Saturday, October 21, 2006

Law men recover two more luxury vehicles carnapped in Manila, CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - (BEN BALCE / Oct 21, 2006) - NORTHERN Mindanao Regional Traffic Management Office regional chief PSupt. Felixberto Castillo, yesterday, announced the recovery of two more luxury vehicles stolen. One came from Metro Manila, while the other was carnapped in this city.

Castillo said they have intensified their anti-carnapping drive after Police Director General Oscar Calderon urged TMG director Chief Superintendent Errol Pan in Camp Crame to heighten the anti-carnapping drive nationwide.

Castillo, who heads the Regional Traffic Management Office 10 here, said the carnapped motor vehicles belong to Ricardo Cruz of Block 3, Lot 14, Saint Mark St., ES Villa Homes Subd., Antipolo City and Cesar Aquino of # 128 6th Division, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City.

Castillo said he received TMG Implan as one of the priority thrusts of Calderon and Pan ordering their officers in the entire TMG regional offices nationwide to conduct mobile checkpoints and to closely monitor passing vehicles to detect carnapped vehicles.

Cruz’s Mitsubishi Adventure Wagon with plate number YBR 308 was reported stolen while parked on July 7, 2004 at Corner Harizon-Buendia, in Makati City. It was recovered by RTMO 10 personnel on October 10, this year, in Iligan City.

“The alleged owner of the vehicle was then applying for motor vehicle clearance certificate when we apprehended it,” Castillo said.

The suspect, Naike Baibai Alos of Marawi City appeared at Iligan City TMO to apply for clearance certificate for the car’s transfer of ownership according to Castillo.

Meanwhile, one Michael Cabural Olaivar of Fatima, Ubay, Bohol who was the driver of the other stolen vehicle, alleged that the Isuzu Crosswind, with plate number KCR-519, was sold to them in Cebu City. He did not know that it was a stolen vehicle belonging to Aquino. Olaivar was driving the vehicle along Lapasan Highway, this City, when spotted by operatives.

The vehicle was reported missing since August 29, 2003 while it was parked unattended at the premises of 6th Division, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City.

Castillo said all the two recovered motor vehicles bore Land Transportation Office (LTO) registration papers; LTO Mis Occ (Javier); and Cebu-LTO (Pinoy).

Castillo however said that since the suspension of clearances for shipment of motor vehicles, as provided for under Section 11 of the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972, in 2001 carnapping business has become a lucrative business in Mindanao.


Plebiscite is too late on chacha: Nene

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (BEN BALCE / Oct 21, 2006) - SENATE minority leader Aquilino Pimentel in a statement yesterday said it is too late for a plebiscite on amending the Constitution as this has been overtaken by preparations for the midterm elections next year.

Pimentel was reacting to claims of the Malacañang particularly Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that a plebiscite can still be held before the May 2007 polls.

Pimentel said even the Commission on Elections has stressed that it needs at least three months of preparation for holding a plebiscite nationwide.

“By that time, the election process is already in high gear,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel’s statements coincided Cagayan de Oro’s local Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) confirming Malacañang’s priority—the Charter Change.

PDSP Cagayan de Oro chair Fermin Jarales said that even the Congress leadership has remained Cha-cha the utmost priority.

In a collective meeting here, PDSP Manila Beth Angsioco said that reportedly no other thing except Cha-cha is now the Malacañang’s priority, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary.

Earlier, the Supreme Court has said that it will not be able to decide on the petition for people’s initiative for Charter change earlier than the end of October.

“Any high court ruling on the petition can still be appealed by the losing petitioner, which will take more time,” Pimentel said.

On the alternative option to convert Congress into a constituent assembly, the minority leader said this would create a bigger problem.

Pimentel said the Senate would scrutinize every word in any move to amend the Constitution. “But also because time is running out on our legislative calendar,” he said.

He said that when Congress resumes session in November, it has less than 18 session days before the Christmas break begins.

“By that time, members of Congress would be loathe to spend time breaking their heads in debates on whether or not a particular provision of the Constitution should be amended,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said all congressmen and 12 outgoing senators would be focused not on charter change but on their reelection or on the election of their local candidates.

“There is thus no time for discussing charter change which is just as well because amending the Constitution is not like changing the name of a barangay or municipality. It is much more fundamental than that and deserves the unqualified attention of those who amend it for the good of the country,” the statements said.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Cagayan de Oro to host Asia Peace Builders Forum

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (By Mike Banos /19 October 2006) - This self-styled "City of Golden Friendship" seeks to expand its many facets into another dimension when it hosts the Asia Peace builders Forum next week, 26-30 October 2006.

With the theme "Exploring Asian Approaches to Peace building" the five-day forum will be joined by at least 50 key change agents from 14 Asian countries working in community and national level peace processes in the Asia Pacific region.

Action Asia was started in 1999 when a small group of peace practitioners from the Asia Pacific region met under the umbrella of ACTION International to pursue a long-time dream to form an active network dedicated to peace building.

"The group envisioned to actively support peace practitioners working in violent conflict areas of the Asia region; as well as identify and promote Asian models and understandings of peace building and conflict transformation approaches and processes," said, Balay Mindanao Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) president Charlito Manlupig whose Peace Center in Bgy. Bulua will host the activity.

"The first vision has been realised with ongoing work in Myanmar and Nepal carried out in conjunction with local peace practitioners, by Asian practitioners belonging to the network," said Ariel Hernandez, BMFI executive director. "The latter objective of finding the Asian approaches and models has been building momentum, and the realisation of this dream will come about through the Asian Peace Builders Forum next week.

Previously, much of the training and materials relating to conflict transformation and peace building has been generated and provided in Western countries. Organizations such as Responding to Conflict in the UK, and Eastern Mennonite University in the United States have led the field in equipping peace practitioners to do their work.

"The graduates of these programs are the primary members of the Action Asia network, but until next week, they have not had the opportunity to share their own thoughts, reflections and theories about the approaches to peace building which have been found to be effective in the Asian context," Manlupig said. "Yet there is a myriad of creative ideas and approaches which are being used to effectively address violent conflict, and promote and build peace in the region."

Specifically, the Asian Peace builders' Forum will create a venue to identify unique Asian approaches in conflict transformation and peace building; celebrate the vibrancy of the movement and highlight the success of various interventions; document and publish lessons learned from both success and failures in peace building and conflict transformation by practitioners at the community and national levels; deepen relationships between members for further exchange, collaboration and exposure; and profiling situations of Myanmar and Nepal for the purpose of regional solidarity and influencing work.

The forum that will run for 4 ½ days (please see Appendix One for Forum Schedule) will mainly focus on case study presentations exemplifying different themes from presenter's experiences. The themes would include but not be limited to Ethnicity and Identity; Women, Gender and Peace building; Peace Futures; Peace Museums; Peace Journalism; Peace Advocacy at National Level; Reducing Tensions During Elections;
Establishing Zones of Peace in Conflict Areas; Mediation; Conflict Prevention Mechanisms; Reconciliation and Asian Training Methodologies.

One of the highlights of the forum will be the keynote address of peace studies pioneer Prof. Johann Galtung, the founder and Director of Transcend, an organization promoting conflict resolution by non-violent means.

For over four decades Galtung has mediated conflicts in Israel and Palestine, China and Tibet, Peru, Sri Lanka and Burma, among others. He is the author of the United Nations' manual for peace workers and he continues to advise UN agencies on peace issues. He is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Hawaii and other centers of peace learning.
Prior to workshop-presentations, speakers have been invited to open the morning plenary to talk on Peace building Efforts in the Asian Region from Various Faith Perspectives; Influencing Government Policies; and Mainstreaming Gender Sensitivity in Peace Building Work.

This Forum will also provide an opportunity for participants to strengthening the existing network and identify future collaborative actions, as well as giving core Action Asia members the chance to meet and discuss detailed future plans.

The forum's ultimate goal is the publication of a book containing several thematic case studies from experiences of peace advocates in the Asian region.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rumors of war sweep Lanao

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (BEN BALCE / Oct 18) – Residents of a Lanao town where major fighting started between government forces and secessionist rebels in 2000 are bracing for a rebel offensive after the month of Ramadan.

Mayor Jackmar Maruhom of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, told his constituents to "get ready for an emergency" after Oct. 24, the end of Ramadan.

"Public schools in elementary and high schools will be the venue for evacuation centers as one the contingency plans of the local government," Maruhom said on Tuesday.

Maruhom said the reported attacks would come from the two MILF camps in the towns of Munai and Poona-piagapo also in Lanao del Norte.

MILF fighters based in Munai under a Commander Bravo reportedly have been given the mission of taking over Kauswagan in a repeat of the 2000 hostilities.

Kauswagan was retaken at the cost of scores of soldiers killed.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division based here declined to comment on the reported threat.

In a press conference Monday, Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz quoted intelligence reports as saying MILF fighters are converging in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte.

But the rebels could just be gathering for consultations on the peace talks between the MILF and government.

The peace talks in Kuala Lumpur have been suspended over a deadlock on the coverage of a proposed "ancestral homeland" for Muslims.

Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan, vice chairman of the Bangsamoro Development Authority and a member of the MILF peace panel, said there was no order from the MILF leadership for the movement of troops.

"It’s only order is to prepare the MILF ranks for any untoward incident within their respective camps, meaning defensive positions," Dipatuan said.

Dipatuan said that if ever there are some movements of MILF troops, they should go back to their camps and take up defensive positions.

MALAYA, The National Newspaper

Marawi hospital hit by fire

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – (BEN BALCE / Oct. 18) - The 105-year-old Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City was destroyed by fire at around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

SFO1 Sibana Camid, arson investigator, said the fire could have originated from the ceiling of the intensive care unit or the janitorial room and could have been due to electrical overload.

Some 40 patients, two of whom were in ICU, were safely evacuated by hospital staff before two huge blasts believed to be exploding nitrogen tanks rocked the burning building.

Damage was placed at P45 million.

"Though electrical overloading is our theory, we do not discount the possibility of Arson," hospital chief Dr. Amer Saber said.

"We would like to ask for an official investigation by the NBI authorities to come up to the real cause of the incident," said Saber.

Saber also appealed to the Department of Health and local officials for immediate assistance in the form of equipment donations.

The hospital, constructed by the Americans in 1901-1902, was originally used as barracks by American scouts and was only converted into a hospital in the early ‘30s.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Basit Usman's deadly profile

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao ((JOHN UNSON / October 16) — Abdulbasit Usman, the principal suspect in last week’s bombings in Central Mindanao, once served as cook and janitor for policemen holding him in detention for his alleged involvement in a terror attack four years ago.

An ethnic Maguindanaon better known as "Basit," Usman was first implicated in the April 2002 bombing of the Fitmart department store in General Santos City, which led to his detention for a couple of months at the headquarters of the 1206th Provincial Police Mobile Group, then under Chief Inspector Auselito Cabang, in Alabel, Sarangani.

Usman was driving a van, on his way to South Cotabato, when Region 12 police from General Santos City stopped him at a checkpoint in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat and served him a warrant of arrest in connection with the Fitmart bombing.

Usman’s name in the warrant, however, was incorrect, prompting the Region 12 police to put him under the custody of Cabang at the 1206th headquarters while prosecutors were initiating the required amendments to his case.

While in detention, Usman was not regarded as a suspect in an extremely heinous offense. He was free to move around the premises working as janitor, cook, and as "spotter" for other terrorists operating in the South-Cotabato Sarangani-General Santos City (Socsargen) area.

Usman eventually escaped on Oct. 22, 2002 and has since gone underground. A year later, Usman’s custodian, Cabang, then due for promotion as police superintendent, and a subordinate, were found tortured and shot in the back of their heads by unidentified men while allegedly negotiating the surrender of Pentagon gang leader Tahir Alonto in a remote guerrilla enclave at the border of Tulunan, North Cotabato and Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Police and Army intelligence communities believe Usman could have set up the surrender of Alonto, wanted for more than 30 kidnappings in Central Mindanao , to lure Cabang and avenge Usman’s detention in Alabel. Usman’s family in Bentong District in Polomolok has since left and is believed to be in hiding somewhere in Maguindanao, where they have relatives both in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front. Usman, his relatives said, was still a member of the MILF when Fitmart was bombed in 2002.

Before Usman’s escape, his family had questioned the legality of his arrest and had even sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights to secure his release.

His relatives in Maguindanao are convinced that Usman may have indeed established a link with the Jemaah Islamiyah through some Indonesians in General Santos City who gave him sanctuary after his escape.

It was in General Santos City where the slain JI operative Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi was arrested in early 2000 for possession of explosives. Usman was again on the military’s watch list after he was rumored to have been spotted with Abu Sayyaf chief Khadaffy Janjalani and JI operatives Dulmatin and Umar Patek in Maguindanao from June to September in 2004.

There had been talks of Usman’s involvement in the deadly Dec. 23, 2003 bombing in Datu Piang, Maguindanao, which left 18 people dead and more than 20 others wounded.

One of the fatalities in the Datu Piang bombing was Mayor Saudi Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao Gov. Datu Andal Ampatuan. MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said Usman was long dropped from the roster of the front due to his alleged involvement in heinous crimes.

Highly placed sources from the military’s intelligence community said they are now validating reports from civilian informants that months before the Oct. 10 bombings, Usman was in the hideout of a Moro separatist commander and preacher who had trained abroad.

There are also reports detailing links between Usman and Egyptian national Dia Al-Gabre, who was arrested at the Cagayan de Oro airport some three years ago, together with a Maranaw bomb expert Muklis Yunus, while waiting for his Manila-bound flight. Al-Gabre himself has a shady personality.

He resided in Cotabato City in the 1990s and introduced himself to neighbors and friends as a journalist. He was always present in multisectoral peace dialogues then and traveled extensively from Cotabato City to parts of the Zamboanga peninsula.

Al-Gabre made a black umbrella and chessboard handy and played chess with friends in areas he frequented. Region 12 police had said they would file criminal charges against Usman, and Indonesian-born Dulmatin and Patek for the October bombings in Makilala and the cities of Cotabato and Tacurong.

Chief Superintendent German Doria, Region 12 police director, told the Notre Dame Broadcasting Network in Cotabato City that they have gathered enough evidence against the three terror suspects. The attacks, according to Doria, were carried out in retaliation for the arrest in Sulu two weeks ago of Dulmatin’s wife and two sons.

John Felix Unson

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bombing alert up in Oro, region 10

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (BEN BALCE / Oct. 15) - THE bombings in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato Tuesday and Wednesday, prompted the Police Regional Office 10 (PRO 10) to place the entire Cagayan de Oro city and the whole of region 10 under heightened alert, police officials said yesterday.

Yesterday, the Armed Forces and the PNP said the attacks that killed at least seven people were allegedly the handiwork of the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah and the local Abu Sayyaf group.

“The attacks prompted us to increase our alert levels,” said police Northern Mindanao head Chief Superintendent Florante Baguio.

Baguio said more personnel were already deployed starting yesterday at checkpoints including crowded places, like malls, market, churches, piers, and terminals. “We are also securing government installations, these are the focus of our security to preempt any eventualities,” he added.

“Terrorists are traitors so we have to be vigilant enough,” said Baguio.

Meanwhile, PRO 10 deputy regional director for administration PSSupt. Danilo Empedrad denied reports that Cagayan de Oro City is one of the targets of the possible terrorist attacks.

“We have received intelligence reports that some of the city in Mindanao are included at the list of possible attacks, but our city was not included,” Empedrad said.

Empedrad said that still the entire command in the region are gathering intelligence information on the alleged attacks in the region.

“The police are prepared to counter any possible terrorist attacks, particularly here in our region,” Empedrad said.

Based on reports, the areas targeted for bombing, named Zamboanga City and Carmen town in North Cotabato.

Empedrad said the PNP, in coordination with the Army”s 4th Infantry Division based in Camp Evangelista has taken security precautions to preempt the plot.

Police units in Mindanao have received intelligence information that terrorists were planning to launch bombings in Kidapawan and Isulan in Sultan Kudarat, and in Cotabato City.

Empedrad also denied report the MILF were behind the attacks. “The peace negotiations are now at the higher level, as mostly the international community already focus and participated in the ongoing peace talks,” he said.

But on the other hand, Cotabato governor Manny Piñol said the bomb used in Makilala “had all the signatures of the MILF.”

“I’m deeply disappointed because we are talking, we have been communicating and they promised not to use violence in pursuit of their cause,” Piñol said over local radio here.

The blast caused minor damages to Hua Hing Trading in front of the blast site, Piñol aid.
Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the MILF, said his group has had no role in the Makilala and Tacurong attacks.

“The accusations hurled by the governor were unfair,” Kabalu said.

Meanwhile, the military said that reports before the explosions, they received reports about plans of the two groups to stage bombings in Mindanao to divert the military’s attention from an ongoing offensive against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

“Oplan Ultimatum” was launched on Aug. 1, targeting mainly Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and JI bombers Dulmatin and Omar Patek,” said military.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Karapatan says Ablon, others in military’s list of battle

HUMAN rights group Karapatan, bared over the weekend, that priests from the Philippine Independent Church have either received information that they are in the military’s order of battle or have been harassed by death threats.

The alleged list include Fr. Terry Revollido of Pangasinan, Fr. Romeo Tagud of Negros, Fr. Marco Sulayao of Panay, and Fr. Sonny Teleron of Western Mindanao, and this city’s PIC priest Fr. Roberto Ablon.
The Philippine Independent Church here reported that Fr. Ablon and the four other priests, received death threats following the murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento in Tarlac City.

Karapatan northern Mindanao coordinator Beberly Musni said Fr. Antonio Ablon received the threat through a text message on Friday at 4:45 p.m.
She said that like Ramento, Ablon is an outspoken critic of the Arroyo government , while the other activist priests and pastors are all members of PCPR and connected with the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

According to several militant groups, Ramento received death threats before he was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his convent Tuesday last week.

Musni said Ablon is also a secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in the region and is a member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) National Council based in Cagayan de Oro.

The text message said: “Fr. Ablon patay gani ang supreme bishop ikaw pa kaha, I-sample ka namo dinhi sa CDO” (Fr. Ablon, even the supreme bishop was killed, we will make you an example here in Cagayan de Oro).”

Musni said Ablon also asked the police to blotter the said cellular number for future reference and for possible tracing of the whereabouts of the suspect.

Musni said the message, which was sent from cellphone No. 09203546270, clearly warned that Ablon could be the next victim of extrajudicial killings.

“Still unknown, but at least I have the suspect’s cellular number,” Ablon said
Police on Friday said Ramento was not a case of extrajudicial killing as militants claim, but a simple case of robbery with homicide.

Police said four suspects who were arrested Thursday on Ramento’s killing were members of a criminal gang involved in robbery and cellphone snatching, among others.

Musni, however, said the text message allegedly came from the State Security Forces.

“We strongly suspect that the source of this message could only be the military agents who are dutiful in their mission to intimidate, suppress and brutally silence the voices of dissent that have exposed the fraud, corruption and human rights abuses of the Arroyo administration,” Karapatan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Musni added that the group Karapatan is still conducting its own investigation on Ramento’s killing and has so far came up with an initial report that may not necessarily tally with the police claims.

“There are still things that don’t add up. There were death threats against Bishop Ramento just before his murder,” Musni said.