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Archive for April 9th, 2007

‘Lapses led to Davao prison arms raid’ — Esperon

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Gonzalez orders NBI, Bureau of Corrections probes

By Joel Guinto, Tetch Torres
Last updated 08:05pm (Mla time) 04/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday security “lapses” allowed communist rebels to raid the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DPPF) in Davao del Norte province and empty its armory of more than 100 firearms.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez also weighed in on the matter, ordering the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Vicente Vinarao to conduct separate investigations to pinpoint the security lapses.

Gonzalez said he ordered separate investigations by the two agencies, both under the Department of Justice (DoJ), because “we want to make sure that there will not be any whitewash and [for the probes] to be thorough.” Vinarao has already submitted his initial report to Gonzalez.

Esperon said the jail guards at Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Sto. Tomas town should not have entertained the New People’s Army (NPA), who were in combat uniforms and posed as members of the anti-terrorist Task Force Davao based in Davao City.

Before the predawn Sunday raid, Esperon said the military had received reports the NPA had purchased 20 camouflage uniforms and had “disseminated” this information to the proper authorities.

“Definitely, there were some lapses,” Esperon told reporters.

“In the military, CAFGU [Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, the Army’s militia arm] or military detachments are no longer raided because we don’t entertain drop-in visitors, especially the uniformed ones, without prior coordination. That’s SOP [standard operating procedure],” he said.

“I hope [the security lapses] could be remedied by concerned agencies,” he added.

At the same time, Esperon said the Davao prison raid did not indicate the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is gaining strength.

But he acknowledged a “substantial” NPA presence in the Davao region and that this was one of the reasons why the Army recently set up a new division there.

“We recognize the potentials of the CPP-NPA there, that’s one of our priority areas…They [rebels] are so intent on projecting strength so that they could still…extort from the [agricultural] plantations,” he said.

Gonzalez said initial reports indicated that the DPPF management failed to coordinate with military and police units to secure the area during the Holy Week.

He said it is standard operating procedure to request police and military reinforcements during long holidays.

Once the NBI and BuCor investigations are done, Gonzalez said administrative cases will be prepared against officials and personnel who may be found liable for the raid.

The DPPF is one of seven operating units under the BuCor. The others are The New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City; The Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City; Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro; San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City; and Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-04-09T12:59:23+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 09 Apr 2007 12:59:23 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Probe deepens into Sulu rampage; troops recalled

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 02:09pm (Mla time) 04/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — An alleged altercation could have sparked the shooting rampage at an Army patrol base in Sulu last week, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday, as he ordered an investigation into the incident.

At the same time, Esperon said troops from the 35th Infantry
Battalion’s Charlie Company who survived the shootout have been “recalled” to battalion headquarters.

Nine soldiers and a civilian, who had worked for them as helper, were killed in the shooting at the company base in Silangkan village, Parang town Saturday evening. Two others were wounded.

“It’s possible, but we don’t want to be definite about it [yet],” Esperon told reporters, when asked to confirm reports that infighting had triggered the rampage.

Military sources said that a drunken soldier, who had figured in a squabble, was responsible for the shooting spree.

Esperon lamented: “I do not see why they should be fighting each other. If there’s a place where camaraderie should be strong, it should be at the company and platoon level.”

Asked if Islamic extremists operating in the area could be behind the shooting, Esperon said: “I will not rule it out, but it is very unlikely.”

“I’d like to think that it’s not a result of enemy action,” he added.

Esperon said the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) and the counter-terrorism Joint Task Force Comet were tasked to investigate the shooting.

“The investigation is ongoing. For now, we just have to call it an unexplained shooting incident,” he said.

“The whole Charlie Company of the 35th Infantry Battalion has been recalled to Bud Datu, their headquarters so that everybody will be made available as we see the need to get everybody’s statement,” he added.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-04-09T06:29:28+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 09 Apr 2007 06:29:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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Abu Sayyaf leader, JI bomber elude arrest in Sulu

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 02:56pm (Mla time) 04/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Two top al Qaeda-linked militants eluded pursuing US-trained government troops, who raided their hideout in the southern island province of Sulu at dawn on Monday, according to reports culled by

Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) explosives expert Umar Patek escaped, but the composite team from the Philippine Army captured three Abu Sayyaf members following the raid in Kanlimot village, Talipao town at around 5:20 a.m., Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters.

They have not been identified.

Two M16 rifles were also recovered from the scene, according to an earlier report reaching the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“The operation was actually targeting some higher value targets but it looks like the higher value targets have left earlier,” Esperon said of Hapilon and Patek.

US and Philippine military intelligence information had indicated that Patek and Hapilon were hiding with several gunmen in the area. Troops with night-vision goggles barged into three huts and captured the three sleeping Filipino militants and recovered two M-16 rifles said Brigadier General Ruperto Pabustan, local army commander.

Militants in two other huts, possibly including Patek and Hapilon, learned of the raid and fled. No gunfight occurred, he said.

“Three Abu Sayyaf members were captured after a brief firefight,” Pabustan said, but added the “high value targets — Dulmatin and Patek — escaped,” said Pabustan.

“Pursuit operations are continuing,” he said.

The US government has posted a reward of $10 million for the capture of Dulmatin and $1 million for Patek.

Patek is one of two JI members wanted for the 2002 Bali bombings that have sought refuge with the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, the other is Dulmatin.

Hapilon, who has a $5-million bounty over his head, has reportedly taken over the Abu Sayyaf leadership following the death of their chieftain, Khadaffy Janjalani, and second-in-command, Jainal Antel Sali, in November 2006 and January respectively.

He is being sought for alleged involvement in mass kidnappings, including the abduction of 17 Filipinos and three American tourists –missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero — from the Philippines’ Palawan Island in May 2001.

Also on Monday, at around 9 a.m., troops from the 3rd Marine Brigade encountered an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul town, leaving one soldier wounded, Esperon said.

“The operations that we are now conducting are more or less [against] pinpointed targets. These are intelligence driven,” the military chief said.

Esperon said the intelligence operations were part of efforts to shift the focus of pursuit operations against Islamic extremists from combat to civil military operations (CMO).

Esperon said there were four top targets in Sulu: Dulmatin, Patek, Hapilon, and one-armed Abu Sayyaf commander Radullan Sahiron.

“[There will be] no reduction in troops. In fact we might even add some more troops to Sulu,” the military chief said.

More than 8,000 Filipino troops are on Jolo on instructions from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to crush the Abu Sayyaf, a small gang of self-styled Islamic militants who experts say once received funding from Al-Qaeda.

The Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the Philippines in recent years, as well as for high-profile kidnappings of foreigners and missionaries.

Since the military operation on Jolo began last September the group’s top two leaders have been killed and the remaining members, said to number around 400, have splintered into smaller units trying to evade government forces.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-04-09T06:28:50+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Mon, 09 Apr 2007 06:28:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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