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Archive for November 2007

11 killed, 13 wounded in Sulu clashes

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By Joel Guinto, Julie Alipala
INQUIRER.net, Inquirer
Last updated 04:51pm (Mla time) 11/30/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Eleven soldiers, five from the Philippine Marines, and six from a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) were killed in two encounters in the southern island province of Sulu at dawn Friday, the Marine commander there said.

Six government troopers were wounded and based on intelligence reports, seven other MNLF members were wounded, including their leader, Habier Malik, who was hit in the hand, said Colonel Cesario Atienza, chief of the 2nd Marine Brigade.

At around 5:20 a.m., a special operations platoon from the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 11, while on security patrol, encountered an estimated 30-50 MNLF rebels, supported by the Abu Sayyaf, in sitio (sub-village) Kupong, Pandan-Pandan village, Kalingalan Kaluang town, Atienza said in a phone interview.

Two MNLF rebels were killed and four Marines were wounded in the 30-minute encounter, Atienza said, adding several high-powered firearms were seized from the insurgents.

As the rebels retreated, they encountered reinforcement troops in Kambing village in the same town, sparking a 45-minute gun battle, Atienza said.

Five soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in the said firefight, he said.

Four rebels were killed, two identified as Gamhir Abdul Halik, Malik’s right-hand man, and Madang Bayrola.

Malik leads a faction of the MNLF that is calling for the release of their chairman, Nur Misuari, who is under house arrest on rebellion charges over a 2001 uprising in Sulu.

Originally posted at 2:11pm

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-11-30T09:29:49+00:00UTC11bUTCFri, 30 Nov 2007 09:29:49 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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AFP, PNP not discounting continuing threats

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Close to 1,000 troops beef up Metro forces

By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:20pm (Mla time) 11/30/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) are not discounting the possibility of continued threats to the government notwithstanding the suppression of an attempted uprising by a group of rebel solders led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV Thursday.

Close to 1,000 Army soldiers, including US-trained counter-terrorism troops have been sent to Metro Manila, as the Armed Forces remained on red alert a day after an attempted uprising by rebel soldiers who took over a Makati City hotel, chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon said they believe there are still groups planning to launch more destabilization efforts.

Razon said at least three other teams of rebel soldiers, believed aligned with Trillanes, remain at large, aside from other fugitives like Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, who he described as “armed and dangerous.”

The PNP chief said documents recovered at the Manila Peninsula hotel, where Trillanes and his group holed out as they called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down, showed that the destabilization plots remain “active.”

Although he refused to say what the papers contained, he said they indicated that the Makati standoff and the Bonifacio Day rallies on Friday were connected.

“Active pa yun [plots]…dahil supposed to be yung ginawa kahapon [because what happened yesterday] is connected with today’s activities,” added Razon, referring to the rallies being held by left-leaning groups at Manila.

However, Razon said the police are still investigating the possible links of activist groups to Trillanes.

He also confirmed reports that residents of Tondo, Manila, had been recruited for P200 to join a rally in support of Trillanes.

The 48th Infantry Battalion and the Light Reaction Battalion (LRB) will augment the 3,000-strong AFP-National Capital Region Command (AFP-NCRCom). An infantry battalion is composed of some 500 troops, elite battalions, like the LRB are smaller in size.

“We are not discounting anything that is why we are on red alert. That’s why we have contingency forces,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“We want to have all the options just in case there are other scenarios that will develop. Don’t be worried because these are all intended to quell similar moves as what Trillanes and Lim have done, which is [a] plain and simple power grab,” he added.

At the same time, Esperon said the military “preempted” the movement of another group of officers and men who were allegedly part of Trillanes’ and Lim’s plan to form a “new government” in place of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Esperon refused to identify the group, but he said: “It could have been a major source of embarrassment and major threat if they were able to do it.”

Asked if the said officers and men have been restricted, Esperon hinted that they could have been in detention even before the Thursday incident.

Asked if he was referring to Lim’s fellow detainees at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province, Esperon said, “Sort of,” then looking east, towards Rizal, he said: “I’m looking there now.”

He said the group that failed to move and the one that occupied the Manila Peninsula hotel were among four groups, composed mainly of members of the Magdalo group of mutineers, who were planning to unseat Arroyo.

The group, including Trillanes, was behind the short-lived mutiny in July 2003 during which they occupied the Oakwood luxury apartments, just a short distance across Ayala Avenue from the Peninsula.

Taking a swipe at the rebels, Esperon said: “These messianic people think they are the solution to the country’s problems when they can’t even solve problems in their own units.”

Blasting Lim, he said: “He probably wants to celebrate National Heroes Day and think he is a hero. He is not.”

Lim’s group is facing mutiny charges before a court martial for their alleged roles in a purported coup plot in February 2006.

The former commander of the elite Army Scout Rangers, Lim was a witness at the coup hearing of Trillanes and 30 other alleged leaders of the 2003 Oakwood mutiny. Lim and the accused officers walked out of a hearing at the Makati City regional trial court late Thursday morning and marched to the Manila Peninsula.

Esperon said security at the Tanay detention center had been beefed up after the hotel standoff.

The military chief said there was no need for a loyalty check within military ranks in the wake of the standoff.

“We are solid…You do not really have to check on loyalties,” he said.

Esperon also justified the force used to end the standoff. Marines, Navy forces and police commandos stormed the hotel and crashed a tank through its front doors and into the lobby.

“We went for a quick decision. I think it was the only way, I must say, of doing it — quick and decisive,” he sad.

Esperon said the military is offering to pay for the damages sustained by the hotel.

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FriUTC2007-11-30T08:47:16+00:00UTC11bUTCFri, 30 Nov 2007 08:47:16 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Manhunt on for 3 rebel officers, soldier in Makati standoff

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By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:12pm (Mla time) 11/30/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) A manhunt is on for three rebel officers and a soldier over Thursday’s siege at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City, military and police officials said Friday.

Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, who was believed to have been with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, managed to evade arrest when the standoff ended Thursday night, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

“We are looking for him. The manhunt is on,” Esperon told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

In a separate interview, Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon said that aside from Faeldon, two other rebel officers and a soldier were unaccounted for.

“There are four at large but we believe there are more than that,” Razon told a press conference Friday.

Faeldon was seen at the Manila Peninsula, which was taken over for six hours by his fellow rebel soldiers led by former Navy Lieutenant and now Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim.

But on Friday morning, police officials said Faeldon was “unaccounted for.”

While Faeldon was not considered as a threat to government, Esperon said he was capable of doing “foolish things.”

Razon said Faeldon allegedly pretended to be a member of the media and escaped through the service bay.

Razon said the two other rebel officers and another soldier, whom he did not name, also escaped by wearing a wig as disguise.

Faeldon escaped in late December 2005, and in his more than a month as a fugitive, launched a civil disobedience campaign in cyberspace to pressure President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down.

Faledon and Trillanes were also among the alleged leaders of a shortlived mutiny in July 2003.

They were in a hearing Thursday before the Makati regional trial court on the coup d’etat case filed against them as a result of the 2003 uprising when they and their co-accused staged a walkout and led a protest march around the city’s streets before settling at the Manila Peninsula.

Originally posted at 12:38pm

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2007-11-30T08:46:07+00:00UTC11bUTCFri, 30 Nov 2007 08:46:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Trillanes, Lim arrested; Makati standoff ends

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INQUIRER.net
Last updated 06:58pm (Mla time) 11/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Brigadier General Danilo Lim, have been arrested.

Former vice president Teofisto Guinogona joined the two inside the Philippine National Police bus.

The arrests on Lim and Trillanes were effected shortly after they declared that they were leaving the hotel where they held a six-hour siege to demand the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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Trillanes and his group decided to end the standoff after government troops threw teargas at the hotel lobby and an armored personnel carrier rammed the entrance.

“We’re going out for the sake of the safety of everybody, for your sake because we cannot live with our conscience if some of you get hurt or get killed in the crossfire,” said Trillanes, addressing the media.

“If there’s a loser here it’s the Filipino nation because she’s [Arroyo] still there,” he added, noting that he was ready to face the consequences of his action.

Brigadier General Danilo Lim, who was with Trillanes, said this was not the end, calling the incident an “unfinished business.”

Guingona said, “In every crisis there is a solution and in this short crisis the solution is to save lives to prevent bloodshed.”

In a press conference, Trillanes tried to justify his action, saying: “I stand before you today to fulfill my role as a former soldier and now as a senator of this country. I am standing for the rights of the oppressed.”

On his group’s decision to leave the hotel, Trillanes blamed the administration’s “ruthlessness.”

“You have been witnesses to the kind of ruthlessness this administration has been giving to the people,” said Trillanes.

When asked what he was going to do after this, Trillanes said, “Like soldiers, we’re going to face this.”

As the teargas filled the lobby, members of the rebel group herded journalists to the meeting room where civil society groups and Arroyo critics had gathered.

Reporters and the renegade soldiers made makeshift facemasks of the hotel tablecloths to protect themselves from the teargas.

The hotel corridors were a mess, with lamps and tables overturned during the commotion.

Police Director Geary Barias of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) led the assault.

Earlier, police failed to serve the arrest warrant against Trillanes issued by Judge Oscar Pimentel of the Makati regional trial court.

Pimentel has found Trillanes guilty of contempt of court.

Trillanes had said that he would stay at the Manila Peninsula for “as long as necessary” after claiming that “nothing will happen” after the 3 p.m. deadline for their departure lapsed.

“What we did was not only our duty but our moral obligation,” said Trillanes said in justifying his latest act of defiance, adding, “It is our duty as religious individuals to do what is right.”

“Dumaan tayo sa tamang pamamaraan [We passed through the right processes]. Elected pero wala ring nangyari [We were elected but nothing happens]. They voted for me so that I can speak up for their rights and our advocacies,” said Trillanes, referring to his election as senator last May.

He has been barred from participating in the Senate sessions because of the criminal cases that had been filed against him.

Earlier in the day, Barias left the Manila Peninsula without talking to Trillanes despite setting the 3 p.m. deadline.

A rebel soldier in uniform said Barias was “causing too much trouble.”

Barias had ordered all guests to vacate the premises supposedly pending the results of negotiations between the government and Trillanes.

“I am asking all guests of the hotel to leave so that we can do our jobs,” Barias said in a live interview earlier in the day.

Mariano Garchitorena, head of the Public Relations office of the Manila Peninsula, described the situation at the hotel as “calm” and said that if the order of the authorities was to vacate, they would follow it “like good citizens.”

Garchitorena said they had around 400 guests but that he didn’t know how many had left before the pro-Trillanes forces blocked the exits.

Trillanes and other officers accused of leading the July 2003 rebellion walked out of their trial Thursday and marched through the streets of Makati calling for the ouster of Arroyo.

The soldiers, numbering around 30, were accompanied by armed guards as they broke down a door of the hotel, overwhelmed security guards and read out a statement against Arroyo with a full list of their demands.

Heavily-armed government troops quickly surrounded the hotel in Manila’s Makati financial district — the same location of a failed 2003 coup against Arroyo allegedly led by many of the same soldiers.

The renegades urged Arroyo to resign and called on the military, a central power in this vast Southeast Asian island nation with the power to make and break its leaders, to turn against her.

People were going in and out of the Peninsula Hotel freely but a guest said he had been stopped by men with machine guns from going up to the second floor, where Brigadier General Danilo Lim, a co-accused, and others were said to be planning their next move.

The surprise events appeared to have been well orchestrated.

A detailed website immediately appeared on the Internet, announcing Lim and Trillanes as the leaders of the uprising. The site called on the Filipino people to mass in the financial district.

All the soldiers were sporting red armbands with what appeared to be the letter “I” emblazoned in the middle of a white sun.

The walkout began shortly after the trial resumed after a brief recess. Lim, who himself is detained and facing coup d’etat charges following an alleged failed coup attempt in February 2006, was pulled away by several soldiers from the witness stand.

Trillanes and Lim said they were calling on the Filipinos to withdraw support from the government because the President has corrupted its institutions.

“We are joining the people… because the President continues to violate the Constitution of the Philippines repeatedly,” Lim told DZMM’s Teleradyo program, adding they were “calling for the removal of an illegitimate President.”

Trillanes, Lim and the other accused soldiers were joined by civilians, including a group of militant farmers and opposition figures led by former vice president Teofisto Guingona.

It was not clear if the prisoners’ guards had joined the protest, but they marched along with the accused.

Reports culled by INQUIRER.net reporters and staff said police have barricaded the streets leading to Ayala Avenue and that two military trucks had crossed Paseo de Roxas.

Four Army trucks and anti-riot police have barricaded the hotel, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said Trillanes and Lim spoke rightly.

“This government does not deserve the support of the armed forces and the people. We express solidarity with their cause and likewise call on President Arroyo to heed the people’s clamor,” he said.

In a statement, the Black and White Movement said that it was “adding its voice to those who want change.”

It calls on the nation to “stand for what is right.”

It said the problem was not the people “but the President” as it reiterated its call for her to resign.”

But at the same time, the movement called on all sides to “resist the temptation to resolve matter in an undemocratic manner.”

“We call for sobriety. We call for a peaceful resolution to these crises. We call, most of all, for all our officials to recognize, once and for all, that dignity is not dispensable, that justice is non-negotiable, that if the lying, cheating, killing, and stealing continues, peace will not return,” it said.

There have been at least seven coup attempts in the Philippines since 1986 as the armed forces have maintained a central role in the nation’s political life since the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos that year.

But Arroyo has been under particular pressure since a tape recording emerged of her allegedly conniving with an election commission official to help orchestrate her 2004 re-election.

She admitted it was a mistake to have called the official while the vote count had not yet been finished, but denied any wrongdoing.

Since then she has fought off impeachment attempts — while being regularly accused of having improperly won the election — as well as actual and alleged coups.

Thursday’s dramatic events came just a month after Arroyo gave her predecessor and nemesis, popular ex-film star Joseph Estrada, a presidential pardon on charges of corruption.

The government said the pardon was granted after the 70-year-old Estrada agreed not to pursue any elective office.

He has always insisted his 2001 ouster from the presidential palace was a coup organized by the military, the powerful Catholic Church and the country’s political elites.

With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, Inquirer; Thea Alberto, Maila Ager, Tetch Torres, Jessie Delima, Cathy Miranda, Veronica Uy, Alex Villafania, Joel Guinto, INQUIRER.net; Agence France-Presse; Reuters; Originally posted at 11:16am

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ThuUTC2007-11-29T15:51:12+00:00UTC11bUTCThu, 29 Nov 2007 15:51:12 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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Yano: Leftists targets for propaganda, not elimination

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 03:30pm (Mla time) 11/29/2007

ISABELA CITY, Basilan — Left-wing militants are not targets for “physical elimination,” but soldiers will take them on in propaganda warfare, the commander of the Philippine Army, Lieutenant General Alexander Yano said.

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Yano issued the statement as he belied the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston blaming the counterinsurgency strategy of the government for the wave of violence against left-wing militants.

Alston said leftists were considered as targets since the military branded them as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

An advance copy of the Alston report, to be submitted to the 8th session of the UN Human Right Council, has been posted at the web site of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

But Yano said this did not mean physically targeting the leftists.

“That does not mean they [militants] are going to be physically eliminated. There is another way of doing it,” Yano told reporters at the 105th Infantry Brigade headquarters in Tabuk village here.

“When we have our special operations team in the urban centers, what we are engaged in is the aspect of information. We inform the public on the nature and characteristic of the insurgency to make sure they are aware they are warned of the deception, propaganda, ideological and other political approaches of the enemy,” Yano said.

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ThuUTC2007-11-29T15:49:01+00:00UTC11bUTCThu, 29 Nov 2007 15:49:01 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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Esperon accuses Alston of ignoring AFP side

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 01:43pm (Mla time) 11/29/2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — United Nations Special rapporteur Philip Alston was “wrong” to link the military to the wave of extrajudicial killings and “intentionally” ignored the side of security forces on the issue, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.

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“If he says that it is our strategy, he is wrong. The violation of human rights is not the policy of the AFP as an institution,” Esperon told reporters at the Edwin Andrews Airbase here, before proceeding to a command conference at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“I’ve never given such instructions, even our senior commanders have not given such instructions to violate human rights,” he added.

In his final report on his fact-finding visit to the country in February, Alston blamed the wave of murders that have swept the ranks of activists on a military counterinsurgency strategy he said focused on dismantling legal organizations suspected of being “front” of the communist rebel movement.

An advance copy of the report, to be submitted to the 8th session of the UN Human Right Council, has been posted at the web site of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

Esperon said he presented the UN expert with figures showing that many of the killings were part of a “purge” within the communist movement.

“It looks like he did not want to look at that when he made the report,” Esperon said. “He was intentionally not looking at the other side.”

Alston dismissed the “purge theory,” calling it a “cynical attempt to displace responsibility” by the military.

Of the 836 extrajudicial killings listed by the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) since 2001, Esperon said a police investigation verified only 114 as “valid.”

Of these, he said only seven involved military men, four involved persons “affiliated” with the military, and one involved a policeman. He said 57 cases have been brought to the courts.

He added that the Karapatan count included 23 Abu Sayyaf members who were killed in encounters.

During one of his conversations with Alston, Esperon said the UN representative was skeptical of some of his data on the killings perpetrated by the Left, calling these “old.”

“Sabi niya sa akin, luma na figures mo [He told me that my figures were old].” Esperon said.

But Esperon pointed to the killings of communist leaders Romulo Kintanar, Sotero Llamas, Arturo Tabara, and Felimon “Popoy” Lagman.

“Are these cases not recent? He did not include that in his report,”
Esperon said.

Of the four cases, the New People’s Army has owned up to only two — the killings of Kintanar and Tabara.

Proof that the military was moving against human rights violations within the ranks, Esperon said two Army men, an officer and an enlisted man, will face court martial over alleged human rights abuses.

Both men have been charged with violating Article of War 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), he said.

The two are the first to be tried under the five special courts martial created specifically to try cases of human rights abuse, said AFP spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro.

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ThuUTC2007-11-29T15:47:47+00:00UTC11bUTCThu, 29 Nov 2007 15:47:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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Alleged mutiny leader faces new raps

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 10:37am (Mla time) 11/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines – Military prosecutors have taken one of the alleged leaders of a shortlived mutiny in 2003 from his detention cell in Fort Bonifacio to be arraigned on additional charges over his escape in 2005, his lawyer said.

“Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon is going to be forcibly arraigned on the charge of violation of Article of War 70, in the absence of counsel,” Trixie Angeles said.

Angeles said Faeldon was caught by surprise since he was scheduled to appear before his coup d’etat hearing at the Makati City regional trial court.

Article of War 70 is breach of arrest. Faeldon escaped in December 2005 after giving his guards the slip following a coup hearing in Makati.

He was rearrested a month later but not after launching a civil disobedience campaign in cyberspace against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He is charged with violation of Articles of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman) and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline) over the siege of the Oakwood apartments in Makati on July 27, 2003.

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ThuUTC2007-11-29T15:46:31+00:00UTC11bUTCThu, 29 Nov 2007 15:46:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm11

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