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Archive for April 2008

Military overruns Abu, JI camp in Jolo

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:51:00 04/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Elite Marine and Army troops overran the main camp of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah in the southern island of Jolo on Wednesday, after an overnight assault by commando units, the commander in the area said.

The assault in sitio (sub-village) Candinamon in the jungles of Indanan town “preempted” possible strikes by the extremists, said Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, chief of the Armed Forces’ counter-terrorism unit Task Force Comet.

Sabban said a “bomb-making facility” was discovered in the camp, where Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, and JI bomb expert Umar Patek, a suspect in the 2002 Bali bombings, were reportedly hiding, Sabban told reporters.

The extremists suffered an unconfirmed number of casualties, while there were no casualties on the government side, the official said.

“We launched a surgical attack on the camp of the Abu Sayyaf and the JI, it is their main camp. According to our information, Sahiron and Umar Patek were there,” he said.

“They were planning something big. This is a preemptive strike,” Sabban said.

After midnight on Wednesday, troops fired 105-millimeter Howitzer and mortar rounds on the extremists’ camp, and was followed by a ground assault by troops from the Marines’ Force Reconnaissance and Special Operations units, and the Army Scout Rangers and Light Reaction Company, Sabban said.

The government forces, numbering around 300, outnumbered some 200 foes, who were allegedly supported by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Sabban said.

Sabban said the MNLF fired mortar rounds at government troops, but stopped when told that the soldiers were after the Abu Sayyaf and the JI.

The extremists’ camp was far from the camp of MNLF commander Ajibon, but the separatist rebels thought that the military were after them, Sabban said.

The fighting ended at around 7 a.m. Wednesday, when the bandits withdrew and the troops overran the camp, Sabban said.

The soldiers were still searching the camp as of posting time.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-04-30T04:10:03+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 30 Apr 2008 04:10:03 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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MILF chief: Gov’t ‘dilly-dallying’ threatening peace process

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Warns of ‘other means’ to attain objectives

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:40:00 04/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) accused government of “dilly-dallying and spoiling” the peace process in the south and warned they might resort to “other means” to achieve their objectives.

Reacting quickly, the chief government negotiator appealed to the secessionist rebels for “forbearance,” saying a number of so-called “consensus points” have to be studied carefully and resolved before an agreement on the contentious issue of ancestral domain issue is reached.

In a statement, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim claimed government’s refusal to abide by the consensus points in the last round of talks is the reason Malaysia, the third party facilitator of the negotiations, announced a pullout of its ceasefire monitors.

“If the peace process fails as a result of the GRP’s [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] dilly-dallying and spoiling, we are left with no choice but to seek other means of achieving our objective. Should that happen, the government is to blame for failing to settle the conflict through diplomatic means,” Murad said in the statement posted on the MILF’s website.

Murad said only the government’s concurrence with all the consensus points would save the peace process from “falling apart” and would signal Malaysia on the need to schedule a fresh round of negotiations.

He said the MILF “firmly believes” in the position of its late chairman, Salamat Hashim, that, “the most civilized and practical way of solving the Moro problem is through a negotiated political settlement.”

During the last round of talks in Kuala Lumpur in February, the government and the MILF drafted nine consensus points, six of which were “largely approved” by Malacañang, said GRP peace panel chairman Rodolfo Garcia.

The MILF submitted its counterproposals on the three remaining points to the GRP, but these have yet to be approved by Malacañang, Garcia told INQUIRER.net.

The three points include the “concept of aspiration of freedom” of the Bangsamoro people, the “degree of powers over strategic resources,” and “establishment of political institutions,” Garcia said without elaborating.

Garcia acknowledged that the three points, if not studied thoroughly, could raise constitutional issues and could open the government to criticism.

“We are looking at these issues. These are not easy issues. These issues are potentially controversial,” he said.

“The slowdown in this phase of the talks is really understandable and should be understood by the MILF and the Malaysian government,” he added.

While no timeline has been set, Garcia said the government would act on the MILF’s counterproposals “the soonest that we can.”

“We know the urgency. We are very aware of the urgency. We know the ball is in our court,” he said.

“I surely would like to convey to our MILF counterparts to understand the reason for the slowdown in the process. I’d like to assure them that the negotiation is very much alive, very much on track. I would like to ask for their forbearance,” he said.

Asked if government action on the three remaining consensus points would require amendments to the Constitution, Garcia said: “It’s an option.”

He said there have been no formal or informal talks between the GRP and MILF panels.

Garcia also doused fears that the impending pullout of the Malaysian contingent to the international monitoring team (IMT) would lead to revived hostilities between the military and MILF.

While he was not discounting the contributions of the IMT, Garcia said the joint ceasefire committee of the GRP and MILF has developed strong mechanisms to prevent an outbreak of fighting.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-04-29T09:03:00+00:00UTC04bUTCTue, 29 Apr 2008 09:03:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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3 officers in 2003 mutiny discharged from service

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2 others meted up to 7 years in prison

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:43:00 04/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Three alleged leaders of a shortlived uprising in 2003 have been ordered discharged from the service while two of their comrades were sentenced up to seven years and six months in prison after they were found “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violating the Articles of War.

Army First Lieutenants Lawrence San Juan, Nathaniel Rabonza, and Sonny Sarmiento were read their sentences during the promulgation of their case on Tuesday.

They were charged with violation of Article of War 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman), which is punishable only with discharge from the military service.

Meanwhile, aside from being dismissed from the service, Army Second Lieutenant Jason Panaligan and Air Force Second Lieutenant Christopher Orongan were also sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.

The two struck a plea bargain with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to violation of Article of War 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline), in exchange for the dropping of more serious charges, including Article of War 97 (mutiny), against them.

The court credited the four years, nine months and one day that Orongan and Panaligan served in detention. It cut three years more from their sentence because of three “mitigating circumstances.”

The three circumstances that the court recognized, as proposed by defense lawyers, included the accused officers’ voluntary surrender, their “long period” in detention, and “good behavior.”

In effect, the accused have served their full sentence and would be released as soon as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as commander-in-chief upholds the verdict.

In its ruling on San Juan, Rabonza, and Sarmiento, the court said they “willfully, unlawfully, and feloniously violated their solemn oath and constitutional duty to protect the people” when they seized the Oakwood luxury apartments in the Makati City financial district in July 27, 2003.

The court said the group “attempted to oust the President by force” and “disturbed the peace and tranquility of the nation.”

The law member of the seven-member court, Lieutenant Colonel Ana Escarlan, read the decision. The three officers stood at attention in front of the panel, and saluted the court president, Air Force Brigadier General Nathaniel Legaspi before the verdict was read.

Legaspi read the verdict on Orongan and Panaligan.

Defense lawyer Edgardo Abaya said the court did not specify whether the discharge of the leaders was honorable or dishonorable, since Articles of War, violation of article 96 did not make that distinction.

Abaya said it was up to the President to determine whether the discharge would be dishonorable.

The verdict leaves 17 junior officers left to face court martial over the failed uprising, led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy lieutenant, and Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon, who is at large.

Last year, the court discharged 12 Army junior officers, co-accused of San Juan, Sarmiento, and Rabonza.

The 12, led by Captains Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo, also pleaded guilty to violating Article of War 96.

Nine of the 12, including Gambala and Maestrecampo, pleaded guilty to coup d’etat before a civilian court and were sentenced to between 12 and 40 years in prison. They have asked for presidential pardon.

Also in 2007, 53 junior officers, co-accused of Orongan and Panaligan, struck a plea bargain with military prosecutors and were also discharged from the service.

In 2005, 184 enlisted men who took part in the Oakwood uprising were sentenced from one- to two-step rank demotion and forfeiture of their salaries.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-04-29T08:35:10+00:00UTC04bUTCTue, 29 Apr 2008 08:35:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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No power grab threat on May 1 — security officials

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:34:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — There are no threats of destabilization or a repeat of the bloody siege in Malacañang when militant groups take to the streets for the traditional Labor Day rallies on Thursday, police and military officials said.

Police will meet with rally organizers in Manila on Tuesday morning to hammer out security arrangements for the rallies, said Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

At least 2,000 anti-riot policemen, with augmentation from the military, will secure the protests, initially planned at the Plaza Miranda, Mehan Garden, and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, and the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City, Barias told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

“There’s none, if you are referring to People Power 3, [the] May 1 siege. We have not received any information regarding that matter,” Barias said.

“But we are always prepared,” said Barias counterpart in the military, Major General Fernando Mesa, the chief of the National Capital Region Command (NCRCom).

On May 1, 2001, hundreds of loyalists of deposed president Joseph Estrada stormed the Malacañang gates, three months after a military-backed popular revolt thrust Estrada’s then vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to power.

Earlier this year, huge protests were staged in the Makati financial district and in Manila to press for Arroyo’s ouster amid allegations she pocketed millions of dollars in kickbacks from the botched national broadband project along with her husband, Jose Miguel, and former elections chief Benjamin Abalos Sr.

Officials were on alert amid reports that the rallies would be used as a springboard for a power grab attempt, and that communist rebels were planning to disrupt the protests.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-04-28T13:16:28+00:00UTC04bUTCMon, 28 Apr 2008 13:16:28 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Arrest order out vs ex-Basilan gov., 3 others in House blast

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By Tetch Torres, Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:40:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Arrest warrants have been issued by a local court against former Basilan Representative Gerry Salapuddin and three others over last year’s explosion at the Congress building where at least seven people, including a lawmaker, were killed.

In his order, Branch 83 Judge Ralph S. Lee of the Quezon City regional trial court ordered the arrest of Salapuddin, Police Officer 1 Bayan Judda, Hajarun Jamiri and Benjamin Hataman.

The four are facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges, non-bailable offenses.

The arraignment of all the accused will be on Wednesday. Another hearing will be held Tuesday on Salapuddin’s motion to quash the arrest warrant.

Killed in the blast on Nov. 13, 2007 were Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar, Salapuddin’s political opponent; Marcial Taldo, driver of Gabriela Partylist Representative Luzviminda Ilagan; Akbar’s staff Julasiri Niki Huyudini; and House employee Maan Gale Bustalino.

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office Chief Geary Barias said he has yet to receive a copy of the order but said that their units would serve the warrant.

Asked how police would arrest Salapuddin, considering his position,
Barias said: “Being a former governor and congressman, I believe they [suspects] might as well present themselves to authorities.”

“The best advice would be for them to surrender and present themselves before the courts,” Barias told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

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MonUTC2008-04-28T08:57:04+00:00UTC04bUTCMon, 28 Apr 2008 08:57:04 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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AFP insists Jonas Burgos not with them

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:27:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday maintained that it was not involved in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, exactly one year after the son of the late press freedom icon Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr. went missing.

“We have been saying or stating even before that Jonas Burgos is not under the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” AFP spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro told reporters.

Burgos’ mother, Edita, is holding troops from the 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan province responsible for her son’s disappearance. This after the license plate on the vehicle of his alleged abductors was traced to an impounded vehicle at the battalion’s headquarters in Norzagaray town.

On April 28, 2007, “military-looking” men allegedly took Burgos while he was eating at a fastfood outlet in a Quezon City mall. An agriculturist by profession, Burgos was working as a consultant for the left-wing Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), when he was abducted.

Bacarro said the military would continue cooperating in hearings at the Court of Appeals on a petition for habeas corpus filed by Burgos’ mother.

“We have military officers that are scheduled to appear, they will attend the court hearings…Let’s wait for a resolution through the legal processes,” Bacarro said.

The former commanding general of the Philippine Army, retired lieutenant general Romeo Tolentino, testified in a recent hearing. The license plate on a back-up vehicle used by Burgos’ alleged abductors was traced to a staff car detailed to Tolentino’s office.

In an interview with reporters in July 2007, Tolentino said Burgos could be a member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), though he could not say whether his affiliation was a factor in his disappearance.

Bacarro could not confirm if a military investigation on the Burgos case has produced results.

“That’s very operational. I’m not privy to the developments. [The inquiry is] in the field of intelligence, I’m not privy to any information,” he said.

When pressed by reporters, Bacarro said the Jonas case was being used by “some groups” to link the military to extrajudicial killings and disappearances of left-wing activists.

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-04-28T08:56:22+00:00UTC04bUTCMon, 28 Apr 2008 08:56:22 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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Informant vs Abu Sayyaf suspect gets P500,000 reward

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:04:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Authorities awarded P500,000 to an informant who led them to neutralize a suspected Abu Sayyaf explosives expert in Quezon City in November 2007.

The informant, who wore a leather jacket and a black ski mask over his face, received the cash from Director Geary Barias, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), and Major General Fernando Mesa, commander of the military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.

The suspect, Alpaker Said, alias Abu Jandal, was killed in a shootout after authorities swooped down on a bandit lair in the Payatas district last November 16.

Said, an alleged Abu Sayyaf explosives expert, was reportedly involved in the November 13 bomb attack on the House of Representatives that killed Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar and five other persons, Barias said.

Several others, including two solons, were wounded.

Former Basilan representative Gerry Salapuddin, Akbar’s political rival, and several others have been charged for the bombing.

Said also had a standing warrant for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, Barias said.

“He [tipster] led us to the hideout of [Said’s] group,” Mesa said, without elaborating on the informant’s identity due to security reasons.

Asked what Said’s role in the November 13 attack was, Barias said: “We can only at this time speculate if he provided technology to the group or if he rigged the bomb himself.”

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Written by joelguinto

MonUTC2008-04-28T08:55:33+00:00UTC04bUTCMon, 28 Apr 2008 08:55:33 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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