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Archive for May 9th, 2007

6 GO, 4 TU bets likely to enter ‘Magic 12’ — survey

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 00:08am (Mla time) 05/10/2007

MANILA, Philippines — With the May 14 elections just days away, six senatorial candidates from the Genuine Opposition (GO), four from the administration’s TEAM Unity (TU), and two independent candidates are likely to enter the winners’ circle of 12, according to a pre-election survey of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Three TU candidates — Senators Joker Arroyo and Edgardo Angara and former senator Vicente Sotto III — dropped significantly in the rankings, and are contesting the bottom two spots, according to the study conducted nationwide from May 2 to 4, the homestretch of the campaign.

Arroyo slid down to 12th from 8th place in the April 14 to 17 survey, Angara to 11th from 7th place, and Sotto to 13th from 10th place.

The three-way scramble for the last two seats “makes four the maximum number of seats for TU, regardless of who drops out of the tie,” SWS president Mahar Mangahas said in a statement.

Bukidnon Representative Juan Miguel Zubiri, also from TU, climbed to 9th-10th place from 14th place, powered by his strong showing in the Visayas and Mindanao, where he placed 5th and 2nd respectively.

Zubiri is among the top 10 candidates who are “statistically safe” of winning, Mangahas said.

Independent candidate Gregorio Honasan, who is out on bail, is at the tail end of the top 10, sharing 9th-10th places with Zubiri.

Former Navy Lieutenant and GO candidate Antonio Trillanes IV jumped to 15th-16th place from 21st place, but remains outside the winners’ circle. He was recently allowed to grant media interviews from his detention cell at the Philippine Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.

Three GO candidates led the top 10: former senator Loren Legarda (1st), Senate President Manuel Villar (2nd), and Sorsogon Representative Francis Escudero (3rd).

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, an independent candidate, was ranked 4th, recovering ground from his 5th place ranking in the April 14 to 17 survey.

Senator Panfilo Lacson from GO was ranked 5th, followed by a fellow opposition candidate, Tarlac Representative Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III at 6th, rising from 11th-13th place in April.

The Comelec recently ruled that “Aquino” votes would be credited to the Tarlac solon, whose aunt, former senator Teresa Aquino-Oreta, is running under the TU ticket. Oreta is ranked 22nd-23rd.

The poll body has also disqualified Teodoro Aquino, whom Representative Aquino had wanted to be declared as a nuisance candidate.

Senator Ralph Recto from TU was at 7th place, followed by Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano at 8th place. Mangahas attributed the 6-4-2 likely outcome in favor of the opposition to “ticket mixing.”

Out of every 10 registered voters, 68 percent chose a mix of GO and TU candidates, with only 13 percent favored straight GO while 7.6 percent went purely TU.

”Even among the partisans who went ‘purely’ for either GO or TU, in most cases the ballots were for 4-0 at most; instances of 12-0 were very rare.” Mangahas noted.

The May 2 to 4, 2007 survey polled 1,200 respondents nationwide. It has a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is the parent company of INQUIRER.net.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T16:30:28+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 16:30:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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2 foreign journalists barred from interviewing Trillanes

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:34pm (Mla time) 05/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Two foreign journalists were barred on Wednesday from interviewing opposition senatorial candidate and ex-Navy lieutenant Antonio Trillanes IV at his detention cell at the Philippine Marine headquarters for lack of “clearance” from the intelligence group.

The journalists who were turned away — Douglas Bakshian from the Voice of America and Sebastian Farcis from the French International Radio — are members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) who had set an interview with Trillanes, said the group’s president, Reuters correspondent Manuel Mogato.

The two did not have a clearance from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J2), which, officials say is required of journalists entering military facilities as a matter of policy.

As a result, only Filipino members of FOCAP — Mogato, Ronito Calunsod of the Daily Manila Shimbun, and Charmaine Deogracia of NHK television — interviewed Trillanes.

A columnist for the Philippine Star, Wilson Flores, was almost denied entry to Trillanes detention cell after soldiers mistook him for a Chinese national and asked him for a J2 clearance, Calunsod said.

Flores, who is a FOCAP member since he also writes for a Hong Kong magazine, was allowed in only after he showed his picture and column on an issue of the Star, Calunsod said.

A reporter for local television station ABS-CBN, Adrian Ayalin, was also present during the interview, Calunsod said.

“This is an existing policy. Any foreigner needs to have a J2 clearance,” said Lieutenant Colonel Luciardo Obeña, commander of the Marine Headquarters’ Battalion that coordinates Trillanes’ media interviews.

“It’s a question of security. It’s a matter of procedure. We can’t let just anybody in. We need security checks since it is a military establishment,” said Marine spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan.

Reached for comment, Mogato said: “It’s a policy that we have to follow. We were not informed ahead. We have been covering the military for many years and this is the first time that a J2 clearance was required.”

But Mogato said the Japanese bureau chief of the Japanese newspaper Yumiuri Shimbun was recently allowed to interview Trillanes even without a J2 clearance.

Asked about this, Caculitan said: “That would be lapse on those who granted [the interview].”

Calunsod said Trillanes fumed at his guards over the mix-up, and threatened to file a contempt case before the Makati City regional trial court, which granted him media access. The court is also hearing his coup d’etat case.

Reacting to Trillanes’ threat, Caculitan said: “He should be bigger than the situation if he is running for public office, and a senator at that. He should understand that the military organization is governed by certain rules and regulations.”

Trillanes, who is running under the Genuine Opposition, is one of 29 junior officers and two enlisted men who are charged with coup d’etat over their alleged involvement in a failed mutiny of some 300 soldiers on July 27, 2003.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T13:14:41+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 13:14:41 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Esperon worried over implications; orders Burgos probe

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Palace hands off on military investigation

By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:44pm (Mla time) 05/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Worried about the negative impact of allegations linking the military to the abduction of the son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he has ordered an investigation into the disappearance of Jonas Burgos.

Esperon said he has tasked Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) chief Major General Delfin Bangit to meet with Jonas’ mother, Edith Burgos, to “get more information.”

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In Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called on the military to hasten its investigation into the young Burgos’ disappearance because the missing activist’s father was a “personal friend” but stressed the Palace was leaving it up to the AFP to probe the case notwithstanding new evidence that could like soldiers to the abduction.

Ermita also said he had met Jonas when the young Burgos was still a child.

Esperon said investigators from the Provost Martial group would also look into why the license plate of an environment department vehicle was used on the one supposedly used to kidnap Burgos in Quezon City last April 28.

Burgos, 36 was seen by witnesses being dragged by unidentified men into a Toyota Revo minivan with Plate No. TAB 194 from the Ever Gotesco mall. He has been missing since then.

The license plates on the maroon Asian utility vehicle used in his abduction have been traced to an impounded vehicle parked at the 56th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province since June last year.

“Today, my Provost Martial group will go into a formal investigation of the matter. Until then, let us leave it at that. We are doing our best to get more information,” Esperon said. “The plate number, how it came about, that is one of the primary foci of this investigation.”

The Provost Martial is a military unit that conducts preliminary investigation of cases involving military personnel, and recommends the filing of charges to the military’s prosecution arm, the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO).

Esperon said he has dispatched an investigating team to the 56th IB headquarters .

He reiterated the military’s denial of left-wing militants’ allegation that soldiers were behind the abduction of Burgos, who had been working as a consultant of the Bulacan chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines).

“I do not see, I did not see any connection,” Esperon said, when asked if soldiers were involved in the incident.

Asked if allegations linking the military to the Burgos abduction were a cause for concern, Esperon said: “Oh yes, that’s why we’re investigating the matter.”

Ermita said he believed the investigation ordered by Esperon was “enough” to locate Burgos and bring to justice those responsible for abducting him.

Asked if the military could be considered a suspect in the light of the new evidence, Ermita said: “Let the investigation take its normal course. Let’s find out what happens later.”

“The military has its own procedure…For the moment, we are satisfied with what the chief of staff is doing, let’s await the results of the investigation,” he added.

Ermita parried criticisms that Malacañang has been sluggish in acting on the Burgos abduction and said the government was attending to the case.

“I don’t think it’s sluggish. What we are trying to do is just to do the proper thing, which is to look into the bottom of things,” he said, adding that with the wave of unexplained killings of activists and journalists, the Palace has become “oversensitive when it comes to these things.”

“We are attending to the case of Jonas,” he stressed.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T10:38:50+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 10:38:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Esperon sees JI hand in Tacurong blast

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Mindanao alert may be set to ‘extreme critical’

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:04pm (Mla time) 05/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. suspects the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the Southeast Asian arm of the Al-Qaeda terror network, was behind the bomb explosion in Tacurong City on Tuesday that has killed eight people thus far and wounded many more.

Esperon said the use of an improvised bomb like the one that exploded at billiards hall in the vicinity of the Tacurong public market is a trademark of the JI, which was also blamed for a wave of bomb attacks in Central Mindanao in October 2006.

“It is possible that there is JI involvement,” Esperon told reporters in an interview in Quezon City.

“It is a homemade bomb, an improvised device. It is similar to other explosives before,” Esperon said, when asked if the explosion was a terror attack.

At the same time, Esperon claimed the military had prior knowledge of the Tuesday afternoon attack and troops worked to thwart it.

“We know of existing groups that have the capability…That’s the way of the terrorists. They strike when you are not there, that’s why we need vigilance,” he said.

Esperon said it is likely that the terror alert in Mindanao might be upgraded to the highest level, “extreme critical.”

“When an incident happens, it [alert] becomes extreme,” Esperon said.

An “extreme critical” alert means that a “terrorist attack has occurred or has just been preempted and follow on attacks are expected,” according to military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

“Extreme” is the highest in the four-step terror warning system of security forces. It has two stages, extreme severe, and the highest, extreme critical.

Esperon said the Army brigade based in Tacurong City was also ordered to step up security patrols following the explosion.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T10:38:17+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 10:38:17 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Troops sent to 4 poll hotspots

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Military on red alert starting Thursday

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:09pm (Mla time) 05/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The military has deployed troops to three provinces and one city after being deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to thwart the rising election-related violence, Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

The military will also go on nationwide red alert starting Thursday, ahead of next Monday’s elections, to ensure that soldiers will be on call if the Philippine National Police (PNP) will request for augmentation forces.

Esperon said one battalion each had been sent to the provinces of Abra, Nueva Ecija, and Masbate while a “small team” was sent to San Carlos City in Pangasinan province. An Army battalion is from 300 to 400 soldiers.

“Let’s say the whole Armed Forces is on call. Some areas have been declared as election areas of concern so we are anticipating more deployments,” Esperon said in an interview with reporters at a slum area in Quezon City, where he inaugurated a daycare center, Wednesday.

When under red alert, the highest in the military’s three-step warning system, soldiers are required to report to their headquarters and all leave passes are cancelled.

“It’s practically the whole Armed Forces that is committed [for the elections],” Esperon said.

The military chief said soldiers would remain committed to the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the Comelec and the Department of National Defense (DND), which limits the role of soldiers during elections to responding to “serious armed threats.”

“There are two instances by which the Armed Forces would be deployed — one is if there is serious armed threat. It has happened in Abra, it has happened in Nueva Ecija, Kalinga, Masbate [and] Sulu,” he said.

“Another instance where [we] could be deployed is for the conduct of the gun ban and we have been directed to conduct, put up checkpoints,” he added.

According to police data, 95 people have been killed and 92 others have been wounded in election-related violent incidents as of May 6. Of the total fatalities, 50 had been candidates and 45 were civilian supporters.

Election-related violence in Nueva Ecija continued on Tuesday evening, when two supporters of political candidates were gunned down in separate attacks in San Isidro and Quezon towns, police said.

On April 26, two people were killed following a shootout between the camps of reelectionist Jaen town Mayor Antonio Esquivel and his political enemy, Nueva Ecija 4th district Representative Rodolfo Antonino.

On April 28, San Carlos Pangasinan Mayor Julian Resuello and his bodyguard were killed in a shooting incident at a town fiesta.

Last Friday, six supporters of Lagayan Abra town Mayor Cecilia Luna were killed following an ambush in the same town, which she blamed on provincial Governor Vicente Valera, her opponent in the congressional race.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T07:49:03+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 07:49:03 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Military chief orders pullout of troops from Metro Manila

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:11pm (Mla time) 05/09/2007

(UPDATE 3) MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. ordered the pullout of soldiers from depressed communities in Metro Manila starting Wednesday to quash fears that soldiers would be used in the elections next week.

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Esperon gave Major General Ben Dolorfino, Armed Forces-National Capital Region Command chief until Friday to complete the pullout from 19 villages in Quezon City, Caloocan City, and Manila.

“I am directing Major General Dolorfino to start pulling out troops from depressed communities in Metro Manila starting today [Wednesday]… and to complete the pullout on or before May 11,” Esperon said.

Esperon issued the directive after he inaugurated a day care center built by soldiers at Upper Nawasa village in Quezon City’s Commonwealth district.

The day care was the last project lined up for troops in the capital, who had also constructed public toilets and hosted dialogues with residents, Dolorfino said.

The deployment of 26 10-man teams in Metro Manila started in November 2006. Officials said then humanitarian projects were meant to deny communist rebels sanctuary in the capital.

Left-wing militants accused soldiers of campaigning against their party-list groups and harassing their supporters. The military denied this.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general called the troop withdrawal a “short-term victory.”

“The [Armed Forces of the Philippines] should go back to their barracks and leave the residents of Metro Manila alone,” he said in a statement.

“The AFP has been accused of electioneering for administration bets as well as the abduction and killings of government critics. They are a threat to the community.”

On Monday, the Bayan Muna partylist asked the Supreme Court to order the pullout of the military from Metro Manila, saying soldiers have encroached on the responsibilities of the police and local government officials.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed similar concerns, adding that the deployment was reminiscent of martial law.

Dolorfino had defended the deployment. “The concept of war has changed. What is important is the development approach. I believe this is the more harmless approach.”

Contradicting claims of militarization, Dolorfino had said that the activities of these troops would complement police law enforcement functions.

“We don’t need guns. We just need brooms for that particular activity. We do not intend to go after the enemies of the state. We just hope to make them irrelevant,” he had said.

The CHR had invited Dolorfino to explain the deployment.

But Purificacion Quisumbing, CHR chairperson, had stopped short of calling for a pullout, saying: “Let’s place importance to the process. If there will be a pullout, do it and let’s follow the process.”

Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño had challenged Dolorfino to present an order from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo authorizing the troop deployment or order his soldiers back to barracks.

“The Constitution requires the President to call the military to suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. Without such an order from the President, and without the presence of such constitutional conditions, Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino and troops deployed across Metro Manila must all shut up and return to barracks pronto,” Casiño said.

He said Article 7 Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution states: “The President shall be the Commander-in- Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”

“Not only is Metro Manila off-limits to the military except on explicit orders of the President; voter education is not the military’s job,” Casiño added, referring to Dolorfino’s announced plans for the troops to wage a voter’s education campaign.

With a repprt from Associated Press; Originally posted at 10:51am

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-09T07:48:00+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 09 May 2007 07:48:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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