Press Release
August 20, 2008

Transcript of press briefing with Sen. Rodolfo G Biazon after Defense hearing on the Coast Guard

Is the Guard a civilian agency or a military unit, in 1967 there is a law passed by Congress putting the Philippine Coast Guard under the Philippine Navy meaning it assumed the nature of a military organization, in which case the pay and allowances, the justice system, the personnel management concepts applied to the Coast Guard as a military organization.

But through a series of Presidential fiats when it was first removed from the Department of Defense, to the Office of the President, to the Dept of Transportation and Communications as it is now.

The difficulty is what justice system will prevail - will govern the Coast Guard, there is a distinct difference between the civilian courts and the court martials of the military, there is a distinct difference in the pay scale between the pay and allowances of the military compared to the civilians who are governed by the wage standardization law, there is a distinct difference between the principles of personnel management being used in the civilian agencies and that of the military, one such difference is that the leaders of the military down to the rank of Colonel has to pass confirmation with the Commission on Appointments. There is no counterpart except the Dept of Foreign Affairs officials, they have two systems being used.

We have to redefine is - is it a military organization or is it a civilian agency. That is the reason why we had the first hearing this morning.

The rational in the creation of the Philippine Coast Guard by a Republic Act in 1967 and assigning it to the Philippine Navy was the meager resources, assets especially water craft and ships so that both can exercise interchangeablility and interoperability of these assets...there were times when we needed more watercraft and ships to be used by the Coast Guard esp. during disasters...butthere were also times in the past when assets of the Phil Coast Guard were used by the Philippine Navy in addressing security developments..if we separate the Phil Coast Guard from the Phil Navy by amending the law that created this, then we would have two distinct services using the same type of assets.. can we afford it... we will continue to conduct hearings and consultations to help us sort out what kind of specie of government agency we want to Coast Guard to be.

The position of the guests this morning is divided - there are those who want it completely civilian, and there are those who want it maintained in the Phil Navy and therefore continue to be in the nature of a military organization. We need to redefine for purposes of clarity and management.

Other topics: - MILF/ MOA - we can not allow the MILF to hide under "lost command" - As Chairman of the Defense Committee am considering a direct consultation with the defense Dept bec. I foresee a need for additional resources to be given to the AFP, right now the most impt. response of the Pres GMA and govt, is to reassure the people of the affected areas of safety and security. It may involve a lot of things like the redeployment of forces from other areas of the country, you create vacuums that could be taken advantage of by other armed groups... that decision whether pr not to add more resources to the

AFP will be a subject and I recommend that it should be taken up by the National Security Council, and that is why I suggested that the National Security Council should be convened.. what was convened was the Cabinet Cluster E on National Security - I am automatically a member of the National Security Council, I have yet to hear the word that we are convening the National Security Council because we need to examine the existing parameters in addressing the MILF including the parameters that govern the peace process, we can not allow the MILF to hide behind the declaration of Lost Commands every time...

The Opposition Group in the Senate signed a statement yesterday if there is a need for the grant of a supplemental budget so the government may respond to what is needed to be done, the Opposition will cooperate, Off hearings I would go to consult with the DND, we need more manpower, so be it... we need more ammunition so be it, we need more guns so be it..but that will require funding and that funding could be granted through a supplemental budget and the Opposition in the Senate is ready to cooperate on that matter, on this issue we are crossing political lines.

There is a need to for the govt to project to the public that they are ready to protect the populace... last night, a mere shouting announcement of a drunkard in Iligan caused panic..the govt must reassure our people that they could be protected, and part of that protection would restoration of law and order in the area is for justice to be applied to those who violated the law...

Civilian groups arming themselves - we have a big problem in this country, I saw this in the early 1970s when as a Battalion Commander was redeployed from Cavite to Lanao del Norte because the civilians took the law into their hands - the Ilaga and the Barrakuda killing each other, we do not want a repeat of that.. that could happen if the government fails to project that is can restore peace and order and protect the civilians.

If the Solicitor General had been accurately quoted as saying there is a need for a renegotiation, that in effect is an admission that the MOA was unacceptable in the first place, and that this MOA is going to be withdrawn, I think this is a realization on the part of the Executive that the MOA as it is is unacceptable, even some justices are saying that the MOA is illegal... many of the provisions of the MOA are contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, this had convinced the Exec Department to go to the next option which is a renegotiation. Sensitive naman mga opisyal sa public clamor... if only there was a reference to Constitution and Constitutional processes in the MOA, hindi aabot sa ganito ito.. that was even exacerbated when the MILF issued a statement to the public that what was still to be signed is already a done deal.. when the MILF also said that the role of the Supreme Court in issuing a TRO against the signing of the government they said this is just an internal problem to the government... meaning in their minds, the Constitution is not a reference to whatever they are asking for. We can not go against the Constitution.

We need to continue to pursue the peace process however difficult it is we can not abandon the peace process because the alternative to peace is too destructive and costly to all, so I am recommending a renegotiation and the reconstituting of the government peace panel.. the present composition does not lend to the credibility in the negotiations as far as the govt. is concerned.

The bounty will help bring the perpetrators to justice - Commander Bravo and Kato. Yun ang inaantay ng taong bayan, that these two and others committing terroristic acts will be brought to justice.

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