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Archive for May 11th, 2007

Army chief suspends commander in Burgos abduction

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:45pm (Mla time) 05/11/2007

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) To give way to an “impartial and speedy” investigation into the alleged kidnapping of activist Jonas Burgos, Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino has suspended a battalion commander in Bulacan province, whose unit is being linked to the case.

Lieutenant Colonel Melquiades Feliciano was relieved from his post as chief of the 56th Infantry Battalion based in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province, and will be temporarily replaced by his executive officer, said Army spokesman Major Ernesto Torres Jr.

“As part of the Army’s effort to have an impartial and speedy resolution of the Burgos disappearance case, the commanding general of the Philippine Army ordered the administrative suspension of the commanding officer of 56th IB,” Torres said in a text message.

At the same time, Tolentino ordered that all impounded vehicles inside Army camps should be secured and their license plates should be deposited to the command provost marshal or logistics officers of their respective commands, Torres said.

The 56th Infantry Battalion was linked to the Burgos case after an environment department official said that the license plate of the supposed kidnap vehicle was from a vehicle impounded by the said Army unit.

But officials distanced themselves from the case saying the license plates could have been stolen.

Major General Juanito Gomez, chief of the 7th Infantry Division based in Central Luzon, theorized that the theft could have taken place between November to March, when troops from the 56th Infantry Battalion were on retraining in San Miguel town, Bulacan.

Feliciano took over as 56th Infantry Battalion commander last January, replacing Lieutenant Colonel Noel Clement, Torres said.

Jonas, the son of the late newspaper publisher and press freedom icon Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr., was allegedly kidnapped at a Quezon City mall last April 28.

The young Burgos had been working as a consultant of the Bulacan chapter of the left-wing Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The KMP has blamed the military for his disappearance.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-05-11T13:19:59+00:00UTC05bUTCFri, 11 May 2007 13:19:59 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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‘Think again’ before voting for Trillanes, Ebdane says

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:21pm (Mla time) 05/11/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Stopping short of campaigning against ex-Navy lieutenant Antonio Trillanes IV, Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said people should “think again” before voting for the opposition senatorial candidate.

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Ebdane made the statement as he renewed his allegation that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has been campaigning for Trillanes, who is detained on coup d’etat charges over a failed mutiny in July 2003.

“Insofar as peace-loving citizens are concerned, they will realize that they have to think again if ever they are endorsing him,” Ebdane said in an interview with reporters.

Without giving specific information, Ebdane said: “What we have received is that the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines]-NPA has decided to support him.”

But Trillanes’ lawyer, Reyandlo Robles, said Ebdane’s charges were part of an “orchestrated plot” to spoil his client’s chances of wining, following a jump in his rankings in a pre-election survey.

Robles also questioned why Ebdane was announcing the NPA’s support for Trillanes and not rebel leaders like Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison, and spokesman Greogrio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

Asked if Ebdane’s actions amounted to politicking, Robles said: “Obviously, because his allegations have no basis.”

But asked the same question, Ebdane said: “No, I’m just stating facts.”

Trillanes was not immediately available for comment. He is detained at the Philippine Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, where he has been giving media interviews for his senatorial campaign.

On Thursday, a Makati City court trying Trillanes on the coup d’etat charges denied his petition to post bail so he can campaign. The court only allowed him a brief leave from jail on May 14 so he can vote in Caloocan City’s Novaliches district.

Originally posted 4:19pm

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-05-11T08:52:12+00:00UTC05bUTCFri, 11 May 2007 08:52:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Politicians biggest poll security threat — Ebdane

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:34pm (Mla time) 05/11/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The biggest security threat to the May 14 elections are the candidates themselves, who kill each other to ensure victory, Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said Friday.

“The threat will be among candidates, especially in the hotly contested areas. It’s peaceful in areas where there is only one candidate, but there is tension if there are many candidates,” Ebdane told reporters in an interview.

“To see [to it] that they win, [candidates] go to the extent of killing [their] opponents. It’s happening now,” Ebdane said earlier, at a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap).

As of May 10, police said 151 election-related incidents have left 104 people dead and 112 others wounded.

Ebdane said soldiers would be ready to augment police in election hotspots, but only if deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). He said the deputation would be coordinated at the local level.

“I advised [Armed Forces of the Philippines chief] General [Hermogenes] Esperon that in cases of orders of deployments, these must be covered by a resolution,” Ebdane said.

A memorandum of agreement (MoA), signed by the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Comelec in October 2006, limits the role of soldiers in the elections to responding to serious armed threats and conducting checkpoints to enforce the election gun ban.

The MoA was an offshoot of allegations that the military was used to rig the 2004 elections in favor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Ebdane and Esperon were linked to the vote-rigging scandal but denied involvement.

For the first time, Ebdane thanked his predecessor, Avelino Cruz Jr., for forging the MoA with the Comelec. Cruz resigned in November 2006 over policy differences with Arroyo and other members of the Cabinet.

“I would like to express thanks and appreciation to Cruz who had the initiative of going into a MoA with the Comelec. They have defined the extent by which the AFP will be deployed and utilized,” Ebdane said.

Asked about the 2004 vote-rigging scandal, Ebdane walked out on reporters who were interviewing him at the Mandarin Hotel in Makati City and hurried to the elevator.

The military has been on red alert since Thursday in preparation for possible Comelec deputation. Esperon said troops have been deployed to at least four areas — the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Abra, and Masbate, and San Carlos City in Pangasinan province.

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FriUTC2007-05-11T08:17:30+00:00UTC05bUTCFri, 11 May 2007 08:17:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Metro troops pullout over by Friday evening

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:21pm (Mla time) 05/11/2007

MANILA, Philippine — The military will finish the pullout of its estimated 260 soldiers from depressed Metro Manila communities by 6 p.m. Friday, one of their commanders said even as he expressed hope that troops could return after the May 14 elections.

On Friday morning, Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) chief Major General Ben Dolorfino inaugurated two daycare centers constructed by soldiers in Quezon City’s Payatas district. After this, troops deployed there returned to barracks for retraining, said Colonel Ricardo Visaya, chief of the Army’s Civil Military Operations (CMO) battalion.

As of late Thursday evening, Visaya said 15 of the 26 teams deployed to Quezon City, Manila, and Caloocan City had been pulled out, as ordered by Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who gave Dolorfino until Friday to finish the job.

“The last of the teams will be pulled out by 6 p.m.,” Visaya told reporters. “If you ask me, I would want us to go back.”

Esperon said the return of soldiers to the slums will depend on the findings of a review to be conducted at general headquarters. He said he ordered the pullout to erase fears the troops would be used for politicking.

Visaya said the people in the communities had grown “close” to his men. Residents in Manila’s Sta. Mesa district, he said, even accompanied the troops all the way to their Fort Bonifacio barracks.

“They grew really close [to the soldiers]. In November, they had apprehensions because we were in BDA [battle dress attire or camouflage uniform]. We considered it as field duty, so we also had long firearms,” Visaya said.

Dolorfino said the six-month stay of soldiers in the slums succeeded in denying communist rebels sanctuary in the capital, where they were allegedly recruiting new members.

This was proven when residents in Manila’s Parola district drove away left-wing militants who wanted to stage a rally there on Wednesday to demand the pullout of the troops.

“In the past six months that we [have been] in the communities, we [have been] winning the hearts and minds of the people,” Dolorfino said in a speech, during a dinner he hosted for reporters Thursday.

“As early as March, there were people in Tondo who asked me for advice on what to do if there will be rallies. They intimated to me [that] they [would] like to drive them away, even stone them,” he added.

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

On Monday, the Bayan Muna (People First) party-list group 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) expressed similar concerns, adding that the deployment was reminiscent of martial law.

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FriUTC2007-05-11T06:21:56+00:00UTC05bUTCFri, 11 May 2007 06:21:56 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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JI bomber’s children under military custody

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‘We’re closing in on Dulmatin’ — Ebdane

By Joel Guinto, Julie Alipala
INQUIRER.net, Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 3:33pm(Mla time) 05/11/2007

(UPDATE 4) ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Soldiers have taken into custody the four children of Indonesian bomb suspect Dulmatin during a raid in Simunul Island off Tawi-Tawi on Thursday evening, authorities said.

Commodore Emilio Marayag, commander of Naval Forces South, said the children, aged 2,5,7 and 9, were found inside a house in Bacung village that was raided by a composite team of troops from the Second Marine Battalion, the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) 9, and the police Special Action Force (SAF).

Marayag said the caretakers of the house, Nursitti and Kilsitta, were also taken into custody after the raiders recovered an M16 rifle inside the hut.

Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said the development indicated that security forces were closing in on alleged Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Dulmatin, who with another explosives expert, Umar Patek, have been the object of a military campaign since August last year.

The two are the main suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia that killed over 200 people. Dulmatin carries a $10-million bounty.

They had fled to the Philippines and were reportedly being protected by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, where a naval blockade has been set up as close to 8,000 soldiers scour the jungles to capture the terror suspects.

“Intelligence-wise, it’s a good development. At least, if the family is there, then the man is [just] somewhere around,” Ebdane told reporters.

“We are optimistic that soon, we can get them [Dulmatin and Patek]. The two are in Sulu,” he said.

“You might be surprised if the solution comes soon,” Ebdane added.

Earlier on Friday, Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan, spokesman of the Philippine Marines, said the children would be turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development here.

But Caculitan would neither confirm nor deny the presence of Dulmatin in the area.

“We neither confirm nor deny the presence of Dulmatin in the area. We don’t want to compromise ongoing operations,” Caculitan said.

Still, Marayag said the presence of the children in Tawi-tawi were an indication that Dulmatin frequents the island.

“Ibig sabihin positive na nasa Pilipinas pa ang mga JI terrorists [This means it’s positive that the JI terrorists are still in the Philippines]…and that there is a group protecting these terrorists,” a source told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.

“But we will not use them [children] as bait [for Dulmatin]. We’ll turn them over at the Bureau of Immigration,” the source added.

The four children have been the object of a military search since last year, when only two of Dulmatin’s children were found when his wife, Istiada Oemar Sovie was arrested in Basilan.

Sovie and the two children had been deported to Indonesia since.

Asked if the discovery of Dulmatin’s children in Tawi-Tawi meant he has escaped from Sulu, Ebdane said: “Sulu is near Tawi-Tawi. They can travel from Jolo to Tawi-Tawi, maybe one hour by boat.”

Late last year, authorities apprehended Dulmatin’s wife and two other children in Sulu. They were later deported for violation of immigration laws.

With a report from Thea Alberto, INQUIRER.net; Originally posted at 10:38am View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-05-11T06:19:03+00:00UTC05bUTCFri, 11 May 2007 06:19:03 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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