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Archive for June 17th, 2008

38 taken hostage by gunmen in Lanao del Norte free–military

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By Joel Guinto

First Posted 14:27:00 06/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) All Thirty-eight residents of a remote town in Lanao del Norte province who were held for a day by gunmen who also stole their livestock are all free, military officials said.

At around 6:30 a.m., 15 members of the criminal gang Tonda Force seized the victims from San Roque village, Kolambugan town and took 10 horses and two carabao (water buffalo), said Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr.

Among the hostages were 12 teachers and students, Colonel Edwin Respicio, commander of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion said.

The bandits freed all 15 female hostages at around 8:45 a.m. and escaped with the 23 male hostages, Brawner said in a text message to reporters.

The suspects used the villagers as a “human shield” to prevent an assault from security forces, said Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the military’s Task Force Tabak, which operates in the Lanao provinces.

Five of the 23 male hostages subsequently escaped.

Then, at around 5 p.m., the suspects abandoned the remaining 18 hostages in the vicinity of Balintad village, Munai town, some 20 kilometers from Kolambugan, after they saw approaching Army militiamen, Atendido said in a phone interview.

Richel Umel, Phil Daily Inquirer

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Tue+00:002008-06-17T15:37:42+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Tue, 17 Jun 2008 15:37:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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Military meets business at scene of failed uprising

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 20:02:00 06/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Seven months after rebel soldiers occupied the Manila Peninsula Hotel in an attempted uprising, the military was back in the luxury hotel in the heart of the country’s financial district, this time as welcome guests.

With the military top brass in tow, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano attended the joint meeting of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), the Makati Business Club (MBC), and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

In his speech, Yano introduced business leaders to his staff and the major service and unified commander chiefs, including Major General Arsenio Arugay, the chief of the National Capital Region Command (NCRCom), whom he described as the man in charge of securing the capital.

Also present were Army Chief Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado, Air Force Chief Lieutenant General Pedrito Cadungog, and Navy Chief Vice Admiral Rogelio Calunsag.

On November 29, 2007, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, an ex-Navy lieutenant, and Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim led rebel junior officers from the Magdalo group occupy the Manila Peninsula to press for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s resignation on allegations of corruption and vote-rigging.

Yano joked to reporters that he felt “déjà vu” when he stepped into the hotel lobby, which was destroyed when a tank was rammed into it to end the Magdalo group’s occupation. It was reconstructed several weeks after.

The military chief said he reiterated his assurance to the business community that power grab attempts have been contained.

“I am very confident that, as far as we know after those incidents, no additional personality has been added to the core leaders [of the uprising] who are now in detention,” he said.

During the meeting, the military also signed a memorandum of understanding with the business groups to explore possible management training and housing for soldiers.

“They pledged this kind of support. This is the first time we have met all these big groups, the who’s who of Philippine business, in one setting. This is a welcome development,” Yano said.

Makati was also the staging ground for other past uprisings.

On July 27, 2003, the Magdalo group seized the former Oakwood luxury apartments to protest alleged corruption in government, and the military’s alleged involvement in bombings in the south.

In December 1989, the bloodiest coup attempt against former president Corazon Aquino was staged in the Makati business district. Lim and Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin, who were then junior officers, led the uprising.

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Tue+00:002008-06-17T15:08:02+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Tue, 17 Jun 2008 15:08:02 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm06

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Australian’s ‘explosive’ jokes anger generals

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:34:00 06/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Australian businessman Peter Wallace’s comedy routine at a luncheon in Makati City, in which he poked fun at Filipinos’ “explosive” feces, had his audience, including the military top brass, outraged instead of laughing.

Wallace, an Australian who is president of The Wallace Business Forum, a consultancy firm, said Filipinos are now feared for having the “most explosive sh*t in the world,” after a police investigation showed methane gas from sewage pipes caused the explosion at Makati City’s Glorietta 2 mall in October 2007.

But Wallace did not stop there, he launched into several other jokes at the end of a joint meeting of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex), the Makati Business Club (MBC), and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) at the Manila Peninsula Hotel on Tuesday.

“Scientists from Russia, the United States, and China are now analyzing the typical Filipino’s diet to learn what could produce sh*t of such explosive force,” he said.

“Several Filipinos kidnapped in Afghanistan and Iraq, surprisingly by Arab terrorists, have been asked to produce sh*t to be made into bombs for suicide missions,” he said.

Wallace also said the US State Department has alerted the elite Delta Force to “prevent Filipinos and their sh*t from falling into the hands of terror groups.”

The businessman also theorized that the November 2007 explosion at the House of Representatives, which killed Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar and three others, was caused by a “congressman [who] just couldn’t hold it anymore.”

The audience laughed at the first joke, but the amusement level waned as Wallace cracked the succeeding jokes.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Alexander Yano, a guest at the affair, did not laugh at Wallace’s routine.

“It was racist. It was done in bad taste. He had no right to say that,” a general who was with Yano said.

“I was not entertained. It was not only racist, it was extremely vulgar. It was not fit for a joke in that highly professional and respectable assembly,” a second general, who was also at the affair, said.

A middle-grade officer with the generals called the jokes “most offensive, insulting, and impertinent.”

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Tue+00:002008-06-17T10:51:43+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Tue, 17 Jun 2008 10:51:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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Gov’t mulls ‘options’ for release of Drilon et al–officials

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By Joel Guinto, Maila Ager, Thea Alberto
First Posted 13:35:00 06/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) The government has reiterated its “no ransom” policy against kidnappers but was not ruling out other options by the police and the military to ensure the release of a television reporter and two others from their abductors.

Aside from ongoing negotiations on the ground, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said police and military forces were also getting ready for other options if the situation involving ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Octavio Dinampo, Mindanao State University professor, would demand it.

The military is preparing rescue operations as an “extreme option” and that “conditions on the ground would dictate how and when” these would be carried out, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Alexander Yano said.

Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon Jr. said the PNP was gearing up for a “worst case scenario,” with its troops in place and “ready for immediate deployment.”

Dureza, Yano, and Razon issued the statements after abductors of Drilon and company extended the deadline of negotiations for their release “indefinitely.”

The kidnappers, whom have police identified as Albader Parad, Sulayman Patta, and a certain Walid, have demanded a P15 million ransom although Jun Isnaji, son of Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, told a press conference in Sulu that there was no mention of the money during negotiations early Tuesday.

“There are efforts being done by those who are directly handling the so-called negotiations,” Dureza said over radio.

“Ang atin pong PNP and AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] forces are also getting ready for other options available when the situations demand other options,” he said but did not elaborate.

In fact, Dureza said Razon was on the site to personally direct his people and ensure that the victims would be able to return home safely.

“The PNP is now making ready for any contingency in relation to the abduction of Ces Drilon et al, by the Abu Sayyaf Group…ground troops are in place including air and naval assets,” Razon, who is in Zamboanga City to monitor the situation, said in a text message to reporters.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao police chief echoed this, saying they have weighed the risks involved.

“We are prepared for the worst case scenario…troops are in place as instructed by the Chief PNP. Nakikita na natin ang risk [We are beginning to see the risks],” said Goltiao in a phone interview.

“Yes, right from the start, that was always assumed to be an option, they are there ready, but as I’ve said, conditions on the ground will dictate how and when [the operation will be conducted]” Yano told reporters in Makati City, when asked if a military operation was an option to recover Drilon’s group.

Yano declined to elaborate on the preparations, saying: “That is part of the option but we would not rather discuss into details as to that extreme option that may be availed.”

“We will take necessary action on the basis of what’s happening on the ground, and not on the payment of ransom or such similar concessions,” he said, reiterating the government’s “no ransom” policy.

The 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT), which was supposed to return to Manila for retraining, was placed on standby in Zamboanga
City for possible deployment to Jolo Island, to augment the existing six Marine battalions there, said Vice Admiral Rogelio Calunsag, Flag Officer-in-Command of the Philippine Navy.

Asked what would trigger the start of a military operation to rescue the group, Yano said: “Such conditions cannot be divulged for operational reasons. We do not want to telegraph any move that will either compromise the safety of the hostages or the effectiveness of our operations.”

Yano said troops in Sulu, which include the Philippine Marines and elite Army Scout Rangers, were “capable” of mounting pursuit operations.

The military chief said he saw the extension of Tuesday’s 12 noon deadline as a “positive development.”

“We are concerned about the general condition of the hostages. We are hopeful that they will be released safely. We will immediately administer medical procedures, nutrition shall be provided, plan for airlift, and reunion with family are also considered,” said Razon.

But Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that government forces would not do anything to jeopardize the negotiations.

“The best thing that we can do at the moment is to hope that these people will be rationale enough to know that they should somehow be given enough reason to release them unharmed. That’s very important,” Ermita said.

Presidential adviser on peace process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s directive to get the victims unharmed remained.

“We are letting the people on the ground work on it. The directive is to help out and get Ces out of that bad situation,” said Esperon, former head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He then urged politicians to stay away from the negotiations and follow the standard operation procedure that there should only be one negotiator.

“We don’t have to get in there as if nothing is being done. We should leave it to local officials on the ground,” he said.

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Tue+00:002008-06-17T09:57:37+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Tue, 17 Jun 2008 09:57:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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