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Archive for May 2008

PAGASA: Typhoon ‘Enteng’ strengthens but still far away

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:06:00 05/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Typhoon “Enteng” (international codename: Nakri) strengthened further as it hovered off the northeastern coast of Luzon, but was too far to affect the country, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

At 10 a.m., the eye of the storm, which packs maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour near the center with gusts of up to 230 kilometers per hour, was located 1,180 kilometers east of northern Luzon, the state weather bureau said.

Moving northwest at nine kilometers per hour, the storm was forecast to be at 1,050 kilometers east of northern Luzon by Saturday morning, 970 kilometers east northeast of northern Luzon by Sunday morning, and 530 kilometers east southeast of Okinawa, Japan by Monday morning, PAGASA said.

Earlier this month, tropical storm “Cosme” (international codename: Halong), ravaged northern Luzon, leaving 58 people dead, 29 others injured, and causing P4,058,592,290 in damage to property, the National Disaster Coordinatig Council (NDCC) said.

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Fri+00:002008-05-30T05:34:33+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 30 May 2008 05:34:33 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Zamboanga blast ‘isolated,’ city ‘safe’–military

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:05:00 05/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The bomb explosion outside an Air Force base in Zamboanga City on Thursday that killed two persons and wounded several others was an “isolated” incident, and the city remains “safe and secure,” a military commander in the region said.

Nonetheless, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lieutenant General Alexander Yano ordered troops in the area to “strengthen” security measures, said Colonel Darwin Guerra, chief of the military’s Task Force Zamboanga.

Yano and Teodoro presided over a meeting of the Zamboanga City peace and order council hours after the blast. A joint military and police coordinating conference was set later Friday to “synchronize” their efforts, Guerra said in a phone interview.

“Zamboanga City is still safe and secured. This is an isolated incident,” Guerra said, adding there were no intelligence reports pointing to similar attacks.

“We have to strengthen our security; this is routine. We have a coordinating conference with the PNP [Philippine National Police] this [Friday] afternoon,” he said.

Initial investigation by police and military explosives experts showed that an improvised bomb triggered through a cellular phone was the cause of the explosion outside the Edwin Andrews Airbase, he said.

While Guerra acknowledged that mobile phone-triggered explosives have been used by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in the past, he refused to speculate on who could be behind Thursday’s explosion pending the results of an investigation.

“This is an act of terrorism. But it’s hard [to name suspects]. We need to give leeway to the investigation,” he said.

The blast, at the building of the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association (AMWSLAI), just across Gate 1 of the airbase, also damaged the offices of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Zamboanga Representative Ma. Isabele Climaco.

Among the injured were four engineers of AMORE and two members of Climaco’s staff.

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Fri+00:002008-05-30T05:33:07+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Fri, 30 May 2008 05:33:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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US hospital ship ‘Mercy’ back in RP to treat 15,000 patients

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:09:00 05/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A US navy hospital ship will return to the country on Friday for a 17-day mission to treat an estimated 15,000 patients in the southern and central Philippines, a Philippine government official said Thursday.

The USNS Mercy will be stationed off Polloc Harbor in Cotabato City, Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement Executive Director Edilberto Adan said, adding he would lead kick off rites there Friday with US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney.

It will be the hospital ship’s second visit to the country. In 2006, it treated 16,000 patients in the southwestern provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and the Zamboanga peninsula, Adan, a retired Army general and former deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces said in a phone interview.

This year’s mission will run from May 31 to June 16 and will cover 37 sites. The ship is staffed with 300 health and construction personnel, and 600 officers and sailors, a statement from Adan’s office said.

While in Polloc Harbor, the mission will treat 180 patients with cleft pallets and will hold 20 medical and civic missions in Cotabato City, and the provinces of North Cotabato, Shariff Kabunsuan, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Lanao del Norte, the statement said.

Towards the latter part of its mission, the USNS Mercy will sail to Western Samar province, for the completion of five engineering projects, including the repair of the Calbayog City Health Center, and medical missions in the towns of Isidro, Santa Margarita, Gandara, and Calbayog, it said.

Adan said doctors from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as non-government organizations would assist in the medical missions.

The USNS Mercy is on a five-month humanitarian mission to the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia that began last April, the statement said.

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Thu+00:002008-05-29T14:38:16+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Thu, 29 May 2008 14:38:16 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm05

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2 dead, 18 wounded in Zamboanga blast

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By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Thea Alberto, Julie Alipala
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:26:00 05/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Two persons were killed and 18 wounded after a powerful bomb ripped through the first floor of the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc. (AMWSLAI) building in Zamboanga City at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The explosion occurred while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to visit Tawi-Tawi province and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur to inspect her government’s projects there.

Despite the incident, Malacañang said Arroyo was pushing through with her trip.

Colonel Darwin Guerra, commander Task Force Zamboanga, said one of the wounded has been confined to the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital.

All the casualties were civilians waiting to hitch a ride on a C-130 cargo plane at the airbase, Guerra said in a phone interview.

Authorities earlier said the casualties included four engineers of a US project and two members of Zamboanga Representative Ma. Isabele Climaco’s staff.

The AMWSLAI building, in Santa Maria village and just across Gate 1 of the Edwin Andrews Airbase, houses the office of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Area 1, as well as the office of.

The explosion went off “a few meters” away from the gate of the airbase, Guerra said.

While the suspects behind the blast have yet to be identified, Guerra said: “This is definitely an act of terrorism.”

Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal said in a phone interview that the improvised explosive device (IED) was wrapped in a package placed near the AMWSLAI office.

Senior Superintendent Lorimer Detran, Zamboanga police officer-in-charge, said two children were among the injured.

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Thu+00:002008-05-29T04:52:31+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Thu, 29 May 2008 04:52:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Teodoro warns ‘plotters’: ‘Complain through proper channels’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:12:00 05/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. warned 28 military officers being tried for an alleged coup plot in February 2006 to course their complaints over alleged maltreatment through the military chain of command and not use Congress as an “alternative forum” for their grievances.

On Tuesday, the wives of the detained officers told the House Committee on Human Rights of alleged abuses their husbands are suffering, including being blindfolded in detention and placed in solitary confinement.

“If their rights were violated, they should file a complaint through the chain of command, through the chief of staff, so that these will be investigated and, if it is proven, [then] appropriate action will be taken,” Teodoro told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“We can’t allow them to go straight to Congress and use it as an alternative forum, and break military protocols and military controls,” he said.

Teodoro cited a Supreme Court ruling on the case of retired brigadier general Francisco Gudani which upheld the “exclusive control” of the President over military officers.

Gudani and his subordinate, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Balutan, were tried by court martial for testifying before a Senate investigation on alleged cheating in the 2004 elections without President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s permission. Arroyo supposedly benefited from the alleged vote-rigging.

The 28 accused officers are led by ex-Marines chief Major General Renato Miranda, ex-Army Scout Rangers chief Brigadier General Danilo Lim, and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin.

Lim and Querubin, with Miranda’s knowledge, allegedly planed to lead soldiers in a mass withdrawal of support from Arroyo on February 24, 2006, due to the election fraud allegations.

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Wed+00:002008-05-28T07:52:41+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 28 May 2008 07:52:41 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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DND’s Teodoro: Faeldon ‘not credible,’ has ‘no influence’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:30:00 05/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Fugitive Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon is “not a credible spokesman” for the sentiments or soldiers nor does he wield influence over the troops, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Wednesday.

Reacting to four video interviews of Faeldon posted on the popular video sharing site YouTube, in which the officer discusses his “vision” of arousing “national consciousness,” Teodoro said the fugitive’s
“credibility within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to me, suffers a lot and he is not a credible spokesman for the sentiments of our soldiers.”

“I don’t think he wields influence in the Armed Forces of the Philippines at all,” Teodoro added.

Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. for his part said: “We do not want to glorify Faeldon by reacting to his propaganda.”

“What we know is that he is a fugitive with a P1 million bounty for his capture. Sooner or later, the long arm of the law will catch up with him,” Torres said.

Faeldon has been on the run since he escaped before government forces stormed the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City to end an attempted uprising by the Magdalo group of rebel officers on November 29, 2007.

He has been charged, along with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Brigadier General Danilo Lim, and other participants, with rebellion over the incident.

Faeldon was also involved in the occupation by the Magdalo of the Oakwood luxury apartments, also in Makati, on July 27, 2003, for which he was charged for coup d’etat before civilian and military courts.

The Marine officer first escaped in December 2005, after a hearing on his coup d’etat case in Makati City but was recaptured a month later.

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Wed+00:002008-05-28T06:46:37+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 28 May 2008 06:46:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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PNP sees less violent ARMM polls

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:56:00 05/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) predicted that the August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will not be as violent as in the past, in the absence of “intense political rivalry.”

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, ARMM police director, said the list of hot spots or areas of concern in the upcoming elections is being drawn out.

In the last ARMM elections in 2005, 1,334 villages were identified as “areas of concern,” and 468 villages “areas of immediate concern.”

“But at the moment, we have to update this data because we perceive that the next election is not as violent as [in] previous elections,” Goltiao said at a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo, following a command conference with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the military and police leadership in Camp Aguinaldo.

“One of the parameters we always consider [in predicting] election-related violent incidents is the intense political rivalry. This time, we do not foresee any intense political rivalry,” he said.

Among those present during the command conference were Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, AFP deputy chief of staff Lieutenant General Rodrigo Maclang, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., and Comelec chairman Jose Melo.

The meeting was held on the first day of filing of certificates of candidacy for the ARMM polls, said election commissioner Moslemen Macarambon.

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Wed+00:002008-05-28T06:45:23+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 28 May 2008 06:45:23 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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Comelec chair Melo: ‘Stakes high’ in ARMM elections

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:52:00 05/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The “stakes are high” in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections in August, which will serve as the dry-run for automated polls in 2010, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo said as he gave assurances that the poll body would not let the nation down.

Speaking at a command conference with the military and police leadership in Camp Aguinaldo, Melo said automated elections “makes voting and counting easier, faster, and more fraud resistant.”

Melo said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) were part of a “virtuous circle” that would ensure that the technological component of the automated elections “operates the way it is supposed to.”

“The stakes are high, gentlemen. But the rewards are great. And the people — our countrymen — are watching,” Melo said.

“The rest is up to us. And just as I am sure that our brothers in the AFP and the PNP will not let our virtuous circle down. I am confident in giving my guarantee that we in the Comelec will not let you — or the Filipino people — down,” he said.

Melo said the ARMM elections was essential not only for bringing stability to the region, but also in serving as a dry-run for the automation of the 2010 elections

“The automated ARMM elections will be the prelude to the automation of the much larger 2010 national and local elections,” he said.

Melo said automation was not about modern technology alone but would also depend on people to ensure make it works. He called this the “virtuous circle.”

“And in this virtuous circle, the AFP provides the umbrella of protection — to ensure that the exercise is able to proceed in a secure environment,” he said. “The PNP maintains order within that environment — to ensure that the exercise is free of unnecessary disruptions.”

The roles of the military and the police during the elections are “indispensable” to ensuring honest, orderly, and peaceful elections, he said.

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Wed+00:002008-05-28T06:44:38+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Wed, 28 May 2008 06:44:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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AFP surrenders soldier charged in union leader’s murder

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:36:00 05/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The military turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) an Army soldier wanted for the nearly three-year-old murder of a labor leader in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province, a spokesman for the Armed Forces said Tuesday.

Private First Class Roderick de la Cruz was brought to the NBI last May 21 after he was arrested by operatives of the Presidential Task Force Against Political Violence over the October 2005 killing of Ricardo Ramos, was then president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU), said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr.

De la Cruz was killed during the tenure of Major General Jovito Palparan as commander of the 7th Infantry Division in Central Luzon, which includes Tarlac. Palparan was implicated in a number of extra-judicial killings and disappearances but was never charged in court.

Over the weekend, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lieutenant General Alexander Yano said he would turn over military men who are suspects in cases involving human rights violations.

“The military leadership has vowed early on to fully cooperate with the investigations of concerned agencies on issues of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings and assured that the Armed Forces will not attempt any coverup of any incident,” Torres said in a statement.

De Leon was assigned to the 24th Infantry Battalion, which is under the 7th Infantry Division.

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Tue+00:002008-05-27T07:18:36+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Tue, 27 May 2008 07:18:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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DND to MILF: ‘Discipline your ranks’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:09:00 05/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. dared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday to “discipline” its ranks amid allegations separatist rebels banded with the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in attacks on Marine forces in Basilan province over the weekend.

At the same time, Teodoro said he hoped the alleged collusion between the rebels and the extremists would be resolved at the level of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), before which the military has filed a protest over the Sunday morning attacks in Ungkaya Pukan town.

On Monday, the AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) filed a protest before the CCCH the joint ceasefire monitoring body of the government and the MILF over the Sunday encounters.

“In so far as the ceasefire is concerned, they [MILF] should discipline their ranks,” Teodoro told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

Teodoro said he saw no reason for a “credible” organization to be in cahoots with the Abu Sayyaf, which he described as “terrorists, bandits and criminals.”

“We have long been receiving reports [of collusion], especially in Basilan. If they [MILF] don’t know [about it], this means their command and control over their fighters is weak,” he said.

“We leave it up to the CCCH to bring this to their [MILF’s] attention and I hope the issue can be resolved on that level,” he added.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. issued a similar call to the rebels in a separate interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“If the top [MILF] leadership has a hold [on ground troops], we hope they could solve their internal problem. We hope that the leaders would also control the actuations, the decisions of their sub-leaders,” Torres said.
The AFP has demanded that two MILF commanders who led the attacks on the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT) 8 detachment in Tongabto village and a reinforcement convoy in Matarling village, both in Ungkaya Pukan, be stricken off their rolls.

The military also asked the CCCH to determine the motive for the attack, identify who were behind it, and restrict the MILF to its designated areas in the southern island province.

“That’s why we filed the protest is because we believe there was a collusion between the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf group,” Torres said.

“Preventing such things from happening would all depend on the sincerity of both sides in pursuing the peace process. That [sincerity] is very important,” he added.

When pressed if the alleged collusion reflected on the MILF’s sincerity in pursuing the peace talks, Torres said, “I just don’t want to comment on that yet because the collusion has to be declared by a third party.”

The Sunday attack came as formal peace negotiations are deadlocked on the ancestral domain issues, with the rebels blaming the government’s inaction for the delay.

The MILF has dodged persistent allegations that its fighters were aiding the Abu Sayyaf.

On July 10, 2007, a combined force of MILF and Abu Sayyaf members ambushed a Marine convoy in Ginanta village, Al-Barkah town, Basilan, killing 14 Marines, 10 of whom were also beheaded.

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Tue+00:002008-05-27T07:17:39+00:00+00:0005b+00:00Tue, 27 May 2008 07:17:39 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am05

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