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May 28, 2014

News Briefs May 28, 2014

Philippines insists U.S. military accord is legal

The Philippine government insisted May 27 that its new accord letting the U.S. expand its military presence in the country is legal and is confident the agreement will withstand constitutional challenges.

Two court petitions argue that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement violates the constitutional ban on foreign military bases because it allows U.S. forces to establish facilities inside Philippine bases where the Americans can preposition troops and materiel indefinitely.

The accord follows the announced U.S. pivot to Asia where China is displaying increasing aggressiveness in its territorial conflict with its neighbors in the South China Sea, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Philippine military is one of the most poorly equipped in Asia, but armed forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the agreement would help establish a credible deterrence against China.

Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Charles Jose said the executive stands by the constitutionality of the agreement and that it was crafted in accordance with Philippine law.

Defense Department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the government was confident it could defend the EDCA at the Supreme Court. We reiterate that the whole negotiations were under the purview of the constitution, within the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, he said.

President Benigno Aquino III said he expected some would question the agreement, and the petitioners were the ones expected to file. AP

Blinded soldier, widow sue former Gitmo prisoner

An American soldier blinded in Afghanistan and the widow of another soldier killed there are suing a Canadian citizen who was held at Guantanamo Bay and pleaded guilty to committing five war crimes when he was 15.

Layne Morris of Utah and Tabitha Speer of North Carolina filed their $44.7 million lawsuit in federal court in Utah May 23.

The lawsuit cites a plea deal Omar Khadr signed in 2010 that he committed the crimes, including the killing of U.S. soldier Christopher Speer. Khadr is now in Canada, serving the remainder of his sentence.

Khadr is suing the Canadian government for $20 million, alleging wrongful imprisonment.

Khadr’s attorney has said the facts of the plea deal are false and Khadr signed it so he could return to Canada. AP

Contracting officer’s new job raises questions

A new private-sector job for a former Air Force official has raised questions about a multibillion-dollar contract for military rocket launches.

Roger Scott Correll was a key figure in the Air Force’s decision to award the massive contract to a joint venture controlled by the nation’s two biggest weapons contractors – Chicago-based Boeing and Bethesda, Md.,-based Lockheed Martin.

Now Correll has taken a job as vice president of the company that supplies the rocket engines under the contract.

A would-be competitor, Elon Musk, CEO of the company SpaceX, is crying foul. Musk sent a series of tweets May 22 calling attention to Correll’s new job and questioning its timing.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, the company that hired Correll, says the hiring was reviewed and cleared by the Air Force. AP




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