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Archive for January 2008

JI bomb expert Dulmatin eludes capture–military

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But Abu Sayyaf sub-commander slain

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:57:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) A Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant who allegedly masterminded the 2002 Bali bombings eluded arrest during a military raid at dawn on Thursday, the spokesman for the military said.

But an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, Radi Upao, was killed in the encounter in Balimbing town, Tawi-Tawi province, said Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, Armed Forces public information officer.

A composite team of Marines from the Force Reconnaissance Battalion, Navy commandos, and intelligence operatives swooped down on the extremists’ lair at 5:10 a.m., Bacarro said in a text message to reporters.

“The encounter resulted to the killing of ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] sub-leader Radi Upao, while Dulmatin was able to escape,” Bacarro said, citing initial reports.

Upao carries a $160,000-reward for his capture. Dulmatin, on the other hand, carries a $10-million bounty.

Bacarro could not confirm if Dulmatin was with another fellow suspect in the 2002 Bali attack, Umar Patek, who is also affiliated with the JI, the Southeast Asian arm of the Al Qaeda global terror network.

Earlier, the military said that Dulmatin, Patek, and the remaining Abu Sayyaf leaders were holed up on Jolo Island.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T10:16:21+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 10:16:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Palace: Record GDP growth proves ‘correct economic strategy’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:48:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The record-breaking 7.3-percent economic growth in 2007 is proof President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is leading the country with the “correct economic strategy and fundamentals,” Malacañang said Thursday.

At the same time, deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said the economy is strong enough to weather the looming recession in the United States.

“The 7.3-percent GDP growth in 2007 is a clear manifestation that President Arroyo is leading the country using the correct economic strategies and fundamentals, making sure that a new level of economic maturity and stability have been achieved,” he said.

Golez said the Philippines could sustain economic growth by investing in “people and projects,” particularly in infrastructure that would boost the country’s competitiveness.

“President Arroyo will continuously lead the country until 2010 with a bigger stride in economic growth, surge of more foreign investments, more jobs for our people, strong currency and better delivery of basic services that will also be benefiting the poorest sector of our society,” he said.

The 7.3-percent economic growth for 2007 was the highest in 31 years, and beat the government’s forecast.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T10:15:47+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 10:15:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Palace, Senate in backchannel talks on Neri, Lozada arrests

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:33:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is holding backchannel talks with the Senate, which had ordered the arrest of two government executives who failed to appear before an investigation into bribery allegations surrounding the botched national broadband network (NBN) project, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lawyer said Thursday.

“Meron [There is],” said Chief Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol when asked about the Palace response to the warrants issued by the Senate against Romulo Neri, former socio-economic planning secretary, and Rodolfo Lozada Jr., whom Neri had designated consultant for the NBN project.

“We knew that only Senators [Alan Peter] Cayetano and [Rodolfo] Biazon were behind it. The other senators don’t share the same stand,” Apostol told reporters.

Cayetano and Biazon are chairmen of two of the three committees investigating the $329 million telecommunications agreement signed by the government with China’s ZTE Corp., which the President eventually cancelled.

On Wednesday, the Senate issued arrest warrants for Neri and Lozada for ignoring the subpoenas to appear in the hearing at the upper House on the same day.

Apostol said Neri, now chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, would file an appeal before the Senate to recall the arrest order. Lozada is abroad, Apostol said.

In his testimony before the Senate late last year, Neri said former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos tried to bribe him to favor the bid of ZTE Corp. for the NBN project.

But Neri declined to discuss his conversation with the President about the NBN project, citing executive privilege.

Businessman Jose de Venecia III, son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., also claimed that Abalos tried to bribe him, so that his company, Amsterdam Holdings, would give up its bid for the broadband project.

The controversy forced Abalos to resign and prompted Arroyo to scrap the ZTE deal.

“It’s finished. The ZTE deal has been rescinded. So what more? The Senate does not respect us. They have no respect for Malacañang,” Apostol said.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T10:15:06+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 10:15:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Abu Sayyaf officer linked to Roda murder slain in clash

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:27:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — An Abu Sayyaf sub-commander allegedly involved in the murder of a Catholic priest to weeks ago was killed in an encounter with government troops Tawi-Tawi province on Thursday, the commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps said.

At around 5:30 a.m., troops from the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team encountered the group led by Wahab Upao in sitio (sub-village) Lubok-Lubok, Buwan-Buwan village, Panglima Sugala town, said Major General Ben Dolorfino.

Upao, who carries a P2.5-million reward for his capture, was killed in the hour-long firefight, Dolorfino told reporters.

“He is among those involved in the killing of Father Jesus Roda,” the Marines chief said.

Roda was killed trying to resist armed men who barged into the Notre Dame School in South Ubian town, Tawi-Tawi, apparently to kidnap him.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T07:55:57+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 07:55:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Arroyo orders release of P1B for teacher training

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Half of amount to improve English proficiency

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:36:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said government would spend P1 billion this year for teacher training, of which half of the amount would go to improving teachers’ English proficiency.

Without making direct reference to the reported decline in the teachers’ knowledge of the English language, the President said: “We want all teachers to have 24 units of English, whether you get it in the course of getting your degree, or if you were not able to, you get it while in the service.”

“Now we can afford P1 billion for teacher training this year, but P500 million of that will go to English training,” the President said in a speech at the opening of the Philippine Education Congress at the Manila Hotel on Thursday.

Arroyo told the teachers in the audience that the second installment of their P10,000 bonus was “coming soon.”

She also called on Congress to pass a bill for a third round of salary increases for government workers, which would include teachers.

The President said the government would expand its scholarship program for high school students.

“We have a lack of public high schools, but we have a surplus of private high schools… That’s why instead of building more public high schools, we are expanding high school scholarship for private schools,” she said.

To improve school attendance, Arroyo urged local governments to adopt the “bikes for school” program, in which students whose schools were at least 10 kilometers away from their houses could avail of a bicycle that their parents could pay off at P1 a day.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T04:40:36+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 04:40:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Soldier hurt in NPA attack on Air Force detachment

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:19:00 01/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A government soldier was wounded after suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a detachment of Air Force combatants in Nasugbu town, Batangas province, south of Manila on Thursday, a regional military spokesman said.

The rebels attacked the headquarters of the 733rd Combat Squadron in Clayo village at around 1:30 a.m., said Major Randolph Cabangbang, public information officer of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

The identity of the wounded soldier, who holds the rank of Airman second class, was not immediately released. He was brought to a nearby hospital for treatment, Cabangbgang said in a text message.

The NPA guerillas were believed to have suffered an undetermined number of casualties, the spokesman said.

Empty shells from M203 grenade launcher, and M16 and M14 rifles were recovered from the scene, he said.

The attack came even as the government claimed to have gained momentum against the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which the military estimated to be at 5,700 in strength at the end of 2007.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T04:38:56+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 04:38:56 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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Palace: Arrest orders vs Lozada, Neri ‘politics-as-usual’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 10:10:00 01/31/2008

MANILA. Philippines — The arrest warrants issued against two government executives by the Senate for failing to appear in its investigation of an alleged anomalous transaction was in aid of “politics-as-usual,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesman said Thursday.

At the same time, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye chided the Senate for not coming up with a proposed legislation on the center of the legislative body’s inquiry — the National Broadband Network (NBN) project.

On Wednesday, the Senate ordered the arrests of socio-economic planning secretary Romulo Neri and a government consultant for the NBN project, Rodolfo Lozada, for ignoring the summons.

“We deplore the continued moves of the Senate in issuing warrants of arrest against executive officials. This is clearly not in aid of legislation, but in aid of politics-as-usual,” Bunye said in a statement.

“After all the hearings and the hoopla, we have yet to see what legislation the Senate intends to propose at the expense of the privacy, dignity and rights of Cabinet secretaries and government functionaries,” he said.

Bunye added that the NBN project has “long been cancelled” and the witnesses that senators were seeking “have said all they have to say.”

The investigation “distract[s] the nation from its urgent business and disturb the momentum for growth and social reforms,” Bunye said.

The NBN project was scrapped in late 2007 amid allegations that former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos tried to bribe Neri and businessman Jose De Venecia III, son of Speaker Jose de Venecia, so that China’s ZTE Corp. could bag the multi-million dollar project.

The scandal has forced Abalos to resign as Comelec chairman.

In his testimony before the Senate last year, Neri confirmed the bribe attempt but refused to issue further statements regarding the President, citing executive privilege.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-01-31T04:38:08+00:00UTC01bUTCThu, 31 Jan 2008 04:38:08 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am01

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