Friday, December 29, 2006

Special report: Bloody tale of the Abu Sayyaf’s notoriety

COTABATO CITY (John Unson / Dec 29) - If Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani is really dead, his death will only cause a major setback for his notorious group, but will never mean its end.

This is how many analysts and peace advocates here believe, though still weary on whether it was indeed Kahadaffy’s remains the Marines had unearthed three days ago in Barangay Kabuntakas, a secluded district in Patikul, Sulu.

The youngest among Janjalani siblings, who were born and raised by their parents in Isabela, Basilan, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) was feared for his ruthlessness against enemies.

Kahadaffy merely assumed the leadership of the ASG after his older brother, Ustadz Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, was killed in a brief gunbattle with policemen in a coastal village in Basilan in 1998.

Abdurajak first underwent guerilla training in Kandahar , Afganistan, before joining in the 1980s the mujahideen forces that fought the then Soviet-backed regime of Afgan President Mohammad Najibullah.

A member of the Moro National Liberation Front, who was a key staffer of jailed MNLF founder Nur Misuari when he was still governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said Abdurajak stayed long in Pakistan to study Islamic theology in one of the schools there prior to his sojourn to Afganistan.

“He was a very good baker. He worked part time in a bakery in Pakistan while we were studying there. We even asked him to teach us how to bake bread. We learned from him that he had worked as a baker while in Isabela, where he grew up,” the source, who asked not to be identified, said.

Abdurajak, according to the source, then never showed signs he would rise as a leader of a group both Mindanao ’s Muslims and Christians would fear.

The soft-spoken, silent-type Kadaffy was still a minor when Abdurajak was abroad.

There are neighbors of the Janjalanis in Isabela claiming to have been shown by Abdurajak photos of him and a “a very wealthy Arab mujahideen,” purportedly Osama bin Laden, the man who could have recruited him into joining the forces that fought the Afgan-backed government in Afganistan in the early 1980s.

Local preachers who studied abroad said Bin Laden, indeed, operated a recruitment office for the Afgan mujahideen forces somewhere in Peshawar , Pakistan in the early 1980s.

When Abdurajak returned to the country in the early 1990s, he wasted no time in organizing a tightly-knit group aimed at propagating da’awah (preaching) activities as a pretext to putting up a puritan Islamic community in Mindanao .

Abdurajak established a 15-member “council of emirs,” and enlisted a preacher named Amilhussin Jumani as its senior adviser.

From 1990 to 1992, Abdurajak established a core group composed of 10 units, support, under Ustadz Benhamad; security, under Calona Mutalan; finance, under Bashier Latiff; operations, under Omar Gahalin; supply, under Jalali Bakal; recruitment, under Basiri Jillang, urban sector, under Abdullah Jainal; planning, Edwin Angeles, also known as Ibrahim Panduga; intelligence, under Abdulhamad Samad; and logistics, under Amiludin Muin.

Samad and Muin were to be arrested by government agents in June 3 and, subsequently, June 10, 1994 respectively. Angeles, who surrendered to the government, was briefly incarcerated in Camp Crame and was gunned down in Isabela, while coming out of a mosque, after Abdurajak was killed by policemen.

Angeles was then a strong contender for the post left vacant with the death of Abdurajak. There has been no information on the whereabouts now of the other pioneer members of the units the slain ASG founder established.

Khadaffy was never a part of a any of the ASG’s 10 pioneer units. Neither was he allowed by Abdurajak to join the ASG’s four operating arms, the hit squad, led by Ustadz Wahab Salajin, demolition, under Ustadz Munap Salajin, the mujahideen sector, under Ramon Sangkula Hassan, and training section, under a certain Mustapha, believed to be a preacher trained in Egypt.

The operating units of the ASG first had its “baptism of fire” when its members perpetrated the bombing in the early 1990s of the M/V Doulos in the Zamboanga City port, and, subsequently, carried out the murder of Italian priest Salvatorre Cardezza in a nearby district on May 20, 1992.

As the ASG spread its wings in the Basilan, Sulu and the Zamboanga peninsula, Abdurajak also hopped from one Southern island to another, preaching and encouraging Muslims to rise and fight for an independent Islamic state in the region.

“He was an eloquent speaker. He spoke well of the verses in the Holy Qur’an and used certain verses to justify his quest for a Muslim state in Mindanao and as excuses for the ASG’s use of violence to pursue its objectives,” another MNLF member, who hails from Sumisip, Basilan, told The Cagayan de Oro Journal.

As a preacher, Abdurajak spoke ill of the Philippine government and the United States , like his benefactor, bin Laden, who was rabidly against US foreign policies too.

Part of the ASG’s ploy to catch international attention then was the abduction, one after another, of local and foreign Christian missionaries, among them Catholic priests and nuns, to project the “religious dimensions” of its bid for an Islamic state in the South.

The group, apparently aimed at catching the attention of the United States , abducted in 1994 linguist Charles Walton in Sulu, while studying there the Tausog and Sama dialects.

As a preacher, Abdurajak spoke ill of the Philippine government and the foreign policies of the United States .

He was said to have attempted to expand the ASG’s operation in Central Mindanao , but was reportedly rejected by the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose leader then, cleric Hashim Salamat, was keen on preventing “contamination” of his group with any influence from terrorist organizations.

Salamat’s position of furthering his bid for Moro-rule in Mindanao, was more premised on the framework of unity and co-existence with all sectors in the south, under the Islamic context of inter-faith solidarity and economic advancement that would not displace, but rather empower Mindanao ’s native Moro and other indigenous groups.

MILF insiders said Salamat’s principles and vision of “peace with justice” for Mindanao ’s Moro, Lumad and Christian groups are being carried on by his successor, Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, who assumed the front’s leadership after Salamat’s demise in 2004 in Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Peace advocates, among them Catholic priests, are certain, it was for the MILF’s being a revolutionary organization and different in its religious and political convictions from the ASG that forced Khadaffy out of Central Midanao , where he hid from June to November 2005 to escape from government offensives against him in the Zamboanga peninsula.

Sources from Basilan, some of them local officials, said it was during the ASG’s plunder of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur on April 4, 1995, where the young Khadaffy, already a combatant and a close-in security aide of Abdurajak, underwent his most crucial initiation in combat.

Abu Sayyaf fighters arrived at Ipil on board trucks and pumpboats that landed on its coasts, attacked the town proper, killed 42 civilians, seven soldiers and six policemen, and, before they fled, set 53 commercial establishments on fire. More than a hundred residents, trapped in the crossfire between the local police and military, were wounded in the attack.

Most of Khadafy’s followers were either children of MNLF fighters who perished in the so-called Mindanao conflict during the 1970s, or victims of abuses of the Marcos Regime, when the country was under martial law.

Misuari, while ARMM governor from 1996 to 2001, has repeatedly urged Malacañang to include in the Mindanao peace process special, extensive programs aimed at rebuilding the lives of victims of human rights abuses, quality education for the so-called “orphans of conflicts,” and employment that would give them jobs for them not to resort to religious extremism that tend to undermine the efforts of fostering peace and sustainable development in the south.

“Religious extremism is a concern now confronting Mindanao ’s moderate Muslims, which is strongly against terrorism. There are radical Islamists in schools, even in government offices,” said a ranking education official in Central Mindanao.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Probers look into Turk's links to fire

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce) - Cagayan de Oro City fire marshall Oscar Abecia yesterday ordered arson investigators to look for a Turk reportedly responsible for the fire that destroyed over 40 houses and more than P1 million worth of property in Barangay 15 of the city the day after Christmas.

Abecia said they would file charges against Norris Glandlandan if warranted.

Lucresia Vallego, owner of the house where the fire started, claimed the blaze began at the room being rented by Glandlandan and his family.

"Glandlandan was the one renting at my apartment. The fire started at his place," Vallego said adding that a day before the fire, she heard Glandlandan ordering his son to buy gasoline.

Abecia, however, said one of his fire investigators said the fire was caused by faulty electrical wiring.


Councilors declare BIR director persona non grata

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce and Mark Francisco) – The city council yesterday declared the director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) here persona non grata for supposedly snubbing an official inquiry into the alleged corruption in the local offices of the bureau here.

Declared persona non grata was Mustapha Garandosa, BIR director.

Two of his subordinates, assistant director Alberto Olasiman and Cagayan de Oro revenue district officer Ester Palala suffered the same fate.

Garandosa did not show up during the city council inquiry two Mondays ago because, supposedly, he was on leave. He failed to show up again during the council session yesterday.

In a letter written on his behalf by Olasiman, Garandosa said he regretted that he could not face the city council supposedly because a BIR memorandum prevented him from doing so.

The letter cited BIR Memorandum Order no. 25-2005 issued by BIR Commissioner Jose Mario Buñag on Oct. 12, 2005, that ordered all BIR employees nationwide not to issue statements or release documents pertaining to their jobs without his direct consent.

But Councilor Jose Benaldo said the basis of Buñag’s directive was Executive Order No. 464 prohibiting government officials and employees from appearing in legislative investigations.

Two sections of the executive order had since been nullified by the Supreme Court, he said.

“The (line of) reasoning of Gandarosa is unfounded and baseless,” said Simeon Licayan, adding that the council only wanted the BIR officials to shed light on the complaints.

Licayan said Gandarosa’s failure two show up in two-occasion was enough to declare him persona non grata.

Councilors said they were not checking the records of BIR but were questioning the bureau’s officials in regard to numerous complaints on extortion.

The city council passed a resolution requesting the Office of the President, the BIR, the Ombudsman, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) and the Revenue and Incentives Protection Service of the Department of Finance (DOF) to investigate local BIR officials.

The councilors passed a third resolution asking the BIR to recall the three officials to its central office in Manila and ground them there pending the result of an investigation.

Councilor Cesar Ian Acenas said copies of the two resolutions would be furnished to local governments throughout the countrty to warn them of the alleged illegal modus operandi of some people in the BIR.


2 MGB execs slapped with graft charges

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce) – The Office of the Ombudsman in Davao has ordered former Mines and Geosciences Bureau director Glenn Marcelo Noble and a department head of the Bureau to answer a graft complaint filed against them.

Abner Fortaleza and Eugenio Sepulveda filed a complaint against Noble and Paul Salise before the 20th branch of the Regional Trial Court here last Oct. 25.

But earlier, they also filed a complaint against the two officials before the ombudsman.

In a three-page order dated Nov. 6, a copy of which was furnished this paper, ombudsman Maria Corazon Arancon directed Noble and Salise to submit their answer.

Arancon also directed Sepulveda and Fortaleza to submit a certificate of “non-forum shopping.”

Noble is now assigned at MGB Central Office in Manila while Salise is the chief of the Mining Environment and Safety Division of MGB-10.

Cagayan de Oro Journal tried to contact Noble and Salise for comment but to no avail.

Noble and Salise were accused of obtaining two sets of round-trip plane tickets each when they attended a conference in Baguio in November 2002. Public funds were used in buying the first sets of tickets since it was supposedly an official trip. But here’s the catch: a private firm based in Iligan City allegedly paid for the other set of tickets, supposedly for the same purpose.

Fortaleza and Sepulveda said it was unethical and a violation of law against graft.

The complainants also accused the officials of failing to account for solicitations made for a seminar in November 2002.

They alleged that some 90 people attended the seminar and that participants supposedly paid P1,500 each.
They called on the environment department to suspend Noble and Salise.