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Archive for April 17th, 2007

AFP chief offers P1M bounty on MNLF’s Malik

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:15pm (Mla time) 04/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has put up a P1-million bounty for the capture of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Ustadz Habier Malik, one of the officers heading the pursuit operations against the rebel leader said Tuesday.

“General Esperon has offered P1 million for the capture of Malik,” Brigadier General Ruperto Pabustan, chief of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, said.

Esperon announced the reward money through Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo, commander of the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command, Pabustan told reporters.

“We are optimistic that the reward money would speed up the hunt for Malik,” Pabustan said in Filipino.

The military is hunting down Malik and his men after the MNLF commander allegedly ordered mortar attacks on the town hall and a Marine detachment in Panamao town over the weekend.

Interviewed earlier Tuesday, Esperon bucked calls from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to stop military offensives against Malik’s group.

Esperon said the pursuit operations targeted Malik, not the MNLF, with whom the government signed a peace agreement in 1996.

The military chief also said there were indications that the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has joined forces with Malik’s group.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-04-17T12:12:41+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 17 Apr 2007 12:12:41 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Gov’t rejects OIC call for ceasefire in Sulu

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OIC asks members to use influence for truce

By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Veronica Uy
Last updated 06:27pm (Mla time) 04/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The government has formally rejected a call by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) for a ceasefire in Sulu province, as the military claimed the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has joined forces with men of a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander being pursued by troops.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, in a communiqué to OIC secretary general on Tuesday, Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, also refused the OIC’s proposal to field military monitors to observe the truce.

On the other hand, Ihsanoglu, called on OIC members with close ties to either parties “to use their influence” and cause the immediate end of the ongoing hostilities. The Sulu hostilities were brought up during the OIC Senior Officials Meeting, which was in preparation for the 34th Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers from April 14 to 16.

The delegations of the OIC member-states unanimously endorsed Ihsanoglu’s appeal and pledged to do so as soon as possible.

Romulo explained that military operations against Ustadz Habier Malik and his group do not constitute a violation of the peace agreement with the MNLF peace agreement but are “punitive action…for their acts of violence and violation of internal laws,” and “not as a member of the MNLF.”

In rejecting the monitors, Romulo “clarified that there are no military operations against any MNLF group, and there is no suspension of military operations that needs to be monitored.”

Malik and his group are blamed for attacks on an Army outpost and other installations in Panamao town that killed two soldiers and 15-year-old Annanas Abdugaram and left at least a dozen more soldiers and civilians wounded.

The OIC called for a halt to the fighting to preserve the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the government which, among others, has called for the integration of MNLF members into the Armed Forces but did not compel them to surrender their firearms.

But Malacañang and Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., also on Tuesday, thumbed down the OIC proposal.

“We acknowledge the call of the OIC for peace in Sulu and we have consistently worked with international allies and stakeholders toward this end. But even the OIC would agree that any government will have to deal firmly with any and all depredations against the community such as that staged by the wayward armed group of Habier Malik,” said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

“We are not suspending operations against Habier Malik,” Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“We cannot have a peace agreement hostaged to the whim of the lawless,” Bunye said, claiming that the rule of law “has come under threat” with the attacks by Malik’s group in Panamao.

He said the law “must be upheld by aggressive law enforcement operations” while ensuring that civilians are kept out of harm’s way.

On the OIC website, Ihsanoglu said he is “still receiving disturbing reports about the continuation of hostilities in southern Philippines and the widening of the area of operations with adverse consequences on the life and properties of civilians.”

But Romulo’s letter said the “extreme and violent actions of Commander Malik do not reflect the sentiment of the other MNLF commanders who did not heed his call for support and instead cooperated with the military by allowing military operations against the [Abu Sayyaf] and Camp Jubal Uhod under the command of Malik.”

“The Philippine government has already taken swift action to redress the immediate needs of MNLF communities affected by this wanton display of violence by Malik,” Romulo said. “Second, such irresponsible display of lawlessness adversely affects peace and order, but will not distract the Philippine government from its commitment to bring peace and development to the island of Sulu and the Southern Philippines.”

Meanwhile, Esperon said Abu Sayyaf forces were allegedly with a group of MNLF rebels that attacked a military detachment in Parang town at around 6 a.m. Tuesday.

“This is the Abu Sayyaf taking advantage of the situation, harassing
the detachment,” the military chief said.

Asked if the Abu Sayyaf had joined Malik’s forces, Esperon said: “Yes, the Abu Sayyaf has entered the picture, so our men should be very careful about this. There is a group that would exploit the situation, [that is] the Abu Sayyaf.”

Esperon said Malik was “living up to his true colors,” citing reports that Malik had coddled Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb experts Umar Patek and Dulmatin.

Reacting to the OIC’s call for a halt to the Sulu hostilities, Esperon said the military offensive was targeted against Malik, not the MNLF.

“Let us be very clear about it. This is not an operation against the MNLF, this is against Habier Malik, so that he will be made to answer for his criminal liabilities,” Esperon said.

“Malik has to be held accountable. It will be very hard for us to just leave it that way. He fired several mortar rounds, then he would just go scot-free?” he asked.

Aside from the Parang incident, two more skirmishes were reported Tuesday in Sulu, in which three rebels were killed and another was captured, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said.

At around 6:30 a.m., troops from the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion clashed with MNLF forces in Bitan-ag village, Panamao where one rebel was killed and another was captured.

Then at around 6:45 a.m., troops from the 2nd Marine Brigade on clearing operations in the vicinity of Camp Jabal Uhod, also in Bitan-ag, engaged MNLF fighters, leaving two rebels killed.

Two M16 rifles, an AK47 rifle, and an M203 grenade launcher were recovered from the rebels following the two encounters.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-04-17T12:10:06+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 17 Apr 2007 12:10:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Court allows media interviews to mutiny leader

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:08pm (Mla time) 04/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) A Makati City court has reversed its earlier decision and granted ex-Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes IV’s petition to grant media interviews from detention as part of his bid for a Senate seat in the May mid-term elections.

In a two-page decision dated Monday, but released only on Tuesday, Judge Oscar Pimentel of Makati Regional Trial Court branch 148 said he was satisfied with Trillanes’ assurance that he would not discuss his coup d’etat case if his request were granted.

“Hence, the fear of the court is well-addressed,” Pimentel said. “Wherefore, premises considered, finding merit in the motion for reconsideration, the same is hereby granted.”

Pimentel said the refusal of Trillanes’ custodians at the Philippine Marine Brig in Fort Bonifacio to comment on his petition to grant media interviews, “while it is not an act of approval,” is “treated as its act of yielding to the orders of the court.”

But to make sure Trillanes will not issue “unnecessary statements,” Pimentel said media personalities who want to interview him should file a manifestation with the court on when they intend to talk to him.

Pimentel also said a list of the questions interviewers intended to ask Trillanes should be submitted to him and the Philippine Marine Brig be informed of the interview three days in advance.

Trillanes is one of 31 junior officers and enlisted men charged with coup d’etat before Pimentel.

He served as spokesman of the Magdalo group during the mutinous troops’ daylong occupation of the Oakwood luxury apartments in Makati City on July 27, 2003.

Trillanes has adopted “Magdalo” as his campaign nickname and is running under the Genuine Opposition (GO) banner.

He was automatically separated from the military service when he filed his certificate of candidacy last February 6.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-04-17T12:08:32+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 17 Apr 2007 12:08:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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2 MNLF rebels slain, one nabbed in Sulu clashes

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 01:46pm (Mla time) 04/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Two more Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels were killed and another was captured following separate encounters with government forces in the southern island province of Sulu, according to military reports.

The military is pursuing MNLF commander Ustadz Habier Malik, whose group has been held responsible for bombing military positions in Panamao town over the weekend.

At around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, troops from the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion encountered around 20 MNLF fighters in Tabao village, Panamao town, leaving one rebel killed and another captured, reports said.

Troops recovered an M16 rifle and an M203 grenade launcher from the rebels, reports said.

At around 12:30 p.m. Monday, soldiers from the same Scout Ranger Battalion encountered an undetermined number of MNLF rebels in Maubo village, Kalingalan Kaluang town, resulting in the death of one rebel and the recovery of one M16 rifle, reports said.

The clashes came despite a call from the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) for a halt to the fighting to preserve the 1996 peace accord between the MNLF and the government.

The 57-nation OIC, which brokered the peace talks with the MNLF, still recognizes the group as the sole representative of the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

The secretary-general of the OIC has called for an end to the fighting in Jolo.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-04-17T12:07:26+00:00+00:0004b+00:00Tue, 17 Apr 2007 12:07:26 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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