Wake Up, Philippines!

Big fish

Posted in Criminal System, Judiciary, Justice and Peace, Sandiganbayan by Erineus on February 19, 2009

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From military deputy chief for comptrollership to convict, the journey has been a long one for retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia. The highest ranking military officer to be indicted for a criminal offense, Garcia nearly managed to retire in peace in 2004, with his colleagues in the Armed Forces of the Philippines seemingly reluctant to go after a two-star general on accusations of corruption. But the Ombudsman at the time, Simeon Marcelo, doggedly worked to pin down Garcia. In the end, Garcia was court-martialed and faced several criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan.

Yesterday, over five years after Garcia’s son was apprehended by US Customs authorities at the San Francisco airport for failure to declare $100,000 in cash, the disgraced general was convicted of perjury by the anti-graft court. Though the maximum sentence of two years was less than the time Garcia has already spent in detention, the conviction for failure to declare P7 million in his account with the AFP Savings and Loan Association Inc. could strengthen the bigger case against him for forfeiture of undeclared wealth.

Garcia was indicted over a year after junior military officers staged a curious mutiny in a posh Makati hotel to denounce, among other things, corruption in the AFP. Garcia’s court-martial was complemented by a major overhaul of the procurement process in the AFP and Department of National Defense. Under the reform program, red tape was cut and transparency in bidding and procurement promoted. The AFP and DND must not go back on those reforms and must in fact work to strengthen them.

In December 2005, a military court found Garcia guilty of undeclared wealth. He was dishonorably dismissed from the AFP and sentenced to two years of hard labor. The Sandiganbayan, for its part, must speed up its resolution of the other cases against Garcia. The two-star general found himself in trouble after his wife Clarita, coming to the defense of their son, explained in writing to US Customs authorities that the $100,000 came from her husband’s miscellaneous earnings as a comptroller. This is one of the rare cases where efficient prosecution has led to the conviction of a big fish. With more cases like this one, crooks in government may finally realize that in this country, not everyone can get away with crime.

Editorial
Philippine Star

Updated February 19, 2009 12:00 AM
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=441602&publicationSubCategoryId=64

New rat species found

Posted in Conservation, DENR, Discovery, Environment, Faura/Fauna, News Feature by Erineus on February 19, 2009
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MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Lito Atienza yesterday called for greater biodiversity conservation in the wake of the discovery of a new species of small rodent found only on Mt. Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) and the Chicago-based Field Museum of Natural History.

Mt. Hamiguitan is home to a forest of pygmy trees.

The Hamiguitan batomys or Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat is a yellow-brown animal with a long furry tail and a weight of 175 grams, discovers said. It is related to several other species known in Central Mindanao, Dinagat Island and Luzon, and lives only from an elevation of 950 meters up to the peak, in dwarf mossy forests of areas less than 10 square kilometers.

“We have long taken great pride in our wealth of flora and fauna and this new discovery reinforces our efforts to make the protection of these unique and endemic species found in the country our top priority,” Atienza said.

He said there is a very high chance of more discoveries of new species in the country, but some of these might already be threatened before they are even discovered. He urged everyone to do their share in protecting the country’s forests, home to the wildlife.

Atienza said the Philippines has been declared by global scientists as one of only a few mega diverse countries in the world.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the new species was found in May 2006 during an expedition that sought to learn more about the region, which is also home to the globally endangered Philippine Eagle, the country’s national bird.

Quoting expedition team leader and lead author Danilo Balete, the DENR said that the “Hamiguitan batomys is the first mammal to be described from Eastern Mindanao, and is the first mammal that is thought to live only in that area. Most mammals unique to Mindanao were described from Mt. Apo or Mt. Kitanglad. This points to eastern Mindanao, especially Mt. Hamiguitan, as a biologically unique part of the Philippines.”

PEF executive director Dennis Salvador said Mt. Hamiguitan and the rest of Eastern Mindanao are poorly known biologically but the mountain is known as a mining and logging hot spot.

The DENR said that at Mt. Hamiguitan, six mining agreements cover more than 17,000 hectares of forest, more than half of the mountain’s forest cover.

Meanwhile, DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau director Dr. Mundita Lim said Mt. Hamiguitan “fully deserves” to be among the global heritage sites and endorsed its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Lawrence Heaney, Curator of Mammals at the Field Museum, and a co-author of the batomys description, believed that additional species currently unknown to anyone except local residents are likely to live in eastern Mindanao due to its “unusual geological history.”

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