Sunday, December 31, 2006

US Military Considers Recruiting Foreigners

By Bryan Bender - The Boston Globe
Expedited citizenship would be an incentive.

Washington - The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks - including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer - according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.

The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year.

The proposal to induct more noncitizens, which is still largely on the drawing board, has to clear a number of hurdles. So far, the Pentagon has been quiet about specifics - including who would be eligible to join, where the recruiting stations would be, and what the minimum standards might involve, including English proficiency. In the meantime, the Pentagon and immigration authorities have expanded a program that accelerates citizenship for legal residents who volunteer for the military.

And since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of immigrants in uniform who have become US citizens has increased from 750 in 2001 to almost 4,600 last year, according to military statistics.

With severe manpower strains because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - and a mandate to expand the overall size of the military - the Pentagon is under pressure to consider a variety of proposals involving foreign recruits, according to a military affairs analyst.

"It works as a military idea and it works in the context of American immigration," said Thomas Donnelly , a military scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington and a leading proponent of recruiting more foreigners to serve in the military.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on, the Pentagon has warned Congress and the White House that the military is stretched "to the breaking point."

Both President Bush and Robert M. Gates, his new defense secretary, have acknowledged that the total size of the military must be expanded to help alleviate the strain on ground troops, many of whom have been deployed repeatedly in combat theaters.

Bush said last week that he has ordered Gates to come up with a plan for the first significant increase in ground forces since the end of the Cold War. Democrats who are preparing to take control of Congress, meanwhile, promise to make increasing the size of the military one of their top legislative priorities in 2007.

"With today's demands placing such a high strain on our service members, it becomes more crucial than ever that we work to alleviate their burden," said Representative Ike Skelton , a Missouri Democrat who is set to chair the House Armed Services Committee, and who has been calling for a larger Army for more than a decade.

But it would take years and billions of dollars to recruit, train, and equip the 30,000 troops and 5,000 Marines the Pentagon says it needs. And military recruiters, fighting the perception that signing up means a ticket to Baghdad, have had to rely on financial incentives and lower standards to meet their quotas.

That has led Pentagon officials to consider casting a wider net for noncitizens who are already here, said Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty , an Army spokesman.

Already, the Army and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security have "made it easier for green-card holders who do enlist to get their citizenship," Hilferty said.

Other Army officials, who asked not to be identified, said personnel officials are working with Congress and other parts of the government to test the feasibility of going beyond US borders to recruit soldiers and Marines.

Currently, Pentagon policy stipulates that only immigrants legally residing in the United States are eligible to enlist. There are currently about 30,000 noncitizens who serve in the US armed forces, making up about 2 percent of the active-duty force, according to statistics from the military and the Council on Foreign Relations. About 100 noncitizens have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A recent change in US law, however, gave the Pentagon authority to bring immigrants to the United States if it determines it is vital to national security. So far, the Pentagon has not taken advantage of it, but the calls are growing to take use the new authority.

Indeed, some top military thinkers believe the United States should go as far as targeting foreigners in their native countries.

"It's a little dramatic," said Michael O'Hanlon , a military specialist at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution and another supporter of the proposal. "But if you don't get some new idea how to do this, we will not be able to achieve an increase" in the size of the armed forces.

"We have already done the standard things to recruit new soldiers, including using more recruiters and new advertising campaigns," O'Hanlon added.

O'Hanlon and others noted that the country has relied before on sizable numbers of noncitizens to serve in the military - in the Revolutionary War, for example, German and French soldiers served alongside the colonists, and locals were recruited into US ranks to fight insurgents in the Philippines.

Other nations have recruited foreign citizens: In France, the famed Foreign Legion relies on about 8,000 noncitizens; Nepalese soldiers called Gurkhas have fought and died with British Army forces for two centuries; and the Swiss Guard, which protects the Vatican, consists of troops who hail from many nations.

"It is not without historical precedent," said Donnelly, author of a recent book titled "The Army We Need," which advocates for a larger military.

Still, to some military officials and civil rights groups, relying on large number of foreigners to serve in the military is offensive.

The Hispanic rights advocacy group National Council of La Raza has said the plan sends the wrong message that Americans themselves are not willing to sacrifice to defend their country. Officials have also raised concerns that immigrants would be disproportionately sent to the front lines as "cannon fodder" in any conflict.

Some within the Army privately express concern that a big push to recruit noncitizens would smack of "the decline of the American empire," as one Army official who asked not to be identified put it.

Officially, the military remains confident that it can meet recruiting goals - no matter how large the military is increased - without having to rely on foreigners.

"The Army can grow to whatever size the nation wants us to grow to," Hilferty said. "National defense is a national challenge, not the Army's challenge."

He pointed out that just 15 years ago, during the Gulf War, the Army had a total of about 730,000 active-duty soldiers, amounting to about one American in 350 who were serving in the active-duty Army.

"Today, with 300 million Americans and about 500,000 active-duty soldiers, only about one American in 600 is an active-duty soldier," he said. "America did then, and we do now, have an all-volunteer force, and I see no reason why America couldn't increase the number of Americans serving."

But Max Boot, a national security specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the number of noncitizens the armed forces have now is relatively small by historical standards.

"In the 19th century, when the foreign-born population of the United States was much higher, so was the percentage of foreigners serving in the military," Boot wrote in 2005.

"During the Civil War, at least 20 percent of Union soldiers were immigrants, and many of them had just stepped off the boat before donning a blue uniform. There were even entire units, like the 15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry [the Scandinavian Regiment] and General Louis Blenker's German Division, where English was hardly spoken."

"The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come," Boot added.

"No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period, in return for one of the world's most precious commodities - US citizenship. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Comelec should lease, not buy, poll computers

POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star

COMPUTERIZE?: They are still quarreling over that eternal plan of "computerizing" elections. Some senators, election officials and a motley group are locked in endless debate over the wisdom and feasibility of "automating" the process.

One group says we should rush the proposed automation – estimated to cost at least a billion pesos for the first stage – while another says that it is too late for the May 2007 elections.

Pero teka muna, will there be elections next year? With MalacaƱang setting aside P4 billion just to import rice next year, you can bet there will be elections as scheduled.

I write "computerizing" and "automating" in quotation marks, because I do not know exactly what their proponents and the kibitzers have in mind.

I don’t know if one term refers to computerizing the collection of the commission from the purchase of equipment and supplies, or if the other term refers to automating the cheating in the casting, counting and canvassing of the votes. * * *
FAST & FRAUD-FREE: But as this is still the Yule season, let us grant good faith and assume that they mean using computers and such electronic gear in minimizing human intervention, usually of the criminal kind, in elections.

The honorable objective, we shall grant, is to speed up the electoral process and reduce to near-zero the chronic cheating at the polls.

With that assumption, we can continue talking and dreaming of finally automating Philippine elections. * * *
WHY NOT LEASE?: Without meaning to throw cold water on the merchants of computerization, let me say right off that the Commission on Elections should NOT BUY computerized or automated equipment for conducting elections.

Instead, the Comelec should be mandated by law to just lease or rent equipment.

This is not because of the sad experience we have had with the Comelec buying P1.2-billion worth of automated counting machines in a transaction that was found to be legally flawed and therefore void from the beginning.

My suggestion of leasing instead of buying equipment stems mainly from practical considerations. * * *
OBSOLESCENCE: First point is that computers and such electronic machines are rendered obsolete in comparatively short time. That is intentional.

We hold elections every three years. The computers or voting/counting machines for 2007 (if we do buy and use them) would be too old by the time the next elections would come around three years later.

During the three-year interval, the machines would just lie idle in warehouses that require a certain ambient temperature and humidity, plus a dust-free atmosphere, that make storage alone very costly.

By the time they are taken out, dusted off, retested, and shipped to various points in the archipelago for the next elections, they may not be in top condition to ensure error-free operation in inhospitable field conditions.

On the other hand, leasing ensures that the equipment in use is always updated, the latest models, and covered by new warranties. * * *
NEWEST MODEL: So why buy massive quantities of equipment lock, stock and barrel and get stuck with them?

It is better to keep the suppliers upgrading their hardware and software in-between elections – and to offer the new models for lease when the next election is scheduled.

That way, the Comelec would always be using the upgraded or completely redesigned versions of election equipment. Electronic cheaters would be panting for breath trying to catch up.

There would be constructive competition among suppliers offering for lease their newest equipment. Foreign suppliers of election machines would find the Philippines more interesting.

Computers and their peripherals are notorious for their fast rate of obsolescence. Even for home use, this is one point to consider when buying computers and related equipment.

By leasing, the government will not have the problem of warehousing idle equipment that is near-obsolete by the time it is unpacked for reuse. * * *
COST FACTORS: All cost factors considered, I would not be surprised if leasing comes out cheaper in the long run than outright purchase of computerized election hardware and software.

Even from the point of view of the crooks or "commissioners" in government, leasing may prove to be more lucrative since suppliers would continue to deal as they anticipate the next round of transaction.

If a supplier sells the Comelec one entire set of voting machines one time, that’s it for many years. The machines are supposed to be good for more than one election.

After a purchase, crooks could make more money only if they made repeat or additional orders for more of the same machines for expanded election coverage or to replace broken units. This is aside from commissions from additional supplies. * * *
DOWNSIDE: One downside of leasing is the possible need for retraining election personnel and educating voters every time we change equipment.

But the specifications could be so laid out that minimal transition training would be needed for the new models. The law, or the Comelec terms of reference, could preclude a total and abrupt change of technology when leasing new equipment.

As for education expenses, for simplicity, the method and the cost of training could be built into the leasing contract.

Worse scenario: Failing to find upgraded equipment for the next round of elections, the Comelec could opt to lease the same machines used in the previous election, but with new warranties. This would reduce the training and education requirement.

RP’s Silicon Valley in the works

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has approved an ordinance which will pave the way for the rise of the Philippines’ version of the famous Silicon Valley in the United States that will be replicated beside the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Council Majority leader Ariel Inton said Belmonte signed last Dec. 21 an ordinance adjusting the zoning classification of a portion of UP to pave the way for the project, to be known as UP North Science and Technology Park.

The UP North and S&T Park is envisioned to be developed into an environment conducive entrepreneurial ventures of the high technology kind such as those engage in telecommunications, telematics, information technology and biotechnology.

The contract for the development of a new science and technology park at a UP-owned property along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman has been formally signed by UP and its partner, Ayala Land, Inc., for the development of the project which is expected to further reinforce the status of the university as a premier educational institution.

Target companies to locate in the park include firms in the high-technology fields like telecommunications, telematics and biotechnology and in the area of high value business process outsourcing such as accounting, animation, software development, design and engineering services.

Belmonte is optimistic that the project would further strengthen the thrust of the city government toward becoming the country’s information and communication technology capital.

To date, Quezon City enjoy the biggest concentration of ICT businesses and special economic zones in the country being home to more than 60 business process outsourcing companies, including Convergys, eTelecare International, Teletech, Sykes Philippines, Accenture and Globalstride, Sitel Corp., Call Asia, Epixtar International, among others.

"The project promises to be a magnet for fast-evolving high technology companies that would prove essential for the creation of a strong business and employment center in QC enough to provide more employment opportunities for its residents," Belmonte said.

Thirty-seven hectares of UP’s Commonwealth property have been identified as the initial area for the project.

"This is the best possible use for our idle assets. It will expand out academic prerogatives, and help us to fulfill our mandate of being truly a national university, serving the interests of the nation," said UP president Emerlinda Roman during a recent ceremonial contract signing held at the UP Executive House.

The idea of a technology park attached to a university is not new. World-class universities have been setting up science & technology parks adjacent to their campuses as a venue for industry and academe collaboration.

Aside from Stanford University’s Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California, there are S&T parks in Bangalore and Hyderabad attached to the Indian Institute of Science and the International Indian Institute of Information Technology, respectively; the Tsukuba Science City at the University of Tsukuba in Japan; the Haidan Science Park at the University of Beijing in China and MIT’s Route 128 in Massachusetts. — Perseus Echeminada The Philippine Star

Mga bawal na paputok tinukoy ng PNP

Tinukoy kahapon ng Philippine National Police (PNP) ang mga ipinagbabawal na paputok na nakamamatay at nakapipinsala ng mga ari-arian.

Ito’y matapos na maalarma ang PNP sa report ng Department of Health (DOH) na umaabot na sa 126 ang naging biktima ng paputok na halos dumoble kumpara noong 2005 na aabot lamang sa 64 biktima.

Sa 126 biktima, isa na ang namatay dahil sa watusi at 8 naman ang may tama ng ligaw na bala habang ang iba ay sanhi ng firecrackers at pyrothecnics.

Kabilang sa mga ipinagbabawal na paputok ang pla-pla, trianggulo, atomic triangle, judas belt, super lolo, bawang, baby rocket, kwitis, trompillo at mga paputok na sobra sa 2 gramo ang lamang powder dahil malakas at lubhang mapaminsala.

Ipinaliwanag naman ni PNP-FED Director Chief Supt. Florecio Caccam na mahina man o malakas ang paputok kung hindi tama ang paghawak ay mapanganib.

At para maiwasan ang aksidente ay makabubuting gumamit na lamang ng torotot sa Bagong Taon. (Joy Cantos - Ang Pilipino STAR Ngayon )

‘Boga’ killing ’cracker industry

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga — It isn’t just imported firecrackers that are easing out locally made fireworks from the market. An improvised cannon made from PVC pipes and fueled by denatured alcohol is coming in with a bang.

Local fireworks manufacturers in Bulacan are suffering from low sales due to the entry of the latest noisemaker, the locally made boga, an improvised pipe cannon.

The boga is raking in more cash than even smuggled firecrackers, just like the piccolo, the sales of which are also killing the local fireworks industry.

An official of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers and Dealers Association Inc. (PPMDAI) said the new craze is gobbling up sales because of its tremendous popularity.

"When I saw it last year, I knew that this PVC-pipe cannon would be a smash hit this year and would give local manufacturers a run for their money," an industry source said.

Since the materials needed to mass-produce the boga are available locally, business-minded individuals suddenly hit a "gold-mine" because the locally made PVC-pipe cannon sells for P300 to P500 and is reusable.

The source said the entry of the boga into the market this Yuletide season has also perked up the sales of denatured alcohol — the main chemical needed to produce the "explosive bang" — and the igniters used for gas stoves, which is what triggers the explosion generated by the cannon.

However, local fireworks makers still believe that the sale of locally-made firecrackers will pick up before New Year’s Eve.
By Ric Sapnu - The Philippine Star

Big quake jams Internet

HONG KONG - A strong earthquake in Taiwan has damaged several undersea cables in the region, jamming up the Internet and telecoms systems across much of East Asia, regional operators said yesterday.

The disruption was widespread, hitting services in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, with knock-on effects elsewhere, they said.

“Due to the earthquake that hit Taiwan (late Tuesday), several undersea data cables were damaged,” said a spokesman for PCCW, Hong Kong’s biggest telecoms company.

“Data traffic to Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the United States is affected,” he said, adding that the company was diverting data and monitoring repairs.

The spokesman said data capacity has been reduced to 50 percent and that there had been an upsurge in attempts to gain access to the Internet as people were trying to get information about the quake.

He cautioned that some Internet users in the region could experience congestion over the next several days.

Major telecom operators in Japan said damaged cables had jammed up phone lines and slowed down the Internet there.

NTT Communications, the internet and long-distance call business of Japan’s largest telecom firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., said some 1,400 toll-free phone lines as well as 84 international lines used internally by companies were affected.

A major 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan on Tuesday, leaving two people dead and at least 42 injured. AFP

‘More harm than good in hi-tech polls’

By Rio N. Araja - Manila Standard Today

AN ELECTION lawyer yesterday urged the House of Representatives to junk a bill seeking to automate the forthcoming elections, saying the measure would do more harm than good to the Commission on Elections.

Romulo Macalintal also appealed to Senator Richard Gordon to restrain from pushing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo into signing the law. “Unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation in 2007 is recalled or scrapped by Congress, Senator Richard Gordon should not insist that the President sign into law the alleged Congress-approved legislation seeking to automate our country’s election system.”

Earlier, Macalintal, Pete Quirino Quadra and Sixto Brilantes backed the Comelec stand for a postponement of the poll automation in 12 pilot areas in the May 2007 elections due to lack of time.

Macalintal said Gordon must stop accusing the President of being “insincere” if she would not sign the proposed bill.

“On the contrary, the President would do a great service to the nation and to our political system if she does not sign the said proposed legislation unless the provision calling for a partial poll automation is set aside or recalled since it is very impractical to implement the same in 2007”, he said.

Even if the President signs the proposed legislation on Jan. 1, it could only be effective after 15 days from its publication as provided in its effectivity clause.

“If it is published on Jan. 2, then it becomes effective Jan. 17. But while it is already effective, it cannot be implemented without Comelec’s implementing rules and regulations. And if Comelec finished its IRRs say on Jan. 20, the same has to be published in two newspapers of general circulation to take effect only after seven days from such publication, or on Jan. 27. This would greatly affect, if not cause confusion, the filing of certificates of candidacy [COCs] for senators and local elective officials.”

He said the deadline for filing the certificates of candidacy for senators and the party-lists is on Feb. 12, those seeking congressional and local seats must file on March 29.

He said with very little time, Comelec has yet to amend its rules on the filing of the certificates of candidacy considering that the rules were adopted for manual election only.

For purposes of automated election, the certificates of candidacy must be filed earlier since under the proposed legislation, the positions and full names and nicknames of the candidates shall be printed on the ballots, according to Macalintal.

He said the positions are printed without the names of the candidates on the ballots for the manual elections.

“Thus, even on the issue of mere filing of the COCs for senator and affected local elective officials, Comelec would surely run out of time to amend its rules on the filing of COCs and advise political parties and candidates of any change of deadline in filing the same,” he raised.

He also said several provisions of the proposed automated election law are impractical.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ship Builder’s Song

Ship Builder’s Song (Yellow Submarine)

In a place, called Subic Bay
Where ship builders, are the best!
A company, that builds big ships
Made the welders, busy as bees
Its called Hanjin, and its bigtime
It made our future, sunny and bright

Chorus (2X)
We all work here
To build the biggest ships - 3x

Work start early, the day is long
Metals are heavy, welders a plenty
We can do the toughest jobs
Safety and quality, are first in our minds


To the world, we want to say . . .
The world’s best welders,
Are here to stay!

YELL: O-L-O-N-G-A-P-O Olongapo (2x)
Olongapo City . . . Mabuhay

RP seeks $1-B loan for shipping sector

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
The Philippine Star

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will ask for an additional $1 billion funding from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for the modernization of the domestic shipping industry, a top economic official said.

"We are trying to see how committed JBIC is," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA director general Romulo Neri said yesterday in an interview.

He explained that the proposed funding is over and above the 27th yen loan package extended by JBIC to the Philippines.

The country has the potential to become a maritime power in the Southern Asian region provided government going mileage in its efforts to modernize the industry.

Neri said the countrycould be a major player in the industry due to the presence of big shipyards in Cebu and Subic.

The NEDA head had proposed jumpstarting the industry by buying ships in Japan and then leasing them to local players.

The Japanese government is supposed to lend a separate $1-billion package to the Philippines for the modernization of its maritime industry. However, the Japanese benefactors were reportedly displeased with the way the initial loan tranche for the improvement of the nautical highway were being disbursed.

Neri said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was disappointed with the way the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) handled the initial P10-billion loan released in 1999.

"The loans are not moving," Neri said referring to the money loaned through the Domestic Shipping Modernization Program I that DBP handled.

JICA said the term loan under DBP required an 80-percent loan value and 50-percent chattel mortgage collateral value of the vessel which became a big burden for private shipping companies to avail.

"The program was unable to achieve its objectives," JICA said.

To address this problem, JICA had proposed that the local government create the National Maritime Leasing Corp. (NMLC). Now, instead of DBP handling the shipping modernization program, the NMLC will be in charge of financing acquisition of modern vessels to be leased to qualified operators under the Finance Lease Program.

Automated poll system offered for free in ’07 polls

The Philippine Star

The automated election system "Botong Pinoy," which was developed by a Filipino company, can be used for free by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the 2007 elections.

Botong Pinoy is one of five election systems that the government is evaluating for piloting in next year’s elections.

Probably the only election system provider supplying a complete end-to-end solution, from registration, voting, counting to transmission, tabulation, and even recounting, Mega Data said Botong Pinoy does not require a unique computer system that can only be used for elections.

Instead, it uses standard personal computers such as those usually found in schools or businesses and government offices.

Every three years, the Comelec will only need to borrow the standard computers installed in schools, where the elections are held anyway, for the one or two days needed to conduct the local or national elections, Mega Data said.

It said the Department of Education can install computers in all schools to help educate students, and the country can have fully computerized elections for free, since Botong Pinoy is being made available to the Comelec at no charge in the 2007 and 2010 elections.

The system offers no storage problems after the elections, no transportation problems and the government gets full use of its investment in computers for schools, it added.

Asked why Mega Data was allowing use of Botong Pinoy for free, Rafael Garcia IV, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mega Data Corp., said, "We are doing it because we love the Philippines. Is there anything wrong with that?"

Mega Data is the company behind the five-minute clearance renewal system of the National Bureau of Investigation since 1977, and the two-minute driver’s license renewal system of the Land Transportation Office since 1984.

Both systems have brought these two important basic services of the government directly to the people with installations nationwide.

BCDA urged to restore investor confidence

The Philippine Star

The private sector developer of the Poro Point seaport and bulk terminal in San Fernando, La Union has urged the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) to "take active steps to restore lost investor confidence in the government and the BCDA" in the aftermath of the violent failed takeover of the facility in August this year.

The Poro Point Industrial Corp. (PPIC) expressed concern that BCDA officials "could be under the illusion that the violence which marred the failed takeover bid did not dent investor confidence in the government".

It will be recalled that armed groups assaulted the Poro Point seaport last Aug. 5 in a bid to remove the PPIC from the management of the facility. According to BCDA president Narciso Abaya, he ordered the takeover after Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) against PPIC.

Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Joel Salvador, however, denied authorizing Abaya to enforce the DENR CDO. "It is absolutely without our approval and consent," Salvador said in a press statement.

Various foreign chambers of commerce decried Abaya’s move against the Poro Point developer. Robert Sears of the American Chamber of Commerce described the incident as a "flip flop on policy issues." Henry Schumacher of the European Chamber of Commerce said "conflict like this could be an indication that the government does not have the ability to honor its contract."

Michael Wooton, chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines said the Poro Point incident "could be another case of PIATCO which is not good for foreign investors".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Family reunites and finds closure

By Alison Damast
Staff Writer Southern Connecticut Newspapers
"I am at peace because I know where he is, even if he is at the bottom of the Subic Bay in the Philippines,"

Maj. Karol Anthony Bauer sent a letter to his wife's sister in Darien in June 1941, asking her to buy a bouquet of roses with the $10 he enclosed for his wife, Marjorie, who had just sailed for the United States from the Philippines.

"Please buy Marjorie some roses for me because it will be our anniversary soon and please take Nancy off Marjorie's hands for a few days because I know what a handful she is," he wrote.

It was one of the last correspondences Marjorie and Nancy, then 5, received from Bauer, who was serving with the 45th Infantry Regiment, the Philippine Scouts.

Bauer grew up on a dairy farm in Hammondsport, N.Y, and was the second-oldest of nine children.

He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 1936, where he met his wife, Marjorie, at a school dance.

"He loved to dance, and he had a great sense of humor," said his daughter, Nancy Earnest, now 68. "He carried me around and spoiled me rotten."

Karol and Marjorie married in June 1937 and had Nancy soon afterward.

The family followed Bauer from his first permanent assignment with the 26th Infantry Regiment in Plattsburgh, N.Y., to the Philippines, where he was assigned to the 45th Infantry Philippine Scouts.

He was an eager officer described as a motivated "doughboy" by his fellow West Point graduates.

After the Battle of Bataan ended in the Philippines in April 1942, Bauer and the rest of his outfit were taken prisoner by the Japanese.

They were part of a group of 16,000 Americans and 54,000 Filipinos who became POWs and participated in the Bataan Death March, a brutal event in which the starving men marched north up a highway to a prison camp in the sweltering heat.

The U.S. prisoners, including Bauer, were moved to a prison camp near a city called Cabanatuan.

It's a part of history many people are unfamiliar with, said Chris Schaefer, a spokesman for the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, a group that honors the men who served in the Philippines during World War II.

"It is an era of history that doesn't get as much attention as it probably deserves," Schaefer said. "People are very aware of Pearl Harbor for the most part but most people are not aware that the U.S. was attacked in the Philippines on the same day."

Bauer is described in a passage of the 1984 book "Some Survived" by Manny Lawton, an U.S. Army captain who wrote an eyewitness account of the death march.

Lawton encountered him in Cabanatuan and the men exchanged greetings and talked about the toll the war had taken on them.

"Bauer didn't much resemble the short wiry, neat officer with crew-cut black hair I remembered," Lawton wrote in the book. "Before me now stood a weak gaunt ghost of the West Pointer of only a few months earlier. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes deep set, but his warm smile was still with him."

Bauer, then 31, was one of 1,619 POWs transferred from the camps to a Japanese prison ship, the Oryoku Maru, on Dec. 13, 1944.

The men were subjected to brutal conditions on the ship and were crowded together, deprived of food and beaten by the Japanese.

Roll call was taken each day on the ship and Bauer was not listed as present on Dec. 15, right before the ship sank.

The ship was not marked with Red Cross emblems, and U.S. dive-bombers did not realize the vessel held 1,619 troops.

Back home, Bauer's wife and family received word he died as a POW in the Philippines. A member of the Army came to the family farm and delivered a flag to his mother, Caroline, along with the news her son had died.

"She went into such deep grieving over him that she would not say anything about him after that," said Antoinette McIntyre of Darien, formerly Antoinette Bauer, Karol's youngest sister and the only one of the eight Bauer siblings still alive.

The news also reached Marjorie, living in New York City with her daughter at the time.

"They were very much in love," Nancy Earnest said. "She was devastated by his death. As she grew older, it became harder and harder for her to talk about."

McIntyre, 80, a Darien resident, only recently learned how her brother died.

She knew he was a POW on a prisoner ship during World War II, but was unaware until several years ago he had been on the Oryoku Maru, she said.

Her son, Creighton Demarest, researched his uncle's history and discovered he had been on that vessel, known by historians as a Japanese "hell ship."

"I am at peace because I know where he is, even if he is at the bottom of the Subic Bay in the Philippines," McIntyre said. "Somehow, knowing where he had perished made me feel a little better. It put a closure to it for me at that point."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Senate passes on final reading P1.126-trillion budget for 2007

The Senate passed on third and final reading last night the P1.126 trillion budget for next year.

With a vote of 16-0 with no abstentions, the Senate approved the 2007 General Appropriations Act after more than two months of deliberation.

"This is the first time that the budget was approved on Dec. 4 for the last 11 or 12 years that I’ve been here," Sen. Franklin Drilon said.

In the Senate version, the programmed appropriations stood at P573.9 billion.

The approved unprogrammed fund was P8.4 billion less than what the House of Representatives approved in its version of the 2007 budget.

Drilon, Senate committee on finance chairman, admitted that the Senate’s slashing of the House-approved programmed funds would be the main point of contention during the bicameral conference committee debate, which is expected to start within the week.

The Senate argued that the House committed an illegal act when it realigned around P8 billion in allocations for interest payments on foreign debt with the programmed appropriations for infrastructure programs.

According to the House, its assumptions were based on the stronger peso and stock market.

In the case of the unprogrammed funds, the Senate approved a total of P46.4 billion, representing a reduction of P20.59 billion from the House version.

Drilon said the reduction primarily consisted of "one-lined" items amounting to a total of P30.5 billion for social and infrastructure projects.

Another P5.9 billion under the unprogrammed funds for the payment of the government’s obligation to the Chinese contractor in the North Rail project was also deleted by the Senate.

Drilon pointed out that in essence, the budget, as proposed by the President, was retained by the Senate except for some amendments.

In the case of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the Senate adopted the recommendation of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to reduce its budget from P84.19 million to P1.

Enrile has long been a critic of PCGG, a fact that became more evident particularly during the Senate hearings on the losses of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. and its related companies.

The Supreme Court also suffered a P1.45 billion cut in its budget, largely on Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s demand.

Santiago, still fuming over her non-inclusion in the short-list of nominees for the post of chief justice submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council to the President, demanded that the SC’s budget be reverted back to its 2005 level.

Under the President’s budget, the SC and lower courts were given a total of P8.15 billion while under the 2005 budget, the figure amounted to only P6.7 billion.

The JBC is chaired by Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and Santiago blamed him for her non-inclusion in the short-list of nominees.

The Senate also adopted a motion by Santiago to reduce the budget of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACom) to P100.

In 2005, Santiago recommended a budget of P1 for the VFACom, which she wanted abolished. She said VFACom’s function was a mere duplication of the functions of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA.

Drilon also noted that Senators Panfilo Lacson and Alfredo Lim, both Manila mayoralty candidates, have decided to waive their share in the priority development assistance fund or pork barrel. Each senator receives a total of P200 million in PDAF.

Drilon said he would try to schedule the bicameral conference committee hearings within the week.

He said that he expects the bicameral conference committee to finish its debates within two weeks or just before Congress adjourns.