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Archive for May 23rd, 2007

RP military ready to thwart terror despite lack of equipment

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:26pm (Mla time) 05/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the lack of equipment, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showed off its counter-terrorism capability before security officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the regional bloc’s dialogue partners.

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During a capability demonstration at the Fort Bonifacio grounds, elite troops from the Philippine Army’s Special Forces and Light Reaction Battalion simulated an assault on a suspected terrorist lair.

The soldiers blew off the door to the hideout to rescue the hostage and apprehend the terror suspects.

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The Philippine Army’s K-9 demonstrated how bomb-sniffing dogs discovered an improvised bomb, which was later detonated while fire trucks and ambulances were on standby.

Then, Air Force personnel on board a UH-1H or Huey helicopter simulated a rescue operation, with troops being lowered to a disaster site from a rope ladder.

Troops from the Philippine Navy’s Special Operations Group and the Marines also joined the drill. They brought along an amphibious vehicle.

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“The AFP is always ready. We have the capability to fight terrorism,” Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said.

“We lack some equipment but we have intelligence and information sharing,” he added.

In January President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the release of P10 billion to beef up the military hardware with the purchase of helicopters, watercrafts, and squad rifles among others.

Japanese Navy Captain Tokuetso Ishibashi from the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Ministry of Defense said the demonstration was “very impressive.”

“I understand the Philippines faces, experiences severe problem especially in the southern part of the Philippines. So this kind of demonstration enhances mutual understanding among ARF [ASEAN Regional Forum] countries,” Ishibashi said.

Over two dozen of the 180 delegates to the ASEAN Regional Forum witnessed the drill at the Philippine Army headquarters.

Aside from the 10 member-countries of the ASEAN — the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — representatives from the ASEAN’s dialogue partners were also present, including Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, and the European Union, Torres said.

The delegates are in the country from May 21 to 25 for the ASEAN Regional Forum Defense Official’s Meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-23T15:22:06+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 23 May 2007 15:22:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Army ready to face charges over Burgos disappearance

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:21pm (Mla time) 05/23/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Saying security forces have “nothing to hide,” the Philippine Army welcomed leftwing militants’ plan to charge the military leadership with kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

At the same time, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. said soldiers implicated in the Burgos case would be made to cooperate with any investigation into the alleged kidnapping.

“We have nothing to hide. We want a speedy resolution of the case,” Torres told reporters in Fort Bonifacio.

“If they [militants] have evidence to present, we are open to submit them [Army men] to any investigating body,” Torres added.

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

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) has accused the military of kidnapping Burgos, who had worked for the peasant group’s chapter in Bulacan.

The group also vowed to file criminal charges against the military leadership, including the Chief of Staff, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Suspicions soldiers were behind Burgos’ disappearance heightened after the license plate allegedly used on his abductor’s vehicle was traced to a seized vehicle of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that was impounded at the 56th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province.

Army officials said the license plate could have been stolen. An investigation by the Provost Marshal on the disappearance of the license plate has been finished, but its findings have not been made public.

On Tuesday, Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino said an inventory has revealed that license plates and vehicle parts have also gone missing in other Army installations, as he vowed to punish commanders for “lapses” and “negligence.”

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-23T15:19:35+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 23 May 2007 15:19:35 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Murder raps for 2 cops, 6 others in Batangas school fire

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:26pm (Mla time) 05/23/2007

(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines — Police filed on Wednesday criminal charges against two policemen and six John Does over their alleged involvement in the burning of a school used as a polling precinct in Batangas province last May 15, a police official said.

Charges of arson resulting to double homicide and multiple physical injuries were filed before the Batangas Provincial Prosecutors Office against Inspector Roberto Marinda, Senior Police Officer 2 William Relos Jr. and the six still unidentified men, said Director Geary Barias, chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM).

Barias said the charge would be upgraded to triple homicide once police obtain a copy of the death certificate of a third victim, who died at the hospital over the weekend.

A teacher on election duty and a poll teacher were killed instantly in the inferno at the Pinagbayanan village elementary school in Taysan town at around 3 a.m. on May 15, the day after the mid-term elections.

“Our case against them is strong enough,” Barias said in a phone interview.

During a lineup of suspects Monday, a witness identified Marinda as one of the armed men who barged into the school, fired guns, poured gasoline on ballot boxes and set the building on fire, said Barias.

“There is a positive identification here, enough to file a case against Marinda and the other suspects,” he said. Marinda has denied the accusation.

Asked if Taysan Mayor Hernando Villena was involved, Barias said: “That is still being investigated.”

Marinda and Relos are assigned with the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna,
Rizal, Batangas, Quezon) regional special operations group (RSOG). They are under restrictive custody at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna province.

Barias said that the RSOG chief, Superintendent Roger James
Brillantes, was not yet off the hook.

Two other policemen are under restrictive custody and are being investigated for possible administrative charges: Taysan municipal police commander Chief Inspector Elpidio Ramirez, and his deputy, Inspector Ruel de la Cruz.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has described the elections as “good, peaceful, free and fair” despite the violence, last week visited the torched school, which was renamed to honor the slain teacher.

Police had reported about 130 people were killed in intense electoral rivalries during the four-month campaign, but last week abruptly lowered the death toll, saying only 41 deaths were found to be politically motivated. They did not elaborate.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-23T09:45:26+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 23 May 2007 09:45:26 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Troops, suspected private army in Basilan clash

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By Julie Alipala
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 01:18pm (Mla time) 05/23/2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Marine soldiers raided a “holding area” of an alleged private army in Akbar, Basilan early Wednesday and clashed with a still undetermined number of fully-armed men, a ranking military official said.

Brigadier General Ramiro Alivio, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade, said the government suffered no injuries. But he could also not say whether there was any casualty on the side of the armed group during the 20-minute firefight in Barangay (village) Bato-bato, which started at 5:25 a.m.

The private army is reportedly led by a member of the al Qaeda-linked
Abu Sayyaf group, Kiram Hambal alias Bakulaw, said Alivio.

Eleven bandits, including Bakulaw, were in the hideout during the attack, Alivio said.

“[Hambal] is listed as an Abu Sayyaf. He could have merged with the private armed group,” Alivio said.

Alivio said soldiers from the 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team, led by Colonel Felix Almadrones, recovered a .50 caliber machine gun and various types of ammunition.

“Their presence in the area has something to do with politics. We suspect they were sent there to harass voters in connection with the upcoming special elections in Akbar,” Alivio said.

The elections in some polling areas in Akbar were suspended when followers of mayoral candidates Hajaron Jamiri and Alih Salih, a relative of Basilan Governor Wahab Akbar clashed inside a polling center as balloting was about to take place on May 14.

A follower of Jamiri died in the firefight and several others were injured.

Similarly, some areas of Sumisip town failed to conduct elections because of violence during the balloting last week.

The Commission Elections (Comelec) has set the special elections in at least 10 polling centers in Akbar and in Sumisip town for May 26.

Alivio also said the group that clashed with the Marine soldiers could also be behind Monday night’s twin explosion inside the Lamitan Elementary School in Lamitan City, which is about 30 kilometers from Akbar.

The explosions, which injured three followers of a Sumisip town politician, occurred during canvassing of votes from areas of Sumisip, where elections took place on May 14.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, Basilan police chief, said those wounded were Ben Idris 40, Nasser Asarul, 32 and Jalil Paris, 35, all of Sumisip town.

“They were resting in a vacant cottage inside the premises of the school when the perpetrators fired M203 grenade launchers,” Macapantar said.

Macapantar said based on investigation, the perpetrators positioned themselves at the Rizal Pilot Elementary School, which is about 100 meters away from the Lamitan Central School.

Although the police considered the incident election-related, Macapantar said they still have yet to determine the identities of the perpetrators.

“As of now we do not know who fired the grenade launchers,” he said.

Lamitan City Mayor Roderick Furigay told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they have been opposing the Comelec decision to hold the Sumisip canvass in the city.

“For security reasons we also expressed our opposition to the canvassing of votes from the towns of Tuburan, Akbar and Muhammad Adjul here,” he said.

Furigay said the mere sight of armed followers of politicians from these towns have alarmed residents of Lamitan.

Macapantar said the Comelec has already mulled the transfer of the canvassing from Lamitan to Isabela City.

Basilan is a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders are being hunted down in the island province of Sulu, also in the south, along with two Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) operatives who allegedly masterminded the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia — Umar Patek and Dulmatin.

With a report from Joel Guinto, INQUIRER.net; Originally posted at 10:38 am

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2007-05-23T09:44:52+00:00UTC05bUTCWed, 23 May 2007 09:44:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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