Sunday, October 19, 2014

Senate set to pass ban on chemical weapons as session resumes

From GMA News (Oct 19): Senate set to pass ban on chemical weapons as session resumes

The Senate will try to pass several important pieces of legislation, including a bill prohibiting chemical weapons, when it resumes plenary sessions on Monday, Oct. 20 after a three-week break.

The chamber will try to approve the proposed measures before it takes another break for All Saints' Day.

“We have a lot of pertinent bills on our list, and a number of these proposed legislation requires immediate passage," Senate President Franklin Drilon said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

Drilon said senators are expected to approve on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2042 or the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Act.

The measure, approved on second reading on Sept. 22, aims to prohibit the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons.

According to Drilon, Senate Bill No. 2282 or the Fair Competition Act is "close to seeing passage as well" as senators are expected to complete the amendments to the bill.

He said the Senate bill is among the priority economic measures expected to be approved by Congress next year "in order to improve the Philippine's business climate, boost investment and ensure macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability in time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community in 2015."

Senators are also "ready to introduce amendments" to Senate Bill No. 2400 or the Sugarcane Industry Development Fund, Drilon said.

The Senate will again be in recess from Nov. 1 to Nov. 16.

Mistaken identity victims run to CA vs wrongful arrest

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 19): Mistaken identity victims run to CA vs wrongful arrest
Relatives of two elderly persons arrested in Mexico town in Pampanga on Oct. 1 have gone to the Court of Appeals to seek their release after the police and military arrested them and accused them of being top communist leaders in a case that those arrested said was one of mistaken identity.

They had been charged with the killing of six soldiers in Bulacan in 2004.

Alipio Quioc and Mary Ann Ingal asked the CA to issue a writ of habeas corpus ordering Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Central Luzon police director; Senior Supt. David Allauigan, regional intelligence chief; policeman Roman Punzalan; and the Bulacan provincial jail warden to produce and release their relatives, Lourdes Quioc and Reynaldo Ingal.

The petition, filed on Oct. 13, said Lourdes Quioc and Reynaldo Ingal were not Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, contrary to the claims of the police and military.

Magpantay and Topacio are among 72 people, including Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, who were charged with 14 counts of murder for the 2004 killing of six Army soldiers in an ambush in Bulacan.

The warrant for their arrest was issued by Judge Victoria Parnilles of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in the City of Malolos in 2004.

Petrasanta said police served the arrest warrant and did not claim a reward of P10 million for the arrest of Magpantay and Agaton.

Lawyers of the relatives of Quioc and Ingal took the case to the CA after a court in Pampanga lost jurisdiction following their transfer to Bulacan provincial jail.

Pampanga Board Member Teddy Tumang and Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez told Central Luzon police chief Petrasanta that Quioc and Ingal were “innocent civilians.”

Lawyers also submitted to the CA documents establishing the identities of Quioc and Ingal, both residents of Barangay Tinajero in Mexico.

Bomb attacks in Basilan linked to Abu extortionists

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Oct 18): Bomb attacks in Basilan linked to Abu extortionists

The al-qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf group has stepped up its extortion activities and have resorted to bomb attacks if demands are ignored in the island province of Basilan.
Isabela City police said that Abu Sayyaf bombers exploded two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) outside the staff house of an oil mill at dawn Friday and at the gate of the residence of Basilan’s district engineer Wednesday night.
No one was hurt in the two bomb attacks. A third bomb plot was foiled by security forces also at dawn Friday.
In both cases, police said, investigators have gathered that the targets of the bombing had received extortion letter and text message from Abu Sayyaf extortionists.
District Engineer Soler Undog told police that days before the attack outside his residence, he had received an extortion letter from an Abu Sayyaf commander who demanded P200,000.
Undog said he ignored the letter and two days later the bomb exploded outside his home.
Gaspar Katipunan, branch manager of Cargill oil mill, also told police investigators that he has received a text message from Abu Sayyaf commander Moton Indama on September 19 demanding P50,000.
Katipunan said he also ignored the text message.
The explosion outside Undog’s residence caused minor damage to the concrete fence, steel gate and his Toyota van.
Police said investigation showed that a man alighted from a green Toyota Hi-Lux and left a bag outside the Cargill staff house. He ran away when he was spotted by the firm’s security guard.
Recovered at the scene of explosion were IED components like a 9-volt battery, shattered cellular phone, an exploded 60 mm mortar shell and wirings.
The third bomb attempt was foiled after Army Special Forces on patrol spotted the bomber carrying a suspicious bag near a cemetery in Barangay La Piedad.
POlice said the man dropped the bag and ran towards the interior of the cemetery after he saw the army special forces who fired warning shots.
Army K-9 team with sniffer dogs checked on the bag which contained an IED. Using a a hydrajet disruptor, it was disarmed. The disrupted IED was made up of three 60mm mortar shells, cellular phone, 9-volt battery, three improvised detonators and wirings.
Police suspect the foiled bomb attack was intended for Caltex Depot in Isabela City.

Army officials in MIndanao warn residents of unexploded ordnance

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Oct 19): Army officials in MIndanao warn residents of unexploded ordnance

The military is reminding residents in Maguindanao, North Cotabato and part of Sultan Kudarat to be careful of unexploded ordnance, especially in former war zones.
Unexploded ordnance litter in areas where soldiers and Moro bandits clashed in the past. They include landmine, mortars, grenades and many others.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th Infantry Division chief, said the military is busy recovering unexploded bombs for proper disposal and have so far collected 260 unexploded ordnance. These were properly disposed in June, July and August in the mountains of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
However, Pangilinan told reporters that not all areas have been scoured by military bomb experts so the danger of unintentional or accidental explosion is high.
Some of these unexploded ordnance landed in the hands of lawless elements who converted them into improvised explosive devices.
Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th ID, said residents in rural areas should be careful in finding unexploded ordnance, including all kinds of bombs.
“The best thing for them to do is report to nearest police office to prevent getting hurt,” Hermoso told reporters.
The military also called on village officials to remind their constituents on the danger of tinkering with the unexploded bombs if ever they find one.
The military action came after the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL).
It said in a report that some unexploded ordnance, such as land mines, grenades, mortars and cannon shells, were found not far from paths used by villagers, including schoolchildren in some maguindanao barangays and areas of North Cotabato.
Alfredo Lubang of the PCBL said as part of stepped up efforts to keep people safe from unexploded ordnance, or uxos, his group and several non-governmental organizations have produced posters providing basic information on unexploded explosives for schools and other public places.
He said the initiative is supported by the European Union.

MILF: Editorial -- Issue of Contiguity

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 19): Editorial -- Issue of Contiguity

What is contiguous in the FAB, CAB, and BBL? Is it only about areas having common land borders? Does not water also connect? Or the GPH and MILF peace negotiators did not specify by reason of outright oversight or really intentional.
However, there is an old thought which says that water connects and mountain divides. Whether this principle is part of the discussion of the parties and relevant to the issue, we cannot say yes or no.

Without doubt, however, the validity of this claim cannot be applied without measure. For mountain, there is no problem, because its size and length are very much measurable, but in the case of water, it can connect up to the United States, Europe, Japan, and Africa. And, therefore, this water connectivity cannot be applied indiscriminately.

In the proposed Bangsamoro territory, the only problematic area is Zamboanga City, because the Bangsamoro waters, which is 22.22 kilometers from the lower watermark in the shoreline, and the municipal waters of Zamboanga City, which is 15 kilometers, overlap each other, so that in effect they have a common boundary if water also connects or provides contiguity.

But here we are not saying that villages (barangays), which are Moro-dominated, can avail of the petition for inclusion in the proposed plebiscite to determine the territory of the Bangsamoro. What we are saying is that this is a gray area as far as the issue of contiguity is concerned, which must be confronted squarely to stave-off a possible problem that can even reach the court in the future.

The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines contiguous as: 1) things that touch each other or are immediately next to each other; 2) being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point; 3) of angles: adjacent; 4) next or near in time or sequence; and 5) touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence.

We understand the concerns of the politicians of Zamboanga City, but these must not be at the extent of curtailing the right of the people or the governed to be heard, which is not only a constitutional right but also a universal one. 

On the part of the MILF, we assure these politicians that we have never had or will ever have the slightest of intention to include any part of the city to the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

We suppose the right approach of these politicians is to talk to the Moros in Zamboanga City and urge them not to petition for inclusion. More importantly, they must immediately stop their policy of disuniting the Moros and the Christians, for political or whatever reasons. This policy will not fare well in this 21st century.

Seriously speaking, the issue of contiguity is really hard to settle, because it does not only touch geographical proximity, but also legal, emotional, historical, and moral underpinnings. Besides, both R.A. 6734 and R.A.9054 are silent on contiguity; otherwise, the territory of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is composed of two mainland Mindanao provinces (Maguindanao and Lanao Del Sur which have common land borders) and three island provinces cannot be constituted. 

Indeed, this issue of contiguity is a real challenge to everyone who discerns and who is guided by fairness and consistency.

MILF: BTC Chair Iqbal pays courtesy call on Cotabato City Mayor Guiani

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 19): BTC Chair Iqbal pays courtesy call on Cotabato City Mayor Guiani

Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal paid courtesy call on Cotabato City Mayor Japal “Jojo” J. Guiani, Jr. on October 16 at the city hall or most commonly known as “Peoples’ Palace”.
Commissioner Ebrahim Ali, Atty. Haron Meling, Chief Executive Assistant to Chairman Iqbal and Atty. Lai Dumama-Alba, Head of BTC Secretariat, BTC Communications Group and staff accompanied Iqbal.

Last August 12, twelve (12) BTC Commissioners headed by Atty. Akmad Sakkam made courtesy call on Mayor Guiani.

After the submission of the modified draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to President Benigno Aquino III last September 10 at Malacanan Palace, Chairman Iqbal has been busy attending meetings, media interviews, forum as a way of letting people understand deeply the BBL.

Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the GPH and MILF Peace Panels agreed to include Cotabato City in the territories that maybe covered by the upcoming Bangsamoro political entity if city residents ratify the BBL during the plebiscite.

Atty. Alba told Mayor Guiani that UNYPAD and other groups have conducted consultations in several city barangays, talkshops, forums and symphosia on the proposed BBL.

Mayor Japal said the BTC have problem on local governments. He asked the BTC delegation to” please inform us so that we could help”.

He also said that Christian communities should be reached out so that they get informed and understand the proposed BBL.

Mayor Guiani is expecting that the referendum on the BBL will take place this January 2015. Chairman Iqbal also foresees an early schedule for the ratification of the BBL next year.

CPP: Kundenahin ang labis-labis na brutalidad at pagpatay ng AFP sa mga magsasakang Lumad

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 18): Kundenahin ang labis-labis na brutalidad at pagpatay ng AFP sa mga magsasakang Lumad

Communist Party of the Philippines
Kinukundena ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) ang AFP at ang 66th Infantry Battalion nito sa pagpatay sa mag-amang Lumad na ginamitan ng labis-labis na brutalidad noong Oktubre 12, sa Tubog, Manurigao, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

Naglalakad ang mag-amang sina Rolando Dagansan, 43, at anak na si Juda, 15, pauwi sa kanilang bahay sa Sityo Taytayan dala ang kaaani pa lamang na mais mula sa kanilang bukid sa Sitio Kabitayan nang atakehin sila ng mga pasistang tropa ng Alpha Company ng 66th IB na pinamumunuan ni Lt. Col. Maichael Logico. Mula sa lumad na grupong Mandaya ang mga Dangasan.

Lasog-lasog ang kanilang mga katawan sa dami ng tama ng balang pinakawalan ng mga hibang na sundalo. Ang braso ni Rolando ay natanggal mula sa kanyang katawan at ang mga mukha nila ay kapwa tungkab dahil sa paggamit ng labis-labis na dahas.

Ang walang-awang pagpaslang sa mga Dagansan ay nagpapabula sa sinsasabi ng AFP na “nasorpresa” lamang ang mga sundalo nito at “nagpakamalang” mga mandirgma ng BHB ang mag-ama.

Para pagtakpan ang brutalidad, nagpalabas ng huwad na paghingi ng paumanhin ang mga upisyal ng AFP sa pagpatay nila sa mga magsasakang Mandaya. Ang totoo, nagsasagawa ang mga yunit ng AFP ng pinakamababangis na pang-aatake sa mga di armadong sibilyan sa kondukta ng kanilang kontra-mamamayang gera na Oplan Bayanihan.

Taliwas sa ipinamamarali nitong pagrespeto diumano sa mga karapatang-tao, ang oryentasyon ng mga sundalo ng AFP ay itrato ang populasyong sibilyan sa mga sonang gerilya bilang mga kaaway na kailangang supilin, sindakin at paamuin. Ang mga tinaguriang misyong medikal at dental na pinasisimunuan at isinasagawa ng mga armadong yunit ng AFP, sa halip ng mga ahensyang sibilyan, ay walang iba kundi tusong pagtatangkang tabingan ang brutalidad ng Oplan Bayanihan nito.

CPP: Most heartfelt condolences to families and comrades and highest honors to the Lacub

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 18): Most heartfelt condolences to families and comrades and highest honors to the Lacub Martyrs

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines
I join the people and revolutionary force in expressing most heartfelt condolences to the families and comrades of the leading cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Red fighters of the New People’s Army and civilian victims whose valiant lives were snuffed out by the fascist agents of the US-Aquino regime on 4 September in Lacub, Abra.
The highest honors are deservedly accorded to Arnold ‘Ka Mando’ Jaramillo, Recca Noelle ‘Ka Tet’ Monte, Brandon ‘Ka Sly’ Madranga, Robert ‘Ka Dawyan’ Beyao, Ricardo ‘Ka Tubong’ Reyes, Pedring ‘Ka Jess’ Banggao, and Robert ‘Ka Limbo’ Perez, as well as to the two civilians Engr. Fidela Salvador and Noel Viste, who have all put their lives on the line and made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the people.

I join the family, comrades and friends of the Lacub Martyrs in condemning the savagery of the 41st Infantry Battalion soldiers under the command of 2Lt. Joe Mari S. Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez and in demanding their prosecution and punishment as murderers and war criminals.

Based on initial investigation, the NPA fighters had been rendered hors de combat by the AFP troops. Instead of treating their wounds and holding them as prisoners of war, the Red fighters were brutally tortured and slaughtered, and their lifeless bodies mutilated. Comrade Mando’s body, in particular, was riddled with bullets, with at least one gunshot wound inflicted at point blank range.

The fascist troops also arbitrarily arrested Engr. Salvador and accused her of being an NPA guerrilla, before she was tortured and summarily executed.
Lacub resident Noel Viste was one of the numerous civilians who were forced by the military to act as their guides and human shields. He was also tortured and executed by the AFP troops. We join calls for justice against these brutalities.

The Lacub Martyrs are all models of being proletarian revolutionaries who took up the challenge of self-less sacrifice and dedicated struggle in the service of the exploited and oppressed classes. They came from different class backgrounds, and they underwent the process of remoulding themselves in order to contribute to the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and genuine democracy. In the various functions that they undertook, they showed unrelenting dedication to fulfilling their tasks however great the difficulties and sacrifices.

Their supreme sacrifice will inspire countless people, especially the youth, to follow their footsteps in the service of the oppressed and exploited. Let us honor the memory of the Lacub Martyrs by carrying on with greater resoluteness and militancy the revolutionary struggle for national democracy and socialism.

PNoy, US envoy attending Leyte Landing 70th anniversary

From Ang Malaya (Oct 19): PNoy, US envoy attending Leyte Landing 70th anniversary

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Leyte Landing on Monday, October 20. US Ambassador Philip Goldberg will also be present in the anniversary celebration.

Way back October 20, 1944 US General Douglas MacArthur returned to Philippines together with American forces to continue the campaign against Japanese occupation.

General MacArthur left the Philippines in 1942 with a promise to return. Allied forces have decided to directly attack Japan instead of fighting the battle in Philippines, however, MacArthur insisted to return to fight Imperial Japanese forces. MacArthur and US forces landed at Red Beach in Palo, Leyte.

“People of the Philippines, I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil,” General MacArthur said upon his return.

This event started the end of Japanese occupation and resulted to the liberation of Philippines after almost three years of Japanese occupation.

The Battle of Leyte started on MacArthur’s return and lasted until December 31, 1944.

Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines was led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

While MacArthur actually set foot in Philippine soil October 20, 1944, preliminary operations of US forces were carried out starting October 17 for mine-sweeping tasks and establish navigation for US amphibious transports.

US destroyer sinks two fishing boats

From Ang Malaya (Oct 19): US destroyer sinks two fishing boats

A guided-missile destroyer of the United States, USS Stethem, accidentally rammed two Philippine fishing boats while sailing out from Subic, Subic Bay News reported.
After the collision, US troops from the vessel dove into the sea to save three fishermen. Orlito T. Cocjin, 44 and Julie Mendez, 43 were from the motorized fishing boat, while Pampilo B. Bacsal, 33, was from a paddle boat. The incident happened at night time. “They were Filipinos fishing in a 19-foot wooden canoe and towing a smaller wooden craft, both unlit,” US Embassy’s Military Public Affairs Liaison Captain Craig Thomas said.

Though involved in an incident, USS Stethem was then allowed to leave with a guarantee that US Navy will provide monetary assistance for the victims’ medical expenses and damaged boats through US Embassy. Fishermen will not file a complaint.

USS Stethem is said to be setting for West Philippine Sea without a picket boat while still in Subic Bay. “Picket boat is a must for ships entering and leaving the bay,” an unnamed official of the SBMA Seaport Department told SBN. “It is the responsibility of the shipping agent.” He then added that the shipping agent, Global Terminal & Development, Inc. may face sanction both from SBMA and US Navy.

Except for USS Peleliu, all other US warships that participated in PHIBLEX 15 were allowed to leave the country including the US destroyer.

Protest vs Pemberton shuts down Subic gates

From Rappler (Oct 19): Protest vs Pemberton shuts down Subic gates

For around 2 hours Saturday, Subic authorities put the freeport on lockdown as militant groups stage a protest against the alleged killer of Jennifer Laude

Relatives of murdered Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, including her mother Julita Laude (L), stand in front of the port gate where USS Peleliu (back) is docked at Subic, October 18, 2014, to bring a notice to the murder suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton who is detained onboard the ship. Robert Gonzaga/AFP

Relatives of murdered Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, including her mother Julita Laude (L), stand in front of the port gate where USS Peleliu (back) is docked at Subic, October 18, 2014, to bring a notice to the murder suspect Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton who is detained onboard the ship. Robert Gonzaga/AFP
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) put the Subic Freeport on lockdown for a few hours Saturday, October 18, due to a protest against the alleged killer of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
For about 2 hours on Saturday afternoon, nobody was permitted entry into the Subic freeport – not even residents and workers who were on their way to their respective companies – after militant groups protested infront of the USS Peleliu, where the US marine who allegedly killed Jennifer Laude is being held.

Julita Laude, mother of the victim, and members of militant groups who accompanied her, were able to enter this former US naval base to symbolically serve a subpoena to the suspect, US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

"I am here as a mother, and I want [the US marine} to show his face so I can ask why he killed my son. Why did he have to do that to my son?," Julita Laude said.

Julita's daughter Marilou, who is the principal complainant against Pemberton, had another concern.

"We want to know if [Pemberton] is still really here. We want to see him personally," she said.

But the group was barred from getting near the ship by barbed wire fences and security guards.

The law enforcement department of the SBMA also showed up in pick up trucks and tried to get the group to disperse.

This was also when the SBMA shut down the gates to the freeport zone, triggering anger among residents and workers alike.

Asked why they were locking down the freeport, a law enforcement officer told Rappler that they were ''just following orders."

Unable to return to their homes, residents of the Subic freeport vented their ire on social media.

Kemp Velarmino, a resident of the freeport and executive director of an NGO, who was stranded with hundreds of others, asked ''has SBMA gone insane? That's too much and totally unacceptable."

"They can't even give us a reason [for the lockdown]," said Cherylle Raguini, another resident. "It this the proper response? Inabala na ang buong bayan? Para saan? Para sa security and safety?"

Another netizen, Marion Grace, said that the panicked reaction of the SBMA revealed that ''they don't know the protocols to handle the protestors."

Military finds abandoned Abu Sayyaf 'camps'

From Rappler (Oct 19): Military finds abandoned Abu Sayyaf 'camps'

(UPDATED) The military believes the camps served as the places where the German hostages were hidden by the bandit group

The Philippine military said Sunday, October 19, it discovered 2 abandoned Abu Sayyaf "camps" in Patikul, Sulu.

One was found in barangay Buhanginan, where the German hostages were likely hidden, military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc said. The other camp, which can house 100 people, was found in Kabuntakas village.

"At about 3pm today, Bravo Company, 32 Infantry Battalion discovered abandoned Abu Sayyaf Group camp with 47 bunkers about 100 meters diameter at Sitio Lasal, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu.... Another camp that can accommodate 100 people was also discovered by the 35th Infantry Battalion in Kabuntakas Village," the military's situation report read.

Cabunoc said war materials found in the camps could help the military identify the whereabouts of the Abu Sayyaf and their hostages.

"The German kidnap victims were released near the abandoned Abu Sayyaf Group camp in Buhanginan village. Heavy rains slowed down the tracking operations but the troops under Colonel Allan Arrojado have remained committed to accomplish the assigned mission," said Cabunoc in a statement.

The military launched "full-scale combat rescue operations" against the Abu Sayyaf on Saturday, October 18, a day after the release of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55.

The military's tracking operations will continue although heavy rains have slowed the troops.

PNP announces arrest of leader of kidnap for ransom group

From InterAksyon (Oct 18): PNP announces arrest of leader of kidnap for ransom group

The Philippine National Police announced over the weekend that PNP operatives arrested on Thursday the leader of a kidnap for ransom group at a posh residential area in Pasay City.

Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo , the director of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG), identified the arrested leader of the kidnap for ransom group (kfrg) as Reccinte Padillo, alias Teng, alleged leader of the so-called Padillo KFRG.

Fajardo told journalists Padillo was arrested at around 9: 23pm Thursday at Pinecrest 1, Newport Residential Resort in Pasay City by combined elements of the AKG and the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Padillo was taken in on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Bernelito Fernandez of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 97.

Fajardo added that Padillo is in the AKG list of most wanted for 2014 for his involvement in the kidnap for ransom of businesswoman Sally Chua in Quezon City on July 5 this year.

The businesswoman was snatched by the kidnappers in Quezon City and transported to Davao City, where she was eventually rescued by operatives of the AKG and Davao City Police during follow-up operation.

Also arrested by the police along with Padillo was his live-in partner, Yasmin Cruz and driver/body guard, Ivan Estrella, both of whom have standing warrants of arrest for large scale estafa.

Fajardo added that another warrant of arrest was issued against the three by Judge Corpuz Alzarte of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2 of Bangued, Abra for large scale estafa.

The estafa case was filed by the Marco Bautista, Rodolfo Bernardez IV the current mayor of San Juan town and former mayor of Bucay town both in Abra province, the police official said.

Fajardo said that his unit will continue to remain focusd on neutralizing all wanted kidnap suspects while appealing for help from the public in tracking down and identifying some of members of known kidnap for ransom groups.

The PNP-AKG Hotline Numbers are 09189002020, 09273234894 and 027270000. Fajardo said all supplied information will be treated with utmost confidentiality.

Decision to appear before court is Pemberton's call: US Embassy

From InterAksyon (Oct 19): Decision to appear before court is Pemberton's call: US Embassy

While emphasizing it will do everything to cooperate with the Philippine government on all aspects of the case concerning the death of a Filipino transgender, the United States Embassy in Manila said on Sunday that it is the decision of the suspect US Marine on whether to appear in court on Tuesday.

"Whether the suspect will appear on Tuesday is a decision that he will make in consultation with his Philippine legal counsel, in accordance with Philippine law. We refer you to his counsel for details," the embassy said in a statement.

Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude was strangled to death allegedly by Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps last Oct. 11, a day after the conclusion of the Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 which started on Sept. 29.

Last week, Olongapo City prosecutors met with four witnesses and swore them to their statements in accordance with Philippine law, satisfying the requirements of the City Prosecutor and the "make available" language of the US–Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.

"The witnesses will not appear on Tuesday, as they have already met their current legal obligations. In accordance with the VFA, the witnesses will be made available for the trial," the US Embassy said.

US Embassy: Witnesses will be made available for trial of Laude murder case

From InterAksyon (Oct 19): US Embassy: Witnesses will be made available for trial of Laude murder case

Four witnesses gave statements to Philippine prosecutors in a case where an American Marine is a suspect in the murder of a Filipino transgender person, the US embassy said Sunday.

"Last week, City Prosecutors met with four witnesses and swore them to their statements in accordance with Philippine law," the embassy said.

The embassy, in a statement, cited this as another sign of its continued cooperation in the controversial murder case.

"The witnesses will be made available for the trial," the statement said.

Also, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg tweeted Sunday afternoon that, “We continue to fully cooperate & collaborate with PHL authorities in all aspects of the case concerning the death of Jennifer Laude.”

The embassy statement did not say who the witnesses were, but Philippine authorities had previously said they wanted to question four US marines who are believed to have witnessed the murder.

Another US Marine is being investigated over the death of Jeffrey Laude, described by local police as a transgender sex worker.

Prosecutors in the northern port city of Olongapo, where Laude was found dead on October 12, had originally wanted the suspect and four witnesses to give depositions at a formal hearing on Tuesday.

The embassy said the four witnesses would no longer have to appear on Tuesday as their statements had already been obtained.

But it stressed that "whether the suspect will appear on Tuesday is a decision that he will make in consultation with his Philippine legal counsel, in accordance with Philippine law".

The killing has grabbed national headlines and become an issue in the defence ties between the Philippines and the United States, its former colonial ruler and longtime ally.

Police said they found the victim half-naked on the bathroom floor of a hotel room with more than a dozen bruises, cuts and bite marks.

They said the victim, who had checked in with the suspect just over an hour earlier, had died from "asphyxia by drowning".

Police and the prosecutor named the suspect as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, attached to a North Carolina-based unit that had just taken part in joint military exercises in the Philippines.

Under the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement, the suspect will be charged in a Philippine court but custody will remain with the Americans unless the US government waives this.

Philippine diplomats have said they will ask for his custody once an arrest warrant is issued but it is not clear if the United States will grant this.

The Philippines has said the politically charged case should not be allowed to derail longstanding defence ties, amid growing public pressure for Pemberton to be handed over into Philippines custody.

The Philippines agreed in March to allow US forces wider temporary access to Filipino military facilities.

Abu Sayyaf bandits abandon Sulu camp, escape with 10 hostages - AFP

From InterAksyon (Oct 19): Abu Sayyaf bandits abandon Sulu camp, escape with 10 hostages - AFP

Government troops with K-9 dogs continue to track down Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits, who had escaped with about 10 of their hostages Sunday.

ASG members abandoned their camp early Sunday afternoon in Patikul town in Sulu following the release Friday night of two German captives whom the bandits abducted off Palawan last April.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Public Affairs Office chief of the Armed Forces of he Philippines (AFP), said the abandoned camp might have been used by the bandits as a common holding area for their hostages.

Cabunoc, however, refused to give the exact location of the freshly abandoned camp and just said that, Our troops found the camp at around 3 p.m. today (Sunday). It can accommodate up to 100 people."

He said the military had immediately relayed to pursuing troops the possible locations of the fleeing bandits.

"We're also trying to coordinate with local contacts to help direct our troops to block them from entering civilian communities. It appears the escaping bandits have with them some hostages but we still have to verify that while our troops are tracking them," Cabunoc said.

Ground troops pursuing the ASG are encountering operational difficulties as the bandits continue to hide and mingle with civilian communities even as AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. wants immediate results.

"Tuloy-tuloy, walang humpay, dapat may result [It should be continuous, unceasing, and should have result]. He (Catapang) is expecting results. Dapat nga kahapon may resulta na eh [There should have been result already yesterday]," said Cabunoc.

Sulu military commander Col. Allan Arrojado said their operations against the ASG were already full-scale but he refused to give details on what was happening on the ground. "No contact yet, we're still searching for them."

He confirmed the targets are now hiding in civilians communities.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said the main objective now of the ground troops is to rescue all the remaining victims reportedly 10 individuals, including three foreigners. He said two brigades of more than 3,000 soldiers had been deployed mainly to Patikul town.

"We are after the rescue of all the remaining hostages. Of course, to punish also those who are involved in this criminal activity," Cabunoc said.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc insisted that the military was not part of the reported negotiations for the release of German nationals Viktor Estefan Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55, Friday night, especially the P250-million ransom allegedly paid to the bandits as claimed by ASG spokesman Abu Rami.

"Wala kaming kinalaman doon [We have nothing to do with that]," Cabunoc said.