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Archive for November 15th, 2007

3 Abu Sayyaf suspects killed in Quezon City clash with cops

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By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
Last updated 05:44pm (Mla time) 11/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Three suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels, allegedly involved in the bomb attack on the House of Representatives Tuesday night, were killed in a gun battle with government forces in Quezon City on Thursday, military and police officials said.

Three other alleged Muslim rebels and a police commando were wounded in the five-minute firefight in the Payatas slum district at shortly before 5 p.m., said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., Army public affairs chief.

Police recovered various components of an improvised explosive device from the suspects after they were killed in the shootout, said Superintendent Rohdel Sermonia, spokesman of the National Capital Region Police Office.

PNP Director General Avelino Razon confirmed the incident although he clarified that police were still determining whether the suspects were members of the Abu Sayyaf.

The encounter started after joint elements of the Army Intelligence Service Group (ISG), and the police Special Action Force (SAF) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) swooped down on a suspected Abu Sayyaf lair, Torres said.

Razon said police were about to serve arrest warrants.

When asked if the arrests were linked to the bomb blast a the House of Representatives Tuesday night, Torres said, “The raid is related. They are suspects. The initial report is that there are indications that the raid had something to do with it.”

The explosion at the House killed four people, including Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar, and injured 13 others, including Congressman Henry Teves and Congresswoman Luzviminda Ilagan.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-11-15T09:53:09+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Thu, 15 Nov 2007 09:53:09 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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Accused mutineers’ lawyers to boycott military trial

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:51pm (Mla time) 11/15/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Lawyers for the 28 officers facing mutiny charges over the alleged February 2006 coup plot have agreed to boycott court martial proceedings, saying it was “useless” to cooperate with a tribunal designed to convict their clients.

In separate interviews with reporters, defense counsels Alex Avisado and Frank Chavez said 10 members of the defense panel would not attend Friday’s hearing at Camp Capinpin in Tanay town, Rizal province and even the succeeding hearings.

“The prevailing sentiment of defense lawyers is that we will no longer participate [in the court martial]. It’s useless. We argue all legal points. The court does not even follow the manual for court martial,” said Avisado, who represents Major Jason Aquino and Captain Isagani Criste.

“We cannot walk out and go back,” he said, adding, “We might as well shift our legal strategy, from the GCM [general court martial] to the Supreme Court… We are defense lawyers, but we can be offense lawyers too.”

Avisado said defense lawyers would shift their strategy, and go on an offensive at the Supreme Court against Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who sent the 28 officers — 19 from the Scout Rangers and nine from the Marines — to trial.

At a hearing last week, the accused officers walked out of the courthouse in protest of military prosecutors’ insistence to continue with the trial even as a document that recommended the filing of mutiny charges against them, the pre-trial advise (PTA), remains unsigned by Esperon.

Only two lawyers said they would attend Friday’s hearing, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, who represents Captain Ruben Guinolbay, and Robert Gallos, who represents Colonel Orlando de Leon.

Chavez said he would file before the Judge Advocate General’s Office on Thursday a motion to suspend the hearings until Esperon signs the PTA, which overturned recommendations by pre-trial investigators to charge a smaller group of officers with lesser offenses.

Chavez represents the highest-ranked accused, Major Renato Miranda, the ex-commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps, and Aquino.

Avisado said defense counsels advised their clients not to attend Friday’s hearing, but if they are forced to, they would “turn their backs” on the court.

“They will invoke their right to their counsel of choice,” Avisado said of the accused, who are detained in the same Army camp where the hearings are being held.

Avisado acknowledged that the court could rush the conviction of the 28 officers as a “pabaon” or going away present for Esperon in time for his retirement in February. But he said defense lawyers were prepared with legal remedies.

The defense team has filed several pleadings before the high tribunal, including petitions for certiorari and a temporary restraining order.

“We will just follow up on our petitions before the Supreme Court. Being the final arbiter, we hope the court corrects the foolishness of the court martial,” Avisado said.

In a letter to his clients, Chavez said the last hearing on November 9 was a “turning point” since defense counsels proved that the court was under Esperon’s control and it would not listen to “legitimate protests.”

“The panel was determined to railroad the proceedings by making a sweeping denial of the right to peremptory challenge that several other officers had not yet exercised. In short, the court martial had completely unmasked itself before us as an instrument of oppression,” he said.

In court martial proceedings, an accused can eject any member of the panel without laying grounds via a peremptory challenge at any time before arraignment.

The two lawyers set to attend Friday said they would be present to question the swearing-in of the court members and the waiving of the rights of the accused to a peremptory challenge.

“We had different reasons for leaving the proceedings [on November 9]. There are things that have to be cleared with the GCM,” Angeles said.

“We will just insist that the PTA be signed first, and that the officers exercise their right to peremptory challenge in the presence of their counsel of choice,” Gallos said.

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Written by joelguinto

Thu+00:002007-11-15T07:55:43+00:00+00:0011b+00:00Thu, 15 Nov 2007 07:55:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am11

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