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Archive for May 21st, 2007

PNP to apologize to Batangas fire victims if men responsible

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net

Last updated 04:37pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) will apologize to victims of the fire that hit a school in Batangas province last week if it will be proven that its men were behind it, but will not retract its statement linking communist guerillas to the attack, a spokesman said Monday.

At the same time, Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao Jr., said the New People’s Army (NPA) should even thank police for investigating and restricting to quarters four policemen over the incident.

“If at the end of the day, after the investigation, the involvement of the police is proven, we certainly will ask for an apology for what they have done,” Pagdilao said when asked if the PNP would say sorry to the families of the teacher and the poll watcher who were killed in the fire.

Asked if the PNP would apologize to the NPA, Pagdilao said, “An apology is not in order. The Chief PNP mentioned the angles being pursued, and there is basis to look at the involvement of the NPA.”

“They should thank us because the PNP is a professional and trustworthy organization. We don’t condone anybody in our organization. Whoever he is, whatever rank he holds,” he added.

Communist Party of the Philippines spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal demanded that the PNP apologize to the victims of the fire in a statement posted on their website.

Rosal also vowed to apply “revolutionary justice” to the perpetrators of the blaze last May 15, the day after the mid-term elections.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2007-05-21T09:34:42+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 21 May 2007 09:34:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Military to let police probe soldiers in Burgos abduction

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:28pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will make available two Army enlisted men to police for questioning over the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, a spokesman said Monday.

The police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) had
summoned Private First Class Jose Villena and Corporal Castro Bugalon last May 10, but the AFP Provost Marshal did not allow them to appear before the CIDG, since its own investigation was ongoing.

“If needed, we will make them available to the CIDG for investigation relative to the case of Burgos,” Bacarro told reporters in Camp
Aguinaldo.

Villea and Bugalon reportedly impounded the Isuzu vehicle of Mauro Mudlong, an employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), last June 2006 at the 56th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province.

The license plate of Mudlong’s vehicle, TAB-194, was reportedly used on the kidnap vehicle. Burgos, son of the late newspaper publisher Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr., was reportedly abducted in Quezon City last April 28.

The alleged use of license plate on the impounded vehicle fueled left-wing militants’ suspicions that the military was behind the alleged kidnapping. Officials claimed that the license plate was stolen.

Bacarro said the Provost Marshal, the military’s preliminary investigation arm, has finished its investigation on why the license plate of the impounded DENR vehicle was used in the alleged abduction, and has submitted its report to AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Asked what the Provost Marshal’s findings were, Bacarro said: “I don’t want to preempt the probable statement of the Chief of Staff. He might release it.”

The Philippine Army has relieved Lieutenant Colonel Melquiades Feliciano, the 56th Infantry Battalion commander, and ordered that license plates of impounded vehicles be surrendered to either the Provost Marshal or the Army logistics office.

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MonUTC2007-05-21T09:01:09+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 21 May 2007 09:01:09 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Troops search for 30 alleged terrorists in Metro Manila

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Targets are Makati mall, Manila park

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:17pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Troops are tracking down the remaining 30 members of a terrorist “sleeper cell” in Metro Manila, after eight of their former members surrendered to Army troops early this month, a military spokesman said Monday.

“There are active intelligence measures being undertaken to gather
[information on] their whereabouts,” Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“The end state of this [effort] is to prevent them from carrying out their terrorist plans in Metro Manila,” Bacarro said.

Bacarro said the eight former members of the “sleeper cell” were undergoing debriefing to extract information that could lead authorities to the 30 others.

Major General Ben Dolorfino, Armed Forces National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) chief, said that the members of the “sleeper cell” trained in bomb-making in Central Mindanao under the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the Southeast Asian arm of the global al-Qaeda terror network.

Dolorfino said the group was targeting a mall in Makati City and the Rizal Park in Manila, and were awaiting orders from their leaders to as to when the attack would be carried out.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2007-05-21T09:00:28+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 21 May 2007 09:00:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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2 cops linked to Batangas school fire deny involvement

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Mayoral bet tagged

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:02pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007

(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — Two policemen facing possible criminal charges over the burning of a polling precinct in Taysan town, Batangas province last May 15, have raised suspicions that a mayoral candidate was behind the attack, as the suspects prepared to question their detention in Camp Crame.

esmeromarinda.jpg

Inspector Robert Marinda and Senior Police Officer 1 William Relos Jr. noted that candidate Victor Portugal got 25 votes in the precinct at an elementary school building in Pinagbayanan town, while his opponent, incumbent Mayor Hernando Villena got around 1,000 votes.

The two operatives of the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) also pointed out that Portugal’s white Nissan Safari with plate number VAP-111 had been “seen in the area” before the incident.

Investigators have said that the RSOG personnel could be working for Villena. Asked to comment on the allegation, Marinda told reporters, “Let me emphasize that I assumed my post [at RSOG] two days ago [before the burning]. I am from Bicol.”

“Nothing could be gained by the petitioners in the burning of the Pinagbayanan Elementary School,” Marinda and Relos said in a petition for habeas corpus, which they are set file before the Quezon City regional trial court later on Monday.

The two officers said Villena requested the RSOG to conduct security patrol in Taysan, and therefore, “the burning will only prejudice or damage the one who requested their assistance.”

“All circumstances taken… would show that the burning was politically motivated,” the two said in the petition.

Their lawyer, Romeo Esmero, said: “It appears to be a vendetta. Someone is losing the count in the precinct.”

Esmero said Portugal had threatened to get back at Relos for arresting one of his supporters, a barangay [village] captain.

But Esmero could not give a direct answer when asked if Portugal was behind the attack that had left a teacher and a poll watcher killed and six others wounded.

Marinda and Villena said their restriction at Camp Crame was “illegal” since no formal charges have been filed against them.

The two officers said they had left Taysan town when the torching happened in Pinagbayanan village at around 3 a.m. on May 15. They added that they never went to Pinagbayanan village, and went on patrol only in the Poblacion, or town proper, at around 1:30 a.m.

Marinda and Villena said they were “11 kilometers away” from the Pinagbayanan school when they received a text message, ordering them to go there. They did not identify the sender of the text message.

The two said Taysan Mayor Luis Favorito, four councilors, two candidates for councilor, executed affidavits attesting to their “investigative presence” at the Pinagyabanan School.

The RSOG men argued that the only evidence against them was the affidavit of Taysan deputy police chief, Inspector Ruel dela Cruz, who claimed that Marinda had matched the artist’s sketch of one of the suspects in the burning.

Dela Cruz, and Taysan municipal police commander Chief Inspector Elpidio Ramirez have also been placed under restrictive custody for possible administrative lapses.

Marinda said that while on patrol in Taysan and the other Batangas town, he was reporting to the RSOG Calabarzon chief, Superintendent Roger James Brillantes.

He said that before leaving Taysan, he called up Brillantes to ask permission to “disengage” before returning to their base.

Officials have said that the presence of the RSOG operatives in Taysan was “unauthorized.”

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2007-05-21T08:24:36+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 21 May 2007 08:24:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Ilocos Norte mayor, councilor shot dead

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By Cristina Arzadon
Inquirer
Last updated 03:35pm (Mla time) 05/21/2007

LAOAG CITY, Philippines — A lone gunman shot and killed reelected Mayor Philip Velasco and Councilor Marcelo Andaya of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, during a coronation ceremony of the town’s farmers’ festival on Sunday night, police and local officials said.

Velasco was seated with Andaya and other local officials in a row in the town’s auditorium at about 11 p.m. when the suspect, who came from the bleachers, approached him and shot him at close range. Velasco was hit in the neck while Andaya was hit in the abdomen, police said.

The mayor’s security men shot and killed the suspect as he was fleeing, said police. The gunman has yet to be identified.

Board Member Shirley Ong Sin, who was seated near Velasco, was wounded when a stray bullet hit her in the arm.

Velasco and Andaya were taken to the Ilocos Norte Provincial Hospital in this city where they died.

The hospital was about 2 kilometers from Bacarra town.

Spent shells from the suspect’s .45 cal. pistol and from the M-16 Armalite rifles used by the mayor’s security escorts and policemen were recovered from the crime scene.

Velasco was proclaimed mayor on May 16. He was reelected to serve his third and final term starting this year.

Police have reported more than 130 people were killed in intense electoral rivalries since the start of the campaign on January 14, compared with 189 deaths in the 2004 election.

But police later lowered the death toll, saying only 41 deaths have been found to be politically motivated, spokesman Samuel Pagdilao said.

He said police would still need to investigate the latest killings in Ilocos Norte to determine if they were election-related.

Proliferation of unlicensed weapons, private armies hired by politicians and allegations of cheating result in deaths every election in the Philippines.

With reports from Joel Guinto, INQUIRER.net; AP; Originally posted at 8:48am

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MonUTC2007-05-21T08:22:25+00:00UTC05bUTCMon, 21 May 2007 08:22:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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