Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

What a masterpiece!

Pacquiao KOs Diaz, bags 4th world title

LAS VEGAS—Once the left hook landed, Manny Pacquiao knew David Diaz was out.

True enough, referee Vic Drakulich didn’t bother to count as Diaz fell to the canvas face first with 2:24 gone in the ninth round, handing Pacquiao the World Boxing Council lightweight crown on Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila) and making him the first Asian to win major titles in four weights.


“What a masterpiece,” President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said after watching the fight on television in San Francisco, California, while waiting for her flight to Manila, according to Press Secretary Jesus Dureza.

“Manny once again showed the sterling quality of excellence of a Filipino at his best. We rejoice with the whole nation in his victory,” Ms Arroyo said in a statement at the end of her 10-day US visit.

The 29-year-old Pacquiao enshrined himself as the first Filipino to rule the 135-pound division.

Pacquiao threw 788 punches to Diaz’s 463, also landing 10 percent more of his blows. Pacquiao also jabbed well with remarkable discipline for an instinctual brawler, but the 32-year-old Diaz was hurt most by Pacquiao’s 180 power shots that connected.

Pacquiao’s victory added to the evidence in his favor in the contentious argument over who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. What is beyond dispute, however, is Pacquiao deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik.

After starting his career 13 years ago as a flyweight, Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs) has evolved into a dominant fighter in every division in which he fought.

His lightweight debut was every bit as action-packed as his long history of brawls at lower weights—and like most of his opponents, Diaz (34-2-1) couldn’t match Pacman’s ferocious pace.

Diaz was game but was outclassed by Pacquiao, the former WBC flyweight and International Boxing Federation super bantamweight champion and current WBC super featherweight titlist.

Bloody mess
Pacquiao swept all rounds in the Philippine Daily Inquirer scorecard.

From the first bell, Pacquiao dictated the tempo, peppering the slower Diaz with jabs and straights in the pay-per-view bout shown in the United States and Canada.

Diaz plodded on but couldn’t catch up with the Filipino ring icon, who alternately dug into the body and face, opening up a small cut on Diaz’s right eyelid.

All the exasperated Diaz, blood dripping from the cut, could do in the third and fourth rounds was hit Pacquiao during clinches.

By the fifth, Diaz’s face was a bloody mess. By the sixth, a mouse had appeared over his left eye, requiring a lookover by the ring physician.

A closing flurry of punches in the seventh jarred Diaz, who also sustained a cut on the bridge of his nose and he sneezed and spat blood.

Concern for fallen foe
In the eighth, Pacquiao staggered Diaz with left-right combinations that sent the Mexican-American reeling to the ropes.

Diaz sprang forward in the ninth, sneaking a right which infuriated Pacquiao, who unleashed combinations to the body and head.

Then Diaz, a 4-1 underdog, opened up. As Pacquiao grazed him with a right, Diaz got caught with the left.

As soon as Pacquiao saw Diaz down, he tugged on the fallen man’s arms, concerned he was badly hurt. Upon learning that Diaz was OK, Pacquiao rushed to a corner, said a prayer and then climbed the ropes, raising his arms and glancing upward in gratitude.

The fight lured 8,362 paying patrons, majority of them Filipinos, to the Mandalay Bay Events Center here.

For typhoon victims
“I’m dedicating this victory to my countrymen, especially the typhoon victims,” said Pacquiao. “Don’t worry, when I come back (to the Philippines), I’ll try to be of help.”

With the knockout, Pacquiao established himself as a solid force in the division even as he expressed willingness to move up in weight once more to challenge British light welterweight superstar Rick Hatton.

According to Top Rank president Bob Arum, Pacquiao will defend his lightweight title first in November against a yet to be named opponent.

“I feel much, much stronger and more powerful at 135,” Pacquiao was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. “This is where I plan to stay. I did real well. I was really surprised it wasn’t stopped sooner.”

‘It was all his speed’
Diaz, the likable but unlikely champion from Chicago, knew he faced long odds in his second title defense. The former US Olympian hung in despite severe cuts and weary legs that wobbled with each of Pacquiao’s big punches.

“His punches are just too fast,” Diaz told his corner after the sixth round, his face dripping blood.

“It was his speed,” Diaz said. “It was all his speed. I could see the punches perfectly, but he was just too fast. He boxed me more than I thought he was going to box. I said to Freddie (Roach), ‘It’s the best I’ve ever seen him box.’ Freddie said, ‘Me too. That was our game plan.”’

Pacquiao started fighting as a scrawny 16-year-old in the Philippines, but he grew into a dynamic competitor who won world titles at 112, 122 and 130 pounds.

“That was beautiful,” Roach said after the knockout. “The game plan was not to stand and trade, because Diaz is too dangerous. The plan was to go in and out, out-box him, do what Manny does best. He did everything that we asked him to do.”

‘Marry me!’
Some thought Pacquiao’s next move could be to bulk up even further for a wildly lucrative fight with England’s Hatton.

But Pacquiao seems more likely to stick around to fight other lightweights, at least for now.

It was an electrifying evening as rival sections in the crowd, which included the NBA champion Boston Celtics and about a hundred Chicagoans, traded jeers before the fight.

Shouts of “Manny, Manny” reverberated in the arena as Pacquiao made his entrance clad in a red robe and white shorts.

Manila-based teener Nicole Angela sang the Philippine anthem while Fil-Am Jasmin Villegas sang the Star Spangled Banner.

Mandalay Bay was filled largely with Filipino fans, including an overly optimistic man whose sign read, “Pac-Man, Marry Me!” (With reports from Juliet Labog-Javellana and Associated Press)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pinoys cheer over Pacquiao win

For a second or two, fight fans were stunned seeing defending champion David Diaz flat on his face and Manny Pacquiao raising his fists in triumph.


But after collecting themselves, Filipino fans inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and even around the globe exploded with cheers for witnessing history as it unfolded before their eyes.

Filipino fans present at the fight venue proudly waved the Philippine flag as Pacquiao claimed his fourth title, the WBC lightweight belt, as he became the first Asian with four titles listed under his name.

Various banners hailing Pacquiao were proudly displayed, as many Pinoy fans had the words “I told you so” written on their happy faces.

Among the notable personalities present at the fight venue were First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, singer-composer Lito Camo and former world champion Mike Tyson.

Cheers heard from home

In the Philippines, local fans also cheered watching their hero win as they celebrated Pacquiao’s victory like it was their own personal triumph.

People in his native General Santos City are now making plans to give their "kababayan" a grand welcome as soon as he arrives back home.

More than 6,000 people watched the fight live at the General Santos Gym, with the local government shouldering P350,000 pay-per-view expenses to accommodate the fans.

Mayor Pedro Acharon was present at the gym to watch the fight.

When Pacquiao floored Diaz, the gym thundered with cheers.

At Pacquiao’s mansion, Pacquiao’s mother, Dionesia, fainted after learning that her son won by knockout.

She urged the boxer to help the victims of the calamity brought by Typhoon Frank.

“Manny will help the flood victims,” she said in Filipino.

Pacquiao’s father, Rosario, said he is happy with his son’s victory. He added that he is already satisfied with what he has and asked nothing from the champion.

In Manila, streets and major thoroughfares were virtually deserted during the fight as more than 6,000 jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers trooped to the Tondo Sports Complex to watch the Pacquiao-Diaz match for free.

Despite not earning anything for the day, jeepney driver Bong Reyes said he is happy to see Pacquiao win. The same was said by pedicab driver Lito Navarro, who said he will try asking money from Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim so that he can bring something home to his family.

Greetings from officials

Despite being a Sunday, government officials still issued statements in honor of the boxing champ.

President Arroyo congratulated Pacquiao for winning the WBC lightweight title, describing the fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Saturday (Sunday in Manila) in Las Vegas as a "masterpiece."

"What a masterpiece," Mrs. Arroyo said in a statement sent by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza from San Francisco, California.

"Manny once again showed the sterling quality of excellence of a Filipino at his best," she said after watching the fight on TV while awaiting her flight back to Manila.

Senate President Manuel Villar also joined those who are congratulating Pacquiao.

“His latest historic feat makes Manny not only a pride of the Philippines but a pride of this part of the world, being the first Asian ever to hold four world titles in four different weight classes,” he said.

Presidential deputy spokesman Anthony Golez also praised Pacquiao on his win and for uniting the Filipinos. He said the Filipino boxer’s triumph as given the country hope and pride.

“With our country experiencing tough times brought about by the recent disaster, Manny has given the country hope and pride once again by reminding us that we can be triumphant over any adversary we are facing,” said Golez. (With reports from abs-cbnNEWS.com, ABS-CBN News and Dexter Ganibe, ABS-CBN General Santos City)

Pacquiao-Diaz Fight: Blow by Blow Account

LAS VEGAS – Round-by-round coverage of Manny Pacquiao’s WBC lightweight title-winning effort against David Diaz from the Mandalay Bay Events Center.


KEVIN IOLE’S UNOFFICIAL SCORECARD
Round 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Total
DAVID DIAZ 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 8 KO
MANNY PACQUIAO 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 W

ROUND 1

Crowd is heavily pro-Pacquiao as Michael Buffer introduces them. Ex-world champion Fernando Vargas, who has gotten very heavy, walked to the ring with Diaz. The fighters meet in the center of the ring as the bell rings. Pacquiao lands two lefts. Pacquiao is circling and Diaz is moving forward. Diaz lands a combination to the body. Combination to the head and body by Paquiao. Hard left by Pacquiao. Diaz lands a left. Pacquaio’s jab gets through three times in a row. Combination to the head by Pacquiao. Speed edge is huge for Pacquiao. Diaz misses badly with a hook. It’s easy right now for Pacquiao. Diaz lands a right and Pacquiao is warned for holding. Four-punch combination by Pacquiao brings a roar from the crowd.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 2

They trade inside as the round starts. Now, they’re wrestling. Diaz fires a combination to the head, but Pacquiao lands a counter left. Left-right-left from Pacquiao lands. Good left from Diaz. Hard left by Pacquiao. Right hook and a left from Pacquiao. Jab and a hook to the body by Pacquiao. Overhand left from Pacquiao lands. Right hook snaps Diaz’ head. Left-right combination to the head by Pacquiao. He’s teeing off on Diaz. Right hook by Pacquiao. Pacquiao lands a five-punch combination. It’s ridiculously easy at this point for Pacquiao. He’s far outclassing Diaz. Diaz has reddening around the eyes. Another hard combination by Pacquiao.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 3

Diaz opens with a jab. Pacquiao double jabs and then a left. Right hook from Pacquiao. Diaz lands a good right. Four-punch combination to the head by Pacquiao. Hard left by Pacquiao. Pacquiao is simply far too fast. It’s a mismatch at this point. Right hook by Manny lands. Diaz digs to the body. Diaz has a cut on the bridge of his nose, but it shouldn’t be a factor. Jab-left by Pacquiao snaps Diaz’ head. They tie up for only a second and the crowd boos. It’s been a fast pace. Diaz roughs Pacquiao up inside and lands a short right. Combination to the body by Pacquiao. Left cross lands by Pacquiao. Hook to the body by Diaz.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 4

Pacquiao opens with a jab. Diaz lands a right. Hook to the body and hook to the head by Diaz. Pacquiao lands a left that stuns Diaz. Another hard left by Pacquiao. Diaz is cut badly on the right eye. Referee Vic Drakulich stops the fight briefly to allow the doctor to examine the cut. He’s OK to go, but it will bother him. Hard right by Pacquiao. Right hand and then a big left by Pacquiao. Diaz wobbles. Pacquiao is firing away and landing hard, crisp shots. He’s totally dominant. Left by Pacquiao and then they clinch. They trade hard blows, but Pacquiao lands several more. Hook by Pacquiao.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 5

Diaz’s corner has done a good job closing the cut. Diaz lands a hook to the body. Pacquiao lands a hard right. Right by Pacquiao and then a right-left combination on the chin. These punches are going to take a toll on Diaz before much longer. Chopping left by Pacquiao. Diaz bending at the waist and bobbing and weaving, trying to find a way to avoid the punishment. Two rights by Pacquiao lands as the crowd roars its approval. Left to the body by Pacquiao. This is an extremely impressive performance. Diaz cracks Pacquiao with a good right, his best punch of the fight. Three-punch combination by Pacquiao to the head.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 6

Diaz’s cut is on his eyelid and is in a very bad position. Pacquiao is circling and flicks a jab. Diaz lands a right . Pacquiao lands a double hook. Cut is bleeding heavily. Pacquiao not quite as aggressive in this round, but is still landing what he throws. They wrestle in the center. Diaz warned for hitting behind the head. Good left to the head by Pacquiao. Short right inside by Pacquiao. Diaz lands a jab and then a right hand. Three-punch combination inside by Pacquiao and then a hard right to the head. Drakulich calls time to have the cut checked. He lets it continue.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 7

Diaz said in between rounds, “Those punches are just too fast.” Diaz misses badly with a hook. Pacquiao lands a jab and then a right. They’re warned fpr rough tactics. Right to the body by Diaz, but Pacquiao answers with a 1-2 to the head. Left to the body and then to the head by Pacquiao. Diaz lands a jab. Three-punch combination inside by Pacquiao, who just gets off so much quicker. They clinch in the middle. Diaz pops a jab. Pacquiao lands an uppercut and then a right.
Iole scores it 10-9, Pacquiao

ROUND 8

Pacquiao opens with a couple of hard punches to the head. How much punishment is the corner going to let Diaz take? They need to think of stopping it now. Diaz seems to have no shot, not even the lucky punch chance to keep his title. Right-left-right by Pacquiao sends Diaz sagging to the ropes. Diaz fights his way off, only to be pummeled in the center of the ring with a blistering combination. Pacquiao raking him along the ropes. This is horrendous. Diaz is taking a frightful beating. Pacquiao continues to batter him with shots. Pacquiao lands a five-punch combination to the head, all of which were hard shots. Left by Pacquiao catches Diaz on the way in. Diaz is wincing.
Iole scores it 10-8, Pacquiao

ROUND 9

Diaz’s face is a mess as the round starts and Pacquiao resumes the assault. Pacquiao lands a three-punch combination to the head. Diaz throws a left and a right, which Pacquiao blocks with his gloves. Diaz simply can’t land much. Straight left by Manny snaps Diaz’ head back. Diaz’ left eye is blackening and closing quickly. Pacquiao circles and flicks a couple of jabs. Right hand inside followed by a left sends Diaz down face first. The ref doesn’t even bother to count and waives the fight off at 2:24.

Pacquiao wins by knockout

Ex-soldier nabbed in raid on ‘bomb factory’ in N. Cotabato

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato -- Government security forces recovered three "finished" bombs and arrested a former soldier and his militiaman-brother during a raid on an alleged bomb factory in North Cotabato, the military and the police reported Saturday.

Lieutenant Rey Turingan of the 38th Infantry Battalion, who was one of the lead officers during the June 26 raid, said the bombs recovered from the factory in Antipas, North Cotabato were fashioned out of 81-millimeter mortar shells.

Similar bombs were used in the series of attacks in Central Mindanao and some parts of Southern Mindanao, which the military and the police had pinned on the al-Khobar gang, an alleged ally of the Jemaah Islamiyah, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF has consistently denied involvement in the series of bomb attacks.

Authorities said they could not immediately say if the bombs used in previous attacks, which killed more than two dozen people in 2006 and 2007, were made in the same bomb factory.

Senior Police Officer 3 Randy Ballecas, a member of the raiding team, said the suspected operators of the bomb factory, Eleorde Pacheco and his brother Marlo, did not resist arrest.

Lieutenant Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military's 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over North Cotabato, said Pacheco, 44, was a member of the Army's 31st Special Forces Company while his brother is a militiaman.

"The raid was carried out after an undercover agent who, acted as buyer confirmed the illegal business of the two suspects," Ando said.

Ando said aside from the finished bombs, the suspects also yielded blasting caps.

"Illegal possession of explosives and gun running will be filed against the suspects," he said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, said the discovery of the bomb factory and the arrest of a former soldier and a militiaman should make the military and the police rethink their assessments on the bombings.

"We have long said that we are not involved in the bombings and that we suspect that a third party was behind it in an effort to drag us down," Kabalu said.

Although he did not specify which third party he was referring to, Kabalu said those behind the bombings do not want the peace talks to move on.

"They are anti-peace and they want to widen the gap between Muslims and Christians," he said.(Jeoffrey Maitem; INQ.net)

Pacquiao fight strategy: ‘Attack at once’

(In about 4 or 5 hours from this posting, the result of this boxing bout will be known - Author)

LAS VEGAS -- MANNY Pacquiao summarized in the fewest possible words his battle plan when he tangles with David Diaz for the World Boxing Council lightweight crown here.

“Attack agad (attack at once),” said Pacquiao. The game plan was a jab of sorts at Diaz, who is known in boxing circles as a slow starter who gets stronger as the fight progresses.

Initially, Pacquiao had hinted on sizing up Diaz in the early stages of the match, where he intends to become the first Asian to win titles in four different weight classes.

But to better exploit his latent advantage in speed and power Pacquiao has decided to press the attack early on.

He plans to check out as early as possible just how tough and durable Diaz really is.

Learning from his experience against Juan Manuel Marquez last March 15 when he wrested the WBC super flyweight title, Pacquiao said he won’t add too much pounds this time.

Against Marquez, Pacquiao tipped the scales at 129 pounds, but weighed 145 at fight time.

On Friday, Pacquiao tipped the scales at 134.5 during the official weigh-in. When popular ring announcer Michael Buffer announced the numbers, the crowd erupted.

Trainer Freddie Roach, also learning from the Marquez fight, will now strictly monitor Pacquiao’s food intake to prevent him from bulking up too much this time around. Roach expects Pacquiao to fight anywhere between 140 and 142 pounds.

Pacquiao said he’d take a walk Saturday morning to loosen up his muscles before taking a nap.

According to Pacquiao, he feels a little better, if not stronger, at 135. Pacquiao also said he didn’t have a hard time making the weight this time around.

“Hindi ako masyadong nagutom, di tulad ng dati (I didn’t go hungry, like before),” he said. “Now, I’m ready to go.”

Diaz checked in at 135 flat during the weigh-in.

Pacquiao believes he can withstand Diaz’s punches as he’s used to fighting sparmates who are as big or even bigger than Diaz.

What Pacquiao wants to know is whether Diaz can bear the impact of the power punches that have stopped 35 of his 46 victims in 51 fights.

In contrast, Diaz has only stopped 17 of his 34 victims in 36 bouts.

After the weigh-in, Pacquiao, who hadn’t eaten since Thursday night, feasted on ampalaya gisado, chicken adobo, kebab, tinola, and boiled eggs with slices of melon and watermelon on the side.(Roy Luarca; INQ.net)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Manny Pacquiao needs to be careful--Donaire

Nonito Donaire Jr., the Filipino International Boxing Federation flyweight champion, gave this unsolicited advice on Thursday when interviewed about the Manny Pacquiao-David Diaz battle for the World Boxing Council lightweight crown here.

"Pacquiao is the greatest fighter in the world right now," said Donaire, after the press conference announcing his entry into the Top Rank stable. "But he still needs to be careful."

Donaire doesn't need to look far for an example.

Born in Bohol but raised in the United States, Donaire was a huge underdog when he fought the then unbeaten Vic Darchinyan for the IBF title last July.

Donaire threw a single punch to the face that knocked Darchinyan out. That fight later won Ring Magazine's "2007 Knockout of the Year" and "2007 Upset of the Year."

"Nobody gave me a chance then, but I did it," said the 25-year-old Donaire, who proved that the feat was no fluke when he stopped Luis Maldonado in the eighth round to keep his title last December.

"Diaz is just like me then. A sacrificial lamb," said Donaire. "He's hungry and anybody with the will and heart to win is dangerous."

Donaire, who came with girlfriend Rachel Marcial in tow, noted that Pacquiao's edge in speed and power over Diaz will really be difficult to overcome.

The 25-year-old Donaire said the contract signed by his manager, Cameroon Dunkin, with Top Rank president Bob Arum stipulates three fights for him in the next two years.

"I'm very happy. This (contract) gets me back on track again," said Donaire. "I'm raring to train and fight again."(Roy Luarca; INQ.net)

Friday, June 27, 2008

RP’s Miss U bet says she’ll win


BINIBINING Pilipinas Universe Jennifer Barrientos is flanked by Miss World contender Janina San Miguel (left) and Miss International bet Patricia Fernandez during Barrientos’ send-off party.
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Binibining Pilipinas Jennifer Barrientos is currently in Vietnam for the 57th annual Miss Universe beauty pageant, confident she’ll bring home the crown on July 14.

“I know I will win,” Barrientos told members of the press during her send-off party at the posh Mandarin Oriental Suites at the Gateway Mall in Quezon City.

The 5-foot-8 University of Sto. Tomas Tourism graduate declared she still possessed the same confidence that helped make her Bb. Pilipinas victory possible.

Barrientos, 22, stole the show from heavy favorites in the local pageant last March, winning the coveted title even if she had not won any special awards.

Pre-pageant favorite Danielle Castaño, who bagged the lion’s share of awards, finished second.

Unperturbed

There are also early favorites in the Miss Universe contest, with Latin American candidates who trained months ahead of Barrientos topping pre-pageant polls.

But Barrientos said she remained unperturbed, as she had made the necessary preparations.

She was not sent to Colombia for beauty pageant workshops like her predecessors. But she had hair and makeup sessions with David’s Salon, foreign language training with Berlitz, personality development courses with Dale Carnegie, and dance lessons with Powerdance artistic director Douglas Nierras. The German ambassador’s Vietnamese wife taught Barrientos how to converse with the locals in Vietnam.

And her preparations still included a Colombia-patterned training designed for international tilts.

Binibining Pilipinas Karen Agustin, who trained in Colombia for the 2002 Miss Universe, gave Barrientos a sample of “Pasarela” or catwalk lessons. Colombia-trained queens Lia Andrea Ramos and Gionna Cabrera, Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman and Binibining Pilipinas-International Nadia Lee Cien Shami also shared tips. (Armin Adina; INQ.net)

Arroyo: Sulpicio Lines accountable for tragedy

An angry President Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday said she was holding Sulpicio Lines accountable for the sea tragedy.

“We are holding the ferry company accountable to ensure that we find out how this ferry tragedy could have occurred so we can take steps to make sure it never happens again,” she said in a speech during dinner hosted for her by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-Asean Business Council at the Willard InterContinental Hotel here Tuesday.

When contacted for comment, Suplicio legal counsel Manny Espina urged the President to wait for the outcome of the investigation on the sinking of MV Princess of the Stars off Sibuyan Island on June 21 in the wake of typhoon Frank's fury.

“The Special Board of Marine Inquiry is on going. We will wait for the result of the investigation to determine if the company is liable,” Espina told.

“The court will also determine if we are liable,” he added in anticipation of the charges to be filed against the company by the relatives of the victims.

Hours before her keynote speech at the dinner, Ms Arroyo told reporters how she felt as the complete picture of the shipwreck began to emerge.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life from the typhoon and the ferry tragedy,” Arroyo said shortly after her meeting with US President George W. Bush at the White House.

“I am also angry at what happened with the capsizing of the ferry and demand a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened, why it happened and if it could have been avoided.”

“The investigation must reveal the facts so I will not assign any blame at this point. But rest assured, we will get to the bottom of this tragedy and hold people accountable if that is what the finding will reveal”.Arroyo said she also wanted to know why the vessel was allowed to sail despite information that it would go through the path of typhoon Frank.

Bush also expressed condolences and sympathy for the victims and sent a second and bigger US Navy aircraft carrier to conduct search and rescue operations off Sibuyan Island in Romblon where the ferry sank.

During her 50-minute meeting with Bush at the Oval Office on Tuesday morning, Washington time, Bush said he sent another aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to help in the search and rescue of the victims.

Last Monday, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, a former ambassador to the Philippines told Ms Arroyo the US government dispatched an aircraft carrier and a reconnaisance plane to help in the rescue effort. (Nilda Gallo; INQ.net)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

20 died in Central Mindanao flashfloods

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- The death toll from the passage of typhoon "Frank" (international codename: Fengshen) in Central Mindanao rose to 20 after three more flashflood fatalities were recovered.

Mayor Ernesto Concepcion of Alamada, North Cotabato said the remains of Daniel Gabriedo, Samra Gabutin, 7, and David Caballero, 14 were found floating in Alamada river in Sunday. In South Upi, Maguindanao, village official Joy Rapsing Meles said of the 10 villagers reported missing Saturday, three have been recovered while the search for the seven others continues.In Barangay (villages) Bulalo, Calzada, Salimbao and Manobo, all in Sultan Kudarat town, Shariff Kabunsuan, floodwaters have already subsided but left behind at least six inches of mud and dirt.

Afraid of more flashfloods after thick clouds developed in the northern part of the province, residents opted to stay in temporary evacuation sites in Cotabato City, the provincial social welfare office said.Classes in some schools in Cotabato City have been suspended indefinitely, according to Mayor Muslimin Sema. Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City are separated by Rio Grande de Mindanao.Sema said "the flooding was a result of man's abuses over our forests." "It is a result of climate change and time for us to make a difference and save our environment," he said in a radio interview.

For 50-year-old Roberto Losario, whose two-story house in Barangay Bulalo is beyond repair after the 24-hour flooding, loggers in the mountain ranges of Barira, Buldon and Matanog located in the northern part of Shariff Kabunsuan are to blame for what had happened.

"Logging was rampant there in the 1970s and 1980s. What we are experiencing is the effect of massive cutting of trees there in previous years," he said as his family settled in a cramped classroom at the Cotabato City Central Pilot Elementary School.Simuay river, the main tributary from the mountains of Buldon, Barira and Matanog, overflowed Saturday dawn washing away dozens of houses downstream."The water made its way here now, the flashfloods will surely recur in the future," Anastacia Bagood, 56, of Barangay Salimbao, said in the vernacular.

"I already told my family members that we have to move to the village because I am sure flooding will happen again. Mayor Concepcion also blamed the situation in Alamada to logging, both illegal and legal.Cotabato City, including the towns of Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat, serves as the catch-basin of floodwaters from the Ala River, which originates in Lake Maughan in South Cotabato, and the Kabacan River, a tributary of the Agusan River in Northern Mindanao."

It may not be raining in Barangay Bulalao and nearby villages but suddenly the waters here would rise," former Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura told reporters. "A two-day rain in the hinterlands of Buldon and Barira would result in flashfloods down stream, especially Sultan Kudarat," he said.

On Saturday, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Zaldy Ampatuan directed concerned government agencies and cabinet secretaries to come to the rescue of displaced families and provide emergency assistance to the victims, especially those who lost their loved ones.

Relief operations were intensified in the Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan with the Archdiocese of Cotabato appealing for used clothing to flood victims. "I am glad the people responded and the spirit of volunteerism emerged," Cotabato auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said.

Former Representative Michael Mastura cited at least three main reasons for the heavy flooding in Sultan Kudarat town, a phenomenon that never occurred in the past: Logging in Buldon, Barira and the mountains of Alamada and Libungan in North Cotabato; the siltation of Rio Grande de Mindanao, which forced the water to find its course through residential areas; and government's failure to foresee what would happen to tributaries should a typhoon hit the region.

In Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat province, at least 3,000 people living in low-lying villages remained trapped in their homes Monday morning due to rising floodwaters from the Allah river.Lambayong is situated in the border of Sultan Kudarat and Liguasan marshland in Maguindanao.

Navy Captain Vic Sijuco of Naval Task Group 7144, said only a few civilians, mostly children, had been rescued.He said there were men ready to help but lack of rescue facilities rendered them helpless.Sijuco said in a radio interview that rescue men using rubber boats found it hard to retrieve the victims as the boats were not designed for the purpose. "These were meant to hunt pirates in the marshland," he said. (Edwin Fernandez; INQ.net)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Kidnapping victims should outsmart their captors

COTABATO CITY, Philippines--Communicating using one's fingernails helped a victim in Central Mindanao's most celebrated kidnapping case in 1981, old court records here reveal.
The victim, a high school senior at that time, is a child of a businessman-philanthropist of Jewish ancestry.

Due to the sensitivity of some information that the victim disclosed in court hearings, names are withheld in this story to help preserve the dignity of the persons involved, dead or alive, and accord them the right to privacy under Philippine Civil Law.

Court records revealed that the victim, blindfolded most of the time in captivity, had written invisible notes using the index finger nail, which said: "(name withheld) was here" on a particular date. The National Bureau of Investigation had later traced the notes with the use of a chemical solution by which the fingernail-printed words surfaced. Such was over two decades away from this age of text messaging and other satellite-aided gadgets.

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Avelino Razon had said that ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon did similarly communicate, through text messaging to her family vital information, such as their approximate location at a particular time.
Marked money

The 1981 kidnapping was planned "for the purpose of fund raising," so found the investigation, according to court and police files. But no ransom was paid, the family friends of the victim had said.

But authorities quoted in articles that appeared in the newspapers then said that P300,000 in ransom was actually paid by the family, and operatives had listed down the P100-bills' serial numbers to pursue physical evidence through a "marked money" scheme.

Suspects either of direct participation or conspiracy to the crime had been arrested, and were prosecuted, following the authorities' money trail operations.

Writings on the wall

Old transcripts of court records showed that the victim also consistently identified "principals" in the abduction in court hearings, including a radio broadcaster and a ranking Army official who took turns in sexually molesting the victim.

The government prosecution panel had presented a tape-recorded voice of the suspect and asked the victim with eyes closed to tell the court whose voice it was. During another hearing, the victim was again asked to listen to the oral testimony of the suspect who was then shielded by a curtain. The victim consistently mentioned an identical person, who made sexual advances on the same complainant while being blindfolded in captivity.

In the case of Drilon, the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group has filed charges against Alvarez Isnaji, the town mayor of Indanan where Drilon's group was kidnapped, and his son, Haider. The police said they were also considering filing a criminal case against Jumail Biyaw, the assistant of Prof. Octavio Dinampo, who was with Drilon's group when they were abducted.

Biyaw, now under police custody, had told military officials in a press conference that he went back to Jolo on Dinampo's order, and on his way back, he told the driver of their hired vehicle not to wait for Drilon's group anymore.

In varying dates, the imaginary writing was all over the walls of the houses or underneath the trusses and posts of huts where the victim was held for almost three weeks.

"That case will long serve as a lesson to victims (of kidnapping) as well as government investigative offices and police authorities," said an observer, a retired policeman, who closely followed the case.

Back in school, the victim was able to deliver a scheduled valedictory address at the victim's school and showed the human face of the terrifying experience with courage.

Alliance of friends

Friends of the victim's family were up in arms against the suspects among them, ordinary local Maguindanao Muslim residents "recruited" by the armed group's organizers, most of them now deceased.

Datu Tocao Mastura, who was then newly installed as mayor of his native Sultan Kudarat town near Cotabato City, formed an alliance among local Christian militias and Muslim rebel returnees in a series of offensives on the lair of the suspects, resulting to deaths of a number of them, according to news reports on the incident.

Christians and Muslims among Central Mindanao officials were then very supportive of the investigation and prosecution of the suspects, no matter what, recalled Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, who was then chair of the Central Mindanao Autonomous Government, the forerunner of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The broadcaster, who hailed from Luzon and was in his late 60s at the time of the litigation, had been imprisoned at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. He was later freed on presidential pardon based on a petition filed by a Muslim official for old age. He had lived a sickly life and soon died.

A lawyer colonel working for the Judge Advocates Group Office in Camp Aguinaldo had won the case for the Army major implicated in the case.

The implicated Army major was killed in 1991 in Pasay City in a reported incident of a shootout with NBI men who were in a pursuit of a drug-bust operation in progress.

Text, GPS

In this day and age of text messaging and global positioning system, potential victims, especially journalists covering exclusive stories, are better protected, said a local reporter.

But to veteran local journalist Avelino Acoymo, there are stories not worth the risk as shown in the case of the "treacherous" abduction of Drilon and company.

The 27-year-old kidnapping case will forever teach the lessons of not only having a "presence of mind" (as Razon described Drilon's courage), but for victims to be able to outsmart their captors. (Nash Maulana, INQ.net)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

'Mayor asks for P15M more'

Rest of ransom given to abductors thru Isnaji - PNP

Even before Mayor Alvarez Isnaji announced that the kidnappers of ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon had demanded for P15 million more in ransom, he had met with her siblings and told them the amount must be paid to secure her release, according to documents obtained from the Philippine National Police.
This disclosure is part of the "incriminating evidence" compiled by the PNP to pin down the mayor of Indanan, Sulu, who had served as a negotiator for the kidnappers, an investigator in the case told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Saturday.
In an affidavit, Senior Supt. Reginald Villasanta, PNP Intelligence Group deputy director for operations, said he was present at a June 15 meeting at the Palmeras Hotel in Zamboanga City that started at around 1:30 p.m.
He named the others at the meeting as Isnaji, Drilon's siblings Frank and Gretz Oreña, and Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Said Villasanta: "During the meeting, Mayor Isnaji declared that he did not know any of the kidnappers and that he was just helping the family for the release of Ces Drilon and the others. He also reiterated that the family of Ces Drilon must pay the P15 million remaining ransom money to complete the P20 million demand to ensure the safety of Ces Drilon and her companions."
The meeting was held a day before Isnaji told reporters that the kidnappers had set a June 17 noon deadline for the payment of P15 million.
Villasanta also said that on June 17, he was informed by Supt. Winnie Quidato, the acting chief of the PNP Intelligence Group, that the rest of the ransom was given to the kidnappers through Isnaji.
"It was a male lawyer that brought the ransom money to Mayor Isnaji. As a result, Ces Drilon and companions were released," he said.
Drilon, her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and Prof. Octavio Dinampo were abducted on June 8 in Sulu by armed men believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.
Valderama was freed on June 12, and Drilon and the others on June 17.

Secret meeting

The PNP has filed kidnapping for ransom charges against Isnaji and his son Haider at the Department of Justice.
An investigator, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Villasanta's affidavit, along with Quidato's own sworn statement, was among an array of testimonies that the PNP would use against Isnaji.
"In that meeting, the mayor was already talking of P15 million in additional ransom before he made it known to the media that there was that demand. That is really incriminating and is just [part] of the strong evidence that we have," the investigator said.
He also said the June 15 meeting was held without the knowledge of the other negotiators, including Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidulla.
"The Isnajis tried to hide that meeting, as well as other forms of communication with Drilon's family, from the other members of the negotiating team. It was the vice governor who was supposed to be negotiating for the family, not Isnaji," the investigator said.
Undercover partners
Villasanta said in his affidavit that Chief Supt. Rolando Añonuevo, the chief of the PNP Intelligence Group, had instructed him to personally supervise other police personnel "in the monitoring" of the kidnapping.
"He [Villasanta] partnered with Quidato in going undercover and introducing themselves as civilians from the Department of Interior and Local Government," the investigator said.

This was how Villasanta recounted the turn of events:

On June 11, he traveled to Zamboanga City and was briefed by Quidato.
The next day, they flew to Jolo and proceeded to Sahidulla's residence. Later that day, they went to the Jolo airport to meet Frank Oreña, who arrived with P5 million in ransom. They then went to Isnaji's residence in Indanan.
Villasanta positioned himself outside the Isnaji house while Quidato went inside. Later, Villasanta saw Sahidulla leave. At around 5:30 p.m., the Isnajis left with Haider carrying a bag.
Quidato told Villasanta that the bag contained the P5 million.
At around 7:30 p.m., Valderama was released to the Isnajis.
Reached for comment Saturday night, the Isnajis' lawyer, Ernesto Francisco, said: "My clients are only after saving the lives of the hostages.
"Villasanta's statement is not proof my clients would gain from the ransom. The kidnappers and the family agreed on the P20-million ransom."
Francisco said this purported agreement was mentioned by the Isnajis when he interviewed them before Friday's inquest proceedings.
On Friday, Edgardo Espiritu, the Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom and an uncle of Drilon's, confirmed on radio that the family had put up the P5-million ransom.
Also on Friday, the PNP announced that Mayor Isnaji had pocketed P3 million of the amount. It presented pictures showing the money being handled by Haider Isnaji and Sahidulla in the presence of the mayor and Quidato.

'Something odd'

But Temojen Tulawie, provincial chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society in Sulu, said there was "something odd" in the picture that the PNP had distributed to the media
"That photo used as evidence speaks loudly the truth that it was taken before the release of Valderama, and during that period, it was Vice Governor Sahidulla who was the lead negotiator, not Mayor Isnaji," Tulawie told the Inquirer in Zamboanga City.
Tulawie--who claimed to have followed the kidnapping case and negotiations right in Isnaji's house--said that after Valderama's release, he noticed that Isnaji was already calling the shots in the negotiations.
"So I asked Jun (Haider) what went wrong, how come Sahidulla was no longer directly handling the negotiations. And Jun told me that the kidnappers got mad at her," Tulawie said.
Tulawie said that when the P5 million arrived in Sulu, Haider Isnaji said the money was intended for Drilon because her family had been able to raise the funds.
Still quoting Haider Isnaji, Tulawie said the kidnappers had demanded P20 million and that the P5 million was just the "board and lodging fee" for Drilon.
"I was told the money was a way to extend the [kidnappers' deadline], and Mayor Isnaji demanded that Ces be released. And it turned out that it was Valderama who was released, and not Ces as expected," Tulawie said.
Asked why Valderama was released ahead of Drilon, Tulawie quoted Haider Isnaji as saying that the kidnappers were angered because they expected P5 million but the money that reached them was only P2 million.

Contact with Drilon family

"What Jun said was that the kidnappers got mad at the vice governor, kaya inayawan na siya (which was why they wanted her out of the negotiations)," Tulawie said.
Repeated calls by Inquirer Mindanao to Sahidulla's phone went unanswered.
Professor Dinampo also said that based on what he had overheard from the kidnappers, it was Drilon's family who requested that Sahidulla negotiate for the captives' release.
"It was the family of Ces who had contact with the vice governor," he said, adding that he had no idea why the kidnappers dropped Sahidulla as negotiator.
Tulawie said Haider Isnaji had informed him that it had "something to do with the ransom."
Sulu Rep. Yusop Jikiri said the national government should look deeper into the matter.
"There should be a thorough and fair investigation because this case will affect many people and groups if not handled properly," Jikiri said, adding that he could not believe Mayor Isnaji would be involved in the kidnapping. (With reports from Julie S. Alipala and Charlie C. Señase, INQ.net)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

PNP affidavit bolsters 2nd ransom paid

It's not just P5 million.

Documents from the Philippine National Police obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday bolstered reports that, indeed, another batch of money was paid for the freedom of ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Prof. Octavio Dinampo.

According to an affidavit of Supt. Winnie Quidato, at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon of June 17, Quidato received a phone call from Haider Isnaji, son of Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, informing him that Atty. Nasser Ynawat, a Sulu board member, already had a second batch of ransom money but that it was being intercepted by Sulu police commander Sr. Supt. Julasirim Kasim.
"Jun [Haider's nickname] suggested to me that as representative of the DILG, I must intercede, otherwise something bad might happen to the victims," Quidato said.

Quidato, it was later revealed, posed as a civilian from the Department of Interior and Local Government sent to Sulu to coordinate the negotiations.

Quidato said he "berated" Jun for conducting "secret negotiations" related to the payment of ransom money.

Quidato said he informed the PNP Intelligence Group head, Chief Supt. Rolando Anonuevo, of the developments. Anonuevo said he would coordinate with Kasim.

Quidato then proceeded to the Sulu provincial police headquarters, where he met Ynawat and Mayor Isnaji. Isnaji introduced Ynawat to Quidato as his [the mayor's] lawyer.

The undetermined amount of money was then turned over by Kasim to Isnaji and Ynawat, after which they all proceeded to the residence of Khan Isnaji, a son of the mayor.

"The ransom money was delivered by Jun on the evening of June 17, 2008, escorted by the undersigned, the security escorts of Mayor Isnaji and the members of the Sulu police," Quidato said in his affidavit.

Two duffel bags

Later that night, Drilon and the others were released.

The Inquirer managed to photograph the landing of a SEAIR aircraft at the Jolo airport at around 4 p.m. on June 17. The plane was believed carrying two duffel bags that were then unloaded from the aircraft.

One of the pictures shows Ynawat and Kasim in deep conversation.What did Kasim say?
PNP Chief Director General Avelino Razon said Friday that the police would investigate the landing of the aircraft and the contents of the duffel bags.

Razon said investigators had already asked Kasim about the incident but the PNP chief did not reveal what Kasim said.

Razon also said the police were looking for Ynawat to question him.(By Alcuin Papa; INQ.net)

The evidence against the Isnajis

RANSOM. Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji’s son, Haider, and Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula, look at the ransom money given by the family of TV reporter Ces Drilon to her captors in exchange for her release, along with her crew, and their guide.

Seated in a yellow shirt and vest is the elder Isnaji. The photo is among the pieces of evidence presented by PNP Chief Avelino Razon to media Friday as proof of their claim that the Isnajis were accomplices of the kidnappers, identified as alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf. Razon also claims that Mayor Isnaji pocketed P3 million of the P5 million ransom.

No less than MNLF Chair Nur Misuari confirmed that the nickname "latin-larin", oftenly referred to by the kidnappers as "boss", was the nickname of Mayor Alvarez Isnaji.(INQUIRER.net/Thea Alberto)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Drilon's family paid P5M but mayor kept P3M--officials

The family of a television reporter who was abducted by alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf paid P5 million to her captors although only P2 million reached them, police and justice officials disclosed Friday.

In separate press conferences, Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said that the family of ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon gave the ransom to Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, who was negotiating for her release, along with her crew and a professor, after they were abducted last June 8 in Sulu.

The kidnappers initially demanded a P15-million ransom.

"The initial payment was P5 million, however P2 million lang naibigay sa [only P2 million was given to the] kidnap for ransom group and the P3 million was kept by Mayor Isnaji," said Razon.
Razon showed a picture of Isnaji and several others counting the money.

Razon also said that based on intelligence information gathered, the leader of the kidnap gang was identified as “Larin-Larin,” an alleged alias of Isnaji.

Gonzalez confirmed this separately, saying it was former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Nur Misuari who identified “Larin-Larin” as Mayor Isnaji, being a member of the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF’s) central committee that signed the peace agreement in 1996.

Gonzalez said during the de-briefing of the victims, they claimed that they heard their abductors mention "Larin-Larin."

Gonzalez also said that based on witnesses’ accounts, Isnaji allegedly pocketed P3 million and gave the balance to the abductors.

Gonzalez said the money was divided in the house of Isnaji.
Razon said an intelligence officer, Senior Superintendent Winn
ie Kidato, was sent to Jolo to "observe" Isnaji.

Chief Superintendent Raul Castañeda, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief, also noted the inconsistencies in Isnaji’s statements.

Castañeda cited that in a previous media interview Isnaji mentioned a P100,000 “board and lodging fee” that was given to the kidnappers in exchange for the release of Valderama, one of two cameramen of Drilon, but which the mayor never mentioned during the interrogation.

Isnaji and his son were charged with kidnap for ransom at inquest proceedings at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office at the PNP that began late Thursday and ended early Friday. (By Thea Alberto, Tetch Torres, INQ.net)

Indanan Mayor, Son Charged for Kidnapping

Principal negotiator now kidnap suspect

The chief negotiator is now the principal suspect.

Mayor Alvarez Isnaji of Indanan, Sulu, and his son Haider Isnaji have been placed under arrest and charged with kidnapping in connection with the abduction of ABS-CBN news anchor Ces Drilon, her two cameramen and a university professor in Kulasi village, Maimbung town late in the morning of June 8.

Charges of four counts of kidnapping for ransom were filed in the Department of Justice by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) against the Isnajis, who had negotiated for the release of the captives.

The government has a standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists and kidnappers.
During inquest proceedings that started at 11:30 p.m. Thursday at the CIDG headquarters in Camp Crame, Drilon and her crewmen, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, faced Mayor Isnaji and his son for the first time since their release Tuesday night.

Throughout the roughly one-hour-long proceedings, Drilon, who was seated beside Encarnacion and Valderama, did not look at the Isnajis, who were seated across them.

During the inquest, the hostage victims and police witnesses, who arrested the Isnajis, submitted their sworn statements to the DoJ panel.

Senior State Prosecutor Emilie Fe Delos Santos set the first pre-trial hearing on the case on Monday at 1:30 p.m. The pre-trial investigation will determine whether or not formal charges will be filed before the courts.

Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel, who represented the CIDG during the proceedings, said additional evidence would be submitted during the pre-trial.

The three former hostages excused themselves midway into the hearing after their lawyer said they needed to return to the Medical City hospital in Pasig City, where they are confined while recovering from "trauma."

In a brief talk with reporters after the inquest, the mayor and his son denied involvement in the kidnapping.

Mayor Isnaji said he was not angry with Drilon, adding, "Alam ko naman na wala akong kasalanan [I know that I am not guilty]."

"This will make for a very interesting movie. This is a very interesting script. We are not guilty," the young Isnaji said.

In a number of interviews prior to the June 17 release of the captives, Mayor Isnaji said he could not back out of the negotiations because he was heeding an order from Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

“I have no direct link with President (Gloria) Macapagal-Arroyo. The directive came from Secretary Puno,” Mayor Isnaji had said, adding that he was told to participate in the negotiations, along with Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, the police director in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

‘Baka ako ang masabit’

Even during the early stages of the negotiations, Mayor Isnaji told Inquirer Mindanao of his apprehension that he might be implicated in the kidnapping: “Baka ako ang masabit dito, baka ako pa ang pagdudahan.”

Nevertheless, he said, he accepted the role of chief negotiator and reported developments to Puno “almost every two hours.”

“I have no direct link to high officials. My only line is through Secretary Puno,” he reiterated three days before the captives were released.

Asked Thursday to comment, Puno said: “That’s hilarious. I never met, much less talked to, him (Isnaji) before the incident.”

Wednesday night arrest

The Isnajis' lawyer, Ernesto Francisco, questioned the charges, saying his clients were mentioned only once in the affidavits of the news crew, specifically that of Drilon. "There is nothing here [in the affidavit] that would point to the respondents as the ones
responsible for the kidnapping," Francisco said.

Francisco also decried the illegal detention and the arrest of his clients without a warrant.
"Based on the affidavits, there is nothing here that would justify a warrantless arrest," he said.
Francisco added that his clients were detained beyond the 36-hour period provided by law, wherein a suspect can be detained without the filing of formal charges. He said his clients were arrested at 4 a.m. on June 18, and the 36-hour period lapsed at 4 p.m. Thursday.

But Coronel argued that the Isnajis were initially invited for "debriefing" but were later arrested, at 9 p.m. on June 18, after "inconsistencies" in the mayor's testimony showed that he was "actingin collusion with the kidnappers."

Because of the "gravity of the offense," Delos Santos said questions on the arrest would be threshed out during the pre-trial.

Delos Santos ordered Coronel to transfer the detention of the Isnajis from the CIDG to the custodial center in Camp Crame, saying they needed to be taken out of the custody of their accusers.

The Isnajis were flown to Manila early on Wednesday and subjected to “tactical interrogation” by CIDG investigators and lawyers.

Chief Supt. Raul Castañeda, the CIDG head, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone that the Isnajis were put under arrest on Wednesday night.

“On the appreciation of investigators and the recommendation of our lawyers, we opted to file kidnapping charges against father and son,” Castañeda said.

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon noted that the town mayor was appointed by the kidnappers as their negotiator with the government, even as local officials tapped Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidulla to negotiate for the families of the captives.

"Mayor Isnaji was not among the government negotiators. He was negotiating for the kidnap for ransom group," Razon said.

The mayor's son, Haider, was a "conduit," Razon said, adding that the young Isnaji "was also talking [with the kidnappers] and doing the things that his father was doing."

But Razon told reporters Thursday in Camp Crame that the mastermind of the kidnapping had yet to be identified, as well as the leader of the armed group that held Drilon et al. for nine days.
Razon also said Mindanao State University Prof. and peace advocate Octavio Dinampo—who was released from custody of Zamboanga police after undergoing debriefing—was not being considered a suspect in the case.

A total of 17 people—the Isnajis, a certain Attorney Lorena and 14 suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group—were charged with kidnapping for ransom.

Razon said the identities of the 14 were culled from the statements of the kidnap victims.
“We know them by their names, pictures and aliases and through sketches,” Razon said.
Among the 14 charged were Sulayman Pattah, alias Amah Ma’as and Abu Harris, and a certain Walid, alias Tuan Wals, who had earlier been identified by the PNP.

Principal suspect

Razon said “inconsistencies” between the Isnajis’ statements to the CIDG and the statements of witnesses had helped link the mayor and his son to the kidnapping.

“Based on the revelations of the witnesses, we have seen that the mayor is a principal suspect in the case,” Razon said, adding that the witnesses knew “certain facts related to the kidnapping” and were “present in the incident—and some are government officials, police.”

The CIDG’s Castañeda said some certain statements made by the Isnajis “did not jibe” with certain events. “Suffice it to say we found probable cause for the charges,” he said. Razon said that after Drilon et al. were released, “the investigation started to be filled up with the debriefing of the victims.”

“This was where we were able to unravel facts [that showed] the Isnajis were involved in the kidnapping,” he said.

Razon said separate debriefing sessions were conducted with Drilon et al.

“Our investigation team pieced [the statements] together to get the bigger picture … We are not saying [Mayor Isnaji] planned this [abduction]. We are saying that he is the principal of the kidnapping … We had a feeling he was for the kidnappers,” Razon said.

Biyaw

Razon also said Juamil Biyaw, who had served as a guide of Drilon et al. and who purportedly led them to their kidnappers before disappearing, was likewise being investigated.

“He will be questioned on why he disappeared,” Razon said.

Biyaw is in the custody of CIDG Region 9, Razon said, adding: “He is under arrest, and we will conduct an investigation on him. He is being suspected of having betrayed Ces.”

Razon said Drilon and her cameramen had provided police investigators “pieces of evidence that we are now using.”

He praised Drilon for sending information to authorities through her cell phone.

“Ces was very brave and intelligent. Even under captivity, she was transmitting back to us information that we could use, like their location,” Razon said.

“From time to time, she would speak English, knowing her captors didn’t know English. When she was not being watched, she would text and describe their orientation. She had presence of mind and awareness of their situation.”

Drilon’s boss, ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs head Maria Ressa, said the whole experience had proved to be “a very tricky situation.”

But she said the network trusted that the police knew which way to go in the investigation, and that it was backing efforts to find out who had masterminded the kidnapping.

“I think the authorities have a clear idea where to go. They know better. At this point, ABS-CBN will do everything it can to help the authorities in terms of finding who exactly kidnapped [Drilon et al.],” Ressa told the Inquirer.

Complications

But according to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the filing of kidnapping charges against Mayor Isnaji could “complicate” things given his high status in Sulu.

“If he will feel aggrieved, for example, we don’t know what his followers will do,” Gonzalez told reporters.

He said the mayor was considered a very important personality in Sulu and was well-respected.
“In fact, his stature in Sulu is as high as, if not higher than, [former ARMM Gov. Nur] Misuari,” Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez said he was not expecting hostilities because it was possible that Isnaji would be cleared of the charge.

He said he would meet with Puno and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Friday to discuss the kidnapping issue.

Gonzalez also said he considered as “circumstantial evidence” the fact that the kidnappers had designated the mayor as their negotiator.

He said it only showed that the Isnajis were known to the kidnappers, and later added that the mayor could have been chosen because of his respected status.

Gonzalez also said he was unaware of whether the kidnapping of Drilon et al. was related to the Aug. 11 elections in the ARMM, where the mayor is expected to seek the governorship.
But he said that if this were true, it could lessen the impact on the kidnappers because it would appear that they were just used to raise campaign funds.

Free to run

Even if he is charged with kidnapping, Isnaji Alvarez is free to run for ARMM governor, according to Commissioner Rene Sarmiento of the Commission on Elections. Only a crime conviction will disqualify him from running, Sarmiento said.

Alvarez, an independent candidate, is one of the seven men contesting the top ARMM post.
The other six are the incumbent, ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan (Lakas-CMD), Jupakar Pindah-Asia Arabani (independent), Ismain Berto Ibrahim (independent), Guimid Panalangin Matalam (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Ahmad Darping Nooh (independent) and Ali Jumadil Omar (independent).

Sarmiento said the Comelec had no plans as yet of suspending the elections in Sulu in view of the military and police offensive against the kidnappers.

Should the offensive last until August and reach the polling centers, the Comelec can easily transfer the precincts to safer areas, he said. (With reports from Julie S. Alipala in Zamboanga City; Leila B. Salaverria, Beverly Natividad and Kristine L. Alave in Manila)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

APO ‘Oblation Run’ steals show in UP Centennial activities

On the day marking the University of the Philippines’ 100th year, members of a fraternity known for its “Oblation Run” made sure that their presence would be felt and seen in a big way.

A hundred naked members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity Wednesday held a special edition of their yearly “Oblation Run,” which they dubbed the “Centennial Run.”

“This is our fraternity’s way of honoring UP on its centennial,” said APO member Menggie Cobarrubias.

Cobarrubias, who joined APO in 1970, said the hardest part in organizing the Centennial Run was getting 100 frat men to participate in the activity.

“We had to invite ‘brods’ from other schools. We had APO members from as far as UP Los Baños who joined this activity,” he said.

Hit

The event was such a hit among students, faculty members and other spectators that it virtually outshone the other activities scheduled in the day-long celebration of the university’s 100th Foundation Day, including the fund-raising drive for the renovation of Vinzons Hall.

“Apart from the usual protests, APO’s activity is another way for students to voice out their concerns over issues confronting the university,” said Terry Ridon, UP student regent and spokesperson of Serve the People UP.

“I’m sure Malacañang will be able to watch the run and see the overwhelming call of different sectors for President Macapagal-Arroyo to step down,” Ridon said, referring to several streamers displayed on the campus bearing the President’s face and underneath it, the words, “Oust GMA.”

Three hours before the event, which began at around noon, a crowd of 2,000 had started to gather in front of Vinzons Hall where the “streakers” were expected to emerge.

Masks

The APO members then came out, gold masks on top of white T-shirts covering their faces.

Immediately, the spectators – mostly females – screamed and trained their digital cameras, video cameras and mobile phone cameras on the young men who started handing out red roses to some of the women in the crowd.

Some women were too shy to receive the flowers but others were more game, even posing for pictures with the frat men.

“I’ll keep this as a good remembrance of my experience here,” a Caucasian woman holding a rose told the Inquirer.

“I never expected it would be this exciting,” she added.

Some elderly women in the crowd gleefully cheered on the barefooted runners.

“It has been quite a while since I saw something like this,” a 55-year-old woman said with a laugh.

As the runners made their way to the Oblation statue in front of Quezon Hall, the UP administration building, other APO members served as marshals, protecting the runners from the enthusiastic crowd.

Frat brother

Older members of the fraternity led by Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay showed up at the event to support their “brods.”
Binay said he was proud of his fraternity’s tradition, which started as a prank but has since evolved into a venue for airing socially-relevant slogans.

Asked if he ever took part in an Oblation Run, he replied, “No. I joined APO in 1960, way before the run started. But I would love to.”

The runners also stopped at Palma Hall before gathering at Quezon Hall, the UP administration building. They posed for photographers, sang the fraternity hymn and then left on board several vehicles.

Prank

Cobarrubias said the APO run was actually patterned after streakers in Hollywood. “We started it as a prank when the Marcos dictatorship did not allow the showing of the play, ‘Hubad na Bayani’ which starred Robert Arevalo and myself,” he said.

Five members of the fraternity that sponsored the play – a political satire on then President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule – ran on campus with nothing but masks on.

“What used to be illegal and clandestine is now a much-awaited UP event,” he added.

In 2005, the annual run was marred by the presence of two nude women who grabbed the attention from the male streakers.

APO said they “felt insulted” by the incident, saying they do not allow women to join in the activity.

In 2000, runners called for the resignation of then President Joseph Estrada, now one of Binay’s closest friends and a political ally. Binay is also a member of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity.

All-out offensive vs kidnappers launched

‘No letup until we crush them’
MANILA, Philippines—With the release from captivity of an ABS-CBN news team and a peace advocate, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Wednesday ordered the military and police to launch an all-out offensive to pursue and neutralize their kidnappers in the jungles of Sulu.


Meeting separately with Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano and military commanders in Mindanao, the President ordered them to launch “intensive punitive actions” against the kidnappers of ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Drilon, her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and Mindanao State University Prof. Octavio Dinampo, according to Press Secretary Jesus Dureza..

“We will be using the full might of the government forces in that area to go after them, of course without unduly compromising the safety of the civilian communities,” Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, the Armed Forces spokesperson, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said his men were now on “operation mode” against the kidnappers believed to be Abu Sayyaf bandits responsible for a series of kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in Mindanao.

“We are on an all-out offensive against these kidnappers and the perpetrators of the crime,” Goltiao said.

Goltiao said some of the kidnappers had been identified through pictures and aliases. He said Drilon had picked out some of the suspects from a photo gallery.

Drilon told the press conference that some of their kidnappers were “as young as 12.”

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the kidnappers were young members of the Abu Sayyaf faction of Radullan Sahiron. He described them as amateurs.

In Sulu province, Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of Task Force Comet, said troops started operating in the tri-boundary of the Indanan, Patikul and Talipao towns “right after Ces was released.”

“There will be no letup until such time that we are able to crush them,” he said.

But Sabban refused to name who government forces were pursuing: “We cannot afford to make it public at this time, lest it jeopardize the ongoing pursuit operation.”

Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo were freed in Sitio Danasi in Barangay Lower Sinumaan, Talipao, at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Sen. Loren Legarda, Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidulla had negotiated for their release.

“I immediately sent men to Danasi to collect the three, and they arrived in my house at around 11:45 p.m.,” Isnaji told Inquirer Mindanao.

The ABS-CBN team and Dinampo, who served as guide, were kidnapped on June 8 by a group of armed men. Valderama was released in Talipao on June 12 after the payment of a “board and lodging fee.”

Ex-captives’ reunion

At 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, two Air Force helicopters carrying the freed hostages, Mayor Isnaji and his son Haider landed at Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City.

The ex-captives were taken to the PNP Zamboanga office where they were reunited with Valderama, according to the Philippine National Police spokesperson, Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome.

They were later attended by a medical team led by Dr. Roberto Calupitan of the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command, and “allowed to rest after a light hot meal,” Bartolome said.

Drilon, Encarnacion and Valderama arrived in Manila in a private jet at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

After a brief press conference, Drilon and Encarnacion were flown in an ABS-CBN helicopter to the Lopez-owned Medical City on Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City, where they were met by family members and some colleagues in the network.

Security was tight at the hospital, and other members of the media were barred from the presidential suites at the 15th floor where Drilon and Encarnacion were confined for a medical checkup.

Separate debriefings

The Isnajis were flown to Manila where, according to PNP Director General Avelino Razon, they were to undergo “further debriefing.”

Dinampo was debriefed starting at 7 a.m. At 3 p.m., when Inquirer Mindanao reached him on the phone, the professor said he was “still being debriefed by the PNP.”

Razon said Dinampo was being considered “a victim,” not a suspect.

The Isnajis reportedly arrived at the Manila domestic airport at around 8 a.m. and reached the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) headquarters at around 9 a.m.

The CIDG chief, Chief Supt. Raul Castañeda, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Isnajis were being questioned on the negotiations “to get the whole picture” of the kidnapping.

Asked if Mayor Isnaji, the chief negotiator, was being considered a suspect, Castañeda said: “As of now, no.”

A source in the CIDG told the Inquirer that the Isnajis were undergoing “tactical interrogation” by investigators and lawyers.

Said Puno: “We want to find out exactly what [Mayor Isnaji’s] role was. Isnaji was identified by the kidnappers as their representative … I don’t think you are a representative if you’re a stranger to me. We want to know where they came from, who were the emissaries.”

Puno confirmed in Davao City that Senator Legarda was one of three people who served as backdoor channel in the negotiations to free Drilon et al.

He refused to name the two others but said they were from the military.

Peace in Mindanao

At the Apo View hotel in Davao City, the President issued the order to launch police and military action against the kidnappers in the course of delivering a speech at the second round of consultations between the merged Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino.

Ms Arroyo said her administration was “firmly committed” to achieving peace in Mindanao, which, she stressed, was “the central ingredient to the nation’s and the island’s future.”

“This [commitment] includes defeating the New People’s Army, wiping out the Abu Sayyaf once and for all, and returning the Mindanao countryside to the people,” she said.

With the President’s order for “those responsible to be held into account,” Puno said “a serious pursuit operation shall be forthcoming or is underway” in Sulu through the “coordinated and joint effort” of the police and military.

Puno also stressed that Drilon et al. were freed with no ransom paid.

“Nobody in PNP will talk ransom. We don’t want to see money changing hands as this translates into bullets for the enemy,” he said, adding:

“This one is kind of like a negotiated release. You know, you up the pressure and you promise them that you would not move 12 hours after the release—that sort of thing. We’ve kept our side of the bargain.”

The kidnappers had earlier demanded P15 million for the freedom of Drilon et al.

Duffel bags

In Zamboanga, Razon also said the release of the captives was “a joint effort of the police, the military and local government officials,” and that no ransom was paid.

When asked about the two duffel bags reportedly transported to Sulu in a Seair plane on Tuesday afternoon, he said: “We are investigating that.”

He said he had instructed Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, police chief in Western Mindanao, to look into the reported delivery of ransom money.

“We do not know the content of the duffel bags,” Razon said.

But in Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said a “small amount” could have been given to the kidnappers as a “token.”

“I’m just being realistic to say that, maybe, there is a small amount [given], but you might not call it ransom. We all know that .... [the kidnappers] have asked for a higher amount. That’s the very reason why they engaged in kidnapping, expecting such [a huge] amount,” he said.

Ermita said the negotiators had pursued the administration’s no-ransom policy. He said Malacañang did not take a role in the actual negotiations, and allowed the local peace and order council—composed of local officials and police and military components in the area—to take the lead.

But he said a ransom demand was to be expected because the captives “stayed in [the bandits’ lair] for some time.”

He pointed out that the kidnappers had to feed Drilon et al. for nine days.

Ermita also denied the reported delivery of money in two duffel bags.

Manpower

“I don’t believe that there’s a large amount of money that passed hands,” he said. “But if there was money that passed hands, I don’t suppose it’s really in the amount that [was demanded].”

The AFP’s Torres estimated around 4,000 soldiers in Sulu.

He said the units on the ground were composed of six Marine battalions, elite Army troops and contingents from the Navy and Air Force. (Some 500 soldiers comprise a battalion.)

“We have already enough troops on the ground, and it’s just a matter of focusing our operations and all our efforts toward the accomplishment of this particular mission,” he said.

Torres said the “general location” of the kidnappers had been identified.

He said that based on the AFP’s last assessment, there were around 380 Abu Sayyaf members, mostly based in Sulu.

The PNP’s Bartolome said police troops in pursuit operations were from the Sulu provincial police, the elite Special Action Force, the Regional Mobile Group and the ARMM and Region 9 units.

Bartolome also said kidnap-for-ransom charges were being prepared against two suspected kidnappers, Ottoh Wals and Sulayman Pattah.

He said investigators were establishing and confirming the identities of the other kidnappers numbering about 20.

“We are now concentrating on our law enforcement function—that is, the legal offensive against the suspects. We will continue the investigation. The proper charges will be filed,” Bartolome said. (With reports from Ed General, Germelina Lacorte and Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao; Michael Lim Ubac and Beverly T. Natividad)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ces Drilon relates ordeal under captivity

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) A “sobering experience” was how a television reporter who was freed late Tuesday night by her Abu Sayyaf captors described her nine-day ordeal as she thanked friends and colleagues who prayed for her and apologized to her network for causing a “headache.”


In a press conference after arriving in Manila from Zamboanga City Wednesday, ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon expressed relief anew at her safe release and that of her cameramen, Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, who was abducted with her last June 8, along with Octavio Dinampo, Mindanao State University professor.

But at the same time, Drilon admitted that she had been stubborn and ignored warnings about the danger that she was putting herself and her crew into.

She also said that ABS-CBN only knew “to a certain extent” what story she was pursuing in Mindanao.

"I want to make it clear na [that] my office to a certain extent knew what my story was. [But] may mga [there were] instructions na sinuway ko kasi naging matigas ulo ko [that I ignored because I was stubborn] at one point and I disregarded some warnings. I put the lives of my team in danger, it was a sobering experience," Drilon said upon her arrival shortly after 2 p.m. at the domestic airport.

She also apologized to Encarnacion and Valderama, saying being part of the team, she felt a sense of accountability if anything had happened to them.

"I would like to extend my deepest apologies because as a reporter and my team, I am accountable if anything would happen to them, first to Angel, and then to Jimmy who was about to be beheaded,” said Drilon in Filipino.

Drilon was quoted as telling Legarda in reports that Encarnacion was about to be beheaded at one point during their captivity.

But Drilon said through it all, “we remained solid, we did not blame each other, and we were strong.”

Encarnacion admitted however that the experience was horrible.

“"Marami akong naiisip...na katapusan ko na ito, nakakatakot na experience pero maraming salamat sa inyo, sa dasal niyo, pinakingggan ni God [A lot of things crossed my mind … I thought this was the end, it’s a frightening experience but thanks to you, your prayers, God listened to you]," said Encarnacion.

Encarnacion also said there were about 20 kidnappers.

At one point in the press conference, Drilon broke down and cried as she recounted her ordeal. But she added that they were "generally" treated well although they shared only a small serving of noodles and were tied at one point.

Drilon recalled that she was slapped when the deadline set by her abductors for authorities to deliver the P15 million ransom drew near.

Drilon also defended Dinampo, their guide, saying they were both “naïve.”

She said Dinampo was interested in her pursuit of a story on the supposed surrender of an Abu Sayyaf leader since the professor has been conducting a study on Mindanao.

Drilon apologized to her children, mother, brother, sister, and to Encarnacion’s children, saying she felt “so irresponsible.”

Drilon reiterated her appreciation to friends and colleagues, especially to Senator Loren Legarda, whom she described as her “lifeline” because it was the lawmaker that had sought her “unconditional release” from her abductors who initially demanded a P15 million ransom.

Drilon also thanked Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and his son Jun, who had negotiated with the kidnappers from day one.

Drilon admitted that she had no inkling that she would be kidnapped and alleged that someone had betrayed her. She however refused to elaborate because she said she was cooperating with the police in their investigation.

"Thank you for the prayers...and to my ABS-CBN family, sorry if I caused you a headache," Drilon said in Filipino during an interview in Zamboanga City earlier Wednesday.

The victims were brought to Medical City in Ortigas for check-up. (Thea Alberto; INQ.net)

Ces Drilon, 2 others freed by kidnappers

Jolo, Sulu--Kidnapped television reporter Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were freed late Tuesday night, nine days after they were abducted in Sulu province.

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon confirmed that the hostages were released at around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

"They were picked up by Jun Isnaji and secured by four policemen at Sitio Danasi, lower Sinumaan, Talipao, Sulo and brought to the house of Mayor Alvarez Isnaji," Razon related in a text message.

"Ces Drilon and company are in good condition but they will immediately be given medical attention and appropriate nutrition. Airlift plan to Zamboanga ongoing and reunion with family will be arranged," said Razon.

He said the three will have to first undergo a debriefing in Zamboanga City before they are flown back to Manila.

In a phone interview, Razon claimed that no ransom had been paid for the release of Drilon and her two companions who were kidnapped in Maimbung, Sulu, on June 8 while they were on the way to interview a top commander of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. The three were released by their abductors, who were believed to be Abu Sayyaf members.

Another ABS-CBN cameraman, Angelo Valderama, was originally with the group that was kidnapped but was released on June 12 after a P2-million ransom was reportedly paid.

The release of the hostages, Razon claimed, was merely "due to the persistent and persuasive efforts of the local crisis committee under Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and Governor Sakur Tan," and that no money had been given to the kidnappers, despite their P15-million ransom demand that was to have been paid Tuesday noon.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), also confirmed the release of the kidnap victims but declined to provide additional details.

"Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo are finally all free," ABS-CBN said in a statement. "We are thankful our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded."

"Above all, the release of Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo could not have been possible without the cooperation of the people of Sulu and their local government. We thank them and share their hope for enduring peace in Mindanao," the statement added.

Razon meanwhile said he had no idea Senator Loren Legarda was part of the negotiations.
"Ces is free. She is resting. Soon, she will be in the hands of her family," Legarda, who claimed she also negotiated for the release of the hostages, told dzMM radio.

Legarda said the refusal of the victims' families to pay ransom, and an imminent military operation, were the breakthrough that led to the release.

"Nung malaman nilang wala silang makukuha [When they realized they won't be getting anything], they were pushed against the wall. Wala na silang mapuntahan [They had nowhere to run]," Legarda said.

"The military operations in the past few days helped," she said.

The senator said she was in constant contact with Drilon, who put her on speakerphone for her captors to hear.

At one point, Legarda said Drilon told her over the phone crying: "Loren, tell me if you guys can't do it so I can accept my fate that they will behead us."

Legarda said Drilon told her that Encarnacion's hands were tied and was being prepared for beheading at one point.

It was at that instant that "I pressured them, I cajoled them, I appealed to them, I even threatened them. They should be freed," Legarda related.

Legarda said Drilon's group was "very upbeat and calm" though tired from the five-hour-long trek from the Sulu hinterlands.

Razon said that if there was any lesson from the kidnapping, it was also to properly exercise press freedom.

"Ang aral po dito laging sinasabi hindi natin puwedeng i-exercise press freedom na malalagay ang [The lesson here is we can't exercise press freedom by putting] reporters or journalists in harm's way, na hawak ng terrorista or criminal elements," said Razon. (Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto; Update3, INQ.net)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MNLF calls on Arroyo to suspend ARMM polls

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Notwithstanding their differences, contending factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) want the August polls in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) postponed.

The ARMM polls pit incumbent Governor Zaldy Ampatuan against several Moro politicians, including Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, the main negotiator for the release of a kidnapped ABS-CBN news crew in Sulu.

Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who chairs one of the MNLF factions, called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to postpone the ARMM elections, saying the government has yet to fully implement the 1996 peace deal it signed with the erstwhile secessionist organization. MNLF founder Nur Misuari, who leads the other MNLF faction, is also supportive of the poll postponement.

Sema said Arroyo should instead appoint a caretaker from the MNLF's Executive Oversight Committee once the term of office of all incumbent ARMM officials end.

"I believe that the ARMM government plays a key role in peace and development in Mindanao, that's why we are asking the President to postpone it. It would be a chance for her too to work out for the full implementation of our final accord as well as work for the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," he said.

However, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it has taken another step to ensure that the August elections will be free of controversy by replacing ARMM election director Rey Sumalipao.

An advisory said Sumalipao will be replaced by lawyer Dennis Ausan. Sumalipao will be assigned to Manila.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, ARMM police chief, said Sumalipao had called him on Monday and informed him of the changes.

He said Ausan will be calling a conference with the police, the military and other groups in Zamboanga City next week.

James Jimenez, Comelec spokesman, said the ARMM elections will push through as scheduled and that they are now in the final stages of preparation.

"We believe that the automation of the polls is a significant step towards eradicating cheating in elections. Although we do not claim that automation will solve all election-related problems, it is an important first step towards eventually achieving the kind of honest, orderly, and peaceful elections the Filipino deserves. And the ARMM election is an essential and indispensable part of this process," Jimenez said.

Jimenez also downplayed the cutting off of power in Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan, saying the vote-counting machines will run on batteries.

The National Transmission Corp. has decided to stop supplying electricity to the two provinces because of the failure of Maguindanao Electric Coop. (Magelco) to pay its obligations. (Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie Señase)

Drilon kidnappers extend deadline ‘indefinitely’

Kidnappers of a television news team extended “indefinitely” the deadline for the release of their hostages, according to the son of one of the negotiators.

In a press conference in Sulu aired live on radio Tuesday, minutes before the noon deadline for payment of a P15 million ransom expired, Jun Isnaji, son of Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, said the abductors assured his father that they would not harm ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, and Octavio Dinampo, Mindanao State University professor.
The young Isnaji said ransom was not discussed during the negotiations but that the captors asked for livelihood projects in exchange for the release of Drilon and company.

The kidnappers had threatened to behead their hostages, admitted Isnaji but added that they would no longer carry this out.

He said they have been talking with the abductors since about 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Isnaji said they sent various text messages to the kidnappers, suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf.

"Nagtetext na ako sa kanila [I have sent them text messages] hoping that pag-open nila ng [when they open their] cell phone they will want to continue their negotiations after the deadline," said Isnaji in a phone interview.

"Kahit na we beg at lumuhod ako ma-release lang sina Ces [I will beg and even kneel down so that Ces and her team will be released], I will do that," he added, noting that if worse comes to worse, they will have to adhere to the kidnappers’ demand.

He said that if the three captives were really in danger they would rather give in to the captors’ demands than follow the government's “no-ransom” policy.

"If they are in real danger already, what is more important? Policy or someone's life? Our problem is we don't know where to get the money," said Isnaji.

Isnaji said the kidnappers told him during their last telephone contact early Monday: "If our deadline does not produce a result we will implement our policy regarding the hostages." He did not elaborate.

The negotiator said he also spoke with Drilon on Monday, when the broadcaster told him the gunmen were tying up the male hostages with rope.

"They are tying up Jimmy and the professor," he quoted her as saying.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police has intensified their manhunt against the suspects, two of whom were identified as Sulayman Patta and Walid, each carrying a P500,000 bounty.
Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, maintained the government’s “no-ransom” policy.

Drilon and two of her crew were abducted in Sulu last week while in pursuit of a story. One of her cameramen, Angelo Valderama was released days later after negotiators paid the P2 million "board and lodging fee" sought by the kidnappers.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered police and troops to recover the hostages alive and military reinforcements arrived in the area on Sunday.

The small group of militants, founded with seed money provided by Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s, have been blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks as well as for kidnappings of western tourists and Christian missionaries.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kidnappers demand 15M for TV hostages' release, set noon June 17 deadline

ABS-CBN reiterates ‘no ransom’ policyBy Julie Alipala, Ed GeneralAgence France-Presse,

JOLO, Sulu --The kidnappers of broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, and Mindanao State University professor and peace advocate Octavio Dinampo, set a deadline of noon Tuesday for the payment of a P15-million ransom, the lead negotiator for their release said Monday.

Indanan town Mayor Alvarez Isnaji said Drilon called at around 8:30 a.m. Monday, relaying the abductors' demand.

The families of Drilon and Encarnacion, meanwhile, branded as “erroneous” reports that they were negotiating independently with the abductors.

"Only Mayor Isnaji is directly communicating with the kidnappers,” said the relatives of the kidnapped journalists in a statement.

They said they are counting on Isnaji “for the release of Ces and Jimmy and continue to pray for his efforts."

For its part, ABS-CBN, Drilon’s network dismissed allegations that it has abandoned its reporter and crew but reiterated that it would continue to abide by its “no ransom policy.”

“We are deeply saddened and troubled by accusations that ABS-CBN has abandoned Ces and Jimmy,” the network said in a statement Monday.

“ABS-CBN is doing everything it can to help them and their families through this harrowing ordeal,” it said.

“However, ABS-CBN will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk,” it said.
Isnaji said Drilon pleaded for help.

The mayor said he also talked to the kidnappers, asking them not to hurt Drilon and her companions.

He said the kidnappers informed him that they were able to talk to Drilon's family that has agreed to pay the P15-million ransom.

The money, the kidnappers claimed, should be brought to the mayor by a representative of the Drilon family, Isnaji said.

"I cannot do anything. The parents want to pay," he said.

Isnaji said that when he first met Drilon's brother and sister in Zamboanga City on Sunday, they did not talk of paying any ransom demanded by abductors.

"What they said was they don't have the money to pay," Isnaji said. The negotiator said the ultimatum was first aired "casually" on Sunday.

The kidnappers also made the same demand Saturday night, when they complained about seeing Marine troops in the area where they were holding Drilon and her group.

"Pero kaninang madaling araw tumawag ulit sila, pati si Ces. Talagang matindi na ang position ng mga kidnappers at sinabing yung ultimatum ay hanggang bukas 12 noon [Tuesday]," Isnaji said in a phone interview Monday. [But early morning, they called again; Ces also called. The kidnappers were very firm about their ultimatum that the deadline for the ransom will be at 12 noon (Tuesday).]

He said the ransom was reduced from P20 million to P15 million, based on what was allegedly agreed upon by the kidnappers and Drilon's family.

"Sabi nila yon ang napag-agree-han nila sa pamilya ni Ces," he said. [They said this was what they agreed upon with the family of Ces.]

If ransom were not paid by the deadline, Isnaji said, the kidnappers would take a "strong position."

"Sila na ang magdidictate kung kailan sila kikilos, makikipag-usap at hindi na ito magiging madali para sa amin," he said. [They will then dictate the pace of the negotiations and this will not be easy for us.]

He denied threats by the captors who said that they would start executing the remaining hostages if the demands were not met.

"Hindi naman nila sinabing may ie-execute. Ang sabi nila, pag hindi nasunod ang ultimatum, tatagal itong problema dahil sila na ang magdidikta sa kung anong terms at condition nila," Isnaji said. [They did not say they will execute the victims. They said that if the ultimatum was not honored, the problem would drag on because they would start dictating the terms and conditions.]

"I suspect mas pahihirapan na nila tayo sa ngayon," he added. [I suspect they will make it more difficult for us.]

Isnaji said Drilon appealed for her early release, especially after receiving reports that her abduction had affected her mother's health.

"Sabi niya sa akin homesick na siya at gusto na nitong makauwi agad. Nalulungkot siya dahil nabalitaan nitong na stroke ang kanyang nanay dahil sa kalungkutan at ito ang dahilan kung bakit lahat ng communication ay idadaan na sa akin at hindi na direkta sa pamilya niya," Isnaji said. [She told me she was homesick and she wants to go home. She’s sad after learning that her mother had a stroke over her kidnapping and this was the reason why all communication was supposed to be coursed through me and not through her family.

The kidnappers’ ultimatum came as heavily armed troops shelled a forested area on southern Jolo Island where the extremists are holding the trio, injuring a woman living in the area, officials said.

"One woman was rushed here at the hospital because of shrapnel wounds she got from the shelling," a staff member at the Sulu Provincial Hospital said.

Troops moved into the area near the town of Indanan on Sunday to put pressure on Abu Sayyaf extremists who snatched the group on June 8.

Drilon, her cameramen Encarnacion, and Angelo Valderama; and university professor Octavio Dinampo had been en route to a secret meeting with a senior Abu Sayyaf leader when they were seized.

The abductors freed Valderama on June 12 after a ransom of P100,000 was paid.

Many of the other leaders have been killed or arrested in military operations assisted by US Special Forces military advisers who are temporarily based in Jolo and nearby islands.

Isnaji said he was worried the military's shelling could endanger the lives of the hostages. But commander of the Philippine Marines, Major-General Nelson Allaga, said he was certain the hostages were not in the area at the time.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered police and troops get back all of the hostages alive, and military reinforcements arrived here on Sunday.