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Philippines Naval Officer Fired For Causing Flap With Malaysia

September 19, 1988

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ A navy commodore who caused a diplomatic flap by claiming Malaysia had annexed six Philippine islands was fired Monday after officials said he misread a navigational chart.

A statement by the armed forces also said a colonel was relieved of command in the central Visayas region after telling reporters that 1,000 Roman Catholic priests and nuns in his area were communist sympathizers.

Commodore Juanito Cortez, commander of naval district 6, was fired for ″insubordination″ after he reportedly told visiting congressmen that Malaysia had effectively annexed six southern Philippine islands, the statement said.

The lawmakers said Cortez based his claim on what he said was a Malaysian map showing the six islands in the Turtle Island chain in Malaysian territory.

Cortez’s remark prompted charges by Filipino legislators that Malaysia was encroaching on its territory. But last week, the chief of staff, Gen. Renato de Villa, said the ″boundary″ shown on the map was actually a recommended navigational direction and not an international border.

Leticia Shahani, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a public apology on Friday after she denounced the alleged incursions by Malaysia based on Cortez’s statements.

″The inquiry showed Cortez violated...the concept of chain of command by failing to convey through proper channels such information of national and international importance that would be acted upon by higher authorities before disclosing it,″ the military statement said.

In Cebu, the deputy commander of the Visayas Command, Col. Apolinario Castano, was stripped of his command for issuing statements about priests and nuns in the rebel movement that had ″no basis in official records,″ the military said. Castano’s claim of up to 1,000 rebel sympathizers in the clergy led to denuniciations by the Roman Catholic leadership.

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