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Archive for March 2007

Suspected robber kills soldier in Metro deployment

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 09:27pm (Mla time) 03/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines – A soldier involved in the military’s community service projects in Metro Manila communities died after a suspected robber shot him in Manila’s Tondo district late Saturday afternoon, an official said.

Staff Sergeant Rowell Papaan was apprehending a suspected thief along Road 10 in the Del Pan area at around 4 p.m. when the suspect’s accomplice, who was riding a motorcycle, shot him, said Captain Eugenio Julio Osias, group commander of the military’s Civil Relations Service (CRS).

Both suspects then escaped.

Papaan was apparently unaware that a second suspect was in the vicinity, Osias said in a phone interview.

The soldier suffered a single gunshot wound in the back. Fellow soldiers brought him to the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

“He [Papaan] was doing it as a citizen’s arrest,” Osias said.

The incident came hours after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lauded soldiers for the “good job” that they were doing in Metro Manila.

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Written by joelguinto

Sat+00:002007-03-31T13:45:14+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Sat, 31 Mar 2007 13:45:14 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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Troops ‘see Red’ in dot on woman’s face

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:27pm (Mla time) 03/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — A Tondo resident almost found herself in hot water because of an ink spot on her face.

The 42-year-old woman, who declined to give her name, said she got the small black dot on her face from a pen while playing with her nieces recently.

After this, the woman said, several soldiers, on separate occasions, asked her: “Why do you have that marking on your face?”

But she said they asked no further questions when she explained it was just ink.

“I didn’t know what the dot meant. I told them that we were just playing, my nieces put this on my face,” she said, a faint trace of ink spot still visible on her face when she talked to reporters covering a medical mission of the Armed Forces National Capital Region (NCRCom) in the Parola Compound on Saturday.

In the 1980s, when communist hit squads, more popularly known as Sparrow units, struck regularly in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country, state security forces came out with the theory that the rebel assassins could be identified by dots tattooed on their faces, with the location of the dots designating a certain rank.

Despite her near run-in, the woman said she welcomed the deployment of the soldiers to her community.

“It’s quiet here now. There are no more snatchers and addicts,” she said.

Another elderly woman, who also asked not to be named, agreed, saying: “The soldiers have helped us a lot.”

The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have expressed concern over the deployment of troops to depressed Metro Manila communities.

Left-wing party list groups, which the military and government regularly label “fronts” of the communist rebel movement, have accused soldiers of campaigning against them.

The military has stood pat on the deployment, which it has admitted is part of its counterinsurgency campaign, despite recommendations by the CHR to pull the troops out.

Recently, Malacañang also suggested that the military consider a timeline for a troop pullout.

Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has said a “very likely timetable” for the pullout would be before the May 14 elections, when the military is expected to complete its community projects.

Since November 2006, the NCRCom has dispatched nine-man teams to 26 poor communities in Manila, Quezon City, and Caloocan City.

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Sat+00:002007-03-31T06:52:26+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Sat, 31 Mar 2007 06:52:26 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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‘Keep up good work,’ Arroyo tells deployed Metro troops

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:50pm (Mla time) 03/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Saturday gave what amounted to a stamp of approval for the controversial deployment of soldiers to depressed Metro Manila communities, the commander of the National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) said.

During a visit to troops at a detachment at the Baseco compound in Manila’s Tondo district, Major General Ben Mohammad Dolorfino said the Arroyo told him: “Congratulations and keep up the good work.”

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Dolorfino said during their brief talk Arroyo made no mention of an earlier Palace suggestion to draw a timeline for the pullout of troops.

Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., and Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino accompanied the President on the visit.

Asked if he considered Arroyo’s visit a stamp of approval for the deployment, Dolorfino said: “Yes, that is the implication.”

After the President left, Ebdane, Esperon, and Tolentino inaugurated a public toilet that soldiers had built in nearby Isla Puting Bato.

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The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have expressed concern over the deployment while left-wing party list groups accused the soldiers of campaigning against them.

The military has stood pat on the deployment, which it admitted was part of its counterinsurgency campaign after initially giving various, often contradictory, reasons for sending the soldiers to the poor communities.

Last Thursday, Esperon said a “very likely timetable” for the troop pullout would before the May 14 elections since their community service projects would be finished by then.

Since November 2006, the NCRCom has dispatched nine-man teams to 26 poor communities in Manila, Quezon City, and Caloocan City.

Also on Saturday, Dolorfino led a medical mission and dialogue with residents at the Rosauro Almario Elementary School in the Parola compound also in Tondo. This is the same community where the children taken hostage Wednesday live.

In his speech, Dolorfino said the military aims to cripple the communist insurgency by helping government’s efforts to alleviate poverty through such projects as medical missions and the construction of schools and public toilets.

“Using military force is not enough. The real solution is at the root of the problem — poverty,” he said.

“What we are doing is to make the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] irrelevant. If there are no problems in the communities, they will die a natural death,” he said.

The NPA, which is waging one of the longest and most resilient communist insurgencies in the world, marked its 38th founding anniversary Thursday.

Taking a swipe at the rebels , Dolorfino said: “They are offering false hopes, empty promises. We are presenting an alternative while they are cursing the darkness.”

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(Photos courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Information Office)

Written by joelguinto

Sat+00:002007-03-31T06:21:40+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Sat, 31 Mar 2007 06:21:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Remoto launches House bid in QC with pink ribbon drive

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University professor up against Defensor, Pumaren

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 10:59am (Mla time) 03/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — University professor, author and gender rights activist Danton Remoto has launched a “tie a pink ribbon” drive as part of his bid to represent Quezon City in Congress and, according to him, become the first openly gay lawmaker in Asia.

On Saturday morning, Remoto and his supporters tied pink ribbons on trees and posts at the Quezon City Memorial Circle. The night before, they tied pink ribbons along Katipunan Avenue, on which the Ateneo de Manila University, where Remoto teaches English, is located.

Remoto will be running against incumbent Representative Matias Defensor and basketball coach Franz Pumaren.

“It will be a good fight. Two alpha males against a gay,” Remoto said jokingly.

“That is our strategy in district seven, the pink color,” Remoto told INQUIRER.net, pointing out that pink is his signature color.

“In Nazi Germany, pink was a symbol of protest; gays were sent to the gas chamber just because they are homosexuals. Now, pink has become a symbol of liberation,” he said.

Remoto said he would also be putting out campaign posters showing him in his signature color, with rainbow-colored butterflies fluttering above his shoulders.

Remoto is running for Congress following two rebuffs from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), first in his bid to have his gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender party-list Ang Ladlad (The Coming Out) accredited, and then being disqualified from running for senator.

In both instances, the Comelec said Remote could not mount a nationwide campaign. The poll body also said Ang Ladlad could present no proof of nationwide membership.

Remoto said his district is “divided between the middle class and the urban poor.”

District seven includes the upscale Loyola Heights, White Plains, and La Vista areas as well as the depressed communities of Pansol village and the Cubao district.

Remoto said his campaign will focus on the poor communities since he believes he has a strong following among the middle class, especially the students, who are feeling a “new hunger for change.”

If elected, Remoto said he would push for “good public education:” one textbook per student, an Internet-ready computer in every classroom, and teacher training.

He said he would also push for the construction of more health centers and a law banning discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.

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Written by joelguinto

Sat+00:002007-03-31T06:15:38+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Sat, 31 Mar 2007 06:15:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Malaysian terror suspect in Sulu, military chief confirms

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 11:15am (Mla time) 03/30/2007

PAGASA ISLAND, Kalayaan, Philippines — Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has confirmed that a Malaysian terror suspect who was recently placed in the United States wanted list is hiding with other al Qaeda-linked militants in Sulu province.

“Marwan. He is in Sulu, Zulkifli. I have heard of him before,” Esperon said in an interview with reporters here.

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Earlier this week, the State Department has put up a $5-million bounty for the capture of Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, whom it said was hiding in the country after having trained local extremists.

Esperon said there would be no let up in pursuit operations against extremist leaders in the southern island province, which had been ongoing for nearly eight months.

“Hindi naming sila lulubayan [We will not stop until we get these suspects],” he said.

Two other foreigners, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who are wanted for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people, are also believed to be hiding in Sulu with the Abu Sayyaf.

The US has put up a $10-million bounty for Dulmatin and $5 million for Patek, both alleged members of the Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian arm.

The Sulu pursuit operations, dubbed Oplan Ultimatum, have so far resulted in the deaths of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and his second-in-command, Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Sulaiman.

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Fri+00:002007-03-30T08:08:25+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 30 Mar 2007 08:08:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Believe it or not: Crime rate is zero in this RP isle

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 10:48am (Mla time) 03/30/2007

PAGASA ISLAND, Kalayaan, Philippines — Even as the number of policemen patrolling here has increased from one to three, the crime rate has remained at zero.

Police Officer 2 Allan Remojo said that since January 1, only an alarm and scandal incident had been entered on their blotter. This was on March 13 when one Rene Magbanua, 30, hit his wife, Armela, 26, after he got drunk. The wife did not press charges, he said.

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Another alarm and scandal incident was recorded in June 2006 when a man who was also drunk caused a commotion, said Remojo.

Alarm and scandal is not included in the Philippine National Police Crime Index.

“Nothing is happening here. The crime rate is zero,” Remojo told reporters.

“Everything is relaxed here,” said Senior Police Officer 1 Ramon Alaska, who recently joined Remojo in Pagasa. Remojo, Alaska, and a third policeman take turns in manning the police station housed in a nipa hut.

Asked if they missed running after thieves and other petty criminals, Remojo and Alaska only smiled. Both men were formerly assigned in Puerto Princesa City.

The 34-hectare Pagasa Island has a population of 245, but the number of people at one time could be as small as 30, as it was on Thursday when the military top brass visited, Alaska said.

Since the police station is only a few minutes walk from anywhere on the island, Alaska said they receive walk-in complainants and incidents are almost never reported by telephone.

The police station, however, is equipped with a radio and is hooked up to a satellite television service.

The Chief of Staff visits the island at least once a year. Every two months, a Navy ship docks to bring supplies such as fuel. It is only during those times that they get to read a newspaper, Alaska said.

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Fri+00:002007-03-30T08:06:40+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 30 Mar 2007 08:06:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Military releases P31M to repair air strip in Pagasa Island

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 10:03am (Mla time) 03/30/2007

PAGASA ISLAND, Kalayaan, Philippines — The military has released P31 million for the rehabilitation of the air strip here located in the disputed Spratlys chain in the South China Sea, which officials want to develop as a tourist spot.

The amount is enough only for the eastern portion of the air strip and additional funding is needed for the western part, Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said in an interview with reporters here.

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“We released funds already for the repair of the runway… The air strip itself needs improvement. We will see how we can source additional funds,” said Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Once he returns to Manila late Friday, Ebdane said he would “find a way” to secure funding for the project.

The rehabilitation of the eastern portion of the air strip will take between four and five months, said Major General Bob Regala of the Air Force Engineering Wing, whom Esperon had tasked to oversee the project.

Rear Admiral Tirso Danga, commander of the Armed Forces Western Command, said some investors have approached him about the idea of developing the island into a diving site for tourists.

“There are proposals from some entrepreneurs to develop resorts here to entice Filipinos [to visit]. [The development] is also part of national patrimony,” Danga said.

“We can have a diving resort here, fishing also. You can see the white sand beach is very beautiful,” Danga said, adding, “This [island] is ours. It’s ours. We might as well develop it.”

The reported oil-rich Spratlys are being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Edbane and Esperon were here Thursday to turn over a P13-million potable water machine, which the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) had donated.

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Fri+00:002007-03-30T08:04:54+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 30 Mar 2007 08:04:54 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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RP island in disputed Spratlys not hit by election fever

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 10:00am (Mla time) 03/30/2007

PAGASA ISLAND, Philippines — This tiny island in the disputed Spratlys, which has the smallest voting population in the country, has not caught the election fever that has gripped the rest of the nation.

Residents here don’t know the candidates in the senatorial race, except for reelectionists Panfilo Lacson and Manuel Villar, whose campaign advertisements they see on satellite television.

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There is also no trace of campaign posters or other paraphernalia in the island, which got its first water purifying machine only on Thursday.

When asked if they knew any senatorial candidate, “Wala po [None],” said husband and wife Rene Magbanua, 30, and Armela Magbanua, 26.

Rene is a foreman at the Kalayaan town hall construction on the island while Armela is a housewife. The couple moved here from Puerto Princesa City in 2004.

Elmar Sadang, 21, could rattle off two names: Ping, Lacson’s nickname, and Villar.

There are 245 registered voters in Kalayaan town, which includes Pagasa Island, the smallest voting population in the country, said municipal election officer Elizabeth Columna.

In 2004, the island had 236 registered voters and a voter turnout rate of 75 percent, Columna said.

Columna said she has asked the Commission on Elections in Manila to deputize the military to transport members of the Board of Election Inspectors and the Board of Canvassers here.

“We have to transport all our people from Puerto Princesa. How else would they get here?” Columna said.

Incumbent Kalayaan town Mayor Rosendo Mantes is seeking a third and last three-year term. He is up against ex-mayor Gil Policarpio and his Vice Mayor, Gerry Pelaez, Columna said.

Esperon said they would help election officers, if the Comelec orders it.

“Why would we deny them the military’s resources? As long as there is a Comelec resolution,” he said.

Due to allegations of massive cheating in 2004, the Comelec and the Department of National Defense entered into a memorandum of agreement in October 2006, limiting the role of soldiers during elections to responding to serious armed threats.

Esperon said the Comelec has so far not asked for soldiers to be deployed to election hot spots.

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Fri+00:002007-03-30T08:03:06+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 30 Mar 2007 08:03:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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PHOTOS: Military top brass in Pagasa Island

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SPREADING HIS WINGS. Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. marvels at the sights in Pagasa Island

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A bird’s eye shot of Pagasa island taken from a Philippine Air Force C130 cargo plane (courtesy of AFP-PIO)

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A dog is the only soul inside the Kalayaan municipal function hall in Pagasa Island, whose population drops from over 200 to 30 when fish catch is scarce

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The military is spending P31 million for the rehabilitation of this air strip.

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IRONY. Graffiti provides a stark contrast to the crystal clear waters and powdery white sand.

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Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon feels the sand on the Pagasa Island beach

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SPO1 Alaska and PO2 Remojo, the only policemen in Pagasa island survey their almost empty blotter

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SPO1 Alaska, one of two policemen on Pagasa island, works with a radio inside a nipa hut which was turned into a police station

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Thu+00:002007-03-29T16:58:45+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Thu, 29 Mar 2007 16:58:45 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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Activists not in order of battle — Palace

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But ‘rebel co-conspirators’ to be pursued

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:53pm (Mla time) 03/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday denied that activists and militant groups “operating within the democratic space” are included in the military’s “order of battle (OB)” although it said the government would pursue rebel “co-conspirators.”

And at a news conference in Puerto Princesa City, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. admitted that the military has an “order of battle” but maintained it does not include leftist militants.

“Yung aming OB ay walang nakasulat na ganun [Our OB has nothing like that [militants] written on it,” he said.

But he did acknowledge that the OB might have mentioned other organizations “insofar as their relationship to the underground NPA.”

“President Arroyo is in full control of the Armed Forces and the AFP order of battle does not include militant groups operating within Philippine democratic space,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said on Thursday.

Bunye’s statement was in reaction to the preliminary report submitted by United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on his investigation into extrajudicial killings in the country in which he partly attributes the bloodshed to an “order of battle approach adopted systematically” by the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

In his report, Alston cited a “leaked” copy of a 110-page order of battle which “lists hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified, on the basis of intelligence, as members of organizations which the military deems ‘illegitimate.’”

He cited the order of battle as an example of how the government’s labeling of leftists and militant groups as communist rebel “fronts” contributed to extrajudicial killings.

“When a significant number of individuals killed in incidents implicating the armed forces or police are also listed on an order of battle, it raises serious questions about the appropriateness of this practice,” Alston said.

But Bunye said: “As a government fighting a live and ongoing insurgency, our troops have strict rules of engagement against armed units of the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] and their verified commanders and co-conspirators clearly employing violent means to attain their political ends.”

He said violations of these rules invite severe sanctions, citing past cases when soldiers suspected of crimes have been charged.

Esperon stressed that an OB is an “internationally accepted military term” and means a “watch list” that includes information on the logistics and training of the military’s “adversaries.”

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-03-29T16:53:00+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Thu, 29 Mar 2007 16:53:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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