Friday, November 16, 2007

Mindanao religious leaders, AFP, PNP hold peace forum in Oro

CAGAYAN de Oro City (Ben Balce / Nov 16) — The entire city has been placed under heightened security alert and police personnel have been augmented since Thursday by City police director Supt. Antonio Montalba with the two-day peace forum between the Bishop-Ulama Conference and the Armed Forces and National Police ongoing at the Pryce Plaza here.

President Arroyo was supposed to arrive past noon yesterday to join the meeting with the 79-strong BUC membership of Muslim and Christian religious leaders based in Mindanao, and 51 officers of the AFP and the PNP but her trip was cancelled due to bad weather.

President Arroyo, with the AFP, was also scheduled to host the peace forum today as BUC holds its 33rd general assembly at Dynasty Court Hotel in this city.

Montalba said the scheduled conferences will go on today even if the President does not make it here. He said tight security plans, encompassing travel route, activities, and accommodations, are already in place for the President as well as the 500 participants in the forum.

The forum’s theme is "Building Bridges of Peace with our Peace Officers."

Lt. Col. Emmanuel Sinogba, civil military operations’ chief of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said the forum’s purpose is to promote inter-faith understanding, religious tolerance, friendship and constructive dialogues.

Msgr. Rey Monsanto, vicar general of the Cagayan archdiocese, said the forum will identify problems and difficulties blocking the achievement of peace in Mindanao and an action agenda will be drawn up to "strengthen local mechanisms for peace."


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sagun: Curfew is for everybody

CAGAYAN de Oro City (Ben Balce / Nov 15) - The army's 4th Infantry Division spokesman Major Samuel sagun Tuesday maintained that the curfew implemented inside the camp is legal.

"The curfew is for everybody. No exemption and apply it even you are a civilian or military personnel. The camp is doing it for security reasons," said Sagun.

Sagun answered a complaint after a certain Elizabeth Suganog asked some help over a local radio Wednesday accusing some high-ranking military officials of implementing the curfew" illegally."

"This is too much. We believed that they are doing this as if we are the plaintiffs," said Suganog.

Suganog with Camp Evangelista Neighborhood Association Inc. president Rogelio Serquina, a retired colonel, went to Bombo Radio yesterday to ask for some help to hear their grievances against the alleged barring of Cenai members from entering the Camp.

The 4ID and Cenai has an ongoing land claim dispute.

The solicitor general ordered the 4ID officials to demolish and clear the camp from informal settlers.
Suganog even called the military officials particularly 4ID commanding general Jose Barbieto as implementing rules and regulations with no consideration.

"We arrived at 8:15 p.m. (Tuesday night) and not yet on their 10 pm curfew, but upon knowing that I am Suganog (one of the plaintiffs and a member of Cenai) gi-hold nila ang akong salakyan without clear violations," said Suganog.

Suganog claimed that she is the Sons and Daughters of Veterans regional director in Region 10.

"Basta miyembro ka sa plaintiff hindi ka na makasulod sa Camp," said Suganog over DxIF Bombo Radio.

Suganog was even shocked as the military police barred from entering even her 70-year-old mother who she claimed has been living inside the camp for more than 40 years already.

She said that she was asked by the military police to sign as she is known and allow her to get inside, but still it did not happen.

"How come they barred us from entering the camp? We are residents and hasa been staying inside there a long time ago," said Suganog adding even her mother's car which is always entering in and out of the camp was disallowed to get inside.

However, Sagun replied: "Hindi na bago yan (curfew) inside the camp. The camp implemented that a long time ago."

Sagun said the curfew is being implemented even before the dispute started with the informal settlers, particularly the Camp Evangelista Neighborhood Association Inc. (Cenai).

"Even myself was the victim of the said rules inside the camp, walang specific sa rules, apply ni sa tanan," said Sagun adding: "As long as you enter late of 10 p.m., the rule would be implemented."

Sagun even said that all military camps nationwide are enforcing curfews as part of the protection of the Camp from any threat.

"The 4ID is a military camp and not an ordinary place or land that is open 24 hours to the public," said Sagun.


Anonymous has left a comment on your post.
Anonymous said...
we,as residents of camp evangelista, have known that there is curfew observed in the camp. this was implemented years and years ago, and we hav curfew at 10pm. we also have IDs to identify that we live inside the camp. Major sagun,we do not question that rule, however, whenever we ask the guard to let us enter, handing them our IDS, when they know that we live from a zone who filed a complaint against the command, the military police /security wont let us enter. that is what ms. suganob is trying to ask,and question.

major sagun is not clearly answering the question/issue raised by ms.suganob! i hope people wont be biased. residents know better because we experienced this intimidation ourselves.

From Sandals to Suits, Wahab Akbar, the Rebel turned Politician


“Throughout my life I was a laborer, I was a driver, I was an operator of heavy equipment, I was a bakery owner, I was a fishpond owner, I was a fish broker, I was a banana broker, I was a cigarette smuggler, I was a coconut harvester, I was a rebel, I was a student of an agricultural school at the Gregorio Araneta University Foundation then. I was an activist against Marcos, I was a student of Islamic Theology, I was a preacher, I was the deputy commander of the MNLF,” controversial Basilan Congressman Wahab Akbar, 47, said in his first and last privilege speech on July 31 calling on military coordination with Basilan residents in the planned strike on Basilan on the killing of 10 military personnel by suspected MILF .

Add being a former Abu Sayyaf, three-term governor and now congressman in the last days of his life, sums up the colorful history of this charismatic politician, who drew ire against his political enemies for his padrino politics and yet reverence from his loyalists.

The lawmaker was killed from injuries from a bomb blast Tuesday evening, when police found a bomb to have been planted on a motorcycle parked near Akbar’s Fortuner car parked near the lobby of the House.

Anak Mindanao Representative Mujiv Hataman, a fellow Yakan (ethnic grouping), said there are multiple possibilities on the causes of the blast. "There were threats on life of Akbar," DILG Secretary Reynato Puno said. "The indications are that that was the case both in terms of location of the bomb and the manner it was set off."

President Gloria Arroyo consoled his first wife, Jum, the governor of Basilan. The two other wives are Cherrylyn, mayor of Isabela City and Nurin, who ran for mayor of Lamitan town.

The Citizens Anti-Dynasty Movement notes that it's the first time that a man and his multiple wives have become elected officials at both the national and provincial level. Seven other politicians related to Congressman Akbar by bloodline, including a niece, nephew and several cousins, also won election victories in smaller towns around the island, which were affected by political violence in the last elections.

Akbar was a controversial figure having been touted to have founded ASG with Khadafi Janjalani, but later had distanced himself from the group upon entry in politics. "Mr. Speaker, when I joined politics, there were accusations that I was the founder of the bullshit Abu Sayyaf. Nung buhay pa sila, problema ko na, hanggang sa patay na sila problema ko pa rin," he said in his privilege speech.

Beyond the ASG, Akbar talks of a poor life as a child in his hometown in Lamitan. “When I went to school at the age of Seven (7), I used to report to my classes even without slippers, and worked as a bangkero and sold popsicles to earn,: he narrated in his privilege speech.

He claims he ran for governor in 1998 without using any centavo but garnered support from the locals.

Akbar had helped the government in its anti-terrorism campaign against the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) on Basilan island, where the militants are on the run from a massive military manhunt. He supported US presence in Basilan and launched armed campaigns against the ASG.

In the same privilege speech, he revealed the names of 4 locals responsible for the beheading of the military personnel in al Barka municipality. He also reminded the government to investigate the deaths of an imam and cautioned against military force. “Why should they inflict injury above injuries? Why should they use their budget in search for the beheaders through a huge number of soldiers instead of using it in helping me plant more rubbers so that there will be no beheading in the future? Why wouldn't they cooperate with the local leaders in order to settle the problem by not inflicting more problems?

Dubbed the Terror of Basilan by Newsbreak, Akbar denies he had links with ASG founder Abdurajak Janjalani or his group. In his early days as a imam, he preached jihad (holy war) during his sermons when he came back to Basilan after six months in Libya in the 80s, the Newsbreak notes.

Akbar, who used to wear a thoub, a longsleeved one-piece dress that covers the whole body, a white pilgrim’s cap, and a goatee, made his mark as a charismatic preacher in Basilan. However, he distinguished himself from Janjalani, who also preached jihad when he came home from Libya .

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said Akbar was helpful in the peace process. Former Lanao del Sur Vice Governor Nurmalah Lucman said his death was a “big loss to the Muslims.” Former Sulu Provincial Administrator Engineer Don Loong notes Akbar’s wisdom in promoting rubber to uplift the economy.

And in his words, Akbar departs from his beginnings as a rebel and calls for peace. "Mr. Speaker, let's give Peace all chances that it needs if only to ensure the welfare of our children, and the children yet to come in my province. Lastly whatever wisdom I have delivered it's from the blessings of the Almighty. On the other hand, whatever unfavorable thoughts that I may have said, it's only personal to me."With a population of more than 300,000, Basilan is subject of US funding support as part of the war on terror. An ASG researcher , Joe Torres notes that while Muslims constitute 71 percent of the Basilan population Christians own 75 percent of the land. The Chinese control 75 percent of business.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Suspect in shooting of radio commentator in Iligan nabbed

CAGAYAN de Oro City - (Mike Baños/Nov 11) - Police operatives swooped down and nabbed one the prime suspects in the October 8 shooting of Iligan broadcaster Jose "Joe" Pantoja at his residence in Iligan early Saturday afternoon.

SURVIVOR. Iligan-based radio "blocktimer" Jose "Joe" Pantoja speaks about the Oct. 8 attempt on his life during a news conference at the Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC). Pantoja who started his career in the media in Cagayan de Oro, is a COPC member.

Philip Ken Jaudian, spokesman of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club's Task Force Pantoja, identified the suspect as Romeo Vequizo.

"Vequizo was arrested by elements of the Iligan police around 2:30PM Saturday, November 10, 2007, at his residence in Barangay Acmac," Jaudian told members of the COPC board shortly after their regular meeting in Cagayan de Oro City.

"He has been moved to the ICPO headquarters for further investigation." The arresting team was led by Supt. Lemuel Ga, deputy chief of operations of the Iligan City Police Office (ICPO) and team leader of the Special Operations Unit (SOU) of Task Force Usig, which was created to probe the spate of extrajudicial shootings of journalists all over the country.

Vequizo was earlier identified in a press statement as a former bodyguard of Rep. Vicente "Varf" Belmonte (1st District, Lanao del Norte/Iligan City) by Divina Suson, information officer of Belmonte's Iligan congressional district office.

However, Suson stressed in the same statement that Vequizo was terminated for cause by Belmonte's office in 2005 and has since not been connected with the congressman's office.

Jaudian said Vequizo was earlier reported to have been hiding in the hinterlands of Bgy. Rogongon, Iligan City's biggest barangay which borders Lanao del Sur province.

Vequizo was identified by Jaudian as one of the two suspected gunmen who sent him surrender feelers asking for protection against the alleged mastermind.

Jaime L. Umpa, regional state prosecutor for Region X, told media during a press conference hosted by the Cagayan de Oro Press Club's "Task Force Pantoja" Monday his office could place the suspects under its Witness Protection Program in return for their testimonies in naming the mastermind behind the shooting.

Umpa also stressed that the charges against the suspects have not been downgraded from attempted murder to attempted homicide as reported by some media outlets.

"I personally called the Iligan city prosecutor and he informed me there has been no change in the charges," Umpa said.

"I also assure you there will be no downgrading of the charges to homicide while I am regional state prosecutor." As regional state prosecutor, Umpa has jurisdiction over the DOJ prosecutors in Region 10.

Lawyer Roberto Goking, who is a member of the COPC's Prosecution Team led by Lawyer and Past COPC President Frederico Gapuz, explained that downgrading the charges from attempted murder to attempted homicide is tantamount to admitting the assassination attempt was not premeditated.

"It would also have the effect of absolving the master mind from any culpability of the crime," Goking said.Pantoja sustained five gunshot wounds from two .45-cal. fired by two assailants who later fled from the scene aboard a motorcycle.

He was hospitalized in Iligan and traveled under heavy guard to Cagayan de Oro Monday to personally thank the Cagayan de Oro Press Club for their support.

Umpa said the "least guilty" of the three suspects, in this case the driver of the getaway motorcycle that whisked the two gunmen from the scene, could qualify for state witness.

"We can not only reduce his sentence but even completely absolve him of the crime provided he identifies the true mastermind behind this shooting," Umpa said.

Umpa said the two other suspects can also seek clemency under the Department of Justice's Witness Protection Program if they testify against the mastermind of the failed assassination attempt.

A number of eyewitnesses who personally saw the incident have already been placed under the same program to protect themselves and their families. Pantoja and his family have likewise been placed under the custody of the DOJ's Witness Protection Program.