Monday, December 31, 2012

June 18-19, 2001: INQuirer

June 18-19, 2001: Inquirer News Service,

June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, All because of craving for Coke, by Alexander Young, Diigo,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Military now presumes Sayyaf killed Sobero, Diigo,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Abu letter surfaces amid ransom talks, by Juliet L. Javellana and Armand N. Nocum, Diigo,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Fil-Chinese student kidnapped in UP Diliman,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Daughter of Uratex owner kidnapped, by Philip Tubeza,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Who's Stef Saño?, by Carlito Pablo, Juliet Javellana and Volt Contreras, Diigo,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Tourism takes another blow as Zambales tourists panic, by Rocky Nazareno,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Gloria forays into bandits' stronghold, by Alexander M. Young and Julie Alipala-Inot, Diigo,
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Politburo denounces Sison as mad killer
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, P5-M ransom paid for teenage hostage, by Julie Alipala-Inot and Alexander M. Young
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, 'Bombing proved Sison's logic correct', by Jovito Salonga
June 18, 2001, Inquirer News Service, P5-M ransom paid for teenage hostage, by Julie Alipala-Inot and Alexander M. Young ,
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Gloria: Perez can't serve as negotiator, by Juliet L. Javellana and Carlito Pablo
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Macapagal sees sinister plot in kidnappings, by Martin P. Marfil
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Ex-senator blames Reds for Plaza Miranda blast, by Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Juliet Javellana,
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Abus not part of Tripoli talks, by TJ Burgonio and Allan A. Nawal
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Gordon pushes RP tourism despite Abu Sayyaf crisis, by Norman Bordadora
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Safe-conduct pass for Abu leader nixed
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Price tags placed on Abu hostages,
June 19, 2001, Inquirer News Service, Basileños resort to 'hamurabi', by Alexander M. Young and Julie Alipala-Inot,___________________________________________________

All because of craving for Coke
Posted: 11:36 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001, by Alexander Young. PDI Mindanao Bureau

ZAMBOANGA CITY--All because of the hostages' craving for Coca-Cola, eight people were killed and 22 others were wounded in the firefight between the Abu Sayyaf and the military in Lamitan, Basilan, on June 2.

Freed captive Francis Ganzon said the Abu Sayyaf bandits went down to Lamitan from the jungle after the hostages asked Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Ahmad Salayyudin alias Abu Sabaya for a Coke.

"We told him, 'Abu Sabaya, matagal na tayong hindi nakainom ng Coke (we haven’t drunk Coke for a long time).'Sabi niya, `sige uminom tayo ng Coke (He said 'let's drink Coke),'" Ganzon said in an interview with Radio Mindanao Network on Saturday.

On that same night (June 1), Ganzon said, Sabaya declared: "Bababa tayo sa Lamitan dahil may Coke doon (We will go down to Lamitan because there's Coke there)."

Rented jeep

"We rented a jeep, and in the cover of darkness, we entered the hospital," Ganzon said.

It was not clear if the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital had Coke.

The bandits also entered the adjacent St. Peter's Church.

Fierce fighting between government soldiers and the bandits broke out in the early morning of June 2.

But when night came, the bandits and their hostages escaped without a fight.

Four of the 20 original Dos Palmas hostages escaped. The bandits, however, seized five more people at the hospital.

The next morning, the bodies of an altar boy and two soldiers lay outside the St. Peter's Church, which was also riddled with bullets.

"This is a disaster," was how Lamitan parish priest Cirilo Nacorda described the church. The bandits burned four houses as they fled.

The military's ground and air assault also damaged at least 15 houses. All because the hostages wanted to drink Coke.

Robot not in Ilocos

In Baguio City, outgoing Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson called up a radio station from Ilocos Sur on Monday to clarify a report about the alleged presence of Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, also known as Kumander Robot, in Northern Luzon.

Singson, during a morning broadcast of RPN radio dzBS, dismissed reports that Andang had been sighted in Ilocos Sur.

"Ang nandito si Atchang, wala dito si Andang (The person here is Atchang, not Andang)," Singson said in reaction to a report by a local daily that Andang was in Ilocos.

The daily quoted sources in its headline on Monday about clandestine meetings between Singson and Andang and separate meetings between Singson and outgoing Abra Board Member Ernesto Pacuño Sr.

Pacuño, popularly known as "Dragon: helped then government negotiator Robert Aventajado broker the release of the hostages that the Abu Sayyaf seized last year from the Malaysian diving report of Sipadan.

The Baguio report implied Singson was about to take over Pacuño’s role to deal with the remaining seven of the bandit group’s 20 hostages who were abducted in a May 27 raid on the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

Singson claimed last week that Andang had offered to "return to the fold of the law" with several of his men but only in the governor's presence.

Two national newspapers reported on Monday that a source was claiming that Andang was already in Singson’s custody.

Singson said Andang had chosen him as mediator because he was an Ilocano like Pacuño.

"There are a lot of Ilocanos in Mindanao, so (Andang) called me up . . . Pacuño helped (in the Sipadan crisis) and that is why Andang tapped me. He was the one who called and I thought, maybe, I can help now because all of us are affected by (the crisis in Mindanao)," the governor said.

In the middle of the radio interview, Singson brushed aside reports that Andang was offering government half of his loot from previous kidnap-for-ransom operations in exchange for amnesty from prosecution.

"Wala, wala . . . (No, no)," Singson muttered when the news reports were mentioned.

"Andang never even used the word surrender. He said he was returning to the fold of the law," he said in Filipino. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau


Military now presumes Sayyaf killed Sobero
Posted: 10:03 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001 By Carlito Pablo
Inquirer News Service
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AMERICAN hostage Guillermo Sobero is now presumed dead, except that his body has yet to be recovered from the jungles of Basilan.

Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces, yesterday told reporters that Sobero died on the night of June 11, after his captors separated him from the rest of the hostages somewhere in Central Basilan, his hands tied behind his back.

"We do not know if he was executed or died of infection," Adan said of Sobero, who was apparently afflicted with diabetes.

Adan based his announcement partly on information provided by Filipino hostage Francis Ganzon, who supposedly saw Sobero being tied and led away.

Ganzon, along with two other captives of the Abu Sayyaf, arrived in Manila Saturday.

But while the military is presuming Sobero dead, it is not doing the same for Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, who, according to Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar, died of wounds incurred during a battle with government troops early this month.

Adan said that until Janjalani’s body was produced, "we cannot be certain he is dead."

"He carries a P5-million price on his head and it might benefit some person if his true whereabouts are not traced," Adan said.

Janjalani’s father-in-law, Ustadz Hussin Manatad, yesterday said Janjalani called him at 4 p.m. Saturday to say that he was alive and that they should not believe rumors of his death.

The AFP had previously claimed that Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya was bluffing when he announced on June 12 that his group had beheaded the 40-year-old Sobero as an "Independence Day gift" to President Macapagal-Arroyo.

Adan said the US Embassy in Manila had been informed of the matter. Asked if Sobero’s family in Corona, California, had likewise been informed, he said: "The embassy will take care of that."

But the US Embassy said it had yet to "independently confirm" the death of the American.

"We have no proof of Mr. Sobero’s state," embassy spokesperson Michael Anderson said.

Anderson noted that "no remains have been identified as (Sobero's)," and that there was "no independent source that witnessed his execution."

"As we have said before, the murder of an innocent person is a cowardly act. We continue to hold the Abu Sayyaf responsible for the safety and welfare of all the people it is holding," Anderson said.

In California, Sobero’s brother Alberto told the Associated Press that he had not heard from anyone about Adan’s statement.

"We are going to have to figure out what to do next," Alberto said. "We still have to talk to the State Department and the (Federal Bureau of Investigation). That’s all I have to say now."


Adan said civilian groups in Basilan had been asked to help find the body of Sobero, one of three Americans taken by the Abu Sayyaf on May 27 from the Dos Palmas resort in 2 of 2

Sobero was supposedly wounded in his right leg when the bandit group engaged government forces in a firefight in Lamitan, Basilan, on June 1.

"It appears that Mr. Sobero was diabetic because despite the antibiotics administered to him by the nurses in Lamitan, his wound did not heal," Adan said. "He was also on self-medication from the time he left Palawan."

Adan said Sobero had been injecting himself, presumably with insulin, during the long boat trip from the resort to Basilan, but that he ran out of medicine and started shaking.

The military has examined Ganzon’s statements, and based on these, "we have very strong reasons to believe that Mr. Guillermo Sobero is dead," Adan said

He added: "We have no proof as to the exact cause of death. The beheading is a statement of Sabaya."

Adan said the other American hostages, missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, were believed to be surviving fairly well under the circumstances.

He cited Ganzon’s statement that "the Burnhams’ faith has kept them strong."

He said Martin Burnham was reported to be nursing back wounds but otherwise had "no serious injuries."

The hostages were said to be eating rice and occasionally got coconuts with brown sugar, small dried fish and a tin of sardines.

Adan said troops were "closing in" on the bandits yesterday. "The vegetation is very dense and the terrain is muddy, and the bandits have their diversionary attacks to mislead their true location," he said.

At his regular briefing yesterday, Adan said a 15-minute clash between the bandits and members of the Navy’s Special Warfare Group occurred at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Mara-Marang in the capital city of Isabela.

There were no government casualties, he said. The soldiers recovered from the site of the clash an M-16 rifle, four ammunition magazines, a radio, two backpacks and a bag containing personal effects.

'Very much alive'

According to Adan, Ganzon related that Janjalani was with the gunmen holding him and other hostages before he and teenager Kimberly Jao Uy were released last week.

"(Ganzon) saw Janjalani very much alive, with no wounds or injuries," Adan said. "That is why we do not want to confirm statements that Janjalani is dead."

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin also quoted Manatad as telling him that Janjalani was alive.

"Manatad told me that Khadaffy called at around 4 p.m. last Saturday informing them that he is alive. I don’t know if after 4 p.m. he was killed," Salapuddin told the INQUIRER in a phone interview.

Earlier, Akbar said he had received reports that Janjalani was killed in a clash in Tuburan town after the bandits fled Lamitan on June 2.

"Of course, we need to see the body first. We were planning to unearth the reported burial site. But because of the military operations in the area, we cancelled our plans," Akbar told the INQUIRER. With reports from Rocky Nazareno; Julie Alipala-Inot; AP

Abu letter surfaces amid ransom talks 
Posted: 10:18 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001 By Juliet L. Javellana and Armand N. Nocum
Inquirer News Service
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THE ABU Sayyaf has written a letter saying it "unconditionally" released three hostages in order to reopen talks with government mediators on the fate of its remaining captives, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao said lawyer Francis Ganzon, one of three ex-hostages who walked to freedom over the weekend, hand-delivered the letter, handwritten in English, to President Macapagal-Arroyo on Saturday.

Asked if the Palace was presenting it as proof that no ransom was paid for Ganzon and Uy, Tiglao said: "Take it however you want, it said ‘unconditionally released.’ Ransom would be a condition for release, logically."

According to Tiglao, the letter says "that (the kidnappers) are unconditionally releasing the two hostages as a gesture that they want a reopening of talks," Tiglao said.

Malacañang is treating the letter as "authentic," and taking the "offer to resume talks" seriously, because the letter was sent through the freed captives, he said.

The President has instructed negotiator William Castillo to "relay to the Abu Sayyaf the receipt of the letter and to tell them that Mr. Castillo will be talking to them about this," Tiglao told reporters.

"We have informed them that Mr. Castillo has received the letter and (wants) to talk to them," he said.

The letter merely opened with the salutation “Greetings,” and was signed by an Abu Sayyaf leader whom Tiglao declined to identify.

"The letter wasn’t addressed specifically to the President, who was quite curious," he added.

Tiglao said that letter spoke of the release of two hostages, presumably referring to Ganzon and Kimberly Jao Uy, who both belonged to the original group of captives seized from the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan.


Tiglao said the Abu Sayyaf letter used the word "mediators" when it talked about reopening negotiations.

Early in the crisis, the President appointed Castillo to negotiate with the group, which abducted three Americans and 17 Filipinos from Dos Palmas and later, 15 more plantation workers in Basilan.

Tiglao disclosed the letter when reporters asked him about Castillo’s progress, if any.

Ms Macapagal had called off talks last Tuesday, saying the outlaws’ earlier demand for Malaysian mediators had become "academic" after Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya announced that his group had beheaded Californian Guillermo Sobero.

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‘Losing control’

Senators warned the Macapagal administration that it seemed to be losing control of the hostage crisis judging from reports of ransom being paid by hostages’ families.

In separate interviews, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, head of the Senate panel on national defense and security, and Minority leader Sen. Renato Cayetano, said the government should ensure the implementation of its no-ransom policy.

"A no-ransom policy should not only mean ‘no ransom being paid by the government,’ it should mean ‘no ransom being paid by anyone,’" Biazon said in a telephone interview.

He noted that relatives of the victims would not be able to establish contact with the terrorists if the government were in control of the situation.

"Contact can only be made because the government is not in control," he said.

"I think that the government has lost control over the situation," Biazon added.

Blind eye

But he raised the possibility that the government was merely turning a blind eye to ransom deals in order to lessen the number of hostages.

“There cannot be negotiations that government is not aware of,” he said.

Cayetano agreed that the persistent but unverified reports of ransom payments indicated that the government is “losing the battle” in trying to stick to its no-ransom policy.

He admitted, however, that it was probably impossible for the government to keep hostages’ relatives from paying for the freedom of their loved ones since “the primary interest of the families of the victims is their safety and they will do everything to ensure that.”

Fil-Chinese student kidnapped in UP Diliman Posted: 5:10 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001 By

A FILIPINO-Chinese student and her driver and bodyguard were abducted Monday inside the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Radio and television reports identified the victims as Mary Jane Cheng with her companions Dionesio Busca and a certain ‘Mang Bal’. Mary Jane reportedly is the daughter of businessman Robert Cheng, who heads the RGC Group of Companies, makers of the Uratex brand of foam.

Witnesses told police that the victims were aboard a Mercedes Benz in front of the UP College of Law when two cars, a Mitsubishi Adventure and a Toyota Corolla with unidentified armed men in police uniforms inside, blocked their path.

Four of the armed men then forced the victims into their vehicles and drove off. The victims’ Mercedes Benz was abandoned.

The incident happened at about 7:30 am, reports said. Police are currently investigating the reported kidnapping.


Daughter of Uratexowner kidnappedPosted: 10:38 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001 By Philip Tubeza
Inquirer News Service

ARMED men wearing police uniforms yesterday seized the daughter of a Chinese-Filipino businessman, her driver and a bodyguard at the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

A UP police official said Mary Grace Rosagas, of No. 2 Cayetano St., Ayala Heights, Q.C., was abducted in front of the UP College of Law around 7:30 p.m. while on her way to work at the Uratex Philippines Inc. factory in Project 7.

The UP police official, who requested anonymity, identified the victim as the daughter of businessman Robert Cheng, Uratex owner and noted golf patron.

The official quoted witnesses as saying a white Mitsubishi Adventure van blocked Rosagas' Mercedes Benz sedan (Plate No. TMP 898) on Osmeña Avenue in front of Malcolm Hall.

At the same time, a blue Toyota Corolla car reportedly pulled over behind the Mercedes Benz.
Three men disguised as policemen and armed with Armalite rifles reportedly jumped out of the van and told Rosagas: "Ma’am, kindly get out of the car."

According to the UP police official, the gunmen handcuffed Rosagas, her driver Dionisio Borca and security aide Val Torres, and forced them into the van.

The official said witnesses thought what happened was ``just a routine police operation.’’

A security guard at Malcolm Hall, however, sensed something was amiss when the Mercedes Benz was left unattended for about three hours.

The guard then reported the incident to the UP police at about 10:30 a.m., the official said.

The INQUIRER called up the Uratex factory but a woman who answered the phone said the company had no information to give out to the media. She refused to give her name.

Officials of the Central Police District also declined to give details about the alleged kidnapping.

At least four Singaporeans had been kidnapped in Metro Manila since April.

The latest victim, Roger Yeo Cheow Meng, was kidnapped on June 1 in Muntinlupa City. He was freed on June 9 after his wife paid the kidnappers a ransom of S$300,000 (P8.4 million).

Alarmed by the spate of kidnappings, President Macapagal-Arroyo said last week she would soon form a "superbody" to coordinate the government's drive against kidnap gangs.


Basileños resort to 'hamurabi'Posted: 11:30 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 By Alexander M. Young and Julie Alipala-Inot
Inquirer News Service

ZAMBOANGA CITY--Frustrated at the military’s failure to protect their villages from the Abu Sayyaf scourge, angry Basileños are planning to take things into their own hands.

Mayor Tahira Ismael of Lantawan town said her constituents were doing a hamurabi, a Muslim practice of self-defense, in confronting the hostage-taking bandits.

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life," she said.

Even without being deputized by the government, residents have begun arming themselves and have joined the military in going after the Abu Sayyaf group that attacked their town on June 11.

Ismael said the presence of government soldiers in Tairan, site of more recent clashes, did not seem to bother the Abu Sayyaf. That is why, she said, the residents were taking on the problem themselves.

Ismael said the Abu Sayyaf now controlled almost half of Lantawan’s 35 barangays. Their major strongholds are Barangays Bulanza, Lantawan proper, Baungis, Upper Manggas and Kanibungan.

Based on reports from barangay officials, Ismael said the bandits started to encroach on areas where residents were quite complacent and civilian volunteers or militia forces were not fully armed.

"In our assessment, the bandits have already entered at least 18 barangays. Their area is becoming bigger because of the ransom money paid for the release of the hostages," Ismael said.

The mayor was referring to reports that the families of some of the people seized by another bandit group, led by Abu Sabaya, from the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, had paid ransom for the release of their loved ones.

Ismael said she had received reports that the bandits have penetrated even the island of Lubukan with a number of recruits. The recruits were reportedly given P30,000 each and high-powered firearms.

Col. Alexander Yano, Task Force Zamboanga chief, said that he had received persistent reports of the Abu Sayyaf’s presence in some coastal barangays in Zamboanga City.

Yano said not all of the bandits who have fled to this city were armed. Their errand boys and emissaries dress ordinarily and can easily come and go, he added.

'No comment'

The Radio Mindanao Network has refused to comment on a move by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas to impose a sanction on its local radio station for allegedly allowing the Abu Sayyaf to use its facilities for propaganda.

"No comment," said RMN station manager Rey Bayugin, adding that the RMN’s head office in Manila would be issuing a statement.

He said the radio station was not bothered by negative comments about its airing of statements from Abu Sabaya.

"It hurts, but this is the nature of our work," he said.

Bayugin had earlier stressed that the radio station was merely doing public service and that it had been instrumental in facilitating talks between the bandits and the government.


Gordon pushes RP tourism despite Abu Sayyaf crisisPosted: 11:23 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 By Norman Bordadora
Inquirer News Service

TOURISM Secretary Richard Gordon continued yesterday his hard sell approach to the promotion of Philippine tourism despite the Abu Sayyaf crisis, saying the advisories against traveling to the islands being issued by other countries’ embassies are more political than actual.

In a meeting with foreign travel agents at the Century Park Sheraton in Manila, Gordon said that travel advisories should be read from the political side and not from the business perspective.

"Advisories are drafted by political officers who need to present to the public these 'cover your back' memos because if something happens to the travelers while in other countries, they can say 'we warned them'," Gordon said.

Gordon issued the statement in the wake of the most recent travel advisory issued by the United States advising all its nationals to refrain if possible from traveling throughout the Philippine islands.

"In the case of the Philippines, the travel agents should know more about what's on the ground. You're here. You know that it’s safe here. And I bet you, after this, you will go out into the streets of Manila," Gordon said.

"You know that it is safe in Cebu and in most places in this country," he added.

Gordon advised travel agents never to make decisions based on fear.

"What would the world be if we based our decisions on fear? No one would ride planes because their plane could be hijacked. No one would take subways because there could be killer gas fumes on the air. The world would be poorer if we assess the world on danger," he said.

Abus not part of Tripoli talksPosted: 11:12 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 By TJ Burgonio and Allan A. Nawal
Inquirer News Service
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THE ALLEGED links between the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the extremist Abu Sayyaf will not be on the agenda of the peace talks between the MILF and the government, which start today in Tripoli, Libya.

Secretary Eduardo Ermita, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the government would not raise the issue because it was convinced that the MILF had nothing to do with the bandit group.

"I don’t see how the Abu Sayyaf thing would come in unless somebody would bring up the issue of whether the government believes in the MILF's being involved with the Abu Sayyaf or not. That issue has been raised often enough," Ermita told a press conference before leaving for Tripoli late Monday.

Jesus Dureza, the chair of the negotiating panel, said he had raised the issued officially with the MILF and they had responded with a strong denunciation of the un-Islamic activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

Military allegation

The MILF on Monday threatened to file a formal complaint over the military's allegations that it was aiding the bandits, who are holding 26 hostages seized in two separate incidents from a Palawan resort and from a hospital in Lamitan, Basilan.

The two sides are expected to take up three major issues during three days of preliminary talks: the implementation of previous agreements reached in 1996, pertaining to the cessation of hostilities, ancestral lands and the development of rebel-controlled areas.

The MILF has so far not made any demands for the inclusion of more provinces and cities in a Muslim-led autonomous region nor revived its claim for an independent Islamic state, said Ermita, who met with MILF leaders in Kuala Lumpur on March 24.

Voters' choice
Four predominantly Muslim provinces in Mindanao voted to form themselves into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao following a peace agreement in 1996 between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, the mainstream Muslim insurgency.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF in 1978 and was left out of the peace accord.

Dureza said the government hoped to complete the talks with the MILF in 18 months.

"We're hopeful that it will move fast because the initial agreement that was signed in preparation for this meeting in Tripoli has already opened a lot of opportunities," he said.

Besides, Ermita added, the framework has already been set in place and "all we have to do is work within the framework."

Shifting venues
After the Libyan talks, succeeding talks will be held in "shifting venues" between Tripoli and the capitals of fellow Organization of Islamic Conference members Malaysia and Indonesia, which will act as mediators, said Vice President and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teofisto Guingona Jr. Guingona, who left for Libya on Monday.

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"There are more than 5,000 Filipinos who work and live in Libya and the Philippine government is committed to the protection and the promotion of their welfare," he said.

In an interview in Digos City, Dureza admitted that negotiations alone will not solve the 32-year-old rebellion in the South.

Dureza, who is also presidential assistant for regional concerns in Southern Mindanao, said the government realizes this, which is why it has undertaken economic programs there, particularly in the war-torn regions.

Gov't neglect

"No matter how many negotiations we undertake, there will be no peace if there is no development," Dureza said.

Murad Ebrahim, Al Haj, the MILF’s chief negotiator, also expressed optimism for the success of the talks.

Ebrahim, in an interview from his Kuala Lumpur base, said the feeling that they have been neglected by the government was what fueled the rebellion of the "Bangsamoro."

"If the government can prove its sincerity in uplifting the lives of the Bangsamoro and the resolution of other issues such as land problems, including ancestral domains, then I don't think people would have reasons to rebel," Ebrahim said.

On the question of the MILF's demand for independence, Ebrahim said it also depends on how the government would succeed in addressing major issues.

"If the Bangsamoro would say they are already satisfied with the way government is treating them and that they do not want to secede anymore, then the MILF would have no more reasons to demand for independence. We are just representing the people and we will follow their will," he said.

The MNLF has sent a seven-person delegation to Tripoli.

No visa for Nur

But Dr. Parouk Hussein, MNLF foreign affairs chief, said Nur Misuari, who was recently ousted as chair of the MNLF, was not among those who left for Libya on Monday.

"He was not granted a visa by the Libyan government," Hussein said.

The MNLF earlier called on the government to anchor the peace talks with the MILF on the 1996 peace agreement.

Sema said the government could not afford to forge a separate deal for the MILF while the 1996 agreement that ended the MNLF's decades of rebellion, was in effect.

Dureza has said the government would take into consideration the MNLF's stand in dealing with the MILF.

But Ebrahim said although the MILF respects the 1996 peace agreement, it cannot be possibly made as the basis for the current negotiations.

"We did not approve of it in the past and I don't see any reason why we should honor it now," he said. --With reports from Joselle Badilla

Safe-conduct pass for Abu leader nixedPosted: 11:06 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 Inquirer News Service
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THERE will be no safe-conduct pass for bandit leader Galib Andang alias Commander Robot, whose surrender is being brokered by outgoing Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson.

President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday emphatically corrected a reporter who asked her at her weekly news conference about the status of Singson’s application for a safe-conduct pass for Andang, leader of the Sulu faction of the Abu Sayyaf.

Ms Macapagal said she spoke with Singson the other day and was assured that the governor was not seeking such a pass for Andang.

"No, no, no," she said. "He's not asking for a safe-conduct pass for Robot. I talked to Chavit yesterday. I hope you're wrong and I also hope I was not wrong because Robot will not get a safe-conduct pass."

The bandit leader made international headlines last year for abducting 21 mostly European tourists from the Malaysian island of Sipadan. The hostages were released after payment of ransom amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos.

The President said Singson was applying for a safe-conduct pass for an emissary who was to meet with Andang to set the date and place of his surrender to the government.

She said the military was deliberating on whether such a pass for Singson’s emissary could jeopardize the ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Malacañang officials refused to say who the emissary was, and why he would need a safe-conduct pass.

Rigoberto Tiglao, spokesperson for the President, has confirmed Singson’s statement that, through the governor's efforts, Andang and 17 followers were set to “return to the fold of the law."

But in Cotabato City, Gov. Nur Misuari of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the government should not believe Andang.

"I know Commander Robot, he will not surrender," Misuari said.

Misuari also assailed the government for using ex-rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front in Sulu in the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

"It is not in the 1996 peace agreement that integrees will be used to track down terrorists," he said.

The MNLF, which Misuari chairs, signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996. A provision in the agreement stipulates the integration of some MNLF members into the military and police forces.

Reacting to Andang’s supposed request for a safe-conduct pass as a condition for his surrender, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces said the military wanted to arrest the bandit leader as soon as he turned himself in to government emissaries.

"Commander Robot is a wanted criminal . . . so our position is if he surrenders, he has to answer all charges against him," Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said at a news conference. "We don’t agree that he should roam Metro Manila and the malls. We want to arrest him and have him answer for his crimes."

Adan also said the military was strongly opposed to the grant of amnesty to Andang.

According to Adan, the AFP’s Southern Command can only issue a safe-conduct pass to allow the bandit leader to travel from his base in Talipao, Sulu, to the nearest military camp in the province, where he will be immediately placed under arrest.

"Upon reaching a military camp, Commander Robot must submit himself to the judicial process and face the charges against him,” Adan said.

Andang has been the supposed target of continuing military operations since September last year, when the AFP launched an all-out campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

Asked why the military could not arrest him and do away with negotiations for his surrender, Adan said: "That’s what we're trying to do."

Adan noted that while the military knew Andang's location, government forces had so far failed to bag him.

The President has authorized Southcom chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling to deal with the terms of Andang’s supposed plan to surrender.

Adan said Camiling was "only agreeing to issue a safe-conduct pass to ensure (Andang's) safety from his base to a military camp so he won't be intercepted by the military and police."

"Commander Robot must answer for his crimes last year," Adan said, referring to the Sipadan abductions.

There is a P5-million bounty for Andang, like other ranking Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sulu and Basilan.

"In the interest of justice, he must not be allowed to go lightly," Adan said. "He will be detained."

Adan said the bandit leader was planning to make use of the millions of pesos he earned in ransom payments to fend off legal prosecution. Reports from Juliet L. Javellana, Carlito Pablo, Dona Pazzibugan and Edwin O. Fernandez

Gloria: Perez can't serve as negotiatorPosted: 11:47 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 By Juliet L. Javellana and Carlito Pablo
Inquirer News Service
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PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo has rejected a proposal by the Abu Sayyaf that Justice Secretary Hernando Perez be sent to negotiate for the release of its American and Filipino hostages.

"It's a policy of the government that a Cabinet member should not be a negotiator, and I agree with the President," Perez told reporters yesterday, after a Cabinet meeting where a purported letter from the Abu Sayyaf was discussed.

The President herself refused to comment on the government’s response to the supposed letter delivered to her Saturday by ex-hostage Francis Ganzon.

"I'm not replying through the media. Negotiations should not be done through the media. Nothing through the media," said the President, who had earlier sought a news blackout on the government's operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Perez said he was willing to talk to the Abu Sayyaf only if Ms Macapagal authorized him to.

He said the President and the Cabinet deemed the act of sending a Cabinet official to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf as "glorifying" the bandit group.

"It can be handled by those in the lower Cabinet level," he said, adding that the Abu Sayyaf would have to deal with William Castillo, the government-designated negotiator.

Ms Macapagal's spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao announced Monday that the Abu Sayyaf had sent a letter through Ganzon.

The letter supposedly stated that the Abu Sayyaf released Ganzon and hostage Kimberly Jao Uy "unconditionally," but that there should be a “reopening of talks” with the government through Perez.

It was supposedly written by Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafy Janjalani on June 14, two days after the group’s spokesperson Abu Sabaya announced through the Radio Mindanao Network that American hostage Guillermo Sobero had been beheaded as an "Independence Day gift" to the President.

But National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said it could not be confirmed if Janjalani had indeed written the letter.

Asked if the government's rejection of the request could jeopardize the lives of the remaining hostages, Perez said: "It's a position that the government has taken. Aside from that, I have no training whatsoever as a negotiator."

Later in an ambush interview, he said he could not say why the Abu Sayyaf asked for him in particular.

"I was probably selected because of my high profile," he told reporters with a smile.

The President yesterday named Perez head of the National Anti-Crime Council. With reports from Norman Bordadora, Cathy C. Yamsuan, AFP


Ex-senator blames Reds for Plaza Miranda blastPosted: 11:07 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001By Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Juliet Javellana
Inquirer News Service
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ANOTHER survivor of the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing, former Sen. Eva Estrada Kalaw, believes that communist leader Jose Ma. Sison--not the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos--was behind the attack on opposition candidates.

Kalaw yesterday told the INQUIRER that she based her conclusion on a "written statement" from one of the alleged attackers, which she had kept for the last 15 years.

She withheld the man’s identity, but said the attacker had confessed that Sison was the "mastermind" behind the bombing of the proclamation rally of Liberal Party senatorial candidates at Plaza Miranda on Aug. 21, 1971.

Kalaw made the disclosure when asked to comment on the revelations made by fellow Plaza Miranda survivor, former Senate President Jovito Salonga, in his new book.

In his book, Salonga said Sison and a handful of top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leaders ordered the bombing in order to push the moderates into joining the communist insurgents.

Salonga, citing three sources, said that Sison ordered NPA fighter Danny Cordero and two accomplices to throw two grenades at the LP rally.

Salonga did not mention that there was a third grenade.

Nine people died and scores of Marcos opponents were seriously wounded, among them Salonga who still bears grenade shrapnel in his body. But Sison yesterday turned the tables on Salonga.

Sison accused Salonga of receiving money from the Marcoses in exchange for naming him as the brains behind the bombing.

Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), said Salonga’s charges were false.

"Is the money of the Marcoses irresistible to the Salongas? Or is it the lucrative encouragement of the United States, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency?"

No longer angry

Like Salonga, Kalaw said she was not angry with Sison for ordering the attack, which also nearly killed herself and her son.

Like most people at the time, Kalaw initially blamed Marcos.

But she said she eventually believed Marcos’ claim of innocence after attending a party "about 15 years ago" when she met a man who introduced himself to be among the supposed grenade throwers.

"One day I was in a party given by Captain Robles. There was somebody who approached me. And he said 'I was one of those about to throw the third bomb.' And I said, `why tell me?'. . . He said `the first one who threw the bomb had been killed. The second one who threw the second bomb had also been eliminated. And I'm probably the next in line that’s why I’m telling you this: It was really the Left and it is Joma Sison who was the mastermind,’" Kalaw said.
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Kalaw said the man told her that he did not lob the grenade because of the chaos after the two explosions.

The former senator said she did not know if the man was still alive. But she said that the man gave her a handwritten statement confessing to his participation.

"I did not ask him (if he was a New People’s Army fighter). He must be. I did not ask him questions. I was in a party. But the paper he gave me was in Tagalog. I have to be very careful about it," Kalaw went on.

She refused to identify the man, saying she did not have his permission to reveal his name.

Asked if she believed his claim, Kalaw said, "I did. I never knew him. He asked my host to present him to me."

She said she was still waiting for the "right time" to disclose the man’s identity and his statement.


From Utrecht, Sison said Salonga was not only trying to "assassinate my personal character" but was also engaging in discrediting the revolutionary movement.

Sison said Salonga was reviving the "hearsay and speculations" of Gregg Jones, whom he described as a CIA hack.

Salonga quoted extensively from the book "The Red Revolution" authored by Jones, who was a Washington Post correspondent.

Sison questioned Salonga's motive by saying that the former Senate President had ignored the resolution dated March 2, 1994 of the City Prosecutor’s Office of Manila absolving him and others accused of the Plaza Miranda bombing.

Sison said the resolution declared that "the supposed participation of the respondents (Sison et al.) as planners or masterminds was sheer speculation’’ and that to indict them ``based solely on the submitted sworn statements is tantamount to a hasty, malicious and oppressive prosecution."

Sison quoted the resolution from a statement of Romeo Capulong, his lawyer in the Plaza Miranda case, dated June 29, 1998, to counter what he described as ``repeated attempts to recycle the baseless charge’’ against him.

Sison said that on April 20, 1998, then Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III issued a certification stating that the Plaza Miranda case against him had been dismissed and that there was no pending criminal charge against him in 1998.

It was the year Sison was supposed to return to the Philippines for the signing of an agreement on human rights and international humanitarian laws.

Bello is now chair of the government panel, which withdrew from last week’s peace negotiations with the NDF in Oslo, Norway, to protest the NPA assassination of Cagayan Rep. Rodolfo Aguinaldo.

"What could be the reason of (Salonga) for ignoring the resolution of the City Prosecutor’s Office of Manila, rehashing his discredited claims against me and trying in vain to exculpate Marcos from criminal responsibility for the Plaza Miranda bombing and the 14 years of fascist dictatorship?" Sison said.
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He said it was "utterly irresponsible" for Salonga to continue blaming him for the bombing after he succeeded in proving his innocence.

Malacañang itself is not interested in reviving the Plaza Miranda case against Sison.

Won't affect talks

"I think our chair of the (peace) panel has already said that it doesn’t affect the peace talks because there are no preconditions and (Justice Secretary Hernando) Perez and other lawyers say the prescription period has already ended," President Macapagal-Arroyo said in a news conference.

The President said the problem posed by Salonga’s charge on the peace talks would be reported to the Cabinet oversight committee on internal security that she created yesterday.

Tarlac Gov. Jose Yap, adviser to the government panel and personal emissary of then President Fidel Ramos to the NDF, said the peace negotiations would continue as soon as the government panel received Ms Macapagal’s instructions.

Perez explained that Sison could no longer be charged with the crime because the 20-year prescription period for the filing of charges had lapsed.

"Second, Sison had already been charged and he had been acquitted before. Therefore the principle of double jeopardy will set in. He cannot be charged again with the same crime," Perez said.

Perez slammed

A group of lawyers accused Perez of "virtually assuming the role of defense counsel" for Sison.

Quoting the Revised Penal Code, Argee Guevarra, spokesperson of the All Reform Movement of Lawyers, said the period of prescription "shall commence from the day the crime is discovered by the offended party, the authorities, or their agents."

Guevarra advised Perez to read Article 91 of the Revised Penal Code.

It states that the prescriptive period "shall be interrupted by the filing of the complaint or information, and shall commence to run again when such proceedings terminate without the accused being convicted or acquitted, or are unjustifiably stopped for any reason not imputed to him."

"The term of prescription shall not run when the offender is absent from the Philippine archipelago," the law said.

Guevarra said that from the foregoing Perez’s opinion on the Plaza Miranda case had no legal basis.
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Enrile’s emissaries

Kalaw also said that she believed Marcos' former defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile, when he assured her through emissaries that the Left, and not Marcos, had ordered the attack.

"I cannot say that it's Joma (Sison’s nickname) because I don’t have any direct knowledge myself. But I do know this is a technique of the Left. They ride on the opposition and at the right time, they will eliminate the opposition and take over. This is a typical Left, communist technique," she said.

Kalaw said she had not read Salongas book although she said that she agreed with his conclusion.

"Well if he knows and he has facts. That's it. But I have been informed by the third bomb thrower that it was Joma," she said.

Kalaw paused for a few seconds when asked if she had forgiven Sison.

"If it is forgiving it is personal because it's person-to-person. We're Christians. But if it's involving our country I don’t think the communists should take over,’’ she said.

Kalaw said she had accepted what happened without animosity.

"I'm not angry. If I'm angry at all it's because they (communists) are using the opposition to take over. That's what I'm angry about. But angry for (getting hurt) myself? That's part of the game. There were more people who were more hurt than I was.

Peasant group
"It happened. You cannot regret it, you cannot accept it. It's a fact. It's there. We got hurt but we won because of it. It was a landslide. We didn't think we had a chance at the time. Marcos was going to win that election," she said.

A peasant group in Southern Tagalog does not share Kalaw and Salonga’s position on the bombing.

"Salonga's allegations are plain propaganda to depict Sison and his followers as plain bandits and terrorists. This is to project the image of Sison throughout the world as one incapable of leading genuine efforts for social transformation," said Orly Marcellana, secretary general of the militant Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan.

The peasant leader maintained that there was no doubt that it was Marcos who masterminded the bombing of Plaza Miranda.

"Because they could not pin Marcos after so many years, they now turn to Sison," he said. --With a report from Romulo O. Ponte


Macapagal sees sinister plot in kidnappingsPosted: 11:16 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001 By Martin P. Marfil
Inquirer News Service
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PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday said a series of abductions in Metro Manila appeared to be the handiwork of political enemies out to destabilize the country.

The President spoke of a conspiracy against her administration following the brief abduction of a daughter of a Chinese-Filipino businessman.

Mary Grace Rosagas turned up at her home in Ayala Heights, Quezon City, before dawn on Tuesday -- 17 hours after she, her driver and a bodyguard were abducted by men wearing police uniforms at the nearby University of the Philippines campus in Diliman.

Her family, however, would not talk to the police or the press. Rosagas is the daughter of Robert Cheng, owner of Uratex Philippines Inc. and noted golf patron.

The abduction "could be part of a sinister plot to destabilize my government," Ms Macapagal told a news conference in Malacañang.

"It appears that they (abductors) were not after ransom, they just want to make the impression that kidnapping is widespread in Manila."

Local tourism is already reeling from the activities of the Abu Sayyaf, a group of Moro bandits who seized 20 people, including three Americans, from an upscale Palawan resort last month. The bandits claimed to have executed one American hostage.

The peso fell to a month low of 52.35 to the US dollar on Tuesday and the stock market dropped 1.5 percent partly in reaction to the kidnappings.

Ms Macapagal said she had received ``very disturbing’’ reports about the identity of the group that abducted Rosagas.

"I am ordering the Philippine National Police to go after the leader of this (group) and intensify the campaign against kidnapping,’’ Ms Macapagal said without naming her suspects.

Senior Supt. Rodolfo Tor, director of the Central Police District, said the family of Rosagas refused to give details about how she was released.

An INQUIRER source at the CPD, however, said there seemed to be "a cover-up" on the part of Rosagas’ family.

"They are now making it appear that there was no kidnapping at all. The kidnappers must have frightened the family," he added.

According to the source, the family cooperated with the police after Rosagas was abducted in front of the UP College of Law on Osmeña Avenue about 7:30 a.m. on Monday.

A white Mitsubishi Adventure van blocked Rosagas' red Mercedes Benz sedan while a blue Toyota Corolla car pulled over behind.

Three men in police uniforms and armed with Armalite rifles handcuffed Rosagas, her driver and a bodyguard and forced them into the van.

Interior Secretary Jose Lina said Rosagas was returned to her family about 1 a.m. Monday.

:This is a different kind of kidnapping. It's so fast . . . Usually, it takes time (to work out the release of a victim). So there’s more than meets the eye," Lina said.

"We are trying to establish if this is really a kidnapping incident or part and parcel of an overall grand design to destabilize the government," Lina told the same news conference.

"It is unfortunate that there are destabilizers out there who want to see our government embarrassed," he added.

Lina declined to name the leader of the kidnap group, but he described him as "a member of the opposition who had links to the previous administration.

Lina noted that Robert Cheng was "a close friend and financier of this opposition leader who provided him with security for a long time."

"Definitely, the person is from the opposition. We will unmask him and tell the world who he is as soon as we have the evidence," he said.

During the news conference, Ms Macapagal said she would be signing in a few days an executive order creating the National Anti-Crime Council to be headed by Justice Secretary Hernando Perez.

"Its basic purpose is coordination of intelligence and operations in support of our anti-crime, anti-terrorist policy," she said.

The council will be made up of representatives of the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Governments, and the Department of National Defense.

Leaders of the Chinese-Filipino and Muslim communities as well as officers of non-government organizations will also be invited to join the council.

Last week, police admitted that Singaporean businessmen had also become prime targets for kidnappers in Metro Manila.

According to reports, four Singaporeans have been abducted since April. But details of the abductions were made known only when the wife of businessman Roger Yeo Cheow Meng admitted to having paid his kidnappers S$300,000 (P8.4 million) in ransom money. He was held in captivity for nine days while his kidnappers negotiated with his wife through the telephone.

The Macapagal administration has made it a policy not to negotiate with kidnappers or pay them ransom, even as it admits that it is powerless to prevent families of kidnap victims from complying.With reports from Philip Tubeza and AFP

Price tags placed on Abu hostages
Posted: 11:13 PM (Manila Time) | June 19, 2001By Arlyn dela Cruz
Inquirer News Service
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"MAGKANO ang kaya ninyo (How much can you afford)?"

One after the other, Abu Sayyaf leader Abu Solaiman asked the hostages at the height of the firefight between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan, Basilan, three weeks ago.

Solaiman was killed in that Lamitan encounter. But that was not the end of the ransom negotiation. The Abu Sayyaf Group’s (ASG) spokesperson, Abu Sabaya, took over.

When Solaiman was trying to find out the price tags for each hostage, everyone responded by bargaining. Except for one. Lalaine Chua, 15. She was one of the youngest among the hostages and the only one who had no relative among the kidnapped victims.

This story was narrated by one of the Dos Palmas hostages released by the Abu Sayyaf. Both the government and the Abu Sayyaf are denying negotiations are going on for the payment of ransom. But relatives of the freed hostages told this reporter in an exclusive interview that they indeed had paid ransom.

The Abu Sayyaf, they said, is expected to release more hostages this week.

The INQUIRER cannot identity its sources for security reasons and the safety of the others still being held by the Abu Sayyaf.

But the relatives of the victims talked freely about how they paid the ransom.

The negotiations went fast. First, they received a direct call from the satellite phone of Abu Sabaya. They were allowed to talk to their respective relatives.

The hostages had been divided into two groups, according to one relative of a kidnap victim. Relatives were separated one from the other. One group was either allowed to escape or were freed to arrange ransom payments. So, when a number of hostages escaped from one group, their relatives were with another group. This way the bandits were assured of payment not only for the freed or escaped hostages but also for their relatives still in captivity.

For instance, Teresa Ganzon was freed June 3 but her husband remained with another group. So was Letty Jao freed but not her daughter Kimberly who was with another group.

Romero telling truth

Reghis Romero of R-II Builders, the first to be free, told the truth when he said he had escaped. He had bargained with the bandits to reduce the ransom from P5 million to P3 million for him and Maria Rhiza Santos Rodriguez.

Romero really did escape not only with Rodriguez but also with the young boy, RJ Recio.

It is as Romero told it. He stayed in one of the rooms of the hospital and took one of the hospital pajamas and wore it pretending to be one of the patients in the hospital.

Even as he was safely home, Romero had no choice but to honor his commitment to pay up, according to the other relatives. Because Romero and other escapees had been warned, according to the INQUIRER sources, that they would be abducted again by the ASG urban forces in Metro Manila should they fail to deliver the agreed amount.

The source added that Romero was also worried about the lives of the remaining hostages if he would not make good his promise to pay.

Janice Go, who was among those who managed to escape, is still being asked to pay P500,000 even if she’s already in Manila.

Another hostage, Luis Bautista III, who is still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, is also being asked to pay P500,000. Go and Bautista’s relatives are trying to haggle for a 50-percent discount or, just P500,000 for the two of them.

Relatives of the victims say they understand the stand of the government neither confirming nor denying that ransom has been paid.

They say it's a state policy that must be respected. But because the safety of their loved ones is at stake while military operations intensify, they are left with no choice but to directly negotiate with the kidnappers.

Talk of the town

There is however another version of the Romero ransom payment, according to two local officials in Basilan who also refused to be named.

According to them, Romero actually paid P24 million. But they said the full amount did not go direct to the Abu Sayyaf but to other influential figures in the province.

Of the P24 million, P10 million allegedly went to a top local official; another P10 million went to the ASG. The balance of P4 million allegedly went to a military official in Mindanao.

This version is the talk of the town especially in the Lamitan area where the ASG managed to stage their escape amid a so-called "full military cordon"

According to the source, Romero and the other relatives of the freed hostages tapped a conduit who worked for former negotiator of the Sipadan hostages and ex-Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects Robert Aventajado.

That "conduit," according to the source, was Stef Sanio. The INQUIRER named him on Tuesday as the courier of ransom payments between the relatives of the victims and their captors. The PDI Mindanao Bureau also named him, along with someone named Jorge, as the courier for the Uy family for the release on Saturday of their daughter, Kimberly.
Families’ meeting

According to one relative, after Romero's escape on June 3, a meeting among the families of the victims took place.

In that meeting, aside from the P3 million from Romero, the families also raised P4.7 million for the release of Kimberly Jao, Francis Ganzon and Lalaine Chua. The Jao family is engaged in several business ventures while Ganzon owns 11 rural banks in Batangas.

Patrick Jao, father of Kimberly, and representatives of the other relatives brought the ransom money to Zamboanga. They were reportedly met at the airport by Stef and Jorge and brought to a hotel in Zamboanga City. There the money was forwarded to a lady conduit of the ASG. The conduit reportedly did not accept the P4.7 million at once because it was not the amount agreed upon.

The relatives of the victims borrowed an additional P300,000 from Chinese businessmen in Zamboanga City to complete the P5-million ransom.

Then came the phone call from Sabaya to the conduit’s cellular phone to confirm that payment had been made.

The same day, P5 million in cash was delivered to the hideout of the Abu Sayyaf somewhere in the mountains of Basilan.

Two days later, the Abu Sayyaf released Ganzon and Jao. But Chua was left behind. The ASG demanded the highest ransom from the Chua family for the release of Lalaine.

But her family, according to the INQUIRER sources, was only able to raise P1.5 million from the contribution of other members of the Chua family.

The conduit told the family that the Abu Sayyaf had rejected the amount.

Only P10 million will do, the ASG told the Chuas as narrated by an INQUIRER source privy to the negotiations.

A source close to the Chua family suspects that more is demanded of them as Lalaine is the only one without a relative among the hostages.

The INQUIRER source insisted the family could barely raise the P1.5 million. What more the amount of P10 million?
Is she or isn’t she?

Earlier INQUIRER reports identified Basilan Provincial Health Officer Dr. Huda Lim as the "conduit" for payments to the Abu Sayyaf.

Lim has denied involvement saying she was busy attending to her duties as health officer and in managing her English and Arabic school for elementary pupils in Isabela, Basilan.

Lim is perceived to have close ties with the Abu Sayyaf because she had been tapped last year to check on the condition of the hostages in Sulu and Basilan. But Lim said she was only performing her job, no more no less.

But there was one curious detail.

Both the conduits for the families of the victims and the Abu Sayyaf reportedly asked for an additional P1 million on June 15.

It was also the day the INQUIRER published a story on the release of two hostages. But the hostages, Ganzon and Uy, showed up only two days later. Another source confirmed only P5 million went to the ASG. The conduits may have waited to receive the P1 million before delivering the ransom money to the ASG.

The question is: Who got the P1 million?

The conduits both for the kidnappers and the relatives are also asking P10 million for mobilization expenses.


Gloria forays into bandits’strongholdPosted: 10:27 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001By Alexander M. Young and Julie Alipala-Inot
Inquirer News Service
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ZAMBOANGA CITY--Defying the advice of her officials, President Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday flew to the Abu Sayyaf heartland and announced that the government would not ease up on its pursuit of the bandit group.

She visited Lamitan in Basilan, site of the bandit attack on June 2, to inspect the damage done to the St. Peter’s Parish Church and the Dr. Jose Maria Torres Foundation Hospital.

Welcomed by a throng of residents, she distributed scholarship grants, medicines, equipment and financial help amounting to some P50 million.

She hugged a weeping Tarsila Malonzo, mother of a nurse kidnapped from the hospital, and said the government was doing everything possible to get Malonzo’s daughter back alive.

"I know we are not capable of immediately bringing back the atmosphere of peace and calm that has been shattered here," she told residents during the two-hour visit. "I ask for sacrifice and apologize."

Later, speaking before reporters at the Mansion House of the Armed Forces’ Southern Command in this city, the President summed up the "effectiveness of the unceasing military operations and the no-ransom policy of the government."

She said key population centers in Basilan--Lamitan, Tuburan, Tipo-Tipo, Lantawan and Maluso--had been secured and the positions of the Abu Sayyaf pinpointed despite the vast terrain.

"We shall keep the strategy of continuous pressure," she declared. "We shall not surrender the combat initiative to the enemy."

Ms Macapagal said the position of the government could not be compromised despite attempts of the Abu Sayyaf to negotiate by promising the release of more hostages.

She was referring to a letter delivered to her Saturday by freed hostage Francis Ganzon, the contents of which Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya reiterated in another call to Radio Mindanao Network yesterday afternoon.

"We shall not relax our guard," Ms Macapagal said, adding that the government had the support of the international community.

"I have to do what I have to do, and operations must continue," she said.

She noted that negotiations for ransom would only bring about "the Sipadan syndrome"--a reference to last year’s hostage crisis wherein the Abu Sayyaf received hundreds of millions of pesos in exchange for the release of mostly European tourists abducted from a Malaysian island.

The President later flew to Puerto Princesa City, where she said the May 27 kidnappings at the Dos Palmas resort underscored the need for the modernization of the Armed Forces.

"One reason the bandits were not caught immediately after the abductions is the ships of the Philippine Navy are already old. If the bandits have a boat that runs 40 knots, our boats run only 18 knots. Do you know that those vessels (date back to) the term of my father (President Diosdado Macapagal)?"

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Earlier, the President visited the Southcom hospital to meet with soldiers and civilian volunteers wounded during the military operations in Basilan and Sulu. 

She distributed medals and citations to the soldiers who occupied two wards of the hospital, including the intensive care unit.

There was a fiesta-like atmosphere in Lamitan, where the President, accompanied by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and officials including Interior Secretary Joey Lina, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, was welcomed by Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar and Mayor Inocente Ramos.

She met with local officials and military and police commanders, and handed a P2-million check to parish priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda for the rehabilitation of the bullet-riddled church.

Ms Macapagal then proceeded to the Lamitan Claret Elementary School to present scholarship grants and financial help to victims of the siege and their relatives.

In a speech, she extolled the bravery of the soldiers and civilians of Lamitan, promised justice for all the victims of the siege, and said the government would not stop in its efforts to rehabilitate the town and the whole of Basilan.

The President then had a closed-door meeting with the Basilan Crisis Management Committee headed by Akbar.

No ransom

In Zamboanga, the President denied that ransom was paid for the release of hostages Ganzon and Kimberly Jao Uy. 

She said she had not received reports that the hostages’ relatives were secretly negotiating with the bandits.

"We don’t know that for a fact. We discourage them, and we’ll not support their efforts," she said.

She dismissed reports that the military "allowed" the Abu Sayyaf bandits to escape the military cordon in Lamitan, and denied that the military withdrew the troops instead of engaging the bandits in battle.

"These are rumors," she said, adding that the military would investigate the matter.

"As in any operation, there is a post-mortem assessment of what happened. Of course they will look into it," she said.

The President said she had directed AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Diomedio Villanueva to relentlessly pursue the bandit group.

Villanueva himself said the military had an "an adequate force to combat the extremists."

Ms Macapagal also said the government had sufficient funds for the war effort in Basilan and Sulu. But she refused to give figures.
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In Puerto Princesa, the President said it was time to implement the AFP’s modernization program, "so that things like this do not happen again."

She met with the families of Armando Bayona and Sonny Dacquer, security guard and cook at Dos Palmas, whom the bandits had killed.

She also made sure that Dos Palmas would employ Jovelyn, Dacquer’s pregnant wife, as part of the resort’s help to the families of the victims.

In a speech before more than 1,000 residents, Ms Macapagal
noted that "it is not only the people that the Abu Sayyaf has taken hostage, but Palawan’s tourism as well."


In his call to RMN, Sabaya asked for Justice Secretary Hernando Perez to serve as a negotiator and for the government to call off the military operations. 

The proposal was apparently included in the letter that Ganzon delivered to Ms Macapagal, but her spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao said the letter included other names.

"We agree to renegotiate the release of the hostages," Sabaya told RMN in Taglish. "Perhaps it’s not too late. There are still many lives that the government has to save."

He added: "If Nani Perez joins the talks--of course, with the stopping of the military operations, for after all, how can Nani Perez enter with the military there?--we promise to release some of the hostages."

Perez told RMN that he would consult with Ms Macapagal and that he did not know why Sabaya specified him.

"I was really surprised by the request," he said. "I don’t know whether the President will agree."

Asked if he was ready to negotiate, Perez said: "Yes, with permission from the President." But he said he wanted to speak with the Abu Sayyaf personally, and not by phone. --With reports from Geraldford P. Ticke; AP


Tourism takes another blow as Zambales tourists panicPosted: 9:17 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001By Rocky Nazareno
Inquirer News Service
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THE TOURISM department yesterday expressed concern over the alleged "gestapo-like" incident at the shoreline of Bgy. Lipay Dingin in Iba, Zambales, on June 10 that prompted panic-stricken tourists in at least five beach resorts to leave.

``We are concerned because how can you explain to the tourists why this had to happen?’’ said Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab after holding a dialogue with the resort owners yesterday.

Palabyab said the department was just waiting for the resort owners to file a formal complaint against Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay, after which they and the interior department would take proper action.

``I advised them to file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman if necessary,’’ he said.

Palabyab said that the country, already suffering from the negative fall-out of the Dos Palmas hostage-taking incident, did not need another blot on its tourism industry.

``Imagine, bulldozers moving gestapo-like to demolish the walls (of the resorts) in front of tourists?’’ he said.

About 250 tourists were thrown into panic when armed men escorted a demolition crew and proceeded to tear down the walls of resorts and residences in the beachfront property last June 12.

The group went on to barricade the area but not until after five busloads of tourists had left.

Tension continued to run high in the barangay yesterday as the demolition crew from Jessmag Inc. started tearing down with a bulldozer the Maligaya beach resort. The Sapphire, Villa San Miguel, Rose Ann and VV Goldren beach resorts would be next.

Apparently, the media attention focused on the story of the alleged land grab has sent Jessmag into a demolition frenzy.

"(Governor Magsaysay) was fuming mad that the land grab was exposed in media. Now they’re rushing the demolition of our properties to preempt any action that could be taken by the Department of Tourism or the Department of Interior and Local Governments,’’ said one of the resort owners.


Who’s Stef Saño?Posted: 11:02 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001By Carlito Pablo, Juliet Javellana and Volt Contreras
Inquirer News Service
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STEF SAÑO, the alleged "courier" of the Uy family.

IS THE administration using the people of former Estrada official Robert Aventajado to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of the Dos Palmas hostages? And is ransom once again being paid to the bandits?

These questions cropped up after Stef Saño, an associate of Aventajado, appeared in the INQUIRER'S banner photo on Sunday with two of the recently freed Dos Palmas hostages, 50-year-old Francis Ganzon and teener Kimberly Jao Uy.

Saño, who was at the extreme right of the photo, was not named in the caption.

Yesterday, Stef was mentioned in the INQUIRER’S banner story as the alleged "courier," of the Uy family along with someone named Jorge, of the P5 million paid for the release of Uy. Stef and Jorge were described in the report of the PDI Mindanao Bureau as having come from Camp Crame, the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

In a phone interview, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said Saño was in the waiting area of the Villamor Air Base when the plane carrying Ganzon and Uy arrived at 5:25 p.m. last Saturday.

With Ganzon and Uy was Ustadz Muhaymin Sahi Latip, a Muslim who tried to negotiate for the release of the hostages but was in turn taken captive himself.

"He had been there for about 30 minutes before the plane landed,” Golez said of Saño.

Golez, however, said he was not sure whether Saño was there for either the Ganzon or Uy family.

Saño was seen in a "huddle" with Teresa Ganzon, wife of the hostage, at the time the plane landed at the air base.

Last year, about $21 million changed hands during the Sipadan hostage crisis in which Aventajado, then flagship projects adviser to then President Joseph Estrada, served as the chief government negotiator with the Abu Sayyaf.

Before Uy and Ganzon’s release, there had been reports that ransom money was paid in exchange for the freedom of the hostages who were able to "escape." Among them were construction magnate Reghis Romero II, his female companion and 9-year-old RJ Recio.

Saño yesterday denied that he was involved in the release of the hostages or the payment of ransom.

"Why am I being dragged into this," Saño said when reached by the INQUIRER for comment.

He said he was being linked to the rumors of ransom payments because of his previous connection with Aventajado.

Saño admitted he worked for Aventajado’s party-list group Bagong Bayani but this was after the Sipadan hostage crisis.

Bagong Bayani, which represents overseas contract workers, received enough votes in the May 14 elections, giving Aventajado a seat in the House of Representatives. As of press time, Aventajado could not be reached for comment.

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Bantay OCW anchor

Saño, the anchor of "Bantay OCW," which airs from 12 noon to 2 p.m. over RMN Manila every day, said he had nothing to do with the Sipadan negotiations either.

"Yes, I worked as consultant but I was never on his (Aventajado) payroll. I have no involvement in the Sipadan (case) or this one. Totally zero. I was never involved," Saño said.

"Some people are merely making one-plus-one speculations here," Saño said.

During the Estrada administration, Saño was a member of the board of directors of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Miriam and Bongbong staff

Saño reportedly played a significant role in the near victory of Miriam Defensor Santiago in the 1992 presidential elections.

In the 1995 elections, Saño worked for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. who ran for senator but lost.

Saño had also worked sometime in the 1980s at the Bureau of Customs where he was associated with Jorge Baviera. Saño and Baviera were known as activists during the Marcos regime.

It was not clear whether Jorge Baviera is the same Jorge who allegedly acted as "courier."

Not government negotiator

Golez stressed that Saño was not acting as a government-sanctioned negotiator.

"I should know," Golez said when pressed to elaborate.

Golez said that while he was familiar with the name of Saño as the latter was involved in several "projects," the national security adviser was not aware that Saño was an associate of Aventajado.

Asked if P5 million was indeed paid for Uy's release, Golez said: "I don't know about that."

Saño said he was at Villamor only to meet Rey Bayoging, station manager of RMN Zamboanga (dxRZ), upon instructions of RMN assistant vice president Bobby Ante.

Saño explained that Bayoging had informed RMN Manila that he was on the plane carrying the freed hostages to Manila for their meeting with the President and that he wanted someone to guide him in Manila.

"I was looking for him but I could not find him. It turned out that he was left behind inside the plane after the hostages had deplaned," Saño said.

The plane was dispatched by the President to fetch the freed hostages.

Saño and Ante both said in separate interviews that they did not know why Bayoging was on the plane.

"That is what I do not know," Saño said. But he noted that Bayoging was the one who interviewed Ganzon.

"I have no (information) why he (Bayoging) was there. I was surprised myself," Ante said.

Presidential spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao noted that Bayoging and former broadcaster Dodi Lacuna were on the plane.

Malacañang had disapproved of RMN’s exclusive interviews with Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya.

But Ante defended Bayoging, saying he was just doing his job as a media man.

Tiglao did not offer an explanation for the presence of Saño at the Villamor Air Base.

Tiglao said Malacañang had no information about private individuals who were involved in the release of Uy, Ganzon and Latip.

"We cannot verify (this). The intelligence services are of course trying to verify . . . We have to emphasize we do not cooperate nor condone efforts of private individuals to mediate," Tiglao said.

He stressed that the government was not sanctioning negotiations for the release of the hostages in exchange for ransom.

In a briefing, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the military was not aware of any ransom payments paid for either Ganzon or Uy.

"We don’t know anything about the conditions for their release," said Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan.

Adan, however, said they believed that Ganzon was released so that he could air a message from Sabaya. ;

Adan noted that Ganzon had spoken over RMN to announce that the bandits were willing to release the remaining hostages if the government allowed two Malaysian negotiators to talk to them.


P5-M ransom paid for teenage hostage
Posted: 10:40 PM (Manila Time) | June 17, 2001By Julie Alipala-Inot and Alexander M. Young
Inquirer News Service
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ISABELA CITY--A P5-million ransom was paid in exchange for the freedom of 15-year-old Kimberly Jao Uy, according to a source who claims to be the "go-between" of the Abu Sayyaf and the victim’s family.

This came as Francis Ganzon, who was released along with Uy on Saturday, claimed that one of the bandit group's leaders, Khadaffy Janjalani, was still alive.

In a recorded interview with Radio Mindanao Network on Saturday, Ganzon answered "Yes!" when asked if Janjalani was still alive.

Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar had earlier announced that Janjalani was killed in an encounter either in the towns of Lamitan or Tuburan last week.

The "go-between" said he was contacted by Uy’s family to deliver the P5 million, "but it was Dr. Huda Lim who intercepted the money at the Zamboanga Airport last Friday, June 8 at around 7 a.m."

Lim, a physician of the Philippine National Red Cross here, has denied that she negotiated for the payment of ransom for the release of two hostages.

A military official had earlier claimed that Lim had negotiated for the release of the two hostages.

The "go-between" yesterday identified the "couriers" of Uy’s ransom money as "Step and Jorge who both come from (Camp) Crame." Camp Crame is the main headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

The source, a known local leader, said Lim allegedly delivered the money to an undisclosed place in Basilan on June 10.

"(Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Ahmad alias Abu) Sabaya called me last Monday night (June 11) to inform me that the release was postponed because Kimberly had to be with a companion. But he confirmed he had received the ransom," the source added.

Officials said Ganzon, 50, and two other hostages--Uy and a local Muslim preacher--were freed four days ago but had to hike through the jungles for two days before reaching the provincial capital on Saturday.

The release of Ganzon and the girl brought to 11 the number of the freed hostages out of the original 20, including three Americans, who were seized from the Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan.

Nine were later freed and two were killed as President Macapagal-Arroyo sent at least 5,000 troops to hunt the bandits.

The Abu Sayyaf has since snatched four hospital staff members and 15 plantation workers in two raids in Basilan. The military says the bandits intend to use their captives as human shields.

Governor Akbar said the ransom payment had resulted in the swelling of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan.

Sayyaf base

"At first, there were 50 to 60 of them. Now, they are more than 300 men with high-powered firearms," Akbar said.

He disclosed that the bandits had established "contacts" in almost all the seven towns of the province.

Basilan’s prelature administrator Fr. Martin Jumoad also condemned the reported payment of ransom.

Jumoad said money could have been involved in the release of Kimberly and Ganzon.

"Well if they were really freed (without ransom), then praise the Lord. But when it comes to money, that is something else, because we don't believe that they will release hostages without any financial consideration," he said.

Basilan Rep. Gerry Salapuddin described the kidnapping and negotiations in the province as a "scripted drama."

"Just imagine, a satellite-to-satellite phone communication between the kidnappers and victims’ families," he said.

Salapuddin said the government had no need for negotiators. "The kidnappers can go directly to the relatives of the victims," he said.

But Ganzon said no ransom was paid for their release.

He said Sabaya claimed he was willing to release two hostages as a "gesture of goodwill to Malacañang and to allow the entry of a Malaysian ex-senator to help in the negotiations."

"So I think Abu Sabaya, after consulting with his group, decided to let me and Kim go. Kim being the youngest and I being the oldest," he said.

President Macapagal-Arroyo had earlier said the demand was "academic" as Sabaya had claimed to have killed American hostage Guillermo Sobero and called off negotiations.

Akbar claimed he knew where Janjalani’s grave was and would be glad to lead reporters to the site.

But Ganzon said Janjalani was with their group all the time. He did not mention if Janjalani was wounded or needed medical help. Ganzon, a lawyer, also belied reports that Sabaya had been wounded.

He described Janjalani as a "very reserved person" and soft-spoken, who simply sat around with them during occasional discussions.

"Khadaffy would just stay beside us on his hammock, smiling," Ganzon recalled.

But sometimes, he added, the bandit leader would give an opinion, which was usually incisive.

"Sometimes, he would interject some statements, but by and large he was a really a reserved person," the lawyer said.

He said Janjalani employed democracy in leading the group. He said the kidnap gang worked as a committee in almost every decision it made, including the setting of price tags for their hostages.

As for Sabaya, Ganzon described him as "definitely a man of vision."

He said Sabaya was also "kenkoy," who took most things in jest. But Ganzon said Sabaya was "serious in his vision" to establish an Islamic state.

"They say their demand is an age-old problem. It dates back to Spanish times. Their ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state," Ganzon explained.

"Anybody hindering the establishment of an Islamic state is their enemy," Ganzon quoted the bandit as saying.

He said the kidnappers’ ages ranged from 22 to 25 years old. Ganzon said the Abu Sayyaf bandits had treated him and his fellow captives "surprisingly well."

"The women were not touched. The only time they touched the women was whenever they fell while we were walking," Ganzon said in an interview with Radio Mindanao Network on Saturday.

"Hindi kami sinaktan ni minsan (They did not hurt us)," he added. Ganzon also said the hostages were fed first.

Still, Ganzon said he did not patronize the bandits. He said no matter how well the bandits treated them, the “very hostile” environment in the mountains took a toll on the hostages’ health.

He said it was the environment, not the captors, from which they received a beating.He said they spent three days floating on the high seas because the bandits had failed in several attempts to enter Basilan.

He said they took a fishing boat and tried to enter Zamboanga. But because the coast of the city was heavily guarded, they tried to look for another safe haven in Tawi-Tawi. They finally settled in Basilan.

"It was a very horrifying experience. It was raining we were so hungry. We were scared to death," he said.

He denied that the bandits used the hostages as human shields, saying the bandits even covered them from possible stray bullets.

Ganzon disclosed that Sabaya had treated Kimberly as if she was his own daughter.

Medical help

Ganzon appealed for medical assistance for the hostages.

"They are suffering a lot. They are deteriorating fast," he said. "If the President allows the visit of the Red Cross, the medical staff can look after these people. They’re getting sick because of the very adverse weather," he said.

Ganzon said they were, most of the time, drenched in rainwater and "sleep under the stars."

He said the hostages were not eating well because they have to be constantly on the run.

"A lot of us have been traumatized," he added.

Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo expressed confidence that the hostages would be released in a "reasonable time."

"The hostage crisis in Basilan will probably be resolved not later than next month," he told reporters before he spoke at a meeting of the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Iloilo City.

Romulo attributed the delay in resolving the three-week-old hostage crisis to the "difficult terrain."

He warned that a prolonged standoff with the bandits would hinder the country’s economic recovery.

"We cannot get on with the real business of government, which is our economy and poverty alleviation, unless we resolve this crisis," the former finance secretary said. --With reports from Carlito Pablo and Nestor Burgos Jr.

'Bombing proved Sison's logic correct'Posted: 11:45 PM (Manila Time) | June 17, 2001 By Jovito Salonga
Inquirer News Service
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(Second of a series)

WOUNDED and wheelchair-bound, then Sen. Jovito Salonga addresses the crowd during a reunion of the victims of the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971 and other anti-Marcos politicians.

(Editor’s Note: The following is taken from Chapter 12 of the author’s new book, "A Struggle of Journey and Hope," in which Salonga pins the Plaza Miranda bombing on communist leader Jose Ma. Sison.)

AFTER three years in exile, my wife and I returned to the Philippines on Jan. 21, 1985, one year before the People Power I revolt, to rejoin the struggle against the corrupt, repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

After the Edsa uprising and during my tenure as first chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, Victor Corpus, the well-known military cadet who had defected to the New People’s Army and become privy to the well-kept secrets of the party leadership, came to my residence, accompanied by Ariel Almendral.

(Corpus was actually a Philippine Military Academy instructor when he defected to the NPA.—Ed.)

Corpus made the same revelation to me--namely, that it was Jose Ma. Sison, with the knowledge of a few trusted members of the CPP Central Committee, who masterminded the Plaza Miranda bombing and entrusted its implementation to Danny Cordero and his two accomplices.

Corpus revealed that in February 1971--a few months before the Plaza Miranda bombing--Sison went to the NPA headquarters in Isabela where he and NPA commander Dante Buscayno had been staying. Jose Luneta, then secretary general of the Party, joined them a little later.

It was here that Sison told them about an expected arms shipment from Communist China and the need to produce the conditions that would rapidly expand the strength of the NPA, which had only around 90 fighters at that time in Isabela.

It was necessary, Corpus quoted Sison as saying, to intensify the conflict between the NP and the LP, the two factions of the ruling class. If the two could be set against each other in violent fashion, such as by disrupting an LP rally, the ruling class would be weakened and the moderates would react by joining the Left, thereby solving the manpower problem to match the thousands of firearms expected from China.

I wrote a note and asked Corpus and Almendral to see former Justice JBL Reyes, the acting chair of the Commission on Human Rights, with my request for the commission to investigate the Plaza Miranda bombing. Probably because Justice JBL was sickly and quite old, I did not hear back from him.

Driver confessed

Around the same time, several individuals, one of them a close relative of a dear friend who was a pillar of Cosmopolitan Church (of which I have been a member since 1943), voluntarily disclosed to me their participation in what has been described by one writer as “the most shocking political crime the country had ever seen.”

My friend’s relative, who was a student of engineering in 1971, told me it was he who had served as the driver of Danny Cordero on the fateful day of the bombing. 

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I listened to his account and cross-examined him. I do not doubt the truth of his revelation. He had no motive to lie to me. Nor did he ask me for any favor, except the request not to disclose his identity, which was understandable considering the danger to his life at the time. He was one of those who agonized over the Plaza Miranda tragedy and the involvement of the leadership of the CPP-NPA, of which he had been a member.
Aborted Senate probe

Two years after my election as Senate President, a privilege speech on the significance of the bombing was delivered by Sen. John Osmeña, himself a victim of the tragedy. The body approved a resolution to investigate the Plaza Miranda attack.

Sen. Wigberto Tañada, chair of the justice and blue ribbon committees, was assigned to undertake the probe. He conducted a number of hearings from September to November 1989. . .

In mid-August 1997, I asked Tañada why he did not finish the inquiry and come out with a report. His answer was that he found it difficult to conclude the investigation due to the Nov. 30, 1989 coup attempt against the Aquino administration, along with its aftermath and our subsequent preoccupation in the Senate with the US bases question . . .

However, the transcripts of the testimonies of some witnesses, including Ariel Almendral, Ruben Guevara, and one Pablo Araneta--a companion of Cordero in Isabela and a party to the trial--are still intact. The three were subjected to examination by former Senator Tañada and his colleagues and were asked questions by the counsel of Jose Ma. Sison.

The testimonies of Almendral, Guevara, and Araneta are interesting and useful. There are a few differences in their accounts, but the essence is the same.

The Red Revolution

In mid-1989, a well-written, well-documented book, The Red Revolution by Gregg R. Jones, a correspondent of the Washington Post, was published in the United States. Jones lived and traveled with NPA units in Luzon, and talked to the founders and high officials of the CPP in the Philippines and abroad, including Sison, whom he interviewed in Amsterdam.

In Chapters V and VI of his remarkable book, titled “The Ghosts of Plaza Miranda” and “Prisoners in a Gilded Cage,” respectively, Jones narrates his conversations with high-ranking CPP-NPA officials about the bombing and the ill-fated arms shipment operations.

Analyzing the dilemma of the CPP-NPA at the time of the bombing, and sorting out the evidence, including the statements of former Central Committee members and Sison’s own disclaimer, Jones arrived at the well-grounded conclusion that the bombing was authored by Sison and carried out by Danny Cordero and his two accomplices.

The questions remain: Why the bombing? Were not the Liberal Party members also against Marcos? . . .

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Sison’s logic

Sison was convinced that the country was on the brink of a revolution. He met with three of his most trusted colleagues in the Central Committee--Secretary General Jose Luneta, Politburo member Ibarra Tubianosa, and the Party’s chief finance officer, Fidel Agcaoili—"and laid out a plan for Party operatives to attack an opposition Liberal Party rally."

In the analysis of Sison, the LP would surely blame Marcos for the bombing attack; Marcos would shift the blame to the Communists, but no one except his fanatical followers would believe him.

Marcos would then respond with repression, but this would only drive more people into the ranks of the radical movement and into the NPA in the countryside.

The logic of Sison proved correct. Many Liberals and independent-minded persons blamed Marcos for the bombing tragedy; Marcos immediately suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus and ordered the detention of many people, including leaders of various youth and labor organizations.

In September 1972, Marcos declared martial law and ordered the arrest of political rivals and leaders of the opposition, independent-minded delegates to the Constitutional Convention, reputable publishers and journalists, and well-known labor leaders.

Hundreds of moderates and promising young people like Edgar Jopson and Manny Yap, the son of my law partner, went underground and joined the extreme Left. Many of these young people were killed in encounters or summarily executed, or captured and tortured by the military and then disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Evidently, none of them, particularly Manny Yap who would never have condoned the bombing, knew about how the Plaza Miranda bombing was planned and carried out, nor about theKaragatan and Andrea operations.

Chinese supply line

According to accounts given by former top Party officials to Gregg Jones, Sison was convinced that the ill-equipped NPA would need a reliable rear area that could offer a sanctuary and serve as a lifeline to the outside world. In an archipelagic country like the Philippines, the lack of a friendly rear made life precarious for the NPA.

As Jones’s book recounts the facts: In late 1968, Sison sent Jose Luneta to Beijing to explore the possibility of establishing a Chinese supply line only 400 miles across open water from the Philippines.

Luneta, ostensibly working as a Tagalog language expert with Radio Beijing, broached the question of aid for the Filipino guerrillas with Kang Sheng, the Chinese Politburo member in charge of international operations.

The latter agreed in principle to accept an official delegation from the CPP, which would be responsible for arranging any transfers of arms and other assistance.

Luneta returned to the Philippines in 1970. Another trusted aide and Central Committee member, Carlos del Rosario, was sent by Sison to Beijing in December 1970 to finalize the arrangements for a CPP delegation. (To be continued tomorrow)