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Archive for July 2007

AFP to expand Metro deployment vs NPA ‘recruitment’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:56pm (Mla time) 07/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Because recruitment activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the National Capital Region have supposedly become “rampant,” the military will expand its deployment to three more cities in Metro Manila, a Philippine Army official said Tuesday.

Pending the final approval of local officials, the military hopes to deploy by August four to five 10-man teams each to Marikina, Malabon and Navotas, said Army Civil Military Operations Battalion commander Colonel Ricardo Visaya.

Visaya said he has talked to Mayors Tito Oreta of Malabon and Marides Fernando of Marikina, and has set a meeting with Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco to discuss the possible deployment.

On Tuesday afternoon, 15 CMO squads were redeployed to the Baseco, Parola, Sta. Mesa, and Pandacan districts in Manila, bringing to 20 the number of squads that have returned to the metropolis since they were pulled out just before the May 14 elections.

Earlier, six squads were redeployed to Quezon City and three others sent back to Taguig City, Visaya said, adding he was negotiating with Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri for the return of three squads in his city.

Visaya said three more squads could be deployed to Manila, two to Moriones, Tondo, and one to Smokey Mountain.

“The recruitment [of the NPA] in Metro Manila has become so rampant. They are timing it with their tactical offensives [outside the capital],” Visaya told Camp Aguinaldo reporters.

Visaya said the soldiers are initially set for a three- to four-month deployment in the metropolis, but could stay longer, “until such time that the people are well aware of the deception” of the rebels.

Following the pullout of the 260 CMO troops from Metro Manila before the elections, Visaya said there was an “increase in criminal activity,” especially in Caloocan City and Payatas in Quezon City.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-07-31T08:33:38+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Tue, 31 Jul 2007 08:33:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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Gov’t commissions 5 more planes for cloud seeding

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:14pm (Mla time) 07/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The government has commissioned five more planes for cloud seeding operations in northern and central Luzon to further offset the effects of a dry spell, an official said.

This brings to eight the number of planes being used for cloud seeding over watersheds and agricultural lands. Six of the eight panes were rented from private firms for P1.7 million a month each, while the two others are from the Philippine Air Force, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Administrator Glen Rabonza said Tuesday.

Two aircraft are performing cloud seeding operations over the Angat watershed in Bulacan province, three in La Union province, which has been placed under a state of calamity, and three in the Cagayan Valley region, Rabonza told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Depending on the cloud formations, Rabonza said the planes were scheduled to fly twice daily.

“We need to produce more rains, especially in agricultural areas and watersheds,” Rabonza said.

“The instruction from the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] was to mitigate the effects of the dry spell,” he said.

He said the P1.7 million for each private aircraft included fuel cost and the iodized salt and chemicals used to induce rain from the clouds.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sounded the alarm over a dry spell that was threatening to devastate agriculture and trigger power and water shortages.

Aside from cloud seeding operations, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) has launched an information drive on water conservation last week.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-07-31T07:43:27+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Tue, 31 Jul 2007 07:43:27 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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Arrest of Marines’ killers reset to Thursday–officials

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Deadline for CCCH probe report now Wednesday

By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 02:46pm (Mla time) 07/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Security forces will serve the warrant of arrest on the suspected killers of 14 Marines in Basilan on Thursday, military and police officials in Mindanao said on Tuesday, the day “punitive actions” had originally been scheduled.

The rescheduling of the arrests is in response to a request from the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a joint body of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for another day to complete its investigation into the July 10 ambush and clash in Al-Barkah town, Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, and Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, confirmed.

Goltiao said the order to stay the serving of the warrants against some 130 MILF officials and fighters was “effective 10 a.m.” Tuesday.

They stand accused not only of killing the Marines in an ambush and subsequent daylong clash but also of beheading and mutilating 10 of the slain soldiers. However, while the MILF has acknowledged engaging the Marines in battle, it has denied responsibility for the beheadings.

“Hindi muna i-serve warrant kasi nagrequest CCCH ng [The warrants won’t be served yet because the CCCH requested an] extension for two days for them to have more time to finish the investigation,” Goltiao said in a phone interview.

Asked until when the extension of the CCCH deadline would be, Cedo, in a separate interview said: “The extension is until tomorrow [Wednesday].”

The original deadline for the CCCH was Monday, after which police, backed up by the military, would move in on Tuesday to serve the warrants, triggering fears from many quarters of a possible outbreak of violence.

Earlier, acting defense secretary and concurrent National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said he would recommend that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo give the CCCH until Wednesday to submit its report.

“The wise thing to do is to wait for the report, I think the President will be amenable to that,” Gonzales said in a telephone interview.

Gonzales is in Basilan to meet with the members of the fact-finding team, composed of three representatives each from the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“I think the team will give an extensive report so it’s important to take a look at it. What I don’t want to happen is for government to arrest the wrong people,” he said. “I think it’s wise to wait for the report, but the police are here, they are ready.”

Part of the CCCH’s tasks is to identify exactly who was responsible for the beheadings.

Also earlier in the day, before confirmation of the extension, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said it was not for Arroyo but for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to decide whether to push through with the arrests or not

“It’s not for the President to decide…she has left it to the field commanders and the chief [of the] PNP to decide. It is up to the police to evaluate if an extension is worth it,” Ermita told reporters in Camp Crame.

Also in Camp Crame, PNP Director General Oscar Calderon said they would carry out the arrests as originally scheduled unless ordered otherwise “because today is the target date. Any delay in the service would give time for the subjects to strengthen [their] position…why not serve it?”

While acknowledging the importance of preserving the peace process with the MILF, Ermita said the police were merely following legal procedures in carrying out the arrests.

“There is a peace process, which is why we are measuring our moves…if it was a combat encounter then there would be nothing to discuss, but because this is a heinous crime where they decapitated and mutilated the body of our soldiers, that falls into a criminal act, which is why we are acting,” Ermita said.

Arroyo met members of the Cabinet security cluster Tuesday noon in Malacañang.

Gonzales said the meeting would discuss a possible repeat of a peace summit of local officials, this time in Luzon and the Visayas, following a successful summit in Cagayan de Oro early this month.

Originally posted at 11:37am

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-07-31T07:42:32+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Tue, 31 Jul 2007 07:42:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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5 alleged NPA rebels slain in Camarines Sur, Isabela

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 11:58am (Mla time) 07/31/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Five suspected communist guerillas were killed and a soldier was wounded in two separate encounters with Army troops in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Isabela, military officials said Tuesday.

Two suspected New People’s Army (NPA) fighters were killed after their group clashed with a platoon from the 42nd Infantry Battalion in Burabod village, Calabanga town at around 5:30 p.m. Monday, said Lieutenant Colonel Rhoderick Parayno, spokesman for the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

There were no casualties on the Army side, Parayno said in a text message, adding that the remains of the two rebels and an M16 rifle were recovered from the scene.

Earlier, three suspected NPA fighters were killed in an encounter with troops from the 52nd Reconnaissance Company in sitio (sub-village) Lumalong, Cadsalan village, San Mariano town, Isabela province, said Major General Rodrigo Maclang, Army 5th Infantry Division commander.

An Army soldier was wounded in the firefight, Maclang said in a text message.

The 7,100-strong NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been waging a guerilla campaign from the countryside for nearly four decades.

Originally posted at 10:01am

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-07-31T07:41:19+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Tue, 31 Jul 2007 07:41:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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Court junks Trillanes bid to attend sessions

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — The Makati City regional trial court (RTC) dismissed for lack of merit a petition by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who is facing coup d’etat charges, to be allowed to attend sessions, and to set up office and grant interviews in his Fort Bonifacio detention cell.

Likening Trillanes’ case to that of former congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who was elected into office despite being convicted on child rape charges, the court, in an 11-page ruling, said his election did not afford him special privileges.

“Such an aberrant situation not only elevates accused-appellant’s status to that of a special class. It would also be a mockery of the purposes of the correction system,” Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makat RTC branch said, quoting from the Supreme Court ruling that denied Jalosjos’ motion to attend House sessions.

Trillanes, one of the alleged leaders of a short-lived mutiny on July 27, 2003, placed 11th in the race for 12 Senate seats in the May 14 elections on the strength of over 11 million votes.

Like the Jalosjos case, Pimentel said voters knew of Trillanes’ pending cases before the Makati court when they elected him to office.

Trillanes is also charged with violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) before a general court martial for allegedly leading 300 junior officers and soldiers in the uprising.

The court also cited a letter from Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who said a “political office” could not be set up inside military camps since it could “politicize” the ranks.

In the letter, Esperon asked the court to clarify whether or not Trillanes should remain under military custody. The Senator is detained at the Philippine Marines brig in Fort Bonifacio.

Esperon reiterated this argument, when sought by reporters for comment on the court ruling.

“[The decision] goes with my reasoning that he should not be allowed [to hold office while in detention] because of his office,” he said.

Esperon said Trillanes’ supporters voted for him knowing that “he has a handicap in performing his duties.”

Trillanes’ lawyer, Reynaldo Robles, did not answer calls on his mobile phone when sought for comment.

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-07-30T13:29:06+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Mon, 30 Jul 2007 13:29:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm07

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‘No Basilan offensives’–Palace

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Bunye: Warrants to be served after Tuesday

Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no military offensives in Basilan, Malacañang said on Monday, even as acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales said there has been no decision yet on whether warrants of arrest against the accused killers of 14 Marines will be served on Tuesday.

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Gonzales’ statement, in an interview with reporters, ran counter to both military officials’ announcements that they would back up police serving the warrants on Tuesday and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s pronouncement that the warrants would be served only “after” Tuesday.

Tuesday is the day Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the military would mount punitive actions against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters it holds responsible for the deaths of 14 Marines, 10 of them beheaded and mutilated, during an ambush and battle last July 10.

The operations were supposed to have been launched late last week but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered them put on hold for three days to give the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a body composed of government and MILF representatives, a chance to investigate the incident and identify those responsible.

Despite this, police released some of the names of at least 130 MILF fighters accused of involvement in the clash in Al-Barkah town.

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Earlier Monday, Esperon said the punitive actions would push through even as the chief MILF representative to the CCCH said they would not be able to finish their investigation.

Esperon said the “punitive action” will see the police serving the warrants with the military serving as a backup force.

The CCCH deadline is supposed to be Monday.

“It’s a go. D-day is still tomorrow [Tuesday],” Esperon told reporters after he inspected another Marine battalion to be deployed to Basilan on Wednesday.

“We have gone this far, we do not hope to give [any] further extension,” the military chief said.

“We will weigh our options later on if punitive military action should still be taken against the perpetrators of the beheadings,” he said.

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The MILF has admitted attacking the Marines, saying they encroached on their territory in Al-Barkah without prior coordination, but they denied involvement in the beheadings.

The rebels also vowed to fight back if the military attacked them in their pursuit for the Marines’ attackers.

“We will serve the warrants. If there is resistance labanan na [the fighting starts],” Marine commandant Major General Nelson Allaga said.

But Gonzales said he was going to Zamboanga City on Tuesday to look at progress reports before making a decision on serving the warrants.

He also declined to comment on Esperon’s statement.

For his part, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye hinted of a possible extension, saying they were still “hoping that the CCCH can submit [its] report on Tuesday.”

Only “after tomorrow [Tuesday],” Bunye added, would the warrants be served.

In a text message from Esperon, in response to a query from Bunye on his statement about punitive actions, the military chief said: “We are sticking to the plan. The matter of extensions [again] have [sic] not been discussed yet.”

The message was forward to INQUIRER.net by Bunye.

Von Al Haq, CCCH chairman representing the MILF, said the committee would not be able to finish its investigation this Monday and was asking for “several days” more to finish its work.

Al-Haq said he has forwarded his request to his counterpart in the government panel, Brigadier General Edgardo Guerra, who in turn, will pass the request to the chief government peace negotiator, Rodolfo Garcia, before it reaches Malacañang.

“We can’t finish it today. We still have witnesses to interview tomorrow [Tuesday]. The fact-finding mission should not be restrained by any timeframe because it might affect the results,” said Al Haq in a phone interview.

Esperon said he has not been informed of the CCCH’s request to extend its Monday deadline, which was set by Arroyo last Friday during a command conference at Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

“They have not sent a word as to whether they [CCCH] would complete it or not. We will know later today, but as of now, we are already preparing to assist the Philippine National Police,” the military chief said.

“We do not hope to give further extensions but in the interest of thoroughness and truth, we have abided by the three-day extension of the investigations,” he said.

Asked if authorities would go by the findings of the CCCH in going after the suspects in the Basilan attack, Esperon replied: “That will be worked out on the ground.”

During a pep talk to the Marines, Esperon asked the troops: “Handa na ba kayo? [Are you ready?]”

To which they replied: “Yes, sir.”

Echoing Arroyo’s marching orders, Esperon said: “Our 14 Marine brothers, we will not waste their sacrifice…I only ask you to follow the process.”

Fresh from retraining, the 7th Marine Battalion is set to leave for Basilan on Wednesday. It will replace the 9th Marine Battalion, which will be transferred to Palawan province.

The 9th Marine battalion will replace the 10th Marine battalion, which will be recalled to Manila for retraining.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said they would use “reasonable force” if the subjects of the arrest warrants offer resistance.

“We will use reasonable force if necessary [for us] to be able to arrest the persons involved,” Pagdilao said in an interview.

Pagdilao said the arrest warrants serve as a “legal justification” to move against the suspects.

Once the suspects are arrested, they will be brought before the court that issued the warrant and then placed under police custody.

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Here are more pictures

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Written by joelguinto

Mon+00:002007-07-30T08:48:12+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Mon, 30 Jul 2007 08:48:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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Military task force trains its sights on the Abu Sayyaf

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:56pm (Mla time) 07/28/2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–A 5,000-strong military task force in Basilan will pursue operations against the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf bandit group even as punitive actions against those responsible for ambushing and later beheading Marine troops last July 10 are held off.

A a joint military and police command conference here, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the “continuation of full blast operations” against the bandit group.

“Good luck, Juancho,” she told Task Force Thunder commander Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, shortly before she left Camp Navarro here on Friday.

Arroyo is an adopted “mistah” or class member of the Philippine Military Academy’s 1978 class, to which Sabban, the concurrent deputy commander of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), belongs.

Based in Basilan, Task Force Thunder will be composed of four Marine battalions, an Army Special Forces battalion, An Army Scout Ranger contingent, and 28 Army militia or CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit) companies, Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

“That should give you more than 5,000 operating troops in Basilan,” he told reporters.

The same forces are awaiting orders to strike against the Marines’ attackers in Basilan.

Amid international calls for restraint, Arroyo on Friday held back for three days a planned military assault against Moro gunmen on Basilan island accused of beheading 10 Philippine Marines in an ambush.

Esperon said there was an estimated 400 Abu Sayyaf members in the country, of which, only 29 are in Basilan, the group’s traditional bailiwick.

Asked if the creation of the Task Force was meant to thwart the resurgence of the group, Esperon said: “For a long period of time, we have seen them decline [in numbers]. The trend has not changed.”

“It is just some of them are back in Basilan. They can’t take root [there again],” the military chief said.

Esperon noted that the Abu Sayyaf was still reeling from the deaths of its chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and his right hand man Jainal Antel Sali alias Abu Solaiman several months ago, as a result of the military’s aggressive pursuit operations in the island province of Sulu.

The bandits are believed to be haboring Jemaah Islamiyah bomb experts Dulmatin and Umar Patek, the alleged brains of the 2002 bomb attacks in Bali, Indonesia, in Sulu.

In June, the Abu Sayyaf reportedly elected a new leader, Yasser Igasan, who had sourced foreign funding for the group.

Asked how the troops would distinguish between the hunt for the Abu Sayyaf and the Marines’ attackers in Basilan, Esperon said operations against the bandits would “exemplify” the Sulu offensive, which was heavy on military operations.

The hunt for the Marines’ attackers, on the other hand, will go through criminal investigations first before arrest warrants are served, with the military assisting the police, he said.

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Written by joelguinto

Sat+00:002007-07-28T09:44:31+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Sat, 28 Jul 2007 09:44:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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Arroyo puts Basilan offensive on hold for 3 days for probe

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 08:53pm (Mla time) 07/27/2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — (UPDATE 7) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered punitive actions against the attackers who killed 14 Marines in Basilan on July 10 put on hold for three days to give way to an investigation by a joint fact-finding team of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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At a command conference at Camp Navarro here, Arroyo gave the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) three days from Friday to determine who killed the Marines and beheaded 10 of them during a clash in Al-Barkah town, Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

He also said that, notwithstanding the reprieve given the MILF, Arroyo ordered the military will continue to launch operations against the extremist Abu Sayyaf in Basilan and other parts of Mindanao.

“Until such time that the results of the investigation come in, there should be no [punitive action],” Esperon told a news conference at the Edward Andrews Airbase.

But, he added: “We expect D-day on Tuesday.”

The military chief acknowledged that the three-day reprieve is meant to preserve peace talks between the government and the MILF.

Once the CCCH identifies the perpetrators and cases are filed in court, Esperon said the Basilan police would serve the arrest warrants with the military acting as a “strong back-up force.”

“By going through legal processes, we shall avoid unnecessary action and reaction,” Esperon said.

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But he minced no words about his desire to punish the Marines’ killers.

“We must go full force and steadfast and uncompromising in punishing the beheaders [sic], the more that we allow this to pass without getting punished, we will be encouraging more beheading,” he said.

Esperon also said that it was “not a matter of who perpetrated [the beheadings] anymore.”

“It’s just a matter of punishing them so that people will not think that it is perfectly all right to behead, this barbaric act has no place,” he said.

Acting defense secretary Norberto Gonzales agreed, saying: “No more amnesty for beheaders this time and in the future.”

At least 130 MILF leaders and members were named in the arrest order issued by Judge Leo Jay Principe of the Basilan Regional Trial Court Branch 1 on Thursday.

Principe recommended no bail bond for the nine murder charges against the accused and P200,000 bail bond for each of them for the four counts of frustrated murder.

The military has said the warrant would be its “passport” to moving against the Marines’ killers.

Chief Inspector Danilo Bacas, information chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, said among those ordered arrested are Hamsa Sakandun, Nat Mudalan, Suhod Dimaya, Sulaiman Murata, Hadji Dan Asnawi, Lun Hadji, Rogie Indama and Nurhasan Jamin, all MILF or Abu Sayyaf leaders in Basilan.

During the command conference, Esperon said Arroyo also approved the procurement of mortar rounds and tubes to be used against the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf.

Arroyo, in a fatigue vest with the tag of commander-in-chief over a white shirt and Khaki pants, arrived at the Edwin Andrews Airbase before 10:30 a.m.

She was met by Esperon, Lieutenant General Eugenio Cedo, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, and Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino, Army chief, among others.

The MILF appealed to the government Thursday, through the joint CCCH, to hold off punitive actions against the Marines’ attackers until the investigation has identified them.

The CCCH inquiry is set to start in Basilan also on Friday.

Police Director General Oscar Calderon said the police will spearhead the serving of the warrant against the suspects.

“We are the law enforcement agency so we will be the one to serve the warrant against the group,” Calderon said.
Esperon gave the go-signal for punitive actions after the MILF failed to surrender the Marines’ attackers last Sunday, the deadline given by the military chief.

The MILF took responsibility for the attack on the Marines in Al-Barkah town, saying the troops encroached on its territory, but denied beheading and mutilating the 10 dead troops.

Meanwhile, Malaysia and international donors appeared to be trying to stave off another conflict in the south, with chief Malaysian negotiator, Othman Abdul Razak, meeting with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad last Wednesday.

After that, the rebel chief ordered guerrillas to exercise “maximum restraint” and pledged their commitment to the peace process, according to guerrilla spokesman Eid Kabalu.

Donors Canada and Japan expressed alarm over a possible outbreak of hostilities in letters to the government this week, saying the fighting may prompt them to suspend aid operations in the south.

But Gonzales said the government would act as a “sovereign state” and that the donor countries’ concerns would not affect its decision on whether or not to move against the Marines’ killers.

“That [concern] will not affect our decision. We have expressed our gratitude to our friends for their help, but if we have to make a decision, we will do so as a sovereign state,” Gonzales said in a radio interview.

With a report from Lira Fernandez, Thea Alberto, INQUIRER.net; Julie S. Alipala, Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie C. Senase, Inquirer Mindanao; Originally posted at 10:40am

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Written by joelguinto

Fri+00:002007-07-27T13:34:49+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Fri, 27 Jul 2007 13:34:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm07

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MILF to AFP: ‘Suspend assault, give way to probe team’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 05:00pm (Mla time) 07/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked the military, through a joint ceasefire panel, to hold off “punitive actions” until an investigation determines who were responsible for the beheading of 10 of the 14 Marines killed in Basilan province on July 10.

At the same time, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said their chairman Al Haj Murad has issued a directive for their forces to observe “maximum restraint” in the face of the military offensive.

Kabalu said that a military offensive, and the subsequent fighting, would lead to more violations of the more than three-year old ceasefire between the MILF and government.

The assault was ordered by Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. after the MILF refused his ultimatum to surrender guerrillas the military accuses of the beheadings.

The MILF has acknowledged engaging the Marines in the July 10 clash but denied beheading the fallen troops.

“It will be hard to resolve this, the issues will be muddled” if fighting breaks out, Kabalu told reporters by speakerphone.

Kabalu said the order for “maximum restraint” was issued by the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), which is composed of representatives from both the government and MILF peace panels.

Both retired general Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the government panel, and Von Al Haq, head of the MILF panel to the CCCH, confirmed that a joint investigating team, including representatives from the contending parties and civil society groups, will be in Basilan on Friday for a week-long fact-finding mission meant to identify those behind the beheadings.

However, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro could not say if the military would hold off “punitive actions” to give way to the investigation.

“I cannot answer that right now. We will know tomorrow [Friday],” when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Esperon are expected to preside over a command conference in Zamboanga City on the Basilan operations, Bacarro said.

Kabalu said Murad’s “maximum restraint” directive means “MILF forces will remain on defensive position. The forces will not move, will not fire unless they are fired at.”

“They will stay in their areas. They will not provoke an encounter,” he added.

Kabalu said the order, which covers all MILF forces in Mindanao, is also meant to prevent a spillover of violence outside Basilan.

“We want to preserve the primacy of the peace process. We do not want to add to the tension,” he said.

Kabalu said the MILF would allow the military into their territories, with proper coordination, but only after the CCCH identifies who beheaded the dead Marines.

“If it is done the right way, it provided under the implementing guidelines of the ceasefire agreement [that] they [military] can enter [MILF territory],” he said.

Although he stressed that surrendering their members is not allowed under the ceasefire agreement, Kabalu said they could be arrested provided warrants are presented and the arrests are coursed through the CCCH.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-07-26T09:23:20+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Thu, 26 Jul 2007 09:23:20 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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‘No regrets,’ says ex-mutineer-turned-senator

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:08pm (Mla time) 07/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Even after being detained for four years, the soldiers that staged a shortlived mutiny in 2003 have “no regrets” about the incident, one of its leaders said.

“We have no regrets. There’s always a lesson learned,” Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said in a statement on Thursday, the eve of the fourth anniversary of the failed uprising at the posh Oakwood Apartments in Makati City.

“Our incarceration, it brought us back to earth. It gave us the opportunity to be close to God and our families, to be more spiritual. We’ll have to absorb all these things in a positive light. We will come out as better persons,” he said.

At the same time, Trillanes lamented how corruption continued in government — the reason why the rebel soldiers, who had called themselves the Magdalo group, staged the mutiny last July 27, 2003.

“Definitely, nothing has changed. It even grew worse. We still have corrupt officials in government,” said Trillanes, who placed 11th in the senatorial elections last May 14.

Trillanes belittled the military’s claim that it has stamped out corruption in the establishment by introducing reforms in the procurement system and in the conviction by a military court of former comptroller, retired Major General Carlos Garcia for corruption.

“They produced a scapegoat. While they abolished these offices like the J6 [military comptroller], they were replaced by agencies with the same function,” he said.

Trillanes said the misfiring of mortars during an encounter in Basilan province between Marines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last July 10 when 14 government soldiers were killed, showed that the grievances of the Magdalo group were real.

Aside from alleged corruption, the Magdalo group also decried the poor state of military hardware, especially those issued to soldiers in strife-torn Mindanao.

“What happened in Basilan, I believe it highlights the relevance of Oakwood. It showed that our grievances are true,” he said.

While he acknowledged that some Magdalo members have reaffirmed allegiance to the government or have entered guilty pleas before civilian and military courts, other like him have remained defiant because “it was about doing the right thing.”

He said three of his estranged comrades who have publicly condemned their actions in Oakwood — Army Captains Gerardo Gambala, Milo
Maestrecampo, and Lawrence San Juan — were “expelled” last year from the Magdalo group.

“There is no division [in the Magdalo group]. Gambala, Maestrecampo, and San Juan were expelled,” he said.

Trillanes also maintained that the Magdalo group went to Oakwood not to mount a mutiny, but to air grievances.

“We are not denying that we did not do anything wrong. Some things were violated for a higher cause. The morality issue should be left to God. Legally, it is up to the court,” he said.

Acknowledging the “wrong” they did in Oakwood, Trillanes said, “We are not supposed to be there, at the most, it was alarm and scandal.”

Some 300 junior officers and enlisted men took part in the failed uprising in 2003 and were charged before civilian and military courts.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-07-26T08:57:30+00:00+00:0007b+00:00Thu, 26 Jul 2007 08:57:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am07

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