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Archive for May 2007

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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Accused mutineers failed to vote, says Querubin’s wife

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 08:25pm (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Army Scout Ranger and Marine officers facing court martial over the botched February 2006 coup d’etat failed to vote last May 14, the wife of one of the accused said.

The jailed officers were not informed beforehand they needed permission from the military leadership a month in advance for a furlough to vote, said Maria Flor Querubin, wife of Colonel Ariel Querubin.

“It’s too hard, so much work to do if they’ll allow them to vote,” Mrs Querubin told reporters.

Quoting her husband’s co-accused, Lieutenant Colonel Achilles Segumalian, Mrs Querubin said jokingly, “He would have voted for Chavit Singson. The vote went to waste.”

Luis “Chavit” Singson is a senatorial candidate of the administration TEAM Unity party.

Twenty-eight officers are facing mutiny and other lesser charges before a court martial over an alleged plan to lead soldiers in a mass withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February 24, 2006, the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt.

The highest-ranked accused are former Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda and former Scout Rangers chief Brigadier General Danilo Lim.

Mrs Querubin said she campaigned for ex-Navy lieutenant and senatorial candidate Antonio Trillanes IV, who is charged before military and civilian courts over a failed mutiny on July 27, 2003.

“It shows that people really want change. The support for senator Trillanes is overwhelming,” she said.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2007-05-22T14:06:52+00:00UTC05bUTCTue, 22 May 2007 14:06:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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BURGOS CASE: Army commanders face sanctions for lost plates, spare parts

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:28pm (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Troops’ “negligence” and “lapses” have resulted in the loss of license plates and spare parts from vehicles in various Army camps, Army Chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino said Tuesday, amid accusations the military was behind the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos.

“In other units, due to negligence, these [license plates] were lost… even engines and spare parts,” said Tolentino, adding investigators were looking at the possibility some groups stole the license plate from the 56th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Bulacan province to link the military to the Burgos abduction.

The license plate on the vehicle that was allegedly used to kidnap Burgos was traced to a Department of Environment and Natural Resources-seized vehicle that has been impounded at the 56th IB base in Norzagaray town. Officials said the license plate could have been stolen.

“There were lapses. We have a policy that license plates of impounded vehicles should be turned over to the Provost Marshal. Maybe, [commanders] neglected this” said Tolentino, who ordered an inventory of all vehicles impounded inside Army camps.

“The commanders will be held liable. There will be heavy punishment,” he added.

Tolentino said that during a recent visit to the 56th IB base, Jonas’ mother, Edith Burgos, saw the impounded DENR vehicle, which was missing its headlights and other spare parts aside from the license plate.

The commander of the 56th IB, Lieutenant Colonel Melquiades Feliciano, has been placed on preventive suspension while the Armed Forces Provost Marshal investigated how the vehicle’s license plate was seen on the alleged kidnap vehicle.

Tolentino said Feliciano’s predecessor, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Clement, was also questioned since the license plate could have been stolen before Feliciano took over from his as battalion commander earlier this year.

Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he would receive the Provost Marshal report later Tuesday.

“Something got lost, something is missing, then negligence would be easy to find there. I will be looking at the report and discuss it with some of my staff within today [Tuesday],” Esperon said.

Tolentino said he knew the Provost Marshal’s findings, but refused to discuss it, saying he did not want to preempt Esperon.

But Tolentino said of the results: “You will be surprised.”

Burgos, son of the late press freedom fighter Jose Burgos Jr., was allegedly abducted at a Quezon City mall last April 28.

Leftwing groups blamed the military for the alleged abduction. Burgos had worked for the Bulacan chapter of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines).

Denying anew the allegation, Tolentino said: “Our conscience is clear.”

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2007-05-22T14:05:59+00:00UTC05bUTCTue, 22 May 2007 14:05:59 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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US embassy official gets police briefing on killings

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Case of missing activist Jonas Burgos left out

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:13pm (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Police have briefed an official of the United States Embassy in Manila on the spate of violence against left-wing militants although the case of missing activist Jonas Burgos had not been discussed, an official said.

Director Geary Barias, chief of the police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), led the briefing for Scott Bellard at the Camp Crame national police headquarters on Tuesday.

“We have an ongoing dialogue with the PNP. We are looking for ways on how to get these cases solved. It’s a continuing dialogue and we praise the PNP for their openness,” Belard said.

When asked by reporters, Barias said Burgos’ case was not discussed.

“Every now and then he comes to us and we give him an update of the cases being handled by Task Force Usig,” Barias said.

Task Force Usig, which Barias heads, is a special police unit investigating extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Burgos, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos, was allegedly kidnapped in Quezon City last April 28.

The left-wing Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines, KMP) has blamed the military for Burgos’ disappearance. Burgos had worked for the group’s Bulacan chapter.

Suspicions that the military was behind Burgos’ disappearance persisted after the license plate of the vehicle allegedly used in the kidnapping had been traced to a vehicle that was impounded at the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province.

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TueUTC2007-05-22T14:04:50+00:00UTC05bUTCTue, 22 May 2007 14:04:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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Arraignment of 28 officers in February coup deferred anew

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 07:08pm (Mla time) 05/22/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The 28 officers linked to the failed February
2006 uprising scored anew in their court martial trial, after the tribunal ordered military prosecutors to furnish the court with copies of the pre-trial advice (PTA) in 72 hours.

The request effectively delayed once again the arraignment of the 28 officers on charges of mutiny and other violations of the Articles of War during proceedings at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province.

“The Trial Judge Advocate General is hereby ordered to furnish copies of the documents (PTA) to all the accused within 72 hours,” said Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, the court president.

The PTA reversed the recommendations of pre-trial investigation (PTI), which had dropped the charge of mutiny or violation of Article of War 67, but recommended the filing of lesser charges, including violation of Article of War 96 or conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

The court had ordered military lawyers to furnish the accused copies of the PTI report.

Colonel Pedro Herrera-Davila, staff judge advocate of Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., prepared the PTA.

Esperon had said that it was his “prerogative” as chief of staff to restore the mutiny charge.

A member of the prosecution panel, Lieutenant Colonel Ukol Paglala, has tried to block the release of the PTA, saying it was a “classified” document, but defense lawyers had objected.

“The PTA should be attached to the charge sheets furnished to the accused. Without this basic document there is no case,” Trixie Angeles, counsel for Army Scout Ranger Captain Ruben Guinolbay.

During a recess, one of the accused, Marine Colonel Orlando de Leon lost his temper, accusing Paglala and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Feliciano Loy for allegedly lying in open court.

“Stop lying. You are here to dispense justice and not tell to lies,” De Leon told the two.

Three Marine officers — Colonels Armando Bañez and Januario Caringal, and First Lieutenant Belinda Ferrer — failed to attend Tuesday’s hearing since they had been confined at the hospital.

The charges against the officers stemmed from an alleged plot to unseat President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Feb. 24, 2006.

Ex-Army Scout Rangers chief, Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin allegedly hatched the plot, supposedly with the knowledge of former Marine commandant Major General Renato Miranda.

Except for Captain Dante Langkit, who is detained in Fort Bonifacio, and those in the hospital, all the accused officers are detained in Camp Capinpin.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2007-05-22T14:03:28+00:00UTC05bUTCTue, 22 May 2007 14:03:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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