average has a ready formula: P 200,00. That's the amount it says it will pay for each of the deaths in the sinking of its ferry M/V Princess of the Stars.

The announcement comes even as navy divers aren't really done yet scouring the waters off Romblon and Sibuyan Islands even though their own grim declaration was that they found only"many bloated and decomposing after boring a hole and entering the hull of the overturned wreck.

Only some 72 hours ago the 23,000-ton ferry, supposedly the newest in the Sulpicio fleet was teeming with the live of more than 800 passenger and crew en route to Cebu from Manila.

"We found no sign of life," the navy divers reported stoically.


As the grieving relatives of the missing stare blankly at the ship's manifested posted outside Sulpicio Cebu and Pier 12 offces in Manila we are sure the company's lawyers are busy retrieving their templates of quit-claim documents to stave off possible class action suits.

This is one time we make a call for both well-meaning prosecution lawyers and even 'a,mbulance chasers,

Throw the book at Sulpicio. Now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Porn On Your Phone: A New Bundled Feature?

This is my first non-political post. But this writer hopes the message will get through.

Beware ‘platinum plan’ subscribers of one of the major Philippine telcos. They are on a promo binge, moving inventory while also ‘rewarding’ loyal subscribers.

But wait. Are the promo ‘high end’ units really new? Or have they been tinkered with either by a previous ‘trial’ owner or by the supplier?

We raise this point as a business partner has just received an unintended add-on to the promo Samsung cellular phone unit that sports the Mobile Windows operating sys that comes bundled with the Windows Movie Player: PORN.

I certainly don’t think the Koreans would pre-load their fast moving models with such trash, given that Samsung is still playing catch-up to Nokia.

Paging Globe Telecom and Smart Communication.

The Sinking Feeling


I don't like to write when I'm angry. Also would not have wanted to start this blog with a sad story.

But the latest Philippine maritime disaster: the sinking of the inter-island ferry Princess of the Stars owned by notorious Sulpicio lines cannot but give anyone a bout of depression. Pardon the unintended pun: a truly sinking feeling. The feeling that someone somewhere should hang for this.

This early morning here in Manila far from the murky waters off San Fernando Mindoro we cannot sense the deathly quiet nor smell the stench of bloated bodies. But we are told that with 22 confirmed dead and 59 confirmed survivors, a staggering number of 785 souls remain missing and,by now, feared dead.

Yes the search and rescue choppers are still hovering atop the overturned hull of the ship with the top part of the bow jutting out of the water while coast guard ships and puny fishermen's bancas circling the site looking for any sign of life.

The relatives of the missing are already wailing, grieving nervously at Manila's Pier 12 waiting, hoping to hear something other than reports of more bodies being plucked out of the water or washing on the shore of San Fernando town.

But instead of hopeful news,the mayor of San Fernando was appealing on national radio late yesterday afternoon for body bags and lime so they could tend to the dead.

To underline her own despair and anger, the lady mayor described how they've been been forced to sprinkle white cement on the recovered cadavers just to stem the decomposition while waiting for help. She also complained: not a single call had come, she said, from Sulpicio Lines, to coordinate and help.

And while representatives of the company are reportedly going to Romblon via Aklan this morning, unless they can part the waters off Romblon and raise the dead, there is little else they can do.

The press reports now say how the shiptain's order to abandon ship came only when Princess of the Stars was already tilting very badly so much so that the passengers were already in panic.

In fact even while the vessel was supposedly only three years and had a full complement of life boats and life vests, only four of the listed survivors had vests on.

This time unlike the other Sulpicio tragedies: the sinkings od MV Dona Paz and NV Dona Marilyn, Princess of the Stars was not overloaded.

But the question now emerging is that it was allowed to leave port even while its destination was under severe storm alerts.

So the blame putting has now begun with even the Speaker of the House of Representatives asking for Sulpicio Lines' license to be revoked. That's it?

I don't only have a sinking feeling. I want to puke.