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Archive for May 18th, 2007

Three Army companies sent to Abra to help quell violence

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 06:11pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has ordered the deployment of three Army companies, or roughly 360 troops, to Abra province, where election violence persists.

The Division Reconnaissance Company will be plucked from Jolo in the south and deployed alongside two companies from the 51st Infantry Battalion, said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

Esperon earlier said that an Army battalion, or around 400 soldiers, is in Abra, which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) placed under its control.

“The said deployment [of the additional companies] is in response to developments in the area,” Bacarro said in a text message.

On Thursday, one person was killed and the wife of a mayoral candidate was wounded in a shooting incident in Bangued town, Abra province.

Before Thursday’s incident, the Abra police validated 13 election-related violent incidents (ERVIs) that left 12 people killed and 10 others wounded.

Esperon also directed the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) to deploy additional troops to Cotabato City, where an explosion at a bus station on Friday left at least one person killed and dozens other wounded.

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:19:12+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:19:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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‘MoA with Comelec hampered troops’ peacekeeping’

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:56pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The violence that has marred the election period “could have been prevented” if troops were not limited by a memorandum of understanding (MoA) between defense and election officials.

This was the joint assessment of Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

A total of 54 military units were deployed to election hot spots on Monday after they were deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“By deploying earlier than Election Day itself, we could, we would, surmise that armed actions could have been prevented,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Ebdane also said the coordination between the Comelec and security forces was “not too good.”

“There were many constraints, but we have to abide by the agreement,” he said. “Perhaps, there were some instances when the Comelec would really like to field Armed Forces units on a much bigger scale, but the provisions of the MoA has negated it.”

The MoA, an offshoot of allegations that soldiers were used to rig the 2004 elections in favor of the administration, limits the role of soldiers during elections to responding to “serious armed threats” as determined by the police and Comelec.

Nonetheless, Ebdane said the military “performed well.”

Esperon said soldiers deployed to the election hot stops “did not engage in partisan [political] activities.”

Asked if they would push for a review of the MoA, Ebdane said: “If there are any revisions that should come from the Comelec.”

Esperon said: “I’m sure [the] Comelec will review that.”

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:18:16+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:18:16 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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3 hurt in QC ambush

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 08:13pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Three persons were wounded in an ambush in Quezon City Friday afternoon, according to an initial police report.

The victims, who were on board a Nissan Patrol sports utility vehicle, were cruising along Roosevelt Avenue when two suspects onboard a motorcycle came up from behind and shot them.

The suspects escaped.

The victims were brought to the St. Luke’s Medical Center for treatment, the report said, quoting Police Officer 2 Aaron Belga, the investigator handling the case.

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Trillanes as senator won’t mount mutiny — military chief

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:35pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. thinks former Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes IV’s possible win in the Senate race is a “good” thing, saying once he became lawmaker it’s unlikely the rebel junior officer will still mount mutiny.

“Wouldn’t it be also good [if Trillans wins], because instead of resorting to unconstitutional ways, now he is mainstream. He will no longer mount coups, no more destabilization. That’s one way of looking at it,” Esperon said.

Asked if he would address Trillanes, who is running under the Genuine Opposition (GO) coalition as “honorable” if he becomes a senator, Esperon said: “Why not? If he wins, that is the title, right?”

“To each his own. If you vote for him [Trillanes], whatever the results, let’s take it as a mandate from the people,” the military chief added.

But Esperon reminded Trillanes that even if he wins, he faces possible jail time over charges filed against him before civilian and military courts over his alleged involvement in a failed uprising on July 27, 2003.

“That [cases] is not erased by the victory in the elections,” the military chief said.

Trillanes is charged with coup d’etat before the Makati City regional trial court, and alleged violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) before a general court martial.

In the partial, unofficial count of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) as of 5:15 a.m. Friday, Trillanes placed 11th in the race for 12 Senate seats.

For his part, Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said he was surprised with Trillanes intial strong showing in the canvass of votes.

“It’s really a surprise, but if you look at the situation, it could have come from people who sympathize with him just like what happened to Gringo before,” Ebdane said.

Ebdane was referring to rebel soldier-turned senator Gregorio Honasan, who is poised to make a comeback in the Senate this year.

The 5:15 a.m. Namfrel tally showed Honasan, who is running as an independent, in the ninth place.

Ebdane said he had spoken to people who voted for Trillanes, who told him that they supported the rebel soldier since he is their schoolmate or “mistah” at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:16:25+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:16:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Boy, 2 others killed in bomb blast at Cotabato bus terminal

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By Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Senase
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 01:41pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

(UPDATE 2) COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Three people were killed, including a boy, and a over a dozen wounded when an improvised bomb went off inside a busy bus terminal here at around 11:05 a.m. Friday, police said.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of the reported that 35 people were injured while Agence France-Presse said there were 15.

About half of the victims were children, including the boy who died after being brought to the hospital, Senior Superintendent Panares Adap said. Two adults were also killed.

In an interview with another reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the wounded was identified only as a certain “Mr. Adam,” the terminal manager.

They were brought to the Cotabato Medical Specialist Hospital and other hospitals in the city for treatment, said Adap.

Adap said he did not believe that the attack at the Weena bus terminal along Rufino Street was politically motivated.

Adap and Senior Inspector Wally Casuyo said an unidentified man dumped a bag containing the device at the terminal, and that police later received an anonymous warning. It went off before the area could be cleared.

Adap and Casuyo said the motive was probably extortion, as the bus company had been receiving letters from armed groups demanding money.

Casuyo added that an investigation of the incident was being conducted.

The central region of the southern island of Mindanao has been hit by seven bombings this year, many of them blamed on Muslim extremists with ties to the Jemaah Islamiyah or Al-Qaeda terror networks.

Earlier this month a device went off in a crowded market in nearby Tacurong town, killing eight people.

Authorities blame Jemaah Islamiyah for that attack.

With reports from Joel Guinto,; AFP; Originally posted at 11:58am

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:15:26+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:15:26 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Fraud causes Filipinos lose faith in polls–foreign watchers

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:29pm (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Violence and fraud marred last Monday’s mid-term vote, which were held under a “climate of fear, unease and mistrust” of the electoral system, foreign observers said Friday.


But there is a “glimmer of hope,” the International Observers Mission of the Compact for Peaceful and Honest Elections noted the “vigilance and volunteerism” of Filipinos, especially the youth, who showed their “desire for a clean and honest elections.”

At the same time, the group recommended several reforms including legislation against political dynasties and implementing the automation of the elections before the 2010 presidential vote during a news conference in Quezon City.

“Violence is commonly used as a means to achieve victory. Violence is used to intimidate or coerce voters in order to win the elections,” said Las Granberg, a member of the Swedish parliament.

“There is a general feeling among voters that their votes would not be counted, a sentiment provoked by the lack of order in the process, inefficiency of the Comelec, and the reported acts of fraud and violence allegedly committed by politicians, election officials, and armed groups,” he added.

The team was deployed to the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Negros Occidental, Pampanga, Maguindanao, Cotabato City, and the Bicol region.

An observer from the United States who was sent to Pampanga province, Cecilia Lero, said “mechanisms for vote-buying” were in place in the province, involving village officials.

Asked to reveal which candidate in Pampanga was buying votes, Lero said: “I’d rather not comment for my own security.”

“There are people who expressed their fears. They came to us and the media. The general consensus was if we go to Comelec [Commission on Elections], they’ll laugh at us,” Lero said.

An Australian observer, Jason Bray, said in Jaen town, Nueva Ecija province, they responded to a shooting incident that left two “goons” of rival politicians wounded.

“They [police] found two unregistered weapons and P600,000, and some documents for poll checkers and poll watchers. I’m not sure how many poll watchers,” Bray said.

Given the large amount, Bray said, “There are definitely some indications of vote-buying.”

German Philippie Bueck noted voters’ lists in Bacolod City that allegedly included names of dead persons.

“There were many irregularities particularly the voters lists…We found there was a lot of room for fraud regarding these,” Bueck said.

Bueck claimed that 964 first-time voters were not allowed to vote, despite being allowed to do so by a court. He said this constituted “massive disenfranchisement.” He did not explain why the 964 needed a court order to vote.

“We found that these incidents are fraudulent, not simply irregularities,” he said.

Canadian Lesly Clarke, who read the team’s recommendations, said political dynasties only serve to perpetuate “politics based on personalities.”

“There must be significant changes to political institutions. These changes are fundamental,” she said.

She noted that there have been “abuses” in the party-list system and the government should look at other models for representation in Congress.

Clarke also noted that “the amount of money spent on the elections is enormous.”

Compact secretary general Josel Gonzales said the observers’ recommendations will be forwarded to the Comelec and that the diplomatic corps had been briefed on their findings earlier Friday.

Originally posted at 12:57 pm

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:14:07+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:14:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Riot erupts at immigration detention center; 1 hurt

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 01:15am (Mla time) 05/18/2007

MANILA, Philippines — A riot in a jail cell holding foreign nationals at a police camp in Taguig City south of Manila late Thursday evening left one inmate wounded, radio and television reports said.

The riot at the Bureau of Immigration cell in Camp Bagong Diwa ended when jail guards fired at Jessie James, 36, who was drunk and armed with a screwdriver, radio station dzMM reported.

James, whom the radio report described as an “Amerasian,” suffered two gunshot wounds and was brought to the South Superhighway Hospital for treatment.

The riot started at around 10 p.m. Inmates were throwing rocks, broken bottles, and glass shards, GMA television’s late evening newscast “Saksi” reported.

It was not immediately clear how the scuffle broke.

The radio report said the elite police unit Special Action Force (SAF) were dispatched to the scene.

It was the second riot inside Camp Bagong Diwa, the headquarters of Metro Manila police, in two years.

In March 2005, al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bandits seized a jail complex, triggering an over 24-hour-long standoff, than ended when police assaulted the detention facility, leaving some 20 inmates killed.

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Fri+00:002007-05-18T16:12:49+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 18 May 2007 16:12:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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